Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Semper Paratus: Always Ready

 Semper Paratus is the motto for the United States Coast Guard. According to their website:
The U.S. Coast Guard is one of the five armed forces of the United States and the only military organization within the Department of Homeland Security. Since 1790 the Coast Guard has safeguarded our Nation's maritime interests and environment around the world. The Coast Guard is an adaptable, responsive military force of maritime professionals whose broad legal authorities, capable assets, geographic diversity and expansive partnerships provide a persistent presence along our rivers, in the ports, littoral regions and on the high seas. Coast Guard presence and impact is local, regional, national and international. These attributes make the Coast Guard a unique instrument of maritime safety, security and environmental stewardship.
 Since we depend on the Coast Guard for homeland security, we can find relief in the fact that their goal is to always be ready.  They may face a national tragedy, a large-scale event involving a few hundred people, a small-craft emergency or even a military or terroristic threat. If any of these situations were to occur, lives are depending on them to be ready to spring into action and anticipate any scenario they may encounter.

Scripture tells the believer that we are to be always ready: "...sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence..." (1 Peter 3:15)  As those who have been changed by the truth and those in whom the truth lives, we are also in the life-saving business. Therefore we are called and have a responsibility to always be ready. At any moment we could encounter someone who is perishing without Christ. If you were counting on the Coast Guard to help you and they showed up and proceeded to tell you that they didn't know how to help and then began to list all the reasons why, how would that make you feel? You would probably wonder why they signed up for the Coast Guard and why they even bothered to come to where you are. So you and I MUST always be ready. 
Here are some ways you can be ready: 
1.      Live a holy life that reflects God's glory accurately.
As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior;  because it is written, "YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY."(1 Peter 1:14-16)
We must keep ourselves from all things that are contrary to the character of God.However, since we are incapable of being perfect, we must also quickly admit when we have sinned and get back on course so as not to lead others astray. 

2.      Take an evangelism training course. 

The best way to be ready is to take intentional steps to prepare. If you and I keep telling ourselves that we can’t do it, then we will get exactly what we are expecting. However, if it is important (and it is) then we must exert effort to prepare.
There are many different courses and there is not one “right” one. Check with your church and see what they offer. If they don’t offer one, request one! 
3.      Prepare and practice your own testimony.
People are more interested in actual results than they are about potential results. It doesn’t matter if you are trying to sell something or simply convince someone to try something. The most convincing evidence you can present is how it changed your life. Regarding evangelism, the most convincing evidence is what has changed in you and how you continue to be effected. So try this: Write three paragraphs. The first is what you were like before you met Christ. The second is how you met Christ. The third is what your life has been like since you met Christ.  You could fit this on one to two hand-written pages. (See 1 Peter 3:15 above)

 And most of all…
4.      Pray and trust God

And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:31)

God’s desire is for people to know Him and to be saved from the wrath to come. So, He wants you to succeed. However, you must be ready.

"But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say.” (Matthew 10:19)

For God's Glory,
Chris S. Sweet

Monday, January 12, 2015

What's New?

Well, we're about two weeks into the New Year and I must ask "What's new?" Things that are new for me are a goatee (I have never before worn one), vacation plans set and paid for so my wife and I can celebrate our 20th anniversary later this year, and new tax software. 

A new year is supposed to bring about new possibilities, or getting a redo on the fumbled possibilities of last year. However, in Ecclesiastes 1:9-10 King Solomon says, "That which has been is that which will be, And that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sunIs there anything of which one might say, 'See this, it is new '? Already it has existed for ages Which were before us." He follows this with a depressing list of the things of life with which we consume ourselves daily which result in nothing but "vanity" (click here to read all that he lists).

All the things that Solomon listed were things that he tried to gain on his own efforts with his own understanding ("I", "myself", "my" - e.g. Chapter 2). However, you can test for yourself and see that the only things that are truly new and lasting are the things of God. Things like a new covenant (Luke 22:20), a new commandment (John 13:34-35), new life (Romans 6:4), the new creature He can transform you into (2 Corinthians 5:17), a new attitude (Ephesians 4:24), a new way (Hebrews 10:19-20), a new heavens and a new earth (2 Peter 3:10,13), a new name (Revelation 3:12), a new song (Revelation 5:9 & 14:3), and he'll finish by making "all things new" (Revelation 21:1-5).

God's work is a lasting work and God's mind is a unsearchable. We can find nothing new in our limited knowledge and scope, but God can show us things about Him that we could never know apart from Him. He's willing to show you and I those things. He desires that we would be intimately related to Him because He loves us. That is why He sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross. We cannot know Him as long as we remain self-sufficient and sinful. We are separated from Him by our failure to keep His laws. Jesus paid the price for our sin so we can experience the promises of the New Covenant so we will want to love according to the New Commandment so we can experience the new life and become a new creature with a new attitude. This will open the new way to the new heavens where we will receive His new name, sing a new song and witness God's transformation of everything from the old to the new.

This is the only way we will see anything new and the only way we will survive beyond this physical life (2 Peter 3). I hope you will accept the offer God is extending to you in this new year. We are not guaranteed another year or even another day. After all of King Solomon's searching, this is what he learned: "The conclusion , when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every personFor God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil"  

Will you be ready? By the grace purchased through the blood of Christ, I am. Please don't wait another day, come and be made new.

For God's Glory,
Chris S. Sweet