Standing For Truth

Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth? – Galatians 4:16 NKJV

Sometimes the truth hurts.

It might be easier to ignore a situation, but truth must be proclaimed.

Here in Galatians 4, Paul has come to the point of reminding his readers of how he had preached the gospel to them previously.  Yet, they began to drift away from his teaching of faith in Jesus solely as the way to salvation and reconciliation with God.  The people of the Galatian church had moved to a hybrid version of Christianity where Jewish believers were forcing certain aspects of the Law onto Gentile Christians.  In chapter 1, Paul makes it clear there is no other gospel and he uses strong language to convey his position.

By chapter 4, you can imagine Paul’s frustration as it seems even those in the Galatian church were considering him more of an enemy than a church leader!  Paul told them the truth and it seems, some people didn’t like hearing what Paul had to say.

Truth can do that.  Truth and the preaching of it, can lead to conflicts.  No one likes being told they are believing a lie.  But love demands, and truth requires, correction.  Just as parents must correct their children, so too are spiritual leaders to offer correction when truth is at stake.

While this correction needs to be done in a gentle way, as Peter explains in 1 Peter 5:1-4, we should not be surprised when the proclamation of truth to wayward and deceived believers is met with disdain.  Paul was now looked upon as an enemy by some of the Galatian church.

Paul sets the standard for us as to stand for truth.  Not arrogantly, but humbly proclaim truth.

Our evangelical world seems to rage in turmoil as standards are minimized, guardrails of Christian conduct are ignored and removed, and truth is often deemed irrelevant.  But like Paul had to address the 1st century Galatians, truth must be proclaimed.  The church needs people who will stand up for truth, even when they are perceived as the enemy.

Stand for truth, even when others waver.

Stand for truth, even if it would easier to go with the crowd.

Stand for truth, even when you are perceived to be the enemy.

Stand for truth, because the truth is worth standing up for.

— Jeff Millslagle

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Book Review – Overcoming Adversity

Overcoming Adversity- Life Lessons From The Book Of James

Dr. Carl Garrigus

Paperback, 55 pages


The New Testament book of James is often thought of as a rubber-meets-the-road epistle since James has such practical teaching which apply in our world.  In Dr. Carl Garrigus’ tome, Overcoming Adversity – Life Lessons From The Book Of James, he examines the apostles letter to 1st century Christians focusing on how James holds some lessons for us when facing life’s serious problems.

He begins with sharing some of his own personal struggle with his own health issues and how a fresh read of James, in particular the first four verses, changed his outlook on life.

The book is easy to read and Garrigus makes his points quickly.  The book is only 55 pages long and I wish he had at least doubled his work on these passages.  He covers every verse in James and therefore, due to the relatively few pages of his work, he tends to quickly move over some sections that need further teaching.

For example, he arrives at James 1, verse 4, just six pages into chapter 1 and only devotes one page on what might be the lynch pin of those opening passages.  Yet what Garrigus writes about the verse was wonderful;

“When we race ahead of God, which is very common in our very impatient world, stepping outside God’s will and seeking a different path leads to trouble” (page 6).

While I completely agree with his statement, I found myself wishing he would have explored this quite a bit more.  He needed to mention some examples “our impatient world,” citing a time when those actions lead to someone proceeding on “a different path” and what kind of trouble awaited them.

He ends each chapter with “Five Questions for Exploration” which are quite helpful for those wishing to take his ideas further.  Those questions might be handy to use in a small group setting studying the book of James.  Here too, I thought Garrigus needed to expand these ideas in his text.

Overall, I would recommend the book, yet know this is a very short read. You can get through these 55 pages pretty quickly.  The book is available at Amazon.

 In His Service

-jm

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 The publisher of Overcoming Adversity – Life Lessons From The Book Of James, provided me with a complimentary copy of the book for my review through BookCrash.

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Baby Dedications, More Important Than Announcements

About six months ago a young couple who are friends of ours, asked if I would do a baby dedication.  My wife and I have grown close to this family and while I had never performed a dedication before, I counted it an honor to be asked to lead such a solemn event.  I think we tend to dismiss baby/child dedications and treat them as an “add on” in services, rushing through the process and miss the opportunity to create a meaning moment for parents and family.  So when they asked for this to be a separate, stand-alone event, I welcomed the opportunity.  I think baby/child dedications can be meaningful and they can serve a bigger purpose than just a ceremonial event.  They can be used to encourage everyone who attends to see how important passing on the legacy of faith.

