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Discussion in 'Discussions about Religion.' started by RiverOL, Oct 29, 2013.

  1. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    Riches or Poverty - So What?
    For reading & meditation - Philippians 4:4-13
    "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any ... situation ..." (v. 12)

    Here is another step that can move us from financial bondage to financial freedom. Recognize that you are only free when you are free to use either poverty or plenty. There are two ways in which men and women try to defend themselves against financial disaster.

    One is by saving as much as possible in an attempt to avert it. The other is by renouncing money or material things entirely in order to be free from their clutches. Both methods have disadvantages. The first, because it can cause miserliness and anxiety, and tends to make a person as metallic as the coins they seek to amass.

    The second, because it seeks to get rid of the difficulty by washing one's hands of it entirely. In each case, there is a bondage - one is a bondage to material things, the other a bondage to poverty. The man who is free to use plenty only is bound by that, while the man who is free to use poverty only is also bound.

    They are both bound. But the person who, like Paul in the text before us today, has "learned the secret of being content ... whether living in plenty or in want" is free, really free.

    While waiting for a train in India, a missionary got into a conversation with a high-caste Indian. "Are you traveling on the next train?" the missionary asked. "No," he replied, "that train has only third-class carriages. It's all right for you, because you are a Christian. Third class doesn't degrade you and first class doesn't exalt you. You are above these distinctions, but I have to observe them." Lifted above all distinctions!

    Prayer: O Father, what a way to live - lifted above all distinctions. Plenty doesn't entangle my spirit, and poverty doesn't break it. No matter how I have lived in the past - this is how I want to live in the future. Help me, dear Lord. Amen.
     
  2. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    A Need or a Want?
    For reading & meditation - Philippians 4:14-23
    "And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus." (v. 19)

    Today we look at yet another step that will help us overcome financial disaster: (4) Learn to differentiate between a need and a want. Your needs are important, but not your wants. God has promised to supply all your needs, but not all your wants.

    What are our needs? Someone defined it like this: "We need as much as will make us physically, mentally, and spiritually fit for the purposes of the kingdom of God.

    Anything beyond that belongs to other people's needs." If this is true, then how do we decide what belongs to our needs? No one can decide that for you; it must be worked out between you and God. Go over your life in God's presence and see what belongs to your needs, and what belongs to your wants.

    Let the Holy Spirit sensitize your conscience so that you can distinguish the difference. A fisherman tells this story: "Yesterday on the lake I let my boat drift. As I looked at the water, I could see no drift at all. Only as I looked at the fixed point of the shoreline could I see how far I was drifting."

    It is a parable! It is only as you fix your eyes on Christ, and watch for His approval, that you will know whether you are staying on God's course - or drifting away from it. One more thing: keep your needs strictly to needs, not luxuries disguised as needs. If you eat more than you need, you clog up your system. It is the same with other things. Needs contribute; luxuries choke.

    Prayer: Gracious Father, bring me under the sway of Your creative Spirit. Sensitize my inner being so that I might hear Your voice when I am about to go off course. This I ask for Your own dear Name's sake. Amen.
     
  3. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    Promises! Promises!
    For reading & meditation - Proverbs 20
    "...'it's no good!? says the buyer; then off he goes and boasts about his purchase." (v. 14)

    We continue following the steps that help us become strong at the broken place of financial disaster: (5) Ask God to help you resist the powerful pressures of this modern-day consumer society.

    I once listened to a sermon in which the preacher likened Satan's conversation with Eve in the Garden of Eden to the subtle tactics of modern advertising. The main point he made was that if Eve could become discontent with all she had in that lush garden called Paradise, there is little hope for us unless we identify and reject modern methods of alluring advertising.

    What exactly is alluring advertising? One definition puts it like this: "Alluring advertising is a carefully planned appeal to our human weakness, which is designed to make us discontented with what we have so that we can rationalize buying things we know we do not need and should not have."

    Not all advertising, of course, falls into this category, but much of it does. Charles Swindoll, an American author, claims that some advertising is not just alluring, but definitely demonic. I agree. He says that he and his family have developed a simple technique to overrule television commercials that attempt to convince us that we need a certain product in order to be happy.

    He describes it like this: "Everytime we feel a persuasive tug from a television commercial, we simply shout at the top of our voices: 'Who do you think you're kidding!'" He claims it really works. God expects us to discipline ourselves in relation to many things, and not the least is the discipline of spiritual "sales resistance."

