Thursday, December 5, 2019

Our Responsibility Is Not To Save But To Shine

“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” – Ephesians 3:20-21

Times have changed since I was a young boy.  I suppose that is true for every generation.  Our country is in moral decline and that decline seems to be accelerating.  A preacher said that the greatest spiritual growth is happening in third world countries.  Perhaps that is because great wealth and possession encourages independent thinking – “I don’t need God” thinking.

We should be concerned for the souls of the people who think that way – who reject God, shun the Spirit and mock the Way and Truth and Life. Can things get any worse in this land? The answer is “Yes they can.”  But I would encourage you to rest on this one thing – Our God Reigns! That will never change – generations will come and go – the morality of the nations will rise and fall – like the tides of the sea – but God will always be God –  Jesus will always be the Way – people will always need a Savior.

Our place in all of this is to shine brightly in the midst of the darkness. The darker the night – the brighter the light.  When ever I write that, I remember flying a helicopter in the desert. No lights anywhere. Sometimes hard to see the horizon – the sky blending in with the ground – but then – someone would break a chem-stick – just a small thing – it produced a soft glow – green or red – but I could see it from far off.  That is like our light.  Our responsibility is not to save but to shine.

Don’t for a minute think that all hope is lost – our God reigns – He is an eternal source of hope – spanning the generations – even ours and that of our children and their children.

Vindicate me, O God, And plead my cause against an ungodly nation; Oh, deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man!

For You are the God of my strength; Why do You cast me off? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?

Oh, send out Your light and Your truth! Let them lead me; Let them bring me to Your holy hill And to Your tabernacle.

Then I will go to the altar of God, To God my exceeding joy; And on the harp I will praise You, O God, my God.

Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.” – Psalm 43:1-5

By Faith Alone By His Grace Alone And For His Glory Alone

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Why Is The Spirit Of God Important

“So he [an angel] said to me [Zechariah], “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel [the leader of the tribe of Judah at the time of their return from captivity in Babylon]: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.’” – Zechariah 4:6

I am an observer of people. I think most of us are.  I am not one who sits on a bench in the mall to watch people walk by. I observe the people that I meet every day to discern the condition and motivation of their hearts.  I listen to what people say and what they don’t say.  One thing that I have noticed is the deafening silence among Christians when it comes to the presence and significance of the Holy Spirit in their lives.  The angel told Zechariah, the prophet, to tell Zerubbabel, the leader, to not forget that what God had tasked him to do – built the temple – could only be accomplished by the power of the Spirit of God – not by the effort of men.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13

I would venture to say that most if not all Christians are familiar with that verse. And, no doubt, they would nod their heads in agreement that it is true.  But I doubt that they understand the implications.  That being that all things are, well, all things.  Every aspect of our lives, not just the hard things.  Our new life in Christ is spiritual in its essence.  It is not merely a ticket in our pocket that says “Free Pass Into Heaven”. So we can continue to live and trust in ourselves but everything that is too hard then we scurry off to God asking for relief.

For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” – Romans 8:13

The Spirit enables our new life and His presence is essential to it.  Ephesians 1 says God sealed us with His Spirit. The Spirit of God is in each of us.

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” – 1 Corinthians 6:19

It is so easy to do something that God has called you to and quickly, but not intentionally, lose sight of the importance of the Spirit of God in the accomplishment.  Apart from God’s Spirit being active in what I do in disaster relief, I am nothing more than a benevolent contractor. It is merely a job that does not pay very well. But it is so much more than that! I see God at work, bringing the impossible into the realm of possibility. Not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit.  Hallelujah! Amen!

By Faith Alone By His Grace Alone And For His Glory Alone

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Our Struggle With Wanting To Stay In The Boat

“Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’” – Mark 9:24

I met a homeowner yesterday – a thirty something-ish wife and mother.  She and her husband need help with their home.  They have been living in a “mess” for two years.  Although I could see she was tired of seeing the “mess” day after day, she seemed to be at peace with it.  After we walked through the house we were also given to get a glimpse of her heart for the Lord. She is a Christian and when she talked about her faith – her eyes brightened and her smile widened. It was then that she shared that she taught American Sign Language and wanted to use that skill in the church she attended to help the deaf community engage in the worship service in a deeper way. But, she said – she was concerned that doing it would be seen as vanity and pride.

