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Why Did I Ever Become A Christian?

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.’ (Hebrews 12:1)

There are times in my Christian walk when I wonder why I ever became a Christian. Salvation may have been free, but living the Christian life has cost me dearly. I’ve lost good friends, dropped some old habits, and stood up to speak against lifestyles to which I was once fiercely loyal and with which I saw nothing wrong. I’ve always understood how someone would question how a man could change so much because I look in the mirror and ask myself the same question.

Please don’t confuse my frustration with anger. What I’m feeling has nothing to do with anger. I am frustrated because I realize it’s often not easy to live the Christian life. Indeed, Jesus made a supreme sacrifice so I could enjoy the fruits of Christian living. But, his call on my life also requires that I endure hardship along with fruit. And sometimes, I just want to throw my hands up in the air and say, “Lay off God. I’ve had about all that I can take.”

My faith has already taught me that it’s much easier to live the life of a sinner than that of a Christian. The first thing I noticed when I became a Christian was that just about everyone else – including Christians – didn’t think that I should make the same mistakes as they made. When I got saved, I was told, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. (Romans 3:23) But after I got saved, it seems Christians often criticize me for making some of the same mistakes that I’ve seen them make. To what kind of family do I now belong?

I guess the hardest thing I’ve had to do as a Christian is look my friends in the eye and take an action that I consider to be right even when it may not appear to be in their best interest. In fact, I probably need to start telling them that what I like most about our Christian faith is the peace I have when I know I’ve done the right thing instead of the popular thing. And if they decide that our friendship cannot weather my decision to hold fast to my Christian principles, then I’m not sure I should ever have called them a friend anyway. Perhaps they expected something from friendship that is wrong to ever ask a friend to give.

The truth is that none of us is a perfect Christian, including me. In fact, living a Christian life forces us to learn how to develop a faith that will enjoy the good times and persevere when things go awry. We are no different from Christ. We, too, are expected to face trials in life. And just like Jesus, someone may misunderstand or disagree with our actions.

Our walk with Christ will always require perseverance. It’s part of the process of becoming more like him. That why James says, “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:4). It’s God’s way of telling us that we haven’t arrived yet. In other words, there are some things that can only be learned from hard living. And God loves us enough to make sure those opportunities come our way, too.

I don’t relish the idea of trouble coming my way, especially when I lose a friend (or a reader) over it. But I realize that something much sweeter than friendship is on the other side. That’s why the gospel songwriter once wrote:

“These things shall pass some great morning;
We’ll look back and smile at all the heartache that we’ve known.
So don’t forget when shadows gather,
The Lord, our God, is still the King upon His throne.

A rose looks gray at midnight, but the flame is just asleep.
And steel is strong became it knew the hammer and white heat.
These things shall pass and life be sweeter;
When love and faith are strong, they cannot long endure.”

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Mike - November 20, 2017 at 10:34 am

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Children Have Spiritual Needs That Parents Should Not Overlook

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)

The date was June 24, 1962. I was nine years-old and had just walked down the aisle of First Baptist Church in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, to profess my faith in Christ. After Sunday dinner that afternoon, a friend of my family gave me a Bible with an inscription that read, “To my little friend, Mike Ruffin: Today, June 24, 1962, you have opened your heart and Jesus has come in. Now you can plug in and live for Him.”

That Bible means the world to me. More importantly, my family did not discourage me from walking down the aisle that day. They may have wondered whether the call was real, but they didn’t let their earthly doubts stand in the way of what heaven might be doing in my life. I’m sure glad they let me take those first steps in faith.

I thought about that experience when my wife told me about an exchange that a friend of ours recently had with her nine-year old son. Like many young adults, the distractions of life have kept them from regular church attendance. Their son often attends church with his grandparents and seems to enjoy the services. I’ve personally watched him over the years and have been impressed with how attentive he is. Unlike me at that age, he actually listens to the sermons.

Recently, he asked his mom if they could start going to church again. He told her that he wanted the three of them to go and even mentioned that he would like to attend Sunday school, too.

Like my family, they took his request seriously and have resumed going to church. I told my wife that I believe God has an early call on this child’s life. I don’t know where it will take him, but I know he is headed in the right direction.

There is a message in this story for all of us. In my case, I believe I am the Christian I am today because of the childhood that I was privileged to have lived. Much of my life was spent around godly people and many of their habits are my habits today. Indeed, “Train up a child in the way that he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it”. (Proverbs 22:6)

Jesus told us very clearly what he thought about such matters. “Let the little children come to me and do not forbid them”, he once said. “For of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14)

When our children take the time to confide in us about a spiritual need, we must be careful to remember that age and maturity have nothing to do with the condition of the soul. As parents, or grandparents, God is providing us with a wonderful opportunity help our children with the spiritual needs they have. If we act upon it, the fruit we see in the lives of those children will bless in ways we could never imagine.

