Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Week Eleven - Discern


“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”  Hebrews 4:12

The Discerner – it literally means, the judge.  Hebrews 4:13 supports this definition saying, “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.” It creates an amazing and awesome image.

God’s Word is an executer of justice.  It is the rule and ruler in the Hand of God.  No thought or intent is beyond its examination.  There is no place to hide, but that the all-seeing eye beholds.  And I love that phrase, “of him with whom we have to do”.  We will answer face to face to the Great Judge who is aware and involved in every area of our lives. 

We work at excusing ourselves for our pettiness, weaknesses or ill temper.  But when we look into the Word of God, we see that we are held accountable.  Not only that, but every excuse is wiped away because inside the blood of Christ there is power to overcome our weaknesses and we can live as victors.  All our whining, complaining, and resentments are fully recognized by the Spirit and power of the Word.  We are called to face ourselves honestly and boldly knowing that, not only does the Judge already know our motives, He has made provision for our restoration, yea, He has already paid the price.

There is no reason for a Christian to be trying to live under the radar, no reason to have secret sins.  There is no such thing with God.  Why not then live openly and honestly?

“Oh, be careful little eyes what you see….for the Father up above is looking down in love, so be careful little eyes what you see”.  Simple children’s song, but a mature and great truth.

Are you trying to live a secret life?  Do you fail to recognize that God sees straight through all your excuses and ulterior motives?  May as well lay it all on the table today and give up the pretense.  The Great Judge sees straight through you.



“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”  I Corinthians 2:14

When I was young I thought this verse said that people could not understand the things of God because they were spiritually unable or stupid.  I didn’t know the meaning of the word discerned.  The verse took on a totally new light when I discovered the true definition.

Discerned here means to examine or judge in a legal sense.  It is quite a strong definition. It indicates that though the natural man can understand and discern many things, he is without the spiritual power to connect the dots.  He cannot see the beauty of Scripture, the holiness of God, or the wealth of wisdom hidden in Christ.  Because he cannot look into the depths of godliness, he casts it off, counts it all as foolishness and goes his way void of spiritual understanding. 

Verse 15 goes on to say, “But he that is spiritual judgeth all things…” And the meaning of “judgeth” is “discerneth”.  So, to discern or examine is to more than just making a choice, we are now called upon to judge – to weigh the options, to look into the law and determine rightness.  This takes spiritual wisdom.  The writer of Proverbs tells us, “…incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; if thou sleekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God…”  (Proverbs 2:2-5)

Discerning or judging the things of God requires spiritually directed wisdom.  The natural man does not have access to such wisdom.  But, the Christian, willing to examine his life and make judgment based on God’s law and principle, will find a wealth of beauty, fellowship and holiness of life that will bring glory to God.

My initial definition makes for a good question.  Are you spiritually stupid? Maybe you do not have God’s Spirit within you.  You need to come to know him through salvation.  Or, you may be a starving, carnal Christian, one who just lets Sunday’s sermon be your only meal.  You need to get into the Word for yourself and grow.

The beauty and depth of God’s Word is for those willing to delve into it.  The more you learn, the more you grow, and the more you grow, the more beautiful it becomes.  Take the challenge…let your spiritual discernment increase.


“Is there iniquity in my tongue?  Cannot my taste discern perverse things?”  Job 6:30

My husband went with a youth group to Panama.  On this trip he repeatedly encouraged the young people to see, touch, and taste the culture.  One evening they were having refreshments and a bit of a singsong.  He picked up a cup of Panamanian nut milk from the table so he could taste the culture.  As he did, to him it tasted rancid.  Now he had a dilemma.  What is he going to do?  It tasted too bad for him to even consider drinking, but after his talks with the young people he didn’t want them to see him disposing of the drink.  So, he walked over to the piano, sung a few songs and then walked away leaving the drink on the piano.

The things to which we have grown accustomed set our personal tastes.  This is true throughout all cultures.  Clothing choices, foods, housing and many more are acceptable according to our culture.  As a Christian, our tastes are to be set according to Scripture. 

The word “discern” here in Job holds the idea of realizing or the development of a skill.  Job is saying that his taste buds realize when something is rancid or soured.  This skill has come by practice.

He is telling his friends that just as he would recognize drinking soured milk or eating a rotten potato, he would recognize sin in his life.  He has developed the spiritual skill of knowing right from wrong.  He knows the taste of sin, and of righteousness.