I told her that my wife just had spinal surgery.  The neuro-surgeon did an amazing job and not once did I see him as being prideful or vane – but as someone exercising his skills and abilities for the good of others. I told her that, in the same way, what the Spirit was prompting her to do was merely exercising her skills and abilities for the good of others. Why did I say the Spirit was prompting her? Because it was clear to me that He was.  What she was lacking was faith and what she was struggling with was fear.  Serving God is no small thing – knowing who you are – a jar of clay – and what He is calling you to do – to do something with spiritual consequence – is cause for the one who is called to be a bit trepidatious. (love that word!)

God calls, prepares and sends.  We typically don’t have a problem with the first two – it is the last one – that one is the cause of our trouble and our missing God’s best.  When we look at ourselves and consider who we are and who God is – we doubt that we can or should do what He says. Dr. Henry Blackaby in Experiencing God said that knowing what God says is not really the problem. Obeying what He says to do is the problem.

My new friend is in a faith struggle – and perhaps you are in one yourself.  You know what God has said you are to do – He has equipped you to do it – but you struggle with doubt that you can do it.  Well – you can’t.  Not on your own.  The ten spies who said “Don’t cross the Jordan” were not looking to God – they were looking at themselves and the Giants who lived on the other side of the river.  God never calls you to do something that you can do on your own – it is always bigger than you – heavier that you can lift – always ripe with feelings of trepidation.  The only way you can possible succeed is through faith.

I struggle with this all of the time. It is always a temptation to look at the waves rolling around you and remind yourself that you should not have gotten out of the boat. It seems a lot safer there – it is unless it is Jesus who has called you to step out of the boat to walk with Him. We often prefer to define our own space – the limits of what we are willing to do for God. I am reminded of the song lyrics, “All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give.  I will ever love and trust Him, in His presence daily live. I surrender all – All to Thee my blessed savior. I surrender all.” And that my friend is what is necessary to walk in obedience to your calling.

‘Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’ ‘Come,’ he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’” – Matthew 14:28-31

It is time to get out of the boat and let your light shine.

By Faith Alone By His Grace Alone And For His Glory Alone

Monday, December 2, 2019

When A Sacrifice Is Not A Sacrifice

“But the king [David] replied to Araunah, ‘No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.’” – 2 Samuel 24:24

The back story to this conversation was that David had allowed his pride to get the best of him and wanted to consider what a great and powerful king he was. So he told Joab, his commander, to number the soldiers.  Joab advised David not to do it, but David would not be convinced otherwise.  God’s anger rose up against David because David was robbing God of His glory.  God brought a plague on the land as a consequence.  God stayed His hand at the door of Araunah’s threshing floor.  David wanted to buy the threshing floor and build an altar to God to make a sacrifice for his sin. Araunah wanted to give the building, the oven, and the wooden implements to David, but David refused. 

A sacrifice is not a sacrifice if it does not cost you something.  If you give out of your excess – what is that to God – like giving Him scraps after a meal.  After you have satisfied yourself.  God asks for a tithe – not out of what is left  – but out of the whole.  But God asks for much more than that.  He asks for your whole heart – not just part of it.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” – Romans 12:1-2

Paul said that we are not to give God 10% of ourselves, but 100%. The world argues that 10% is too much.  Indulge yourself in the world and then if you have some spare change – put in God’s cup like He is a beggar standing on the street corner.  You know the one – the one you try not to make eye contact with when you are stopped at a traffic light.

It is December – Black Friday just happened – our culture promotes the idea that we should buy what is not needed using credit we can’t afford with a promise to pay it off with a tax return that we are not guaranteed.  What if the Spirit spoke to you and said – “Don’t buy anything this Christmas – give the money to those who have nothing to eat.” What reasons would rise up on why that is a bad idea. Do you think that the Spirit of God has bad ideas? What you feel is the tension between the flesh and the spirit. Would you dismiss the idea as too extreme?

