Category Archives: Growth in Life

BE SOBER MINDED:

young-woman-traveler-sitting-looking-view-nature_44943-10

Several places in the New Testament speak of being sober-minded (1 Peter 4:75:8Titus 2:261 Corinthians 15:34). In 2 Timothy 4:5, Paul exhorts Timothy to be “sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (ESV). The term sober-minded literally means “free from intoxicating influences.” We speak of a person who is not drunk with alcohol or high on drugs as being “sober.” His or her mind is not under the control of a dangerous outside force.

More broadly, being sober-minded means that we do not allow ourselves to be captivated by any type of influence that would lead us away from sound judgment. The sober-minded individual is not “intoxicated,” figuratively speaking, and is therefore calm under pressure, self-controlled in all areas, and rational. Other translations of 2 Timothy 4:5 render Paul’s instruction to Timothy as “keep your head” (NIV), “keep a clear mind” (NLT), and “exercise self-control” (CSB).

One of the qualifications for an elder or church leader is that they and their wives be sober-minded (1 Timothy 3:211Titus 1:8). That is, they should live in reverential awe of their responsibility as representatives of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). Peter warned that “the end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers” (1 Peter 4:7, ESV). Those who are sober-minded will be alert to the need to pray and take the occasion to pray at opportune times.

More often than not, we see the opposite of sober-mindedness displayed in our world. Silliness, irresponsible choices, foolish experimentation with harmful substances or behaviors, and crude joking are in direct opposition to the command to be sober-minded. Ephesians 5:3–4 lists some behaviors that conflict with sober-minded living: “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place.” Then, in case someone should think this is a list of judgmental preferences, Paul goes on to write the following: “For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them” (Ephesians 5:5–7).

Being sober-minded does not mean living a sour, joyless existence. In fact, sober-minded Christians are to be continually filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22Acts 15:32Romans 14:17). Eliminating foolishness, frivolity, and mind-numbing silliness from our lives allows us to focus on what is real, eternal, and inspiring. Jesus’ command to His sleepy-headed disciples suggests the need for sober-mindedness: “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation” (Mark 14:38).

Ephesians 5:18 commands us to avoid being filled with wine, because that leads to debauchery, but rather to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit. This verse implies that we can only be one of those, but not both. It’s an either/or proposition. If we pursue drunkenness, we cannot also pursue God. If substances control us, we cannot also be controlled by the Holy Spirit. Sober-minded people choose to abstain from practices that would lead them into sin.

In Romans 13:12–14, Paul explains the urgency behind the frequent commands to be sober-minded: “The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.” And that is a good description of being sober-minded.

Prophet Nathan Emol

SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE:

feast-on-the-word-of-god-daily

Discipline is defined as “training expected to produce a specific character or pattern of behavior.” Discipline is not part of the sin nature, but it is a natural component of the Christian life. In fact, almost nothing of any significance in our lives is ever accomplished without it. Spiritual disciplines can be described as those behaviors that augment our spiritual growth and enable us to grow to spiritual maturity. This process of spiritual growth and development begins to take place the moment a person encounters the risen Christ and comes to Him for salvation.

The purpose of spiritual discipline is the development of our inner being, that which has been transformed by Christ at salvation (2 Corinthians 5:17). Redeemed believers have experienced the total renewal of the whole person from within, involving differences in thought, feeling and character that may be slower to be evident in our outward behavior. This is what Paul had in mind when he spoke of taking off the “old self” and putting on the new, “which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (Colossians 3:9-10).

There are a number of popular programs and books today on the spiritual disciplines, but some go too far from Scripture in an effort to outline various methods of disciplining oneself. Some of these methods border on the mystical and the extra-biblical, sometimes delving into areas of Eastern mysticism, Catholic mysticism, and New Age philosophy. Out of this movement has come such unbiblical practices as “hearing” the voice of God and breathing/soaking/contemplative prayer. The best way to avoid error in the understanding of spiritual disciplines is to stick with clear scriptural mandates given to all Christians to immerse ourselves in the Word of God wherein God speaks to us, and in prayer, whereby we speak to Him.

The foremost of the disciplines is that involving the Word of God and constitutes the reading, study, memorization, and meditation of Scripture. If this discipline is neglected, no other effort to discipline ourselves will be successful because we simply do not have the power to overcome the resistance of the sin nature in which our new natures reside. Nor do we have the power to overcome the resistance of demonic influences whose aim is always to separate us from the only means of spiritual growth, the Word of God. Paul reminded Timothy of the inherent nature of Scripture, that it is literally from the mouth of God, i.e. “God-breathed,” and, as such, contains the very power of God. He also refers to the gospel as the very “power of God” (Romans 1:16) and exhorts Christians to take up “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” as our only offensive spiritual weapon against demonic forces (Ephesians 6:17). We must begin any effort at spiritual discipline with the only source of power, the Word of God.