    Prayer:
    Father, help me, I pray, to see right through the alluring advertising of today's world, and develop within me the wisdom and strength to build up a strong spiritual "sales resistance." For Your honor and glory I ask it. Amen
     
  4. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    Be a Generous Person
    For reading & meditation - 1 Timothy 6:6-19
    "Command them ... to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves ..." (vv. 18-19)

    We have been discussing the steps we need to take to become strong at the place where life breaks us through a financial disaster. The sixth and final principle the friend I previously referred to used, and which we need to practice too, is this: (6) Become a generous person.

    Look again at the text at the top of this page. It is so clear that it hardly needs any explanation. Woven through the fabric of these verses, as well as in many others in the New Testament, is the thought: give, give, give, give, give. When you have money, don't hoard it, release it. Let generosity become your trademark.

    This is not to say that you have to give all your money away, but give as much as you can, and as much as you believe God would have you give. Jesus once said, "If your eye is generous, the whole of your body will be illumined" (Matt. 6:22, Moffatt).

    What does this mean? If your eye - your outlook on life, your whole way of looking at things and people - is generous, then your whole personality is illumined, lit up. Jesus had little to give in terms of finances, but He was generous toward all - the sick, the needy, the maimed, the sinful, and the unlovely.

    His whole personality was full of light. So be like Jesus - begin to see everybody and everything with a generous eye. Don't be a mean person. One of the greatest definitions of Christianity I have ever heard is simply this: "Give, give, give, give give...."

    Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me this day and every day of my life from now on, to make generosity the basis of all my dealings with people. Make me the channel and not the dead end of all Your generosity to me. For Your dear Name's sake. Amen.
     
  5. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    When Evil Thoughts Oppress
    For reading & meditation - Matthew 15
    "For out of the heart come evil thoughts ..." (v. 19)

    We turn now to focus on yet another place where life can break us - through the affliction of evil thoughts. I am thinking not simply of an occasional wrong thought popping into one's mind, but of those situations where people become oppressed by thoughts which are obsessive and repetitive.

    A letter I received some time ago said, "My private discussions with Christians of all denominations has led me to believe that more are afflicted and oppressed by evil thoughts than we might imagine." When the late Dr. Sangster, the great Methodist preacher, once visited Bexhill-on-Sea, he found a lovely avenue of trees.

    A nature lover to the core, he walked admiringly up and down the avenue, and then noticed a strange thing. Two of the trees were dead, and not only dead, but dismally and evilly offensive. Frost could not account for it; their neighbors were all healthy. He made inquiries, and found out that the gas main which ran underneath them had been leaking!

    Everything on the surface had been in their favor - the sea breezes, sunshine, rain ... but they had been poisoned from beneath. There are many Christians like that. Perhaps you are one.

    The circumstances of their lives all seem in their favor - a good job, a happy family, a pleasant environment, a fine church, yet their lives are mysteriously blighted by evil thoughts. Who can help us when our lives are spoiled by continual and oppressive evil thoughts? Jesus can! Christ can not only heal the brokenness but also make you strong at the broken place.

    Prayer: O Father, I am so grateful that You are showing me Your indomitable way. You can do more than sustain me in my weakness; You can turn my weakness into strength. Make me strong in this area. For Jesus' sake. Amen.
     
  6. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    "Be Careful, Little Eyes"
    For reading & meditation - Mark 9:42-50
    "And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out." (v. 47)

    What are the principles we must follow if we are to move from weakness to strength in relation to this matter of evil thoughts? The first is: Take steps to ensure that you are not contributing to the problem by the literature you read or the things you watch. One great philosopher said that if you want to evaluate the moral tone of a society, just examine its literature.

    These days it is hardly possible to pick up a newspaper that does not contain a picture oran article that is calculated to inflame our passions. We live in an age which is preoccupied with sensuality and hedonism (the pursuit of pleasure). Any discussion on this subject must inevitably be linked with sex, as this is one of the main ingredients in the problem of evil thoughts.

    Although sex is not evil in itself, few topics can so engross the mind or kindle our curiosity. People with a passionate nature, however high their ideals, often fight a battle in their mind and imagination with sexual fantasies. These, in turn, make them the kind of people of whom Montaigne speaks with much contempt: "Men and women whose heads are a merry- go-round of lustful images."

    Fix it firmly in your mind that the first step to victory over evil thoughts is to cut off the supply at the source. Burn any books or magazines in your possession that others might describe as "really hot." Turn off the TV when it violates biblical standards. Avoid newspapers that go in for nudity. Saying "no" to sensuality is the same as saying "yes" to God.

