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THE VALUE OF COUNSEL


by Neil Anderson

August 28

Proverbs 11:14
Where there is no guidance, the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory

No one person has complete knowledge, and everyone has a limited perspective on the truth. God has structured the church in such a way that we need each other. I have made some dumb decisions that would never have been made if I had consulted someone. However, some people will only consult those who agree with them. That’s a sign of immaturity.

At the same time, the counsel of others does have to be weighed. There is a fascinating account in Acts 21 where the Holy Spirit seemed to be warning Paul not to go to Jerusalem. Disciples in Tyre “kept telling Paul through the Spirit not to set foot in Jerusalem” (21:4). Then a prophet named Agabus gave a visual demonstration by binding himself and saying, “This is what the Holy Spirit says: ‘In this way the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt [Paul] and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles'” (21:11).

Everyone began begging him not to go. “Then Paul answered, ‘. . . I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.’ And since he would not be persuaded, we fell silent, remarking, ‘The will of the Lord be done!'” (21:13, 14).

Was the Holy Spirit guiding the disciples and Agabus? The information was mostly true, but the conclusion of the disciples wasn’t. The Holy Spirit wasn’t trying to prevent Paul from going; He was preparing Paul for the coming persecution. Paul was right in not wanting to take the easy way out.

The missionary Hudson Taylor went against advice, and circumstances nearly destroyed him. But he, more than anyone, opened up China to the gospel. Sometimes people can tell you the truth, but they draw selfish conclusions. Sometimes we need to ascertain our own motives as well as those of the people we seek counsel from, for our motives can be in error as well. The value of counsel is to get an unbiased opinion from a spiritually sensitive person which you can add to the recipe of ingredients God is giving to guide you.

Prayer: Lord, grant me the patience to gather information and seek godly counsel for my decisions.


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THE DEATH OF FEAR


by Neil Anderson

August 27

Proverbs 28:1
The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, but the righteous are bold as a lion
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How do you respond to fear situations in your life? The following steps will help you identify and hopefully eliminate any irrational fears.

First, analyze your fear. Most people aren’t aware of what is controlling their lives. If you are struggling with anxiety attacks, determine when they first occurred. What experience preceded the first attack? People struggling with agoraphobia can usually identify one precipitating event. It is often associated with some tragedy or failure in their lives, such as a marital affair or an abortion. Satan takes advantage of victimized people if they don’t seek a scriptural solution to their crisis (Psalm 38:18).

Second, determine where God’s place in your life has been usurped. In what way does any fear prevent you from responsible behavior or compel you toward irresponsible behavior? You may need to confess any situations where you’ve allowed your actions to be controlled by fear (Psalm 28:1). We will always live less than a responsible life if we fear anything other than God.

Third, work out a plan of responsible behavior. A college student shared with me that she was living in terror of her father. They hadn’t spoken to each other in six months. Obviously there was irresponsible behavior on both their parts. I suggested that she take the initiative that evening and say, “Hi, Dad!” We reasoned that there were three possible responses he could give. First, he could get mad. Second, he could respond with a greeting. Third, he could remain silent. It was the possibility of the third response that created the most fear.

We then discussed the fourth point: Determine in advance what your response will be to any fear-object. The young woman and I talked about what her response would be in each of those three cases we had mentioned. I then asked her if she would be willing to carry out our plan. She agreed to do it. I got a call that evening from a happy daughter who exclaimed, “He said ‘Hi’ back!”

Do the thing you fear the most, and the death of fear is certain.

Prayer: Lord, give me the courage to meet my fears head-on and the persistence to overcome them in Your strength.


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Learning to Count

2 + 2 = ??

You know the answer to that math puzzle, don’t you?  And yet you hesitate because you fear there is some bloggish mystery about the equation that will result in a case of the chagrins if you blurt a wrong answer.  You’re still holding back, aren’t you?  Even though you are alone, in front of your computer or tablet and there is NO ONE watching.  You are afraid; you are very afraid.  Hey!  It’ll be OK…give it a whirl…

So, 2 + 2 = ?? 

