7 steps to a better faith

EVEN FROM THE time of the chosen twelve, up until today, folks have sought to increase their faith. I’ve often wondered about the Lord’s answer, “So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.” [Luke 17:5-10]

It’s seems that our Saviour is telling us to get busy and to serve Him. We serve Him by keeping His commandents [John 14:15; 1John 5:3; Matt 7:24]. When the Prophet Elijah was emotionally down from the pressures of Jezebel’s persecution, the Lord came to him and asked, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Upon hearing Elijah’s pessimistic view of the world God said, “Go…” [1Kings 19:9-18]. His command to “go” was for Elijah to finish his work. No “thank you”, no “you sit here and I’ll get somebody else”, no “oh, I’m so sorry.” God said “GO!”

Is “go” really the answer to this request for an increased faith? I believe it is. An active faith has always been a requirement of God’s people. It was the inactive faith that has caused many to be punished. Just read about the complaining and diobedient children of Israel in Exodus, Numbers and Hebrews 3. Their lack of an active faith kept them out of the promised land.

INCREASE OUR FAITH

In another passage on faith, the Apostle Peter gave instructions on how to add to our faith. “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith…[2Peter 1:5]. Let’s examine the inspired 7 step plan for a better faith.

ADD TO YOUR FAITH

Virtue; the greek word is “arete” and has the meaning of “moral excellence.” When adding to our faith, the first step is to look at ourselves and cleaning up our own sins. One way to do this is to recognize who we are as God’s children.

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: [1Peter 2:9]

Knowledge; Knowledge is a seeking to know, investigation. To often, the folks dealing with a weak faith are also weak in their own knowledge of God. Romans 14 and 1Corinthians 8, speaks about a weak faith and it’s connection to knowledge. Paul urged the faithful to read, study and teach. What would a better understanding of God’s word do for your faith? [Ephesians 3:4; 2Timothy 2:2,15]

Temperance; Having self-control, as this word is defined, is what keeps us out of sin. We must practice it daily. Though God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able, as well as providing a way of escape, we must have enough control over ourselves to take the escape, [1Corinthians 10:13], …against such is no law. [Galatians 5:23]

Patience; The word used here is a cheerful enduring patience. None of us knows when the Lord shall return, but we endure cheerfully because we believe He keeps His promises and is a rewarder of those who are diligently seeking Him [Hebrews 11:6]. Built upon knowledge of God’s word, patience is added to our faith through the comfort of the scriptures [Romans 15:4].

Godliness; The next addition to our faith is defined as godliness. Conforming to the laws and wishes of God is the definition of godliness. Everyone gets this, from the atheist to the most ardent believer. Command keeping, although condemned by most denominations, is an essential aspect of our faith. Look back at the original request “increase our faith”, Jesus answered it by describing an obedient servant.   

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, [2Peter 3:11]

Brotherly kindness; Translated love in many places, this is a brotherly affection. One of the building blocks of our faith is kindness toward each other, in particular, toward those of the household of faith [Galatians 6:10].  Romans 12:10 says, “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another.” And Peter wrote, “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:” [1Peter 1:22].

Charity. In the KJV, the greek word “agapa” is called charity. This is a sacrificial  love toward another. This is the love God has toward us in John 3:16; Romans 5:8. Love can only be described by the action it prompts. “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him” [1John 4:7-9-13]. And this is the word used in John 14:15, “If you love me…”

Review this list often. Do you see how doing these things can “increase our faith?” If there’s any doubt, read what is said about this list. “For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” [2Peter 1:8]

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4 Easy ways to improve your Bible reading

LET’S FACE IT, WE ALL could be doing a better job of reading our Bibles. It’s just that we’re very busy. Although true, it’s still no excuse. After all, we are instructed to study… “Study to shew thyself approved unto God…” 2Timothy 2:15

Instead of trying to keep pace with one of the myriad of Bible reading plans, let’s take an approach that emphasises STUDY over just reading which could work better with your own busy lifestyle.

Study for the Bible classes. The congregation here at Franklin St. church of Christ, has determined to study through the whole Bible during our two weekly Bible class hours. This will take us about 5 years to study (not just read) the entire bible. By preparing for each Bible class, you’re reading the Bible!