    Prayer: Father, help me to realize that although Christianity is a privilege and not a prohibition - it does have prohibition in it. Today I am going to make up my mind to say a firm "no" to the things that are not of You. Strengthen me in this resolve. Amen
     
  7. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    The Pathway to Sin Is Short
    For reading & meditation - Romans 8
    "To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace." (v. 6, RSV)

    Although it may be impossible to prevent evil thoughts from entering your mind, make a conscious decision not to entertain them. A well-worn phrase puts the same thought in this way: you can't stop the birds from flying into your hair, but you can prevent them from building nests.

    Burns, the famous poet, said that when he wished to compose a love song, his recipe was to put himself on "a regimen of admiring a beautiful woman." He deliberately filled his mind with pictures that were extremely dangerous to his passionate nature. Shairp, his biographer, said of him, "When the images came to be oft repeated, it cannot have tended to his peace of heart or his purity of life."

    Augustine, one of the great early Christians, also trod this dangerous path. He came to Carthage with its tinseled vice and began at once to coax his own carnal appetites. He said: "I loved not as yet, yet I loved to love; and with an hidden want I abhorred myself that I wanted not.

    I befouled, therefore, the spring of friendship with the filth of concupiscence, and I dimmed its lustre with the hell of lustfullness; and yet, foul and dishonorableas I was, I craved, through an excess of vanity to be thought elegant and vain.

    I fell; precipitately then." Augustine's experience, like that of many others, goes to show the folly of entertaining evil thoughts and desires. Make up your mind, then, that although you may not be able to stop evil thoughts crowding into your mind, you will not play host to them.

    Prayer: Father, although I know what I should do, it is often hard - though not impossible - to do it. I give my will to You again today. Take it and strengthen it, so that it will do Your bidding. In Jesus' Name I pray. Amen.
     
  8. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    The Law of Reversed Effort
    For reading & meditation - Hebrews 2:5-18
    "But we see Jesus ..." (v. 9)

    Yesterday we said that we must make sure we do not entertain evil thoughts. How does it work in practice? Build within your mind a strong picture of Jesus, and when an evil thought comes into your mind, turn and look at Him.

    Those who study the mind tell us that evil thoughts are not driven out by dwelling on them, even prayerfully. It is bad tactics to direct sustained attention to them, even in penitence, for then you experience what is called the law of reversed effort.

    This law states that "the more attention you focus on avoiding something, the more likely you are to hit it." A simplified form of this happens when a cyclist sees a pothole ahead of him, and concentrates on avoiding it - only to run into it.

    The longer things are held in the focus of attention, the deeper they are burned into the memory and the more mental associations they make. The way to overcome them is to outwit them by swiftly directing the mind to some other absorbing theme.

    It may be difficult to dismiss them, but they can be elbowed out by a different and more powerful idea. What better idea than to hold a picture of Jesus in your mind, reinforced by daily Bible meditation and prayer, so that in the moment of overwhelming testing, the mind is turned toward Him. One who developed this technique into a fine art said: "Christ in the heart and mind is the safeguard. To think of Him is to summon His aid. Evil thoughts dissolve in the steady gaze of His searching eyes."

    Prayer: O God, my Father, help me develop in my mind and imagination such a powerful picture of Jesus that it will become the saving focus of my being. Help me turn to Him immediately whenever evil thoughts crowd my mind. For Jesus' sake. Amen.
     
  9. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    The Word to the Rescue
    For reading & meditation - Psalms 119:1-16
    "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." (v. 11)

    Another important principle to follow in developing a plan to overcome oppressive and evil thoughts is this: Store up the Word of God in your mind so that it becomes readily available in times of need. This is one of the most powerful and successful principles of Christian living.

    Sometimes people write to me and say: "Your practical suggestions are very interesting and intriguing, but do they work?" I have one answer: try them and see! They most certainly work for me, and I am absolutely sure that if you apply them in the way I am suggesting, they will work for you, too.

    A minister who was away from home on a preaching visit was provided by the church with accommodations in one of the city's large hotels. One night, while going up in the elevator, a woman accosted him and suggested that they should spend the night together. "This was more than an evil thought," said the minister, "it was an evil thought clad in the most beautiful and attractive woman I have seen for a long time.

    I was lonely and she was available." He went on, "But do you know what immediately flashed into my mind? Not my wife and four children - at least not at first. Not even my position and reputation. No, and not even the thought that I might be found out. The thing that immediately rose up within me was an instant visual replay of Romans 6:11-12, 'Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.'" The memorized verse came to the rescue - right on time.

