David Grabbe points out the cause-effect relationship between sin and "madness, blindness, and confusion of heart." Sin automatically causes blindness, and blindness begets more sin. Romans 1:18-28 explains that individuals enslave themselves to a reprobate mind by following their perverted desires. God gives those hapless individuals up to their choices, as well as to the deadly consequences of their lusts. As they embark on their deadly downward spiral, God takes His hand off from them, allowing them to experience the consequences. As we make the choice to follow any course which is opposed to God's purpose(defined Scripturally as Mammon), our spiritual understanding begins to darken until we become blissfully unaware of danger. The Scriptures plainly show us areas of potential blindness, as with the warning that he who hates is brother is blind (I John 2:1) or with the connection between blindness and lacking faith, self-control, perseverance and other godly character traits (II Peter 1:5-9). God wants us to overcome blindness, but we must make the choice to obey Him and eschew sin before He restores our spiritual visual acuity.
Ronny Graham, exploring some of the stories behind the amazing accomplishments of the athletes competing in the 2018 Winter Olympics, suggests that participants often make great sacrifices, setting virtually all else aside for a chance at a perishable crown. The Apostle Paul was certainly aware of the obsessiveness of Olympic athletes but stressed that sacrificing for the achievement of eternal godly character was a far wiser investment. Organized games, such as the Super Bowl, the World Series, the Commonwealth Games and other "world cup" tournaments, as well as NASCAR competitions, mesmerize spectators. Highly successful racer Carl Edwards recently ended his career because he recognized it was robbing precious time from his family and other important interests. Could it be that we are obsessing over futile games—all forms of idolatry, giving insufficient thought to the demands of our calling? In the supremely important exercise of qualifying for God's Kingdom, there is no reward for second place.
John Ritenbaugh, reacting to the secularist's complaint about God's failure to make clear His purpose, assures us that no one has any excuse for doubting God's existence or His carefully crafted purpose for mankind, whether revealed publicly through His Creation or privately to His people through the Holy Scriptures. Paul rejected the complaints of those Jews who decried God's calling of the gentiles. Similarly, secularists presumptuously skate on thin ice when they demand that God explain His purposes. The biggest obstacle in understanding God's purpose for our lives is our carnal mind (described in Romans 8:5-8) which prefers the phantom of perpetual control over the blessing promised by submitting to God. The Scriptures provide ample evidence as to God's purpose, including the account of the earth's creation and the joint planning of two personalities in the God family. All creatures designed by the Word reproduce after their kind, demonstrating a pattern through which the God family would also reproduce after its kind. God's ultimate purpose for mankind is clearly proclaimed in His Word, indicating that God the Father (in His special love for mankind created in His image) had already, having a foreknowledge of man's behavior, planned the redeeming death of His Son from before the foundation of the world. Christ's death for our sins was already in the blueprints from the foundation of this world's system. As Christ's death was pre-ordained, our calling was also orchestrated from the foundation of the world with the standards of judgment and qualification clear. Paul teaches us that God ardently planned our calling, our access to His Holy Spirit, and our future destiny as members of His family.
John Ritenbaugh, reiterating that the reality of God is not a mathematical formula beyond the reach of garden-variety human reason and observation, warns us that God's reality is not the root of the human problem. Rather, the powerful pulls of our carnal nature, innately hostile to God's law, prevents us from believing Him or obeying Him. The deadliest enemy to our spiritual well-being is within us. God calls the weak and base of the world to put the intellectual and strong to shame. To provide a counterweight to the destructive carnal nature, God provided His Holy Spirit—as well as spiritual gifts—in order to enable His called-out ones to put to death their carnal natures, as they refocus their attention to things above, bringing about a life-giving fellowship with the Creator. God does not create character by fiat, but has ordained that His true children exercise their power of choice to build an intimate relationship with Him, a task not impossible, but not easy. God has providentially given us trials to build character, proving beyond a doubt that we believe Him and have a burning desire to be at one with Him. We exercise these spiritual gifts in order to kill our carnal nature, not to win salvation. Unlike the first Adam, who yielded to his carnal lusts, choosing to please himself, we must follow the second Adam, Jesus Christ, who always submitted to the will of the Father. All people are without excuse when it comes accepting God's existence. Refusal to believe or obey God puts blinders of foolishness on the ungodly, preventing them from knowing God. When one observes the consistently law-governed Creation, it is foolish to embrace atheism.
John Ritenbaugh, reflecting on our prayers for God to "bless the electronics," asks whether the marvels of modern electronics are really a God-send or something less than a blessing. Perhaps some of us need to change our thinking about electronic devices as we strive to stay awake while awaiting Christ's return. At this critical juncture, time management has become a "must have," not an option. Because our time is our life, we must be careful to avoid wasting precious time using various electronic devices. Although TV-watching may have modestly decreased, electronic demands on our attention (for example, via cellphones, I-Pads and computers) have more than filled the gap. The amount of time gobbled up by the combined sources of electronic media is mind-boggling, as well as mind-numbing. We need to carefully consider whether the Internet is really a blessing or a potentially life-threatening curse—another pull we are forced to resist.