What about you?  Do you know when you have sinned?  Does it have a certain taste that you easily recognize?  Do you find it perverse – distasteful?


“But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”  Hebrews 5:14

“Whoso keepeth the commandment shall feel no evil thing: and a wise man’s heart discerneth both time and judgment. Because to every purpose there is time and judgment…”  Ecclesiastes 8:5 & 6

The ability to discern between good and evil and time and judgment belongs to those who are mature and wise.  It comes by exercise and experience.  There is much to be said about the wealth a person gains as they travel down the road of life.  They have the ability to look back and see where decisions brought about changes in their lives and, if they are wise, they can see how those decisions brought either good or evil to their lives.  They come to understand the principle of time and of sound judgment.

I loved to play checkers (draughts) with my grandfather.  He would nearly always win.  However, throughout the game he would try to teach me to look ahead on my moves, to make plans and to try to see the outcomes of my choices.  It has proved to be a good skill for life. Wisdom means taking time to look forward, to discern what will be the outcome of our choices.

The definition in both of these verses is to distinguish, pass judgment, to understand, recognize or know. It is the ability to look ahead on your moves, to recognize good and evil, to know the right time and to judge the outcomes.  The mature and wise Christian has learned this skill.  Spurgeon said, “Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong, it is knowing the difference between right and almost right.”

The young Christian is wise to develop this skill.  It comes by observation and by application. Observation of the testimony of others – how have their choices impacted their lives for good or for evil?  And, by application of the Word of God – using it as a judge for decision making in our own lives – faithfully obeying the Word and allowing time to show us God’s blessing.  It is developing the distinct taste of righteousness. Such wisdom and discernment do not come overnight, but are the fruit of a life lived in accordance to God’s directives.

Need help with decisions?  Weigh up the good and evil, the pro and the con.  Compare the decision with Scripture.  Choose to take the path of God’s Word.  Let God prove Himself to you.  Taste and see that He is Good!



“And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.  Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.”  Malachi 3:18 & 19

When all is said and done we will see who was true and who was not.  I have heard preachers say that we will be surprised who is in Heaven and who is not.  We do not have the ability to see into a person’s heart.  We are not the discerner of the thoughts and intents, God is.  So he tells us that when we stand before him, all will be revealed.

The definition in this verse means to look, to select and to see.  It truly means that we will be allowed to see the difference.  As we go through life in this realm we can only judge by people’s fruits and even then our judgment is sadly often based on our own prejudices.  Because we cannot see into the heart, we can only look on the outside.  I think that is why we are told that comparing ourselves among ourselves is not wise.  We do not have access to all of the truth about each other.  So, our best path is to judge ourselves only.

When we get to Heaven God will be the revealer of every man’s character.  He will be the one that reveals his true servants.  Then, we will all be made perfect, as jewels we will shine forth.  Our true colors will appear and any disguises will be removed.

Knowing this truth motives the soul to be open with the Lord and requires that we allow any false pretense or intent to be examined and slain.  If we want to shine brightly here on this earth, we must be pure.  We need to shine forth the testimony of Christ and be true servants of the Lord – servants that others can recognize. 

Are you shining forth?  Can people see your testimony?  Are you hiding behind some disguise?  When the day comes, will you be a jewel or a diamond in the rough?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Week Ten - Direct

“My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.”  Psalm 5:3
The definition of direct as used here is: to arrange in rows or to put in order. Interesting.  Prayer is to have order.  I have heard people complain about grocery list prayers – the type where you simply move down a list of prayer requests – but with this definition it seems listed prayer requests have their place.  No doubt they do, because our prayers should have aim.  Like a marksman, we should have a steadiness of mind and heart as we direct our prayers to the Lord.  Keeping a list of prayers helps to give that purpose and direction.
Keeping a prayer journal is another way to direct your prayers.  As you record not only the requests, but also the history of the answers, and the things God reveals to you along your prayer journey, it becomes a source of encouragement and rejoicing.
However, I see another side to prayers that are in order.  Since God is a God of order we will find that in prayer He will reveal His direction, his orders, and his agenda for our lives.  Prayer should be the first place we go in the morning and throughout the day as we face decisions and circumstances.  This was the example of Christ and a worthy one for us to adopt.  By following his example in prayer we will find that God will set the agenda for our lives.  Our lives will take on more order and purpose.  We will become better marksmen not only in prayer, but also in living.  That steadiness of mind and heart will be honed as we get our sights in the right place – looking up.
Prayer is work, and thus, it requires direction. So, we are encouraged to have a plan in prayer. 
Is your prayer life aimless?  It is hit and miss?  Or, do you see prayer as a vital work of God with purpose and power?