We are very willing to sacrifice for others, but not so willing to sacrifice to God if it means it will cost us something.  Some years ago, Martie asked me if I regretted leaving the Army in the midst of a successful career.  The Lord had told me to lay my career in the Army down on the altar.  I told her, “no – I do not regret it – but I do miss it”.  God asked me to sacrifice my career for something greater – my family. A sacrifice is not a sacrifice unless it costs you something.  Even today, I will watch helicopters fly overhead and remember a time when it was me flying it. Making sacrifices of the heart is “true and proper worship”. But if you are not right spiritually, you are not likely to do what is right before God, but will do what is pleasing to the world.

I [Paul] say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.” – Galatians 5:16-17

I am not suggesting you return the gifts you have purchased.  What I am saying is that this might be a good time to examine your heart and then lay your heart, and its devotions, down on the altar as a sacrifice to God for His glory and the good of others.

By Faith Alone By His Grace Alone And For His Glory Alone

Friday, November 29, 2019

We Are One In The Spirit

“Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” – Philippians 2:1-2

Martie is recovering from a spinal fusion. She is doing well, thanks for wanting to know. 😊 They do a shift change twice a day.  Last night the new RN – Ade (Addie) spoke with a strong accent.  Recognizing the accent, I told Martie I thought that she might be from Nigeria. Without prompting Ade said that she was from Nigeria – probably because she is asked the question a lot.  I told her that Martie and I are missionaries.  I do that to set the spiritual tone.  Her response was “Glory to God!” her faced brightened and the course of the conversation changed.  She talked to us about her conversion while still in Nigeria – saved out of generational devotion to gods other than Jehovah.  Not knowing about Jesus. Our spirits were joined in a holy fellowship.  Words did not need to be spoken – we each recognized our spiritual relationship – even though there was a great divide between us in the natural – culturally, ethnically, vocationally, experientially -  but there was unity in the spiritual. It is always the natural that brings separation – it is the supernatural that brings unity.

I [Paul] therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” – Ephesians 4:1-3

That means that the spiritual connection between Christians is dependent upon each Believer being submitted to the Spirit of God.  Being sealed by the Spirit is not enough for a Spiritual connection to another Christian.  For unity to happen – there must be an individual vital connection to the Spirit – walking by the Spirit and not merely sealed by Him. (That may be enough for salvation – but it is not enough to fulfill God’s purpose for you while you are on this earth.)

I [Paul] say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.” – Galatians 5:16-17

Your light will shine brighter when you are shining in unity with other Christians.

By Faith Alone By His Grace Alone And For His Glory Alone

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

We Try Harder

“Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.” – Matthew 10:1

That was the mantra for Hertz Rental Cars years ago – may still be.  It is also the mantra of so many Christians that I know.  Now that I am born again I must try even harder not to sin. Did you catch the significance of the verse in Matthew? Jesus gave them the authority to do something they could not do without His influence.  I think most Christians acknowledge the reality of the Spirit in them – of the Word being a guide for living – of Jesus being their Savior. But – when it comes to daily living and the temptation to sin – they look to themselves thinking “I have to try harder not to sin anymore.” 

No temptation [to sin] has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13

Did you catch that? God provides the way to escape the temptation – it is not dependent upon your “won’t” power but it is something spiritual – supernatural. Something beyond the natural.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13

There it is again – I can do what God tells me to do – what the Spirit leads me to do – What the Word reveals to me – through Christ. This new life is Spiritual so why do we persist in trying harder instead of “faithing” harder? Simple – that is our old natures “go to”.  The great lie. What lie? “I don’t need God to be righteous – I can do it myself!” So long as you embrace that thinking and doing – you will never mature in your faith.  Your light will always be dimmed.  My encouragement – shine bright! Yield to the Spirit – offer yourself as a living sacrifice every day. (Romans 12:1-2) Walling – living – by the Spirit is intentional – a daily discipline.  Will you be sinless in this life – I don’t think so – it is not about living a life of perfection – only Jesus did that – but letting the Spirit of God and the Word of God conform you into the image of Jesus until the day when you are perfected – when you meet Jesus face to face. 