2 + 2 = 4 (Tada!) 

You knew the answer all along because you mastered basic math skills back when you were a wee lass or lad.  Simple operations, like addition, came right after the primary math skill:  counting. 

Crawling, walking, talking, household pet aggravation, accurate aim in toileting (at least for boys), reading, writing, arithmetic…these are some of the skills people aspire to acquire as they grow up.  These are also some of the skills that we hope our progeny develop as they grow up.  And the last one, in particular, is a skill Christians need to master as we grow up. 

We want kids to learn to count; God wants His kids to learn to count too.  Why is that?  Because Christianity is not all “get”; there is a great deal of “give.”  Now, let me quickly add (Ha!  Get it?  Add?) that this is not a “give” to earn or buy but a “give” that is a response to the lavish love of God. 

How do we know this is true?  Why, the Bible.  Jesus, in cautioning a burgeoning yet perhaps uninformed enthusiasm in Luke 14: 25-33, tries to make sure that His followers “get it”–that is, that they “get” that counting is a key element in Christ following. 

In that Luke passage, Jesus cautions the crowds to beware that family connections might become casualties if those in the crowd choose Him.  He cautions the crowds that their very lives might be forfeit if they choose to follow Him.  Count, He says!  For the sake of it all, count! 

Jesus points to construction contractors who count to make sure they have the resources in place to finish their projects.  In similar fashion, Jesus says, governmental leaders, intent on warfare, do their “battle damage estimates” before firing the first shot. 

This counting is not, I believe, a call to hesitation–a discipleship “speed bump” if you will–it is rather a call to “eyes wide open” discipleship.  Knowing that following Jesus has some associated risk makes for more determined disciples.  This is not a “Wow, that’s going to cost way too much so I’m going to back off,” message.  This is a “Wow, this is important enough to mean something,” message. 

A hundred years ago Eleanor Porter wrote a book about how a cheerful girl changed the outlook of an entire town with her indefatigable optimism.  In 1960, Walt Disney (ever the marketer of good feelings) made the novel into a film starring a teenaged Haley Mills.  The book and movie: Pollyanna.  By sheer force of cheer, Pollyanna rescues a town, a church, and her family from a distasteful tendency toward the dour.  The film paved the way for a label that came to mean a disingenuous cheerfulness:  Pollyannaism. 

That label, unfortunately, describes many in the believing community.  It is talked about as a matter of faith:  “just believe” and, to be sure, there is the highly commended, scriptural faith essential.  And…if we have to lean…we should undoubtedly lean in the faith direction. 

But there is also this call to count…and I think it’s a call often ignored in the Christian community.  Again, not the counting to avoid, but the counting to proceed with determination down the path Jesus has marked for us. 

Friends may indeed abandon; family may wince and walk away; treasure may be given over; reputations may be tattered; lives may be surrendered.  All of them happily ceded as a result of this very basic math skill: counting. 

I believe Jesus wants His followers to have eyes wide open.  If our eyes are not wide open, they cannot see the cost of the following.  But neither can they see the joy of the following.  This is a joy in the same “joy family” as Jesus’ “joy set before Him” in Hebrews 12:2.  This joy came as a result of enduring the excruciating challenge of the cross and finding joy on the other side of a hard obedience.  Our joy can come in a similar way; it can come on the other side of “eyes wide open” discipleship as we count the cost of following Him. 

This joy is not mere relief that the endurance test has passed; it is the incomprehensible delight at the things that God has prepared for those who love Him (1 Corinthians 2:9).  Eyes wide open indeed. 

© All rights reserved.  Scripture quotations from the NIV.


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GOD’S PROTECTION


by Neil Anderson

August 26

1 Peter 5:9
But resist him [the devil], firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world

I cannot accept someone saying, “The devil made me do it.” No, he didn’t make you do it; you did it. Somewhere along the line, you chose to give the devil a foothold. He merely took advantage of the opportunity you gave him. You have all the resources and protection you need to live a victorious life in Christ every day. If you’re not living it, it’s your choice. When you leave a door open for the devil by not resisting temptation, accusation or deception, you are vulnerable. And if you continue to allow him access to your life, he can gain a measure of control over you. You won’t lose your salvation, but you will lose your daily victory.