While I made it personal for the family, here I changed some names to pronouns, except for the little guy who was the main attraction – he has a great Bible name – Ezekiel.

The Word of God tells us that Jesus has a special place in His heart for little children.  Let me share with you from Mark 10:13-16…

And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them.  But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.

When we dedicate children to the Lord, we are following a number of examples.  One of those is that of Joseph and Mary, when in Luke 2:22, they presented or dedicated Jesus to the LORD at the temple.

But maybe the most famous one is of Hannah, the mother of the prophet Samuel, who made a vow in 1 Samuel 1 verse 11 when she said:

O Lord of Hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your servant, and remember me and not forget Your servant, but will give to Your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life…

The Almighty answered her prayer, and after Samuel was miraculously born she said in verse 27 and 28:

 For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to Him.  Therefore I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives he is lent to the Lord.

In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word used for “dedication” is used in just a handful of places.  The word contains the idea of initiating, beginning, inaugurating, or starting something to serve God’s purposes. It is used in 1 Kings 8:63 when Solomon dedicated the newly constructed Temple.  And in Deuteronomy 20:5, we see how important this act of dedication was in the life of ancient Israel when a man was warned about going into battle, if he had not dedicated his home.

And of course there is the familiar passage in Proverbs 22:6 where we are told to “train up a child in the way that they should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” The word translated as “train” in Proverbs, is the same word used in those other passages.

Like the newly built Temple was solemnly dedicated to the Lord, so children are to be dedicated as a Temple of the Holy Spirit while they are young and teachable.

As I know you have done with your daughter, start training Ezekiel from his earliest age in the way of the Lord.  Tell him about his duties to God and man. Teach him all of the Bible, both the Old and the New Testament. Teach the Scriptures continually and diligently to him, and as Deuteronomy 6 instructs us, talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.  In other words, in every area and every time of life, make teaching Jesus a priority in your role as parents.

Pray for him to grow in his knowledge of God, and the Scriptures, and salvation and righteousness and holiness.

But it is not enough to encourage Ezekiel to follow the truths in God’s Word, you must model these truths yourself. He must see you obeying God’s commands and living righteously. This will count more than anything else in his training. You have honored your son with an awesome name.  Ezekiel means “God Strengthens.”

Do you promise to raise Ezekiel to know, love and obey the Lord?

To friends and members of the family, do you promise to encourage his parents to raise this little one in the fear of the Lord?  Ezekiel needs to see in your life the blessings of following God.

Children are a gift from God; the fruit of the womb is a reward He gives. As Psalm 127 says “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man and woman whose quiver is full of them!” May you rejoice in your son, as it is written in Proverbs 23:24-25

 The father of a righteous son will greatly rejoice, and he who fathers a wise son will delight in him. Let your father and your mother have joy, and let her who gave birth to you rejoice. 

Oh God, Ruler of Heaven and Earth, sustain this child for his father and mother. May Ezekiel, fulfill his name by being strong in the LORD.  May he do mighty things for Jesus and may he be a bulwark of commitment, dedication and service to the LORD.

Father in Your great mercy, give him a pure and holy heart to serve you all the days of his life. May his heart be open to understand Your Word, to learn, teach, keep, and practice it. May he enter into a life of service to You. May he enter into the New Covenant and the salvation found in Jesus Christ. May he grow up to be a faithful son who forever remains within Your house. May he be blessed in this life and be rewarded with eternal life in the world to come!  In Jesus’ holy Name, Amen.

Ezekiel, your parents present you this day to the Lord. Like Samuel before you, may you always be dedicated to Him.

May the Lord, bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace. May His grace, favor, and blessing from our Father and our King, rest upon this family all the days of their lives! Amen.

After the service we had a huge party/celebration.  It was a joyous time with lots of food, laughter and conversation.  As the day drew to a close I was so grateful that God allowed me to participate in this event.  And while Ezekiel will not remember the day, his parents and his family will.  I expect he will be reminded of his dedication to the LORD and how his spiritual life was started off strong with the blessing of his family.