By Faith Alone By His Grace Alone And For His Glory Alone

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Choosing the Best Over the Good

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” – Ephesians 2:8-10

Does it really matter where you live or what occupation you might pursue?  The answer is, it depends.  What does it depend upon?  It is pretty simple really.  It depends upon God’s revealed will for your life. People have grappled over what exactly God’s will is for centuries. Some speak of His permissive will versus His expressed will.  What God will allow versus what God has declared. It does not matter if you live in Chicago or Timbuktu (that is a city in Mali by the way). It does not matter if you are a butcher, a baker or a candlestick maker.  It does not matter unless God has spoken differently.  Unless He has said “Go” or He has said “Do”.

So what if He has? What if you don’t go or you don’t do? I guess the answer starts with another question.  Why didn’t you go or do? The answer is always , “Because I decided there was something more important to do or somewhere more important to go. Something that was more appealing to me”

As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.’ He said to another man, ‘Follow me.’ But he replied, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ Still another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.’ Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’” – Luke 9:58-62

What those men asked Jesus to allow was reasonable – good, but it was not the best. There will always be a tension between the good and the best when it comes to doing God’s will. Obeying God always requires denying yourself.  That requires faith.  Confidence in the One who calls and sends. A willingness to do what He says in spite of the wisdom of the world. And what if you choose poorly? You decide to say “No” to God and “Yes” to your own plan? Well, you won’t lose your salvation – but you will miss the best that God has in mind for you.  You may not be given another opportunity. Does that really matter to you? Your life will answer that question.

This was brought home to me when we were serving in Mississippi.  We were surrounded by destruction and misery day after day.  It was not a pleasant place to be. A volunteer asked me, “Do you like being in Mississippi?” A reasonable question. We were there for five years.  Very often volunteers would be with us for a few days and by the end were more than ready to go home.  Well, I thought about the question and then had a realization – or was it a revelation or maybe it was an epiphany. I answered, “There is nothing better than being in the center of God’s will for my life.  Geography has nothing to do with it.” I realized that I was exactly where God wanted me to be. My sense of contentment was not founded on my circumstance or my comfort, but on my obedience to God’s call and will.  Pastor Rick Warren said, “God is more concerned about your character than your comfort.” What are you more concerned about? Really. It will be proven out by the choices you make.

Whether you are a missionary or a mom in this life – it is all good but don’t be satisfied with merely the good when God has something better in mind.  Pursue the best – to be in the center of God’s will for your life.  Fulfill your purpose, the one God has planned for you. It might be to be a light – right where you are or maybe in Timbuktu.  Geography doesn’t matter!

By Faith Alone By His Grace Alone And For His Glory Alone

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Having Ears To Hear, Eyes To See And A Heart To Do

Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?” – Matthew 25:37-39

One of the great privileges the Lord has granted us to allow us to enter in to the personal struggles of so many who must contend with the ravages of natural disasters. The trouble they face is so much more than the loss of property – it is the loss of hope – the burden of their circumstance – their vulnerability to all kinds of evil.  I hear so many stories about how unscrupulous people would come like wolves in sheep’s clothing  and take what little money they had for little to nothing in return – only making their circumstance all the worse. It is so easy to focus on the external – the house or the contents of the house and overlook who occupies the house. I met two new families yesterday and was reminded of why we do what we do.  It really has nothing to do with construction. Repairing homes is merely the gate by which we enter into people’s lives for ministry. (The great majority of people the Lord has led us to are widows, single moms, and couples where the husband has some disability.)