John Ritenbaugh issues a pointed warning about the tenacious power of our carnal nature: Its desire to satisfy an addictive self-centeredness can eventually overrule the Christian's loyalty to God and His commandments. If parents in God's Church are not willing to train up a child in righteousness, Satan and his demons are more than willing to take over the task. At our baptism, we were somberly counseled to count the cost of God's expectation that we love Him more than family, friends and even our own lives. We tend to fear what an undivided loyalty to God may cost us. Like our parents Adam and Eve, God has forewarned and forearmed us to withstand Satan's wiles, but we dare not underestimate the fierce, unyielding demands of our own carnal nature to reject God's plan for us. As Adam and Eve's progeny, we must learn that good results can never come from evil behavior. God has given us His Holy Spirit to kickstart us, empowering us with faith and love to keep His Commandments and to love Him with all our being and our neighbor as ourselves. We cannot take lightly the caution in Romans 8:5-7 that a carnal focus leads to death, while a spiritual one (that is, developing an incremental, intimate relationship with God) is the sole means to attain Eternal life.
David Grabbe, marveling that over the past 25 years the Church of the Great God has assembled a massive library of electronic resources as a service to the Greater Church of God, as well as to the world at large, asserts that God performed this work at a fraction of the cost incurred by our previous fellowship. Though our main focus has not been "to preach the Gospel to the world," we nevertheless provide prodigious quantities of spiritual food to anyone who requests it. If people are hungry, there is plenty of nourishing food to satisfy them. CGG.org received 1.7 million visitors last year and BibleTools.org 2.3 million. These figures testify that the world at large is receiving a witness. The things that we can quantifiably measure are not really important, the Head of the Church decides subscribers, members and income. Noah's warning was fruitless; Jesus Christ's ministry netted meager results. Without Christ, we could produce no fruit. What is important to God is faith—faith which He gives and by which we live. As technology becomes more affordable and available, the material world threatens to crowd God out of the picture. The information age will destroy us unless we learn to manage it properly, discarding carnality and diligently focusing on the Word of God.
David Maas, resuming his exposition on the W's and H's of Meditation, provides of list of related scriptures, beginning with Psalm 119, showing that meditating on God's Holy Law produces profound peace and vivid memory. Meditation fosters peace and tranquility, and vastly improves memory consolidation, safeguarding the integrity of our emerging spiritual body. The only part of us that will survive through the grave is our character—our thoughts, the contents of hearts, what we think about all day long. God will access the lifelong file of memories and make a judgment upon how we have lived. Allowing media and entertainment to grab our attention will dangerously distract us from our primary objective—qualifying to be the Bride of Christ. Researchers have scientifically proven that meditation improves memory and memory consolidation, as well as generates profound peace as an antidote to agitation, stress, chaos and confusion. The act of meditating, even if the focus is on our breathing or on an idyllic scene, is beneficial physically or psychologically, but the maximum benefit will accrue if we meditate on the things God has mandated—namely His Law and His Word.
John Ritenbaugh, citing the findings of Dave Crenshaw, a business chaos crusher, alerts us that the average worker is interrupted 15 times per hour, many of which are self-inflicted, suggesting that these interruptions resemble small cuts which drain the life blood out of productivity. One of the most deceptively innocent, but deadly traps is the double-q (the quick question) now exacerbated by the ease of e-mail and social media. Regardless of the source of the interruption, productivity hemorrhages. To counteract wasteful interruptions, we must rid ourselves of vague goal setting, replacing this concept with that of a finish line or deadline, continually reminding us that time is a perishable resource. Because e-mail is a potential time waster, and a destroyer of focus, we should quarantine e-mail to specific times in the day to rapidly address correspondents' needs, and then get back to project at hand, concentrating on how to process it to completion.
John Ritenbaugh, quoting from efficiency expert or "business chaos crusher" Dave Crenshaw, urges that distractions and interruptions caused by phone, e-mail, computers, or texting, are detrimental to productivity and to the operating a business at a profit. The average worker is interrupted 15 times per hour, 120 times in 8 hours, 4800 times per week, or 240,000 times per year. These interruptions are like tiny cuts destroying productivity, as blood flows from a wound, When we allow our focus to become divided, we are unable to give our full attention to the assigned task. The continuous shifts in our attention seriously damage our focus. One research company calculates that the average clerical worker loses 28% of his work per day because of interruptions, adding up to losing an entire work week each month. In our journey to the Kingdom of God, we frequently become magnets for distraction. We must organize our priorities and our time to play defense against continuous distractions, refusing to respond when we are focused on a task, assuming if necessary the profile of a curmudgeon when focused on an important task. Establishing and enforcing definite and rational anti-interruption strategies are especially important when we are communicating with God through study and prayer. We need to ensure that we hardwire these strategies as top priorities in our daily chores.