Scripture memorization is also essential. We always have the freedom to choose what we place in our minds. With that in mind, memorization is vital. If we truly believe that the Bible is the Word of God, how can we not memorize it? Memorization enables us to keep it constantly in the forefront of our minds, and that makes it possible to react to all life circumstances according to its precepts. One of the most powerful passages of Scripture regarding the necessity of memorization is found in Joshua 1:8: “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” It is through the discipline of memorization that we are enabled to pray more effectively and to meditate. This in turn enables us to “be prosperous and successful” as God defines “success” for us. When we are walking in His ways and in His will, we are imbued with a new Spirit-filled inner being, one with a heart like God’s.

The second discipline is that of prayer. Our prayers are a spiritual communion with God through means of thanksgiving, adoration, supplication, petition, and confession. The wonderful thing about prayer is that God meets us where we are. He comes alongside us to lead us into a deeper, more real relationship with Him, not motivated by guilt, but driven by His love. Prayer changes us. Prayer changes lives. Prayer changes history. Our knowing God really makes us want to conform to Jesus and His will for our lives. God slowly and graciously reveals Himself to us while we pray, and it is during those moments that we can more deeply understand and experience His love. Of course, one of the major outcomes of disciplined prayer is answered prayer. But, in all truth, that is secondary to the real purpose of prayer which is an ever-growing, unending communion with God.

Taken together, the spiritual disciplines of prayer and the Word will provide us with a rewarding program which will lead to godly living, praise, submission, service and celebration of our salvation and the God who provided it. Through these disciplines, we are enabled to obey God’s command to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12-13).

Prophet Nathan Emol

FAITH VERSES FEAR:

Fear-or-Faith-title

Faith and fear cannot exist together. Faith is described in Hebrews 11:1 as being “certain of what we do not see.” It is an absolute belief that God is constantly working behind the scenes in every area of our lives, even when there is no tangible evidence to support that fact. On the other hand, fear, simply stated, is unbelief or weak belief. As unbelief gains the upper hand in our thoughts, fear takes hold of our emotions. Our deliverance from fear and worry is based on faith, which is the very opposite of unbelief. We need to understand that faith is not something that we can produce in ourselves. Faith is a gift (Ephesians 2:8-9), and faithfulness is described as a fruit (or characteristic) that is produced in our lives by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23). The Christian’s faith is a confident assurance in a God who loves us, who knows our thoughts, and who cares about our deepest needs. That faith continues to grow as we study the Bible and learn the attributes of His amazing character. The more we learn about God, the more we can see Him working in our lives and the stronger our faith grows.

A growing faith is what we desire to have and what God desires to produce in us. But how, in day-to-day life, can we develop a faith that conquers our fears? The Bible says, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). The careful study of God’s Word is of primary importance in developing a strong faith. God wants us to know Him and completely rely on His direction in our lives. It’s through the hearing, reading, and meditation in the Scriptures that we begin to experience a strong, confident faith that excludes worry and fear. Spending time in prayer and quiet worship develops a relationship with our heavenly Father that sees us through even the darkest of nights. In the Psalms we see a picture of David, who, like us, experienced times of fear. Psalm 56:3 reveals his faith with these words: “When I am afraid, I will trust in you.” Psalm 119 is filled with verses expressing the way in which David treasured God’s Word: “I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands” (verse 10); “I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways” (verse 15); “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (verse 11). These are revealing words which speak wisdom to us today.

God is kind and understanding toward our weaknesses, but He requires us to go forward in faith, and the Bible is clear that faith does not mature and strengthen without trials. Adversity is God’s most effective tool to develop a strong faith. That pattern is evident in Scripture. God takes each one of us through fearful situations, and, as we learn to obey God’s Word and allow it to saturate our thoughts, we find each trial becomes a stepping stone to a stronger and deeper faith. It gives us that ability to say, “He sustained me in the past, he’ll carry me through today and he’ll uphold me in the future!” God worked this way in David’s life. When David volunteered to fight against Goliath, he said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:37). David knew the God who had sustained him through dangerous situations in the past. He had seen and experienced God’s power and protection in his life, and this developed within him a fearless faith.

The Word of God is rich with promises for us to take hold of and claim for ourselves. When we face financial trouble, Philippians 4:19 tells us, “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” If we are anxious about a future decision, Psalm 32:8 reminds us that God will “instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.” In sickness we can remember that Romans 5:3–5 says, “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” If someone turns against us, we can be comforted by the words in Romans 8:31, “If God is for us who can be against us!” Throughout life we will continue to face various trials that would cause us fear, but God assures us that we can know a calm peace through every situation: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

Prophet Nathan Emol

WHAT ARE THE BIBLICAL PRINCIPLES FOR SOLID DECISION MAKING?