Many Christians today who cannot control their lives in some area wallow in self-blame instead of acting responsibly to solve the problem. They berate themselves and punish themselves for not having the willpower to break a bad habit, when instead they should be resisting Satan in an area where he had obviously robbed them of control. Anything bad which you seemingly cannot stop doing, or anything good which you cannot make yourself do, could be an area of demonic control.

God’s protection from demonic attack is not something you can take for granted irrespective of how you behave. This protection is conditional on your willingness to respond to God’s provision. We are told to put on Christ and make no provision for the flesh (Romans 13:14), to put on the armor of God and to stand firm (Ephesians 6:11), to submit to God and resist the devil (James 4:7). If we irresponsibly ignore God’s resources by failing to obey these commands, how can we expect Him to protect us?

Prayer: Thank You, Lord, for the clear direction and mighty weapons You have provided for victory in spiritual warfare.


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Why Humanity Is In Love With Itself And Not God: Satan

God's Healing Hand On You

 

Editors note: This post was actually a comment to a reader that believes the “we are gods” mantra. I have added a little more to it in hopes of this being an article worth reading and in the hope that it will reach someone who needs it. Not my words per-say but the words of God. Feel free to share and comment, I would love to hear your thoughts!
God bless
Greg Publisher ICB

Satan is one being created by God, as he was a former high-ranking angel of God. One can no more disbelieve in the existence of Satan than one can say the Bible is not a book…that is if you believe in God. Satan is very real and is most definitely in control of this world. As a matter of fact the Bible refers to him as the “god of this world”. 2 Corinthians 4:4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them Obviously this verse means that Satan attempts to block all that leads us to God while at the same time leading us into sin. Satan is an already defeated foe, through Jesus Christ’s victory over Satan on the cross, and we can partake in His defeat of the evil one. Christ’s victory is ours! Ephesians 6:10-18

Anyone involved with Satan plays a very dangerous game. Satan leads all who do not believe in Christ to hell. That is his aim. The notion that “we are gods”, New Age beliefs, spirit guides, channeling, the divine mother, other gods…all are attempts (very successful) to lead us away from God. The homosexual agenda and the supposed freedom to live that lifestyle (if anyone so chooses) is yet another attempt to lead us away from God and is succeeding very well in the U.S. Keep in mind God hates the sin, not the sinner. Satan cares not a whit even for his servants, his only aim is to corrupt humanity and lead us into temptation and sin and thereby away from God, our only true salvation. The Word of God tells us to stay away from these things…Satan the master deceiver is behind them all. Bad company corrupts good character.

We are in NO way gods and the Word of God teaches no such thing. There is a verse in the book of Psalms that mentions that, but if your understanding of that passage is that we are ourselves gods, you misunderstand. Scripture will uphold itself…meaning that if something is taught in one place it will be attested to in another…you will find NO references in the Bible that teach we are gods, there is only ONE God existent in 3 persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Psalm 82:6, and John 10:34 (Jesus quoting Psalm 82:6) Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?

Now, lets take a closer look at these Scriptures:
This use of the word “gods” to refer to humans is rare, but it is found elsewhere in the Old Testament. For example, when God sent Moses to Pharaoh, He said, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh” (Exodus 7:1). This simply means that Moses, as the messenger of God, was speaking God’s words and would therefore be God’s representative to the king. The Hebrew word Elohim is translated “judges” in Exodus 21:6 and 22:8, 9, and 28.