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Mike - November 13, 2017 at 8:22 am

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Reaching Out And Trusting Jesus

“For she said to herself, ‘If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well.’ But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, ‘Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well.’ And the woman was made well from that hour.” (Matthew 9:21-22)

I believe that every word in the Bible is the inspired word of God. I also believe all those parables and stories have a purpose to them. Each one of them has an important message, a spiritual truth that we can take and apply to the personal situations that we confront in life. That’s why the Bible continues to outsell any other book in the world. Truth has a way of prevailing, even in a world that seems to be getting darker with time.

This particular story has been a real source of comfort for many of us. The spiritual truth it carries is for all believers. It’s written to remind us where to look when all the options seem to be exhausted. In truth, hope is never lost for those who have Christ. We just have to reach out and trust him.

Think about it. Here’s a woman who had a problem that had plagued her for twelve years – uncontrollable, chronic bleeding. But the bleeding was not just a source of embarrassment for her. A chronic loss of blood over that period of time would have also made her physically weak, what today’s doctor would diagnose as anemia. To add insult to injury, such a problem would frustrate relationships with her family and friends. In fact, we know that Jewish culture in her day labeled her as “unclean”. But they also believed that everything she touched would also become ceremonially unclean. Long story short, she was shunned by everyone, including her own family.

This woman had spent every dollar she had on doctors only to ultimately learn that she was hopelessly incurable. So, when Jesus passed by, she was desperate and willing to do anything to find a cure.

Who knows what was really wrong with her. Frankly, it’s really not important. The lesson here is not what was wrong with her, or even that she was healed. The point of even having this story in the Bible here is to show us how you can use faith to overcome what you do not understand.

We all confront issues in life that we cannot overcome. While they are not always life-threatening, they will always be life-changing. As such, they represent opportunities for spiritual growth. In this case, this woman believed that Jesus could heal her, so much so that she forced her way through the crowd as he approached. “If only I may touch his garment,” she said to herself, “I shall be made well.” (Matthew 9:21) Notice here that she didn’t say “maybe”, she said “shall”. She knew that faith in Jesus would solve what doctors and an endless supply of money could never solve.

That’s the lesson for us. When crisis comes our way, we always seem to look for answers in the wrong places. Perhaps we should rely first on our faith instead of using it as a last resort. That’s what Jesus meant when he said to Thomas, “Stop doubting and believe”. (John 20:27)

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Mike - November 7, 2017 at 8:24 am

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Our Sins Are Washed Away, But The Consequences Stay With Us

“He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45)

When I came to know Jesus, I thought my problems would disappear. After all, the burden of sin had been lifted from my shoulders. The sense of euphoria I felt initially placed an unrealistic expectation of what God would do for me. When I came down, I realized I had been forgiven. However, the consequences from all those sinful choices I made were still with me. What a bummer!

A lot of mature Christians occasionally fall into the same trap, too. One of the reasons is several of the television and radio ministries plant false hopes in the hearts and minds of Christians. They often twist Scripture to get you to donate to their ministries. Many of them will literally promise prosperity in exchange for your gift, and a lot of Christians give thinking the problems that trouble them will go away.

The truth is your wallet will be lighter, but your problems will stay with you. God’s promise to bless us for our faithfulness has nothing to do with the removal of whatever is going on in our life. He will love us through it, but that doesn’t mean he will lighten it or remove it.

In spite of what your favorite televangelist may tell you, there are five promises the Bible never makes:

1. Prosperity: The Bible views wealth very differently than the world views wealth. We can be both wealthy and penniless in the Lord’s eyes. 1 Samuel 2:7 says, “The Lord makes poor and makes rich.” Clearly, material wealth is never promised in the Bible. Perhaps we should take account of what we have rather than what we don’t have.

2. Good Health: Sickness and disease can come our way for many reasons. The Bible teaches that it can come from sin, the devil, old age, or just from the fact we are fallen beings with physical bodies prone to disease and sickness. The hard thing to square up is why does God allow us to suffer? I don’t have all the answers to that question. This truth reminds me that God is sovereign. So, when we suffer, he allows it to happen. There is always a purpose for it, and there is always an opportunity for me to grow in spite of it. Some of the most riveting testimonies I have heard from other believers is how extreme suffering brought them to a closer relationship with the Lord.

3. Salvation of Our Children: Wouldn’t it be great if we could get a package deal? The deal, however, is salvation is a personal choice by the individual. So, all those children who think they are going to heaven because their parents are saved or their grandfather was a pastor, are dead wrong.

4. Old Age: “The days of our lives are seventy years, and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” (Psalm 90:10) I know what you’re thinking. “But seventy is today’s sixty.” Maybe, but in the Good Book, if we’re living past 70, we’re living on borrowed time.

5. Happiness: Joy is guaranteed. In fact, it is one of nine elements of the fruit of the spirit that Paul mentions in Galatians 5:22-23. But you won’t find happiness on the list. It is simply not promised.

The Bible contains thousands of promises and you count on God to deliver on each one of them. But there are at least five promises you will never find – at least not in the Bible. You can take His Word on it.

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Mike - October 29, 2017 at 7:18 am

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