“A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.
 Proverbs 16:9

“O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.”
 Jeremiah 10:23

Frank Sinatra’s version of “My Way” is well known.  As he recounts in song all the difficulties he has faced and the paths he has walked, he comes to the conclusion that he was victorious because he did it his way.  This is pure humanistic philosophy.  God is removed.
However, God’s Word reveals the sovereignty of God in all things.  Man may go his “own way”, but God is still in control.  When we look at the actual definition of the word, direct, in these verses we will understand more of what God is saying.  It means to establish, make firm, prepared or made ready.  So, while man’s heart may have a way it wants to go, only God can truly make a solid way forward. 
Man is like a fickle dove.  He is always chopping and changing.  He will go with his whims and fancies.  But God prepares a firm way for us.  We do not have to be blown about in life or allow our emotions to have total sway in our decisions.  God has a prepared path for us.  We have only to follow and acknowledge that His was is best.
It’s sorta like the toddler who is trying to learn a new skill.  They don’t want instruction.  They want to do it their way.  You have to sometimes leave them to it until they come to the end of their tether and ask for help.  God does the same with us.  He will let us have our “own way” for a time and once we see the futility of our struggle, He will step in and direct our steps into success.
How much better to start out on the path with God, than to waste valuable time and effort in trying to demand our own way?

“And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.”  II Thessalonians 3:5  
I remember the day when this verse came alive to me.  I was listening to a dear church member do his first Scripture reading during the morning service.  My heart was distracted with the burden of a sad situation, and then I heard this simple phrase that lifted my heart and restored hope to my soul – “The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God”.  I had allowed this burden to shift my heart.  It was starting to draw me down that path of despair and worry. 
My thoughts were completely overtaken by the amazing strength and promise of this verse.  God will direct my heart into His love.  I, so, needed to be directed!  And God was standing there ready to do it! 
The word, “direct”, as used here, means to guide, to lead – with morally pure light.  God is the one doing the directing.  His direction is pure – totally pure.  There are no ulterior motives with God.  There is no “what if’s” or “if only’s”.  He knows exactly the direction our heart should take in every circumstance.  That direction is straight to Him.  We need not be tossed about or overly burdened.  We need not sit up at night wondering and surmising.  We have only to allow Him to direct our hearts into His love.
I never cease to be amazed at God’s ability to capture my attention.  His Word is so alive and powerful, so pertinent and exact.  He knows what my heart needs, and the direction it should take – straight into the love of God.
I don’t know about you, but I need directing.  My heart will get distracted and drift; I need God to be taking hold of me and directing my heart back to Him.

“In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
Proverbs 3:6 
I’ve heard people say the Christian way is rough and rugged.  And truly, sometimes things we face can be hard and challenging.  Yet, they can always be placed against the promise of this verse - “..he shall direct thy paths.” 
Surprisingly, the definition of “direct” here is not to do with guidance or arrangement, but rather with the actual consistency of the path.  It actually means to make straight, smooth, or do good. There are more promises of this kind throughout God’s Word.
Isaiah 45:2  “I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight; I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron.”
Isaiah 45:13 “I have raised him up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways…”
 Proverbs 11:5  “The righteousness of the perfect shall direct his way: but the wicked shall fall by his own wickedness.”
In each case the Lord is promising to make the way of his child straight and smooth.  I find there are fewer complications in life when I am walking alongside my Lord.  When I am looking to Him and looking for Him, He is there.  When I face what might seem an insurmountable problem, I have but to step aside and let Him sort things out.  I am not called upon to solve every situation or to control every outcome.  I have but to acknowledge that He is God.  I am not. 
I can do very little about the path I tread except to walk according to His Word in righteousness and believe in His best for me.  He will do good for me.  The roughness and ruggedness of the Christian life is often brought about by deviation from His Word, from the presence and activity of sin, and from my own failure to acknowledge Him. 
He has promised that his yoke is easy and his burden is light.  (Matthew 11:20)  No matter how difficult life gets, when I take time to acknowledge His supremacy and power, I can find Him working on my behalf to sort life, to make it more bearable, to lighten my load – to direct my path.

“Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being his counseller hath taught him? “  Isaiah 40:13  

How many times do we presume to tell God how we want things to work out, instead of asking Him to allow us to see His hand in the situation and adjust ourselves to be walking aligned to His purposes?
We are often guilty of playing God.  We think we have everything figured out and God needs to move quicker, or in a certain direction, or to a certain end.  Yet, all of our assumptions are based on our personal reasoning and desires.  We are trying to second guess the Spirit and direct God.
The word, direct, means to weigh, estimate or understand.  We need to remind ourselves that His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways.  (Isaiah 55:8) We are not God.
God doesn’t build in straight lines.  He cannot be “pinned down”.  Like the wind, His Spirit moves upon the face of the earth to an order that God alone directs.  Yet, He does not leave us without the direction or understanding that we need. His promises are solid and secure. 
In Jeremiah 33 he describes how secure his promises are as Jeremiah records, “Thus saith the Lord; if ye can break my covenant of the day, and my covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season; then may also my covenant be broken with David my servant…”  (Jeremiah 33:20, 21)  Interesting to note that this same statement is made again in verses 25, 26.  Guess God really wants us to understand that though He does not work according to our selfish desires, He does work according to His eternal plan and He will be successful.
Jeremiah 33:2, 3 gives us another glimpse, “Thus saith the Lord the maker thereof, the Lord that formed it, to establish it; the Lord is his name; Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.”  Though we are wasting our effort in trying to instruct or direct God, we are offered the invitation to come alongside and allow Him to instruct us – to show us what He is up to!  Asking God submissively will lead us to greater understanding, but it never gives us the power to direct.

Are you a presumptuous prayer?  Do your prayers sound like commands instead of petitions?  Do you think you could handle things better than God?  Better get back in your place!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Week Nine - Correction

“O Lord, correct me, but with judgment; not in thine anger, lest thou bring me to nothing.”  Jeremiah 10:24
Hebrews 12 is the place to go to read about the purpose and outcome of the Lord’s correction.  We are instructed to understand that as children of the King we should expect that our good Father would deal with us in correction.  It is a sign that we are His and it is for our profit.  His goal is to bring peace and uprightness to our lives.
Jeremiah is opening his heart and life for the Lord’s examination, asking to be corrected.  David did similarly in Psalm 139:23, 24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there by any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
He adds a qualifier – with judgment and not anger. Again, he reflects the heart of David as in Psalm 6:1, “O Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure.” David and Jeremiah do not want to be in the hands of an angry God. Their desire is for loving and honest correction, to be judged and instructed.
The phrase, lest thou bring me to nothing, shows the natural result of punishment done in anger.  It diminishes the spirit.  Jeremiah’s prayer is that good will come from the correction, that it will yield good fruit.  God will surely answer this brave prayer.
When we come to God with this type of prayer, we, too, can expect that he will answer.  The key is being willing to give reverence to the instruction and to make the necessary changes.
Can you pray this prayer?  Are you willing and ready to hear from your loving, heavenly Father about the things you need to have corrected in your life?  Are you willing to make the changes necessary? Do you believe that his correction will be for your benefit?

“O Lord, are not thine eyes upon the truth?  Thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction: they have made their faces harder than a rock; they have refused to return.”  Jeremiah 5:3
Refusing to receive correction.  What a sad state of affairs.  Can you see the description of Israel in this verse?  They have been under the corrective hand of God, but refused to yield.  They have become harder and harder as they stubbornly hold onto their rebellion.  There is no repentance, no grieving for sin. 
Sadly, this example is played out in the lives of so many even today.  Stubbornness and rebellion become a way of life and no matter how ugly life gets they refuse to change their ways.  Proverbs 13:15 says, “…the way of the trangressors is hard.”  Truly, a life bound in rebellion brings with it much heartache.
Proverbs 22:15 tells us that “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.”  That tells me that refusal to receive correction is foolish.  It is not wise and not the best path to choose.  To be in a place where the hand of God is upon you in correction because of your rebellion is not a happy place.  It is also not a place God wants you to remain.
My heart goes out to those whose children have taken this path.  My heart also is broken for those who are on this path.  As I hear of their hurts and disappointments I can only watch as they refuse to hear truth and as they continue over and over to make poor choices.  All the time they are blaming someone else.  They can even say all the right words, but their hearts are far from the truth and their bent is toward stubbornly trying to make their sinful lifestyle work.  It results in a hard heart and a seared conscience.  Refusing to receive correction.  What a sad state of affairs.

“Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee:  know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord God of hosts.”  Jeremiah 2:19  
It is a distasteful punishment when we realize that we are reaping what we have sown.  There is no one else to blame and we have to admit that our own doings and rebellion have brought about the hardships we are facing.
Like teenagers, we insist on our own way without taking into account what will be the outcome.  Sometimes we are in open rebellion, and sometimes we are just simply ignorant.  I have been both!  Open rebellion brought me several lessons in my teen years, but ignorance brought it’s own lesson as well.
I always had the potential to be a good student.  My parents insisted on good grades.  So, I did just enough to keep them happy and to keep control of the educational pressure on myself.  I was in the top ten percent of my graduating class and that satisfied me until I realized that my laziness meant I was being overlooked for opportunities I would have enjoyed.  I watched as others, whom I considered beneath me, were elevated to places of reward I knew could have been mine. 
All of us have lessons like this from our teens, no doubt.  But sadly, we also have experienced similar lessons from our adulthood as we have faced learning about finances, cars, relationships and jobs. 
But saddest of all is the Christian who rebels against His Lord.  Who, by unscriptural choices and open rebellion goes out to have his own way forsaking God’s love and directives and not afraid of the consequences, nor respectful of His authority. 
The law of sowing and reaping remains consistent.  We will all give account of ourselves to the Lord.  It is an evil and bitter pill to swallow when we see that our own sin is being used to correct us.
Have you tasted that pill?  Are you in open rebellion against the Lord?  Are you doing just enough to get by and keep your head down when you know the Lord wants more from you?  Can you see the folly of forsaking the Lord, and, the danger of failing to fearfully respect Him?

“He that chastiseth the heathen, shall not he correct?  He that teacheth man knowledge, shall not he know?”  Psalm 94:10
Chastisement and correction go together.  In Jeremiah 10:24 we learned that the prophet requested the Lord do so with judgment and not in anger.  That was because he knew it came as a package.  If you think about it, most everything we learn, we learn by effort.  Learning to walk means we will fall.  Learning to obey our parents comes with stern warnings and maybe even a few whacks! Learning to play an instrument means practice and loads of wrong notes.  It is no wonder then, that getting something correct means loads of rebukes in the process.
This verse, though, is speaking about more than just learning to do something new.  It is talking about the right of the Lord to teach us how to follow Him.  Matthew Henry explains, “He chastises the heathen for their polytheism and idolatry, shall not he much more correct his own people for their atheism and profaneness?”
Hebrews 12 teaches that correction from the Lord, and, yes, even chastisement, is a sign that we are His children.  God will correct his children.  And, even as he chastises the heathen, he will chastise those of his children who do not yield.
Israel was a rebellious daughter.  She was prideful and haughty.  She was very willing to condemn the heathen around her, but thoughtless about her own failings before her Lord.  She ignored the prophets and even decided to not give heed to their words of warning.  (Jeremiah 18:18) She was bound up in her own way so God had to use strong punishments to get her attention.
It makes for a real attention-getter for us as well.  We can get self-righteous, judgmental and comfortable in our own way. We can think ourselves “above the law”.  And, we can simply go through the motions of Christianity ignoring the Word of God in our self-conceit.  But we need to take note.  God, who punishes the heathen, who we condemn, also holds his children to account.  We, who have the truth, are even more responsible to live in that truth.  God knows our heart.  He knows our true motivations.  We are not guiltless.  He will correct us.

“Correct thy son, and he shall give the rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul.”  Proverbs 29:17
Correction can be a lovely thing.  Taking time to instruct your children pays benefits.  Getting them under control at a young age will give you years of peace in the future.
Having raised five children of my own, I can attest to the demands that wise correction makes on the parent.  To see the real benefits of correction there must be defined boundaries, understood outcomes, and consistency.  Those do not take away from the elements of grace and mercy, but rather, they give a foundation to correction that creates understanding between the parent and the child that will last a lifetime.
God does the same with us.  He has defined boundaries – the “shoulds and should not’s” of God’s Word.  He explains the outcomes of crossing the line – broken fellowship, chastisement, etc.  And, God is consistent.  He does not change.  He is always there with grace and mercy, but his foundations remain consistent.
God gives us correction throughout His Word.  Actually, II Timothy 3:16 even tells us that the Word of God is there for the use of correction.  We can go to God’s Word to find out where we are going wrong, and then use God’s Word to make the necessary changes.  His Word is there for our benefit and for our protection. Correction need not always be considered negative. 
I always found it such a delight when my children obeyed and especially when they obeyed because they had understood my words and made choices to stay inline with our family guidelines. They benefited as well.  Not only because they knew they had done right, but by following good guidelines, they stayed safe.
Now that they are all grown, they have each come back to thank their parents for good discipline and teaching – and yes – even for correction.  I can enjoy them now as adults.