I recall speaking to one homeowner about the work we were doing in her home. She was praising us for the transformation in her home.  I told her, “It is not the home that is important to us, it is you that is important.” Tears welled up in her eyes and she said, “Of all the people who have come here, not one has told me that before.”  Actually I understand that – it is easy to let the damage that is so overwhelming at times dominate those who have come to help. Two days ago I was in another home – an elderly partially disabled woman – whose home was partially repaired and then left wanting.  After we finished the assessment and were leaving, I asked the other evaluator – “What do you think that she thinks is the most important thing that needs to be done?” Then I said, “I will answer my own question. She wants a door on her bedroom.” As she talked to us about the problems in her house – problems that she sees every day she shared her angst over not being able to close her bedroom door.  A simple thing.  Easy to fix. But impossible for her.  Being able to close the door – to have privacy – even if it was only from her dogs.  My partner had missed it – but as we talked his face brightened when, suddenly, he saw it. 

We can see but not see.  We must have spiritual vision as we walk in the Way – a visual sensitivity given to us by the Lord – necessary in order to see what He sees. It is spiritual vision, brought on by compassion for others, enabled by our love of God. I shared this verse several times in the past – but it merits being shared again.  

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” – Galatians 6:2

What is the law of Christ? Love God and love others. (Matthew 22:37-39) Carrying one another’s burdens will cost you something.  Not just time – or money – or effort, but it will cost you by placing a heaviness on your soul. You will feel the weight of the burden as you pick it up.  Have you ever seen someone struggling as they carried something?  Maybe something as simple as groceries and you said, “Here let me help you.” As you took on part of their load you felt the weight of the load. Your willingness to help made their burden lighter for them.  That is true in the spiritual context as well.  To carry those burdens is a noble calling – an honor really.  To see the need you must be ready – spiritually – and willing to let God do a work through you.  And then, finally, you must do it – in the name of Jesus.

BTW, my partner is going to install that door!

By Faith Alone By His Grace Alone And For His Glory Alone

Monday, November 18, 2019

We Serve A Just-In-Time God.

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” – Ephesians 3:20

I often quote Dr. Henry Blackaby’s study, “Experiencing God”. I suppose because it has shaped my perspective on my life and the lives of others. Helped me to understand life in its spiritual context.  Dr. Blackaby said that there are four ways that God speaks to us by His Spirit; through prayer, His Word, other Believers (the Church) and circumstances. God has been speaking to me about life on earth and its frail nature through the life – circumstances of another Christian.  I met this man through an outreach of our Bible class at church.  He was a man who was sick and need some help moving furniture.  The class leader asked for people in the class to help.  I agreed along with some others.

The man has ALS – Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  The ALS has progressed to the point he is bound to a wheel chair and a bottle of oxygen.   He is clear minded and articulate so that has not been robbed from him at this point.  On our second trip to their house, I was able to observe his wife and daughter as they interacted with him.  What a heavy load they are carrying. It was then that the Lord spoke and said, in His still small voice, “Help them.” It was not by moving furniture. It was in the capacity of our ministry in which God has shaped us and provisioned us. That was the real reason I was there. They had a goal – finish the dining room in time for Thanksgiving for the family.  There were a number of things they could not do in the house – electrical, flooring, drywall – that needed to be done. The contractors they had hired had failed them. The tension wrought by the unfinished work was merely a symptom of the burden the family is carrying – the father – the husband is dying. How could I walk on the other side of the road and pass the family by?

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” – Galatians 6:2

I could not do all of the work. I knew how but did not have enough time. Everything had to be done in a week and a half. When I yielded to the Spirit and said “Yes Lord”, God revealed Himself by providing the right people through us. And so we are on track to finish the work by the middle of this week – a full week before Thanksgiving.  Not because of me, but because of God. God provides – Jehovah Jireh! There is more work to be done there.  I think that perhaps we are not done with this work.

So what about you? Has God been speaking to you in some way.  About things that are beyond your ability – God things? A turning point in my life was when I stopped trusting in myself first and trusted God.  Like 10 of the 12 spies feeling like grasshoppers as they faced the task that God had put in front of them.  Only 2, Joshua and Caleb, saw things from God’s perspective. The other 10 never returned after wandering in the desert for 40 years.