Now, let’s look at how Jesus uses this passage. Jesus had just claimed to be the Son of God (John 10:25-30). The unbelieving Jews respond by charging Jesus with blasphemy, since He claimed to be God (verse 33). Jesus then quotes Psalm 82:6, reminding the Jews that the Law refers to mere men—albeit men of authority and prestige—as “gods.” Jesus’ point is this: you charge me with blasphemy based on my use of the title “Son of God”; yet your own Scriptures apply the same term to magistrates in general. If those who hold a divinely appointed office can be considered “gods,” how much more can the One whom God has chosen and sent (verses 34-36)? (Courtesy of http://gotquestions.org)

Falling into the notion that we (humanity) can be our own gods is a deception of Satan who aims to lead all people away from the One true God. For if you believe in yourself as god, or even believe in your own good nature and/or humanistic value as a vehicle to attain heaven, then your trust and faith is placed in yourself and not in Christ…this type of person will never see heaven unless and until they repent of this attitude/mindset as they rely on themselves to get there. Others care not what the Word of God has to say; disbelieving in heaven and hell, these people are right where Satan wants them. Either way, Satan encourages these things, as this is what he desires, to place himself above God and take humanity away from the Lord our God.

There is only one source of perfection and that is God, not one of us is perfect nor will we ever be so until and unless we see Christ and accept Him as Lord and Savior repenting of our sins and asking for His forgiveness. We will of course still not be perfected until we are resurrected by Christ in the end and made perfect through Him in heaven, never will we be perfect on this Earth as our basic nature is of sin and to sin. The only perfect man was Jesus whom was both man and God at the same time. Anyone who claims to be perfect in this world even through the power of the Holy Spirit is deluded, and the truth resides not in that person.
1 John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

Have you ever stolen anything, even a pencil? Ever looked on a woman with lust? Ever lied? Ever taken the Lord’s name in vain? Ever had sex outside of marriage? Ever hated anyone?
My point here is this: we have every one of us sinned…and it only takes one sin to make you NOT perfect, and one sin is all it takes to incur the Lord’s wrath. The penalty for sin is death, not physical death but rather the permanent death of your spirit, separation from God forever in hell. None are exempt in themselves from this death penalty; all will stand before a righteous God to receive the fruits of their labor whether good or bad. If the fruit you bear is like the sweet and tasty grape, and you stand before the Father clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ…you will be in heaven. If however the fruit you bear is like the moldy rotted grape that is only good for the trash bin…attempting to stand in your own righteousness, then you will surely be in hell.

Each person has to determine their stand before Christ, not by my words, nor your pastors, nor anyone else…but by the Word of God…the only Word that truly matters. Many are the words of the past that are remembered and even considered immortal…but only a very few words are truly eternal…the Word of God.
Matthew 24:35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away

Friends I would tell you here that:

The most popular book of all time is: The Bible
The most talked about person in all of history is: Jesus Christ
The most written about person ever is: Jesus Christ.

Is this coincidence? I think not…consider this carefully.

But God provides the way out of this dilemma of death, for we all are subject to this death…for we all have sinned. Since we cannot save ourselves; so are we therefore condemned to death. But God in His mercy sent His only Son (John 3:16) to die on the cross for our sins. Jesus paid the price of our sins so that we do not have to. We need to go to God, confess our sin to Him and ask for His forgiveness. When we do this, sincerely repenting (being sorry for) our sins, asking forgiveness from God, and believing that ONLY Jesus can save us from our sins…we are forgiven and are granted eternal life even now. Believing that Christ died for our sins, was resurrected and is even now seated at the right hand of God the Father, and having done the aforementioned things – we receive and can know we receive forgiveness of sin and eternal life…we can and do claim it now not later, we posses this eternal life here and now.
1 john 5:13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God

“What is the catch”, you may be thinking? Well, we agree to live a new life. We will do our best to live the way that God wants us to. We will all miss the boat on this, no one is perfect and anyone that says otherwise is lying. Still, we will seek to serve God, to stop doing the things He does not like: lying, stealing, killing, sex outside marriage, getting drunk and using drugs etc. If we are really “saved”, we will desire to do God’s will, no one forces us to do so including God Himself. God is a gentleman…if you walk away, if you refuse to do as He asks, well so be it. He will of course try to reach you (everyone) as He loves us, but He will not force Himself on us. Then again, we need to remember that if we choose our will over His, there are consequences to that. There will be 2 types of people standing before Christ the Lord in the end.