Are you a consistent parent when it comes to discipline?  Or, do you fly off the handle disciplining in raw emotion?  Do you have defined boundaries and expectations, or do your children always wonder about what is right and wrong?  Do you use discipline to “beat your child down”? As a child of God, are you obedient?  Do you know His boundaries and expectations?  Are you living up to them in love?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Week Eight - Continue


 “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread and in prayers.”  
Acts 2:42   

 The definition of “continued” here in Acts means to be strong toward, to endure or to persevere with a person or thing.  When you add the adverb “steadfastly”, it takes on an even stronger connotation.  The new believers were intensely following or staying with the doctrine, fellowship and activities of this new Way.  They were not wavering.  There was much for them to learn and it was intensely important to them.
As times goes on in Biblical church history we come to the book of
I Timothy and read Paul’s admonition – “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” (I Timothy 4:16)  Here the definition is to continue long or to abide.
If we put the two definition together we get the idea dedication, or sticking with it, or being in for the long haul.  It’s like an intense importance; a singleness of mind set on purpose toward following a person or a thing.  In this case, the person is Christ and the thing is doctrine.  The two are inseparable.  Christ makes doctrine alive, and doctrine points the soul back to Christ making a stable and growing Christian.
Ephesians 4:14 warns us not to be as children, “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine” but rather, to be growing in Christ, understanding and learning the truth that is in Jesus.  James holds a similar warning, “he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.”  To continue means, then, that we must have solid ground.  We need to know doctrine.  We need to chart a steady course and stay on the path.
If you take note of the last phrase of I Timothy 4:16 it tells you why this is important.  “…for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.”  Being consistent (continuing in sound doctrine) holds reward.  It is not the means of our salvation, nor that of others, but it is the assurance that as we are faithful to His Word, He will be faithful to us, and use our lives as instruments in the salvation of others.
Do you know what you believe?  Do you know why?  Is doctrine alive to you?  Are you living what you believe?  Can others see those beliefs in your life?  Are you continuing in your Christian walk, or are you wavering and tossed about?


“…Paul and Barnabas…persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.” 
Acts 13:43

 “As the Father hath love me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.”  
John 15:9 

The admonition to continue is sprinkled throughout Scripture. It is not limited to doctrine, but linked with several biblical directives.  Here in these two verses we are told to continue in the grace of God and the love of Christ.  It means to stay long or to abide.
The grace of God in this instance is, according to Barnes, “…His favour – in the faith, and prayer, and obedience, which would be connected with his favour.  The gospel is called the grace or favour of God, and they were exhorted to persevere in their attachment to it.”  That is a wonderful phrase – “persevering attachment to it”. 
It isn’t merely staying in church.  It isn’t just living a Christian lifestyle.  It is a real attachment; a choice based on commitment and determination.  Jude tells us “keep yourselves in the love of God…” This tells me that I have to be active in order to continue or keep myself in a certain place or position. To continue, stay long or abide means I am rationally, physically, emotionally and spiritually present.  I am involved.  I have a persevering attachment by choice to my Saviour and God.
And why would I not want to make this choice?  Why would I ever want to remove myself from God’s favour and love?  It is the best place to be.  It is afforded by the love of Christ and His sacrifice. I do not deserve it, but it is a free gift – a gift I have been given.
Choosing then, to do things that would set me outside the love and grace of God, is unwise and unproductive.  I want to stay where He can show me His love.  I want to interact with His love.  I want to wake every morning knowing He is there.
You with me?  Are you there – in the love and favour of God?  Do you life choices show that you have a persevering attachment to the Lord?  Or do your choices go against His Word setting you apart from a loving relationship with the Lord?