And those who heard it said, ‘Who then can be saved?’ But He [Jesus] said, ‘The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.’” – Luke 18:26-27

Are you tired of wandering in the desert – a spiritual wasteland – clutching desperately to your ticket to heaven in your hand thinking that is all there is to your new life? Trust God and do what He says – and watch the impossible become possible. Then give Him the glory.

By Faith Alone By His Grace Alone And For His Glory Alone

Friday, November 15, 2019

The Only Way We Can Be One In The Spirit

I [Jesus] pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.– John 17:20-23

I was asked just yesterday if I had written anything about unity in the Body of Christ.  My answer was, “I think so – let me check.”  I woke up this morning with that thought on my mind.  Not what have I written about unity – I still have to check – but what do I know about unity.  Some of you who know me personally, know that Martie and I have bi-racial twin grandchildren. I have watched as they have struggled with ethnic identity. It is not like me – German – Irish – Scottish heritage – the result it a light complexion.  For them, with an African-American father and a German – Irish – Scottish – French mother, they are treated differently – Being bi-racial when the races are different in complexion is not the same.  When I would go to the store or some other setting with one of them I noticed that if the person we were addressing was white – they would speak to me first.  Of the person was of African American decent, then they would address my grandson or granddaughter first.  Like the one that was not the same color was not there. I remember showing a picture of the twins to Haitian friend for the first time.  They said – “Oh- they are black.”  I said – “No – they are my grandchildren!” I repeated that several times before they understood.  From my view – like my Father’s view – I look at the heart not the skin – not the bank account – not the house – or the car – or the education – or the accent – it is the heart.

So what about unity?  It is the Spirit that brings unity to people who are not the same on the outside. It is a spiritual reality that can only be understood in the context of faith in Jesus and spiritual understanding brought by the inhabitation of the Spirit of God.  As Christians we will never see unity in the Body of Christ – in the Church – if we start with the demand that the natural be made right before the spiritual can be realized.  That we must be equal naturally in all respects – before we can be right with each other spiritually.  That wrongs must be righted through the natural before we can ever hope to be one in Christ.  Even as I type those words – I wonder how is it that we have missed that?  The answer is simple – really.  But it is not acceptable. The answer is more of Jesus and less of me. That it not the outside of the cup that makes it unclean. It is a problem endemic to our sinful nature – the old man. 

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees [Christians], you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee [Christians]! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” – Matthew 23:25-26

I interjected the work “Christians” after Pharisees because Christians – no matter what they ethnic background or social standing are preoccupied with the outside of the cup.  The preconditions of unity must be submission to the Spirit of God – love God then others – obey God and treat others like you want to be treated.  Are you thinking it is not that simple.  That I have a simplistic view of the problem.  I don’t really think so. The answer is simply more of Jesus and less of me. But so long as we persist in identifying ourselves and others in the context of their flesh and status in the world’s economy – well – we will never be one and the world will never see God’s intent of our being one.  Then the world will know that you [Father God] sent me [Jesus the Son] and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

We can’t blame each other for the lack of unity – we can only look in the mirror and point our finger at that person.

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” – Matthew 3:3-5

Last note.  Don’t expect to be praised by other Christians for your change of heart and desire to see unity in the Body.  The source of the problem of disunity is on both sides of the ethnic – social economic fence. But you are responsible for you – not for them.  The Bible says that if you know the good to do and don’t do it – that is sin. (James 4:17)

When I preached in churches in Haiti, the first time I would say, “Mwen pa Blan, mwen fre nou”.  I am not white – I am your brother. I was speaking from 2 Corinthians 5:17, that I am new in Christ and the old has passed away.  And so are they – but I was quite certain that they had never heard that, especially from a “Blan”. I am not certain they all believed it, but I am certain that there were those who saw me with Spiritual eyes as their Brother in Christ and not merely a “walking wallet”.

I spoke to a man at the Promise Keepers Pastors Conference in 1996.  I had just joined the staff of Promise Keepers as the state manager for Alabama and Mississippi.  He told me that there were not people of color in his county – should he go find someone to be reconciled to. I told him – only if the Lord led him to do that – but the important thing was that he be willing and the Lord would give him opportunity.