    Prayer: Gracious Father, help me to have Your Word so deeply hidden in my heart that it triggers an automatic reaction within me whenever I am threatened by evil. For Jesus' sake. Amen
     
  10. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    The Last Thought at Night
    For reading & meditation - Psalms 4
    "I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety." (v. 8)

    Let your last thought at night be a thought about your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The last thoughts that lie on our minds at night are powerful and determinative, for the door into the subconscious is opening and they drop in to work good or evil. It's bad enough struggling with evil thoughts while you are awake; don't let them take control while you are asleep.

    Your conscious mind may be inactive while you are asleep, not so the subconscious. The last thoughts lying in your mind as you go to sleep usually become the "playthings" of the subconscious, and it works on these during the hours you are asleep.

    If it is true that your mind is active while you are asleep - and there certainly seems to be plenty of evidence to support this theory, then make your mind work in a positive and not a negative way.

    Satan delights in dropping an evil thought into your mind during the moments immediately prior to sleep, because he knows that it will work destructively all through the night, influencing your attitudes and most likely preventing you from enjoying a peaceful night's sleep.

    Then when you wake, you find that not only do you have to face the problems of another day, but you also have to face them without having drawn fully on the resources available to you through sleep. Thus begins a recurring pattern which cannot help but drag you down. So learn to elbow out any evil thought that enters your mind just before sleep, and let your last thought be a thought of Christ.

    Prayer: Father, if it is true that my mind works when I am asleep, then help me to make it work for good and not for evil. Teach me the art of holding a thought about You on my mind immediately prior to going to sleep. I shall begin tonight, Lord. Amen.
     
  11. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    Moving Together into Victory
    For reading & meditation - 2 Peter 1:3-11
    "... make every effort to add to your faith ... self-control ..." (vv. 5-6)

    God is willing to do His part in helping you in this battle with evil thoughts - but you must be willing to do yours. There is a teaching in some Christian circles that if we discover a need for change in our lives, we should passively wait upon God until He accomplishes it.

    It sounds so spiritual, but actually it borders on profound error. A Christian man once said to me: "I would like to be free from a certain sin I am involved in, but I find I am powerless to break away from it."

    I asked him what he expected to happen in order for him to find deliverance. He said, "I expect God to take away the desire for this sin and thus set me free." He was saying, in effect, "God is responsible for delivering me, and my task is to wait passively until He does so." That view is unbiblical - and what is more, it doesn't work.

    Although deliverance comes from God, we are the ones who carry it out. Let that sink in! The principle is this - you supply the willingness, and He will supply the power. Do you really want to win this battle against evil thoughts? If so, you can.

    Show God you mean business by putting the principles you have learned this week into practice, and you will pave the way for His miraculous power to work in and through you. Once you have done this, life's oppressive and evil thoughts will never be able to break you again. Here, too, you can become strong at the broken places.

    Prayer: Gracious Father, thank You for reminding me that deliverance is a team effort. It involves the Holy Spirit and me. I supply the willingness: You supply the power. So let?s team up, Father, and move together into victory. Amen.
     
  12. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    Coming Back from Doubt
    For reading & meditation - John 20:19-31
    "Thomas said to him, 'My Lord and my God!'" (v. 28)

    We consider another important place where some Christians are broken - the area of deep and disturbing doubts. Some men and women have received Christ as their Savior and Lord, but yet are afflicted with paralyzing doubts.

    Some of these people go through deep agony of soul as they wrestle inwardly with doubt, ending up spiritually exhausted. Someone like this told me that she was a scientist and had serious doubts about certain parts of the Scriptures. "I'm afraid that one day I will wake up," she said, "and discover that science has disproved large chunks of Scripture."

    I could sympathize with her problem, but really her doubts were quite unfounded. Real science will never disprove Scripture, only confirm it. Half-baked science may appear to discredit the truth of God's Word, but real science can only validate it. I suppose the classic example of doubt is found in the disciple Thomas.

    We call him "doubting Thomas" - an unfair label if ever there was one. It's sad how we pick out a negative in a person and label him for that one thing. Thomas had his moment of doubt, but he came back from that place of weakness to become strong at the broken place. How strong?

    Let history judge. A well-authenticated tradition has it that Thomas went to India and founded a church there. Even today there are Christians in India who call themselves by his name - the St. Thomas Christians. They are some of the finest Christians I have ever met. Thomas had his doubts allayed in one glorious moment of illumination - and then he went places. So can you!

    Prayer: O my Father, just as You took Thomas and changed him from a doubter to a man of amazing faith and achievement - do the same for me. For Your own dear Name's sake I ask it. Amen.
     

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