Study Topically. So many of us keep a bookmark of “biblical references” in our Bibles. We keep them handy so that we can refer to them when a question arises during our personal work. What’s wrong with taking a few moments each day to study through one of the topics on the bookmark? For example, you could dedicate a week (just a few moments a day) to read all of the scriptures pertaining to baptism or the plan of salvation etc. I have personally used this method to improve my readiness when doing personal work.

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” 1Peter 3:15

There are other resources you can use to engage in this type of study, topical Bibles which simply list every scripture on a given subject, as well as concordances. Other trusted resources like, “Ready Reference for Growing Christians” or “Nichol’s Pocket Bible Encyclopedia” can be very helpful in your studies. Doing this is called reading your Bible.

Read what you can, when you can. Another strategy you can use is to keep a Bible handy. Download an app on your phone, or keep a pocket Bible in your purse or in your car, so that you always have God’s word with you to read during those many moments of pause. You know those moments of pause, waiting for a doctor’s appointment, or at the orthodontists office etc. Keep a Bible in every room of your house for quick access to His word. A friend of mine keeps her Bible open on the kitchen counter (away from the sink of course) as a constant reminder to take time to read. This too is called reading your Bible.

Make an appointment with yourself and God. Someone once told me, “nothing ever gets done until a deadline is set.” Make an appointment, or set an alarm on your phone, to spend time reading His divine instruction for your life. As an examle, set a goal to read the Gospels in a month. Everyone has time to read the Gospels. Look at these stats….

Matthew:        1 hour, 14 minutes
Mark:              46 minutes
Luke:               1 hour, 18 minutes
John:               1 hour, 3 minutes
The Four Gospels:  4 hours, 21 minutes

Looking at it another way, you could read…

  • Mark in the typical span of 1 or 2 quarters of NFL football.
  • John in the time lost watching commercials in 4 hours of TV.
  • Matthew in the average span of 4 Major League Baseball innings.
  • Luke in the typical length of 1 half of an NBA game.

Please understand, I’m not advocating that you give God the crumbs that are leftover from your day, what I am saying is there are multiple opportunities, during a day, to read the bible if we would just make it a point to take advantage of the time.

Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”
Ephesians 5:16

This verse from Ephesians should serve as a warning. Let us use the time remaining to protect ourselves from the evil that vexes our souls daily. What better resource do we have to do that than God’s own Word?

Do you remember?

THERE ARE THOSE MAJOR events in a man’s life that burns an indelible mark in the memories of their mind. September 11th is one such event. We can vividly recall where we were, the folks we where with and how we felt in that moment, the day the towers burned. Then our own hearts sank along with those towers, reeling from the incredible loss of life.

There are other moments we shall never forget. Before 9/11 our parents told stories about a November day in Dallas. Having grown up near Canaveral (even though I was living in Alaska at the time), the Challenger explosion became my “Kennedy experience”.

Then there are the more personal moments, shared only by those close to you within your life. The day you met your future spouse, was it love at first sight? Perhaps the day you wed the love of your life. The birth of a child, can that ever be forgotten?

There are the tragic moments too, the loss of a mother, a father or even a child. My cousin’s daughter Jenny died suddenly after ingesting a peanut hidden in a brownie. Aspiring to be a country singer, she was on a trip to Nashville with her grandparents and was visiting the Grand Ole Opry. For over 20 excruciating hours My cousin awaited the return of her parents to see their faces and to hear first hand about what happened to their oldest child.

Yes, we do remember.

Could we ever forget? Excepting the degenerative diseases of the mind is there anything that could make us forget? We never “get over it”, never do we forget. We move forward as new people, affected by whatever it was that moved us. Lest we spend too much space reminiscing, there is another event we ought to remember.