By Faith Alone By His Grace Alone And For His Glory Alone

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Starting In The Right Place

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” – Mark 1:35

One of the houses we are working on requires the installation of ship-lap siding on one wall.  Seems simple enough – find the studs in the wall – put the nails through the siding into the studs – badda bing – badda boom – fini! Well not quite so fast.  It seems you must start out in the right place.  Do you start at the bottom or do you start at the top? Do you use a full piece or do you cut the first piece down so the first and last piece are the same width?  Do you stagger the joints? Lots of questions for something that seems to be so easy.  It actually requires a good bit of thought and preparation.

It is the same with our daily Christian living.  We should not just plug in the saw and compressor and start doing.  Like Jesus, we need to start the day prepared and focused.  You don’t have to find a mountain or go into your closet – but we all do need to take pause and consider what must be the first step in starting our day.

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” – Matthew 7:24-27

We must be God-aware every day. Focused on Him and mindful of our calling and purpose and dependence upon the Lord.  That starts with being deliberate with how we start our day. So before you crank up that saw up this morning. Think about where you need to start.

By Faith Alone By His Grace Alone And For His Glory Alone

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

To Know Christ and Make Him Known

"But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection.” – Philippians 3:7-10

The beginning of our faith journey is the moment in time when we confessed our faith in Jesus, that He suffered and died for our sins and God, the Father, raised Him – Jesus, from the dead. That point in time is the first step in a journey that we will live out in our natural life and forever in the presence of our Lord.  To know Christ for Who He was, is and ever will be. To embrace our new life and to yield to the Spirit of God and the transformation the Spirit brings as we pursue our relationship with Jesus, our Lord. To know Christ. It should be our primary goal.

All I once held dear, built my life upon, All this world reveres and wants to own
All I once thought gain, I have counted loss, Spent and worthless now, compared to this

Now my heart's desire is to know You more, To be found in You and known as Yours
To possess by faith what I could not earn, All-surpassing gift of righteousness

Oh to know the power of Your risen life, And to know You in Your sufferings
To become like You in Your death, my Lord, So with You to live and never die

Knowing You, Jesus, knowing You, There is no greater thing
You're my all, You're the best, You're my joy, my righteousness, And I love You, Lord” (Graham Kendrick, Knowing You, 1993)

I first heard that song at a Promise Keepers conference in 1994. It speaks clearly to that transformation and the effects it should have on and in my life. Is your faith the most important aspect of your life? Do you want it to be? Or perhaps merely having faith and assurance is enough – it is for many Christians. We must all be on our guard that we don’t become complacent. Of all we do in this life – there is but one thing that has eternal value – our faith in Jesus. But like the TV commercial says “But wait! There’s more!”

And so it was with me [Paul], brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling.” – 1 Corinthians 2:1-3

Not only are we to know Christ and grow in that knowledge, but we are to make Him known.  Paul journeyed to many places to tell others about Jesus.  He built relationships and demonstrated the faith he preached by living it out.  Just like Graham Kendrick’s song describes – a life transformed by faith and obedience.  Dr. John Maxwell said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Oh how I love the English language and it’s rhythm.  Making Christ known among the nations is our mission. Whether it is in our neighborhood, school, work place, market place, or some remote place on this planet – we should be a living advertisement of our faith in Jesus.  You don’t have to be in-your-face with your faith to be an effective communicator of you faith – you just need to be devoted to your new life – and be peculiar – an social anomaly – loving God and loving others. You don’t have to always be a silent witness – but your life should shout out who you are in Christ. Old things and devotions and traditions – passing away – all things becoming new.  Paul understaood the significance of the message and “trembled” in reverent fear of his calling and the One who called.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17-20

So often I stop at verse 17 when I share it with people, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. To know Christ and to make Him known! That is what our new life is all about.

By Faith Alone By His Grace Alone And For His Glory Alone