“Continue in prayer…” Colossians 4:2 

 “…if ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed.” 
John 8:31 

 This is absolutely beautiful.  It is an open invitation to have fellowship and a real relationship with the Lord of hosts!  Let’s take time to look at the depth of meaning behind these two invitations.
Continue in prayer.  It means to join, to adhere, to spend much time together or to faithfully attend.  Our Lord is inviting us to join with him, to stick by His side and spend quality time together, to be a part of His team and in His presence. 
Sometimes we get the wrong idea about prayer.  We come with our list and dutifully set about praying for those with needs and the concerns on our hearts.  We see prayer as something we do, rather than something in which we are allowed to participate.  Doing is different than participating.  You can “do” all by yourself, but you cannot participate alone.  To participate means that to share in an activity.  It comes from a Latin root meaning “shared in” that is formed from two root words meaning part and take, or, to partake. 
If you are participating or partaking you are receiving a benefit from the activity.  You are putting part of yourself into the collective activity.  When we view prayer from this vantage point it takes on a different meaning.  No longer are we just alone in our prayer, but we are part of a larger group – the body of Christ – and we are participating in an activity or spiritual discipline that brings us into closer communion with the Lord.  The invitation is to keep praying, to spend much time with the Lord in prayer and pray without ceasing  - continue praying.
The invitation to continue in His Word has the idea of staying or remaining.  Again, we are privileged receivers of His Word.  The Word is alive in our hearts.  It is our source of strength and guidance.  Staying there, or remaining in the Word is a sign that we are His disciples. 
This Friend of ours desires our company.  Prayer and the fellowship of the Word are precious commodities.  We should continue in them and make them a part of every moment of our lives.


”…exhorting them to continue in the faith…” Acts 14:22 

“…continue in the faith grounded and settled….”  
Colossians 1:23

It was no small thing in the early church to continue in the faith.  Everything around them made it a difficult choice.  Through the centuries the difficulty of continuing in the faith has remained true throughout many eras.  Continuing in the faith meant being ostracized by society, facing real persecution and ridicule, being cast out of your family, or even burned at the stake.  Even today, men and women around the world are imprisoned, tortured and physically scared and abused for simply continuing in the faith of Christ.
And why do people choose to be burned at the stake or suffer in prison rather than recant?  Why do you think they would stand with their eyes toward heaven, some singing hymns, some praying, others testifying as the fire takes their life?  It was because they were Christians.  They continued in the faith.  They would rather die than turn their back on the Lord.  They held fast to their faith, firm to the end.  It is a proof of their salvation - a proof that real Christians continue.
People who are ungrounded and unsettled in their faith do not make choices like these.  No, people who know they have been entrusted with the Pearl of Great Price – the gospel, make them.  These are the people who know their doctrine, who have experience the grace and love of God, who are active in prayer and in the Word.  These continue in their faith, defend their faith and are shining examples of the testimony of Christ.
There are plenty of things in this world to dissuade us from continuing in our faith.  The media portrays us as ignorant and even dangerous in some cases.  The government tries to make laws that will hinder the gospel or constrict free speech.  Our friends and family try to point us to wider paths.  But if we are real Christians, we know that the narrow path is rugged, but we are ready to stay the course.  We will continue.

 “ But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them.”  
II Tim 3:14

Continue in what you have learned.  Stay there.  Remain in that learning. As a child, Timothy had been taught the truths of the gospel.  He had seen them confirmed by the instruction of Paul.  Now, amid the false teachers and errors of those around him, he is exhorted to hold fast that doctrine, no matter who might oppose them or whatever might be the consequence.
Proverbs 22:6 must have been the mantra of Timothy’s mother and grandmother.  “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”  These women are the “whom” that first taught Timothy.  Paul is simply exhorting him to continue in the grounding he had already received. 
In the book of Philippians, Paul makes a similar statement in 4:9  Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.”
It is a good exercise to stop and consider what we know to be the basics of our faith.  Salvation – are we settled and sure?  Sanctification – are we pure?  Service – are we active?  Relationships – are we proper and healthy?  Giving – are we generous?  The Church – are we fitly joined and vital?  Finances – are we good stewards?  Testimony – are we upright?  Outreach – are we witnessing and winning souls?  Obedience – are we yielding to the Word?  The list could go on and on. 

There are so many biblical principles and truths that have been planted in our lives.  The real question is are we doing them?  Are we continuing in what we have learned, or, are we letting some things slip?