I encourage pastors, church leaders and parents to make baby/child dedications a meaning, stand-alone event.  Don’t treat them with the same enthusiasm as the church announcements, but make this moment a special time.

Blessing My Friend!

-jm

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The Key Of Prayer From The Word.

I shot an arrow into the air,  It fell to earth, I knew not where. – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Christians can be dismayed with prayer.  At times, it can seem obvious and overly simple – like the prayer of a child.  Then there are times when it can seem hollow or even futile.  They know it is a valuable exercise and would readily acknowledge its importance, yet it can still be a struggle.  Many approach prayer like the Longfellow poem.  But instead of an arrow, they think, “I shot a prayer, I have no idea where it went!”

Prayer, in its simplest form, is communication.  Whether it’s praise, petition, protection, thanksgiving or intercession, prayer is communication.  While within Scripture you can find examples of each of these different types of prayer, I am not going to use this chapter to explore and explain the differences of various prayers.   Rather, I wish to show from these verses of Psalm 119, eight simple requests every believer can incorporate into their prayer life.  These verses make up The Key Of Prayer From The Word.

We have the added benefit of looking at these verses through the lens of the New Testament.  Jesus’ teaching of The Lord’s Prayer in the Sermon On The Mount[1] and Paul’s various prayers in his writings[2] are powerful models of prayer.  James 5:16 gives us great insight about prayer when he states the “effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”   Obviously, the Bible has quite a bit to say about prayer.

Before you ever open up a text of Scripture, try this prayer;

Open my eyes, that I might see, wondrous things from Your Law.– Psalm 119:18

This needs to be our first request anytime we invest ourselves in His book.  This verse is just four simple phrases, but it holds a wealth of material for us.

First, the psalmist asks the LORD to “open my eyes.”  This means much more than just the physical opening of our eyes.  Otherwise how would blind people ever know and understand the Bible?  Clearly this has a deeper meaning as he asks God to open or bring the Scripture to him in a way in which he might gain insight.  It is asking God to help you be attentive to what you are reading in His Word.

Next he says “that I might see.”  Again, this must have a deeper meaning than just physically “seeing.”  The psalmist is moving beyond having his eyes opened to now “seeing” or applying things.  We might say it is moving from head knowledge to heart knowledge.    A thief might very well know the Ten Commandments, but he willingly violates the “Do not steal” commandment because he hasn’t applied it to himself.  Not only are we to know (have our eyes opened) His Word, but we need to apply it (see it) to ourselves.

Thirdly he says “wondrous things” or some versions use the word “marvelous” things.  Both terms convey the idea of “extra-ordinary” or something beyond normal expectations.  If I go into Bible reading/study with little expectation, there is a good chance I will not see anything beyond a record of history or a cute story with a moral lesson.  But God has “wondrous” or “marvelous” things in His Word and He wants to show them to us!

Finally, he indicates he would find these wondrous things in God’s law.  While I can gain knowledge from other books and I can acquire a degree of wisdom from some sources, it is through His Word (in this particular verse the word is “law”) that I truly find and learn wisdom.  His Word is above all other voices.


[1] Matthew 6:9-15.  One of the easiest to read, simple to understand, books on the Lord’s Prayer is J.I. Packer’s Praying The Lord’s Prayer 2007.

 [2] For 2 excellent books on the prayers of Paul, I recommend Discover The Power In The Prayers of Paul by David Barton 2005 and the 1992 work by D.A. Carson’s Call To Spiritual Reformation: Priorities From Paul And His Prayers.

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The Key of Discipline

I think one’s attitude concerning His Word is by far the major difference between those that are mere acquaintances of Christ and those that are truly His disciples. Our relationship with Christ all depends on our attitude concerning His Word.

Sin is a bad thing. One could claim the majority of the pages of the Bible are devoted to exposing the evil of sin, the prevalence of sin, the destruction of sin, and the way to combat sin. Sin is everywhere and it is a bad thing.

