Blinders

24Put away from you crooked speech,

and put devious talk far from you.

25Let you eyes look directly forward,

and your gaze be straight before you.”

Proverbs 4:24-25 ESV

Let your eyes look directly forward. It is amazing what we can do when our eyes are constantly looking forward. Think about it, during a race, horses wear blinders and most of us may not even know why. However, horses wear blinders because the Jockey’s don’t want them to get distracted during the race. The horse is there to run its own course, not to worry about what the other horses are doing in the other lanes, that is the Jockey’s job. The Jockey is there to guide the horse, to tell him when to run faster, the Jockey is there to watch the other lanes and control the pace of the lanes.

I do not find it ironic that we, in life, are told to have the same perspective. It is stomach aching how many times we as believers get ourselves caught up in drama and/or gossip that does not involve us. We become so consumed with everyone else’s life that we lose focus of our own purpose in life. God has set us all in our own lane, to run the race he has set for us and he tells us the best way to pleasing him is to keep our eyes looking forward.

In this chapter the author is urging the readers to listen to the wisdom and insight he is providing, meaning God is urging us to listen to the wisdom he has provided to through his word. Yet we never seem to be satisfied with what God has to offer us, thus we always want what other people have or listen to what other people are saying, as if what they have to offer is more satisfying. In Proverbs 4 the flow is, listen to wisdom or beware of the dark path you may end up walking down. It’s amazing how quickly good Christians can take a turn for the worse by getting entangled in other peoples business, other peoples relationships, marriages, bank accounts and desires.

God has set us on this beautiful earth to worship him, to glorify him and run the race he has given to us. Paul tells us in his epistles that no soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits (2 Tim. 2:4) and he also tells us to press forward toward the upward goal for our life (Phil 3:14).

It is clear, God has set us on a path to bring him glory, to reflect his character, God has called us to run and let him do the guiding and protecting. Let God worry about what is going on around you today and trust in him to lead you on a path of righteousness.

True Christianity

True Christianity. It is far too common to find a “Christian” or should I say a “self-proclaimed” Christian nowadays. There are plenty of people in our country who label themselves as Christian. However, this is more of a defense from Catholicism, Mormonism and Jehovah Witnesses, than it is a statement of their beliefs. Dare I say a true Christian should approach their walk with Christ without the title.

When we label ourselves as Christians we put ourselves in a category, not that Christianity is a bad category to be apart of but the scary part is allowing the category to paralyze and separate us in a way that does not represent Christianity’s true beliefs.

Many self-proclaimed Christians do so to ostracize themselves from the religious talk that hovers around our society, you know the conversation you’re never supposed to bring up with friends and family because it might cause division. It is more a defense or deferral from accountability, resorting to the freedom of Christianity. A freedom from the Law of Moses for salvation, but is commonly used as a crutch to exercise a prodigal lifestyle. Which is a complete contradiction to the label of being a Christian.

A true Christian lives in a way that does not look for the easy way out, doesn’t look for the short cuts, doesn’t wait for somebody else to move, but takes the love and truth that Christ left for us and spreads it through actions and words, when needed. Christians in today’s society are more concerned with how other Christians will perceive them, rather than others seeing the image of Christ through them. When Christians worry about their own image, they begin walking in circles trying to clean up their own mess and reject the opportunities to preach the gospel and make disciples.

Christians become paralyzed by labeling themselves Christians by allowing the label to do all of the talking, “Why don’t you party?” answered with “Because I’m Christian.” Wow, that was a great example of spreading the Gospel, right? Wrong, while I am by no means stating that we should participate in such gatherings, we should have a stronger answer than simply stating the label of our beliefs. It was not until Acts 11, when Paul and Barnabas were labeled Christians to begin with. On top of that it was not a self-proclaimed label, but one that was given by the people based on their actions. James 2:26b (ESV) states that “…faith apart from works is dead.”

I strongly believe that our salvation is through faith alone, however this gift we have received should encourage and empower us as recipients of grace, to spread this message which provides freedom to all of those weighed down by the burdens of addiction, poverty and death. Jesus himself says in Matthew 16:19 that the message of the gospel has the power to loosen the chains of death and set people free in Christ. Yet we don’t act as if we hold this power, dare I say that we don’t want the responsibility that comes along with this power.
Christians today have become consumed with the pleasures of this world, rather than being obsessed with the world to come. Christianity today needs to consist of people not looking at one another’s weak spots, but rather picks up the slack for one another for the sake of the gospel. The joy, peace and hope we have in the world to come, the return to perfection and fullness of harmony, in being reunited with the creator. By unwarranted grace we were saved and made new, while there may be times when he/she feels unworthy of the gift that has been given to us. However, we best pay tribute to our savior by receiving this grace and reflecting His image for all to see.

Matthew 5:13-16
“13“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Embracing The Fire

Daniel 3:12-30 (ESV)

“There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good.t But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.t But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated. And he ordered some of the mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. Then these men were bound in their cloaks, their tunics,t their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace. Because the king’s order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace. Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.” Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them. Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set asidet the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.” Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.”

As Christians, it is rather easy for others to see Christ in our lives when times are good. When our finances seem to be overflowing, there is no conflict with friends or family and it feels as if every decision is the right decision. Were constantly listening to worship music, were the loudest ones during worship at church, were tithe and give an offering that’s greater in monetary value than others and we are constantly telling others how much we love Jesus. We feel ready to lead the outreach ministry because there is a fire burning inside of us that we feel can never be put out.

Then we are thrown into a FIERY FURNACE. During this time are we still as vibrant and energetic? Do we continue telling people how much love Jesus or do we begin to condemn Him for our troubles? Nebuchadnezzar said that while the men were in the fire he was able to see a man that looked like the son of God. How amazing is that? During a time of fear and anguish, the persecutor was able to see Jesus in the lives of the men. Ask yourself a question, during times of persecution can others see Jesus in you?

Gold is put through fire to be refined or be made pure. As Christians, we need to be able to embrace the fires we go through and accept them as situations of purification. While the fire is extremely hot, there are two things we can be sure of, if we do not condemn HIM. 1) HE will be by our side and 2) When we make it out, we will be purified. It’s almost a natural instinct to beg for comfort during times of trouble, challenge yourself to TRUST IN THE LORD during your next journey through the FIREY FURNACE. When you embrace the Fire, Jesus embraces you! God Bless.