That day the word of the Lord struck your heart, piercing it through, pricking it to obey the Gospel. Just like so many did on Pentecost; “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?” [Ac 2:37]

Do you remember that day? Does it hold for you the same battle within your emotions between sorrow and joy. Sorrow for the recognition that your sin, and the whole worlds, sent our Savior to that cruel cross. Yet, there was also joy. Rejoicing that our Savior gave Himself, a substitutionary sacrifice, paying the debt caused by sin. [John 3:16]

And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” [1John 2:2]

Every week we’re given opportunity to “remember” when His blood was shed on the cross. Though we weren’t alive, His divine word is and provides for us all of the vivid detail, leaving us the “Supper” to eat in remembrance of Him. “And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.” [Luke 22:19]

There are other times in which it becomes necessary to REMEMBER His death. When our days are darkened by sin. John was told to write letters to the 7 churches of Asia, and to the dead church at Sardis he told them; “Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.” [Rev 3:3]

When sin enters our lives, or despair from the burdens and memories of this life, let us revisit the memory of the day we were saved. Remember with a godly sorrow, that worketh repentance to salvation, and not the sorrow of the world that works death. [2Cor 7:9, 10]

We as Christians ought to remember that day. Unfortunately, there are so many more who have never had THAT day to remember. [2Thess 1:8] Perhaps the memory of that day would inspire us to share, with those who have yet to believe, the words of eternal life. [John 6:68]

Preacher or Pastor What’s the difference?

MOST FOLKS, myself included, have a hard time remembering names. However, many can remember what you do, probably because it’s more tangible than a name.    Let me share with you a conversation that I have nearly every single day;

Them: Hello pastor.
Me: Hello, I’m not a pastor, I’m a preacher.
Them: what’s the difference?
Me: a bunch, would you like to study it?
Them: No, I’m good.

This typical conversation has been condensed for space. I’m never short with them, always jovial and kind, but I do use it as an opportunity to engage in a gospel conversation with folks.

This article is for them. For all of us really. It will be posted online as a tool you can use when they ask you, “what’s your pastor like?”

What’s the difference?

Although all pastors are preachers, not all preachers are pastors.

PREACHERS: These people are “a herald, i.e. of divine truth (especially of the gospel)” WE Vines. Although any one can be a “preacher” when they speak about the Gospel, there is a position in the local congregation which is called “the evangelist.” According to scripture, this is a male who is a herald of the gospel during the preaching portion of the worship. He stands up and preaches the gospel, [2Timothy 4:2; 1Timothy 2:12; 1Corinthians 14:34]. It’s unpopular to say “male only”, but this is the teaching of the New Testament. In no way does this teaching speak to the worth of women, rather it is just a defining of roles. [Galatians 3:28]

In short, a preacher is an evangelist who, in addition to going out to spread the gospel, publicly preaches the gospel during the worship of the local congregation. Paul wrote to the evangelist / preacher Timothy, “But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.” [2Tim 4:5]

PASTORS: This is a specific position held in the local congregation, the qualifications of which are in 1Timothy 3:1-7 & Titus 1:5-9. There are some additional information about “pastors”, also called “elders” in Acts 20:17-35. Here we find that these men are to watch over the local church and to feed the flock; “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” [Acts 20:28]. From this verse it becomes clear why Elders are also Called Pastors.

An Elder / Pastor can also be an evangelist, laboring as his vocation in the Gospel. “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.” [1Timothy 5:17]

What’s Your Pastor Like?” This is another question that is frequently asked. What they’re trying to determine is his speaking ability and personality. This questions is often asked by a person who’s thinking about visiting a particular church. While there’s nothing wrong in asking about the speaker, it shouldn’t be the FIRST nor ONLY prerequisite for choosing a church. (Other poor qualities for choosing a church are; games, entertainment, cafes of field trips)

One should seek first the truth; “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” [Mat 6:33]. I’ve written about this in a previous article, “How to start a church” [April 19, 2015]. The basics of which are 3 points:

  • Reliance on God’s word for their only Authority. [1Peter 4:11]
  • Correct Worship in spirit and truth. [John 4:24]
    1. Assembling on the correct day, partaking of the Lord’s Supper [Acts 20:7]. Preaching, praying, singing (without the aid of mechanical music) and giving [Acts 20:7, 8, 36; Eph 5:19; 1Cor 16:1].
  • Doing the work of the church; Spreading the Gospel, Edification of the saints, and benevolence for needy saints. [Mat 28:18-20; Eph 4:12; 1Cor 16:1]

More could be said about this subject, hopefully this article has peaked your interest in confirming for yourself about the truth of all matters. Search the scriptures yourselves to learn all the counsel of God.  [Acts 17:11; 1John 4:1-3].

Prove all things; hold fast that which is good
[1Thess 5:21]