John Ritenbaugh, upon hearing an advertisement for a book whose subtitle was "Age of Distraction," reflected on Daniel's prophecy about knowledge increasing and people madly dashing to and fro, pointing to the frenetic conditions at the close of the age, when multiple distractions prevent people from thinking straight , a time when minds keep busy, but accomplish nothing. A distraction is any event that breaks our focus or attention. Though it may last only a moment, it may ruin the rest of our day. The boxer breaks the focus of an opponent through a feint, drawing his attention in another direction, only to deliver a decisive, debilitating blow. While our hopelessly corrupt government has deliberately distracted our attention toward illegal immigration, it has silently encouraged massive legal immigration of Muslims and have distributed 'legal' green cards to millions of aliens. Satan's chief stock in trade is the distraction, creating confusion and consternation for all, including God's called-out ones. God wants to see how focused we are on His truth, warning us that, even though we live in the world, love for the world and its corrupt systems cannot coexist with love for God and His truth. We dare not let a feint from the Dragon distract us from our work of developing God's character.
John Ritenbaugh, asserting that God is a Creator who enjoys work and places a high value on it, urges us, those created in God's image, to embrace the work ethic and to diligently inculcate it into our children. God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it. God the Father and Jesus Christ have been working continually (having never gone on a vacation) and desire that the energetic, conscientious, focused pursuit of working and creating become a part of our character and the character of our offspring. Training a child to be industrious helps him to be successful, which in turn promotes a stable family, community, and nation and will transfer eternally into God's Kingdom, netting vast rewards as taught by the Parable of the Talents. Neglecting to train our children to be diligent promotes chaos, disorder, and chronic instability. Our industriousness, and that of our children, should be directed outwardly for the good of others and not turned in selfishly on ourselves.
Reflecting that most prophetic interpretations have not been correct, John Ritenbaugh warns that we must exercise caution when attempting to interpret prophecy. As we have erred regarding Israel's identity, Protestants have erred by assuming that the tiny nation of Israel is end-time Israel. The greater church of God does not have all the pieces about the identity of Israel, the nature of the Laodicean and Philadelphian churches, whether the Beast will rise from a feeble and decrepit Europe, who the King of the South is, etc. The apostle Paul urged that we get our focus more balanced, emphasizing love over prophetic correctness, not remaining indifferent to what Christ deemed important, and learning how to use our trials to persevere and grow. Christ warned His disciples as He ascended not to obsess over prophecy. Instead, we need to persevere, not becoming distracted, and diligently submit to the Word of God.
Martin Collins assures us that even loyal servants of God, the stalwart pioneers of faith, have had to contend with major depression and discouragement. Following the categorizing of several types of depressive conditions, he analyzes the major contributory spiritual and electro-chemical factors in these psychological states. Godly antidotes to depression include rest, refocus, right expectations, and obedient actions. If we 1) focus on the awesome Creator, 2) remember the spiritual goal, 3) pray and study daily, 4) be patient with self, others, and God, 5) be content, 6) be positive, making each day count, and 7) be faithful to God, we can overcome depression. Not eliminating stress but perceiving God's sovereign control will determine our success in this struggle.
In this sermon on biblical humility, John Ritenbaugh suggests that sacrifices of thanksgiving, praise, and gratitude are required of God's called out priests. By meditating on the physical creation, the human body, and God's Law, we prepare ourselves for prayer. God desires that we exercise gratitude and thanksgiving in order that: (1) We stay focused in the right direction (on the Creator rather than the created), (2) We develop and support the faith to please Him, and (3) We maintain a sense of humility—not an obsequious social skill—but a proper measure of ourselves with God, resulting in conduct following a biblical standard.
John Ritenbaugh emphasizes that without the proper emphasis on thanksgiving and praise, our prayers degenerate into the "gimmes" with the emphasis exclusively on self. We need to learn to give God thoughtful thanks in every circumstance, including sickness, health, prosperity, and adversity, all having a useful niche in our spiritual growth if we cultivate the right perspective. While gratitude is a major support of faith, pride is a major exponent of vanity and uselessness. Gratitude is the natural reaction to what God has done. Thanksgiving supports true faith because it helps us to focus on the Creator rather than the created. If we see, hear, taste, and feel God in our lives, we should experience a torrent of praise and thanksgiving in our lives.
John Ritenbaugh insists that true riches consist of what we are (or what we become) rather than what we have. True riches consist of those things that can be carried through the grave and into the Kingdom of God. The circumstances of our lives (totally determined by God)- health, sickness, wealth, poverty, etc. we could consider as the scaffolding for the building of character fit for the Kingdom of God. What God really wants is for us to see things from His point of view, making the right choices, consciously striving to build character, developing into His image.
John Ritenbaugh explains the significance of the eye, clear vision, and light metaphors in Matthew 6:22-23, stating that the eye represents understanding (as the metaphorical eye of the heart) while the light represents truth. It is not enough to have knowledge of the right treasure; we also need to have the understanding of where all the pieces fit. Clear vision lightens the way spiritually, ethically, and morally. If the eye of the heart is aimed at spiritual treasure and the glory of God, it will remain singly focused. Using this spiritual vision or understanding, the best way to protect the heart is to saturate it with the word of God.
By recounting a personal experience, John Reid reveals a valuable lesson about keeping our eyes focused on our goal, the Kingdom. Overconcern with the around-and-about tends to distracts us, and before we know it we are off course. Our preparation for God's Kingdom depends on our focus!
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