Decision-to-make-this-way-that-way

Solid decision-making begins by discerning the will of God. God delights in revealing His will to those who are eager to follow His precepts (Psalm 33:18; Psalm 35:27; Psalm 147:11). Our attitude towards decision-making should be that of Jesus Himself who affirmed, “Not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42; Matthew 6:10).

God reveals His will to us primarily in two ways. First, through His Spirit: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” (John 16:13; see also 1 John 2:20, 27). And, second, God reveals His will through His Word: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105; see also Psalm 19:7-9; 2 Peter 1:19).

The process of decision-making includes making a judgment about an attitude or action. Decisions are an act of the will, and they are always influenced by the mind, the emotions, or both. The decisions we make actually reflect the desires of our heart (Psalm 119:30). Therefore, a key question before making a decision is “do I choose to please myself, or do I choose to please the Lord?” Joshua set the standard: “If serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15; cf. Romans 12:2).

God sees the whole picture—the past, present, and future of our lives. He teaches and counsels us as He reveals Himself to us through His Word and Spirit. God has made this promise to us: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you” (Psalm 32:8; cf. Psalm 25:12). There will be times when God’s will may seem undesirable or unpleasant, when our heart follows our own desires instead of trusting God. But we will eventually learn that God’s will is always for our benefit (Psalm 119:67; Hebrews 12:10-11).

Again, the chief key to solid decision-making is knowing God’s will and not following the desires of our own hearts: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (Proverbs 14:12; cf. Proverbs 12:15; Proverbs 21:2). As we put our trust in God, rather than ourselves, we soon discover what decisions are pleasing to Him.

First, God blesses those decisions that He initiates and that line up with His Word: “I have taught you the way of wisdom; I have led you in the paths of uprightness” (Proverbs 4:11; see also Psalm 119:33). Second, God blesses decisions that accomplish His purpose and depend on His strength: “It is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose” (Philippians 2:13; see also Philippians 4:13).

Additionally, God blesses those decisions that result in His glory: “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). He blesses decisions that reflect His character, that promote justice, kindness and humility: “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8; see also 1 Corinthians 10:31; 1 Timothy 4:12). And He blesses those decisions that come from faith: “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

We must not forget God’s promise to give His children wisdom when they ask: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5; cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:17). And when we pray for wisdom, we must trust God to answer our prayer: “When he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord (James 1:6-7). Patience is important, too, as we wait for God’s timing: “After waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised” (Hebrews 6:15).

Decision-making is more difficult when it involves a painful choice. Sometimes, the right course of action will also hurt us in some way. This is where we need grace the most. Are we really willing to suffer for the glory of Christ? “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God” (1 Peter 4:1-2).

Making a decision today? Look to God’s Word for direction. Take comfort in the peace which only He can provide (Philippians 4:7). Ask for wisdom, trust His promises, and He will guide your path: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6; see also Isaiah 58:11; John 8:12).

Prophet Nathan Emol

DECISION MAKING:

operations-webinar-recap-header@2x

The Bible offers many principles to aid the process of making decisions that honor God. The following list is not exhaustive, but it does represent many teachings of Scripture.

First, begin with prayer. First Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” If we should pray in all situations, we should certainly pray in times of decision-making. As we pray, we ask for wisdom (James 1:5).

Second, define the issue. Wise decisions are informed decisions. It is important to understand what options are available. Once the factors are known, options can be further considered and evaluated.

Third, seek biblical wisdom. Some decisions become easy, if there is one clear choice consonant with God’s Word. Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” When we follow the teachings of God’s Word, He guides our path and provides knowledge to make wise choices.

Fourth, seek godly counsel. Proverbs 15:22 says, “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” Sometimes, consulting with a friend or family member is enough. At other times, consulting with a pastor or other trusted voice can make the difference between a harmful decision and a helpful one.

Fifth, trust the Lord with your decision. In other words, if you’ve made your decision with prayer, sound wisdom, and biblical counsel, trust God for the outcome. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

Sixth, be willing to admit mistakes and adjust accordingly. In most cases, there is no wisdom in continuing down a wrong path after you have discovered it is wrong. Be willing to admit mistakes or failures and ask God for the grace to change.

Seventh, give praise to God for your success. When your decisions result in personal success, the temptation is to believe it is due to your own power, talent, or genius. However, it is God who blesses our efforts and gives strength. “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven” (John 3:27).

Prophet Nathan Emol