Jesus’ death and resurrection paved the way for our salvation. The Bible is clear on the fact that we cannot, on our own, resolve the sin issue. We are all sinful, weak, and guilty. But Jesus paid the price for us and while I am not necessarily presenting this work as a referendum on the Doctrine of Salvation, it is important to have this basic fact understood. His work (death and resurrection) has enabled me to be free from the bondage of sin. He didn’t save us because we deserved it. It was all on Him.

Jesus directed us to obey His Word and even claimed for one to love Him, one needs to obey His commandments (John 14:15). If we are to worship, know, love, and obey Him, we must know His Word.

Clearly, our life can be changed when we properly deal with sin. As a Christian we accept Jesus’ work as removing our sin, and it is by His grace we are saved. Yet we still may experience some lasting effects of sin. It can plague us and doggedly undermine our lives. We can easily lapse into cycles of defeat and discouragement when we don’t address sin and submit ourselves to His Word. We do this by incorporating The Key of Discipline By The Word.

Obedience To The Word

How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.
– Psalm 119:9

I don’t think I am over stating the fact that we must “take heed” or “keep” His Word (emphasis mine). His Word is the final authority. While many may claim the Bible is inspired, too often ways are found to discredit it, explain it away or ignore it. It is one thing for someone to say they obey the Bible when they personally agree with it. But when it becomes difficult or doesn’t fit our current social trends, there is a tendency to explain away the Scriptures.

When I accept the basic premise that the Bible is His Word, then my understanding of what He directs, through His Word, has a rock solid footing. If however, I come to Scripture with any other concept, I have then elevated my opinion above God’s. This of course means I have no real logical foundation upon which to build anything. Morality becomes an abstract concept based on current sociological trends.

In the opening pages of the Bible, we are treated to the famous encounter of Eve and the serpent. We should find it enlightening that Satan’s first words to Eve were to attack God’s Word.

“Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” – Genesis 3:1b

This has been the pattern from the beginning. Satan attacks God’s Word and gets us to doubt the truth of His Word. We question it, “Is this really true? Does it really apply now? Does the Bible really mean what it says?”

These questions need to be answered before we face off with the enemy. Before we are confronted with these questions, we need to have made the commitment, that yes, we do believe God means what He says in His Word. Once that situation is settled, then we can directly attack sin.


For more about the Key of Disciple By The Word, check out my book, Our Most Valuable Treasure: Psalm 119-The Key To Unlocking His Word

Blessings My Friend!

-jm

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God’s Word Is The Standard

The following is an excerpt from my book, Our Most Valuable Treasure: Psalm 119 – The Key To Unlocking His Word.

Who established and determined the exact length of a “foot” as a unit of measure?  One strong theory traces the origin of the length of a “foot” back nearly 900 years.  In England during the reign of Henry I, the king, it is believed, determined the exact size for the “foot”.

The 12-inch foot didn’t become a common unit of measurement until the reign of Henry I of England during the early 12th century, which has led some scholars to believe it was standardized to correspond to the 12-inch foot of the king.[1]

If units of measure differed all throughout the world over different periods of time, it would lead to chaos and confusion.  Having a defined, standardized unit of measure became the way to understand distances, define capacities, and allowed for fair trade.  We know an inch, a foot, and a yard are the same distance now as they were 300 years ago.  The inch, foot, mile, and all other units of measure, are the authority when it comes to measuring.  We also have a unit of measure for determining truth.

 Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven. – Psalm 119:89

 The important term in this verse is the word “settled” as used in the NKJV.   Other versions use phrases such as “stand firm” or “firmly fixed.”  The idea of this verse is God’s Word has been set or decided.   It is not up for debate or change.

You can take great comfort in the fact that His Word is not changing.  What was true in His Word two years or 2000 years ago, is still true today.   It is our great measuring rod. We can take any philosophy, ideology, teaching, or opinion from all time periods, and compare it to God’s Word, knowing His Word is the standard.

We can trust God’s Word.  It has been settled and will continue for all eternity.  There is great comfort from the fact that you can always count on the Word’s unchangeableness.   It is solid, consistent, and settled.

The main point to remember is since His Word is settled and unchanging, all things we encounter can be compared to the Word to see if it measures up to the truth as defined by Scripture.  His Word is the standard against which everything else is measured.