The first type says: “my will be done”. God says to them ok…and these shall wind up in hell for eternity. No one chooses hell, but choosing to disbelieve/walk away from God is in fact making a choice to reside in hell for all eternity.

The second type says: “thy will be done”. They will be in heaven with God, for they have chosen to obey God.

If we believe in Christ we are and will be children of God eternally. 1 John 5:19 We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.

Salvation is the greatest gift of God to us. We can do nothing to earn it; if we could (we cannot) it would no longer be a gift.
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast

Please, please consider these words, they are but a poor representation of the words that truly do matter, the Word of God. What I say is not important but the Word of God is. I merely seek to paraphrase His words. The Word of God brings life, it brings forgiveness and freedom. Turning to God in sincere repentance brings freedom, freedom from certain death via our own choices…sin.


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SPIRITUALLY AWARE


by Neil Anderson

August 25

Hebrews 5:14
Solid food is for the mature who, because of practice, have their senses trained to discern good and evil

In many counseling cases I am able to sense in my spirit that something is wrong or that the real issue has not surfaced. Sometimes I seem to know what it is, but instead of blurting it out, I test it. For example, if I discern that the counselee may be in bondage to homosexuality, I don’t say, “You’re a homosexual, aren’t you?” Rather, I test the impression at the appropriate time by asking something like, “Have you ever struggled with homosexual thoughts or tendencies?” If the Spirit’s discernment in me is matched by His conviction in the counselee, usually the problem surfaces and we can deal with it.

Have you ever “known” that someone was a Christian before he or she even said anything about it? Have you ever sensed a compatible spirit with other believers? There is nothing magical about that; it’s just the presence of the Holy Spirit bearing witness with your spirit. At other times the Holy Spirit warns you that the spirit controlling another person is not a compatible spirit.

If we would learn to be more spiritually aware in our churches and homes, God could keep us from plowing head-on into so many disasters. In the Western world our cognitive, left-brain orientation all but excludes discernment as our essential guide for navigating through the spiritual world. But the writer of Hebrews identified discernment as a mark of maturity: “Solid food is for the mature who, because of practice, have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (5:14).

A good systematic theology is the essential foundation upon which we build our lives. It is like the skeleton of our body. But dead orthodoxy is just that: dead! It is the Holy Spirit who gives life to the body. The church is in desperate need of biblically orthodox people who have also learned to be spiritually discerning.

Prayer: Increase my sensitivity to the spiritual world, Lord, and keep me from the dangers of viewing life only from a human perspective.


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THE GENUINE PROPHET


by Neil Anderson

August 24

Jeremiah 23:22
If they [the prophets] had stood in My council, then they would have announced My words to My people, and would have turned them back from their evil way and from the evil of their deeds

Every true prophet of God in the Old Testament was an evangelist. His ministry drew people back to God and His Word. The call to righteousness was the standard which separated the genuine prophet from the imitation, as the prophet Jeremiah wrote. If you come across someone who claims to be a prophet, but who is not involved in calling people to a righteous walk with God, you may be dealing with a counterfeit.

In the New Testament, the gift of prophecy has one primary purpose: to reveal unrighteousness and bring conviction. Paul wrote that, as a result of prophecy, “The secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you” (1 Corinthians 14:25).

The Lord revealed through Jeremiah another criterion for distinguishing a true prophet from a false prophet: “I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy falsely in My name, saying, ‘I had a dream, I had a dream!’ . . . The prophet who has a dream may relate his dream, but let him who has My word speak My word in truth. What does straw have in common with grain?” (23:25, 28). God is warning His people against prophets who value their dreams above His Word.

God is not saying that dreams are unimportant. Indeed, He often spoke to people in the Bible through dreams before the full revelation of Scripture was complete. But in comparison to the nutritious grain of His Word, dreams are mere straw. If you feed straw to cattle, they’ll die. They will sleep on it, but they won’t eat it because it has no nutrients. Similarly, dreams may be of some value, but they are never to be equated with God’s Word as the basis for our faith or our walk.

Prayer: Thank You, Lord, for the power of Your Word, which cuts through falsehood and brings to light everything hidden in darkness.