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A call to prove a concept, ability, or position.
Here, at the top of 2023, I challenge you. This challenge will require you to do hard things. Though this is a hard message, I stand unapologetic. (I am challenging myself as well as you.)
Like many English words, ‘challenge’ means numerous things. I will use it in different ways in this message. These are spiritually challenging times (trying, testing, and troubling) that will test us, making both internal and external conflicts distinctly clear.
In these times, there can be no ambiguity: Our stand for Jesus and Truth must be equally distinct. Though hard, this is good because we are thereby forced to make a decision for or against God–which renders us unable to remain complacent.
In today’s Scripture passage, Paul addresses compromise. Compromise is a result of a challenge (a response to conflict). He tells the Corinthian Believers that they must decide: They must not compromise by participating in conflicting behaviors.
This passage describes the kind of challenges we will face this year, given the state of the world. We will face challenges (disputes of the authenticity of) of our faith in and relationship with God. There will be pressure to compromise. I believe this to be unavoidable.
Kevin Jacobs, a pastor-friend with a passion for men’s ministries, sent me a text yesterday morning (Jan. 1). I believe it defines the challenge as well as can be said. With his permission, I share it with you:
Greetings Gentlemen. This is what I hear from the Lord for us. This is a year of living dangerously: Dangerous to a world that seeks its own way apart from God; Dangerous to satan and his plans and pursuits; Dangerous to anyone or anything attempting to stand in the way of the Word of God in our lives.
Dangerous times call for dangerous men–men full of the Word, full of the Praise of God, and full of the Power and Resurrection of Jesus the Christ.
Understand that though this was written to men, it applies to everyone breathing air on this planet. There is no distinction as to gender, race, ethnicity, native language, geographic situation, or ANY other factor. If you are human, it applies.
He admonishes us to be dangerous to the enemy who opposes God in us and seeks to undermine our faith. Yes, be dangerous. Be uncompromising. Be courageous. Be those, and you will be victorious in your stand.
The challenge is to stand firm in our relationship with God and in our allegiance to Him. Decide now, here at the top of the year: Will you stand firm for your relationship with God and uncompromising in allegiance to Him?
Either you will or you will not. I encourage you to decide now, so that when you face your decision, it will not be “What do I do now?” but “Will I hold to my commitment?” (I promise you that the latter is much easier!)
I close with this: There is a distinction between being dangerous and being in danger. Being dangerous (in this spiritual sense) is the safest thing you can do. The real and present danger is if you fail to make a commitment. Fail in that, and you are in serious danger.
Now, you must decide. “Keep alert. Be firm in your faith. Stay brave and strong.” (1 Cor 16:13 CEV)
Read my year-end updates if you missed them last week:
Update 2023.1: READ / LISTEN
Update 2023.2: READ
Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons. (1 Cor 10:19-21 NIV)
Prayer: LORD, help me stand strong in every challenge to my faith and relationship with You. Enable me to turn from anyone or anything that would compromise our relationship. I cannot be in fellowship with You and with things that contradict You. Give me discernment to recognize every challenge and courage to do what I must in order to stand. Do whatever You need to do to make it so. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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“Today’s Seed” from E-MIN Jan. 2, 2023