This is the first and most important concept because it determines authority.  If there was debate about the exact length of an inch or a foot, there would be no way to determine between individuals the length of anything.  Distance would be subjective, capacities would be irrelevant, and confusion would reign.  There would be no voice of authority for measurements.  It is the same when discussing truth.

Perhaps the reason the modern evangelical church experiences confusion on a variety of issues, is due to the lack of agreement on the standard used to determine truth.  Truth cannot be defined by a variety of ever changing markers.

Feelings, experiences, and cultural acceptances are too often used as the markers for morality.  Believing God’s Word is true, gives us a solid standard as His Word becomes the source of authority for us.

As social norms change, there has been a strong push for the Word of God to be changed.  Even within the evangelical church, there is substantial pressure to adapt and change Scripture.  It becomes explained away, distorted, and its meaning becomes twisted to suit modern thinking.  David and Jason Benham put it well when they said,

 There are only two ways to approach the Bible; start with you – where you take your beliefs and experience, then wrap the Bible around them.  Or you start with God – where you take the Bible and wrap your beliefs and experience around it.[2]

 The psalmist is making his case in no uncertain terms, “Your word is settled” and there is no other option.   His Word is defined, unchanged, and remains authoritative.   It is the measuring stick we use to line everything else up against.  God’s Word is where we must turn for truth.  God’s Word is the foundation or back bone upon which everything else rests.  God’s Word must be the standard to which everything else is measured.

We have a tendency in our modern church culture to look for extra-Biblical sources to validate the truth of the Bible.  Whether it’s other ancient texts or artifacts from a long gone society, we use those sources as the means to determine if the Bible is true.  Somehow believing an archeological discovery proves His Word.  It’s like using a size 12 man’s shoe to decide if the ruler is correct!  The ruler is the determining factor of the size of the shoe, not the shoe determining if the ruler is accurate.

Because His Word is the Standard, we can measure everything else against it.  It is the final authority.

Blessings My Friend,

Jeff Millslagle

PS. If you enjoy these periodic posts of mine, would you please “like” and share it on your personal Facebook page? I’d greatly appreciate it!

[1] http://mentalfloss.com/article/25108/why-are-there-5280-feet-mile-making-sense-measurements.

[2] Living Among Lions, David and Jason Benham, W Publishing Group 2016, page 118.

 

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I Want My Name Changed

Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and also I took Titus with me . – Galatians 2:1 NKJV

 A leader of the early church is a man named Barnabas.  He enters the pages of the New Testament in Acts 4:36.  He was from the island of Cyprus and became a follower of Jesus.  How this happened we are not told.  While he moved to Jerusalem, his sold some of his land, giving the proceeds to the early church(Acts 4:36). He was a cousin of Mark (Colossians 4:10).

His name was originally Joses and we are told the apostles gave him the name Barnabas, meaning “son of encouragement.”

It would seem the name fit him as he was first one of the first believers in Jerusalem to welcome Saul, latter called Paul, into the church (Acts 9:27).

Years later, he is sent out by the Jerusalem church leaders to Antioch.  In the same passage (Acts 11:22-26), he is described as one “full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.” He made contact again with Paul, bringing him back to Antioch, where he and Paul served the church an entire year.  They “taught a great many people” while in Antioch and even effected the church culture so much as there was a change of the name of the followers of Jesus. In Antioch, under the teaching of Paul and Barnabas, for the first time, believers in Jesus were referred to as “Christians.”

He of course accompanied Paul on the first missionary journey and he played a major role in the Jerusalem council of Acts 15.

Barnabas was a man of service.  He had a mission – serving His Lord.  He was a person who was known for his encouraging nature, quiet leadership and deep devotion to Jesus.

I so want to be like that guy.  Known as being an encourager, his name is even changed by church leaders!  On the front of mission work, yet known more for the supporting role in the work he did with Paul, Barnabas was a leader the church needed for the time.  I think the same type of leader is needed for our church today.  A leader known to want to serve people, having the ability to teach and lead others, and known as a source for encouragement.

How about you?  Would early church leaders be tempted to change your name?  I would be afraid to ask about any name change for me as I am sure my dominate trait is not one of encouragement.

But we need Barnabas’s in our churches.  Be an encourager and be devoted to following Jesus – like our friend, Barnabas.

In His Service!

-jm

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