Friday, January 17, 2020

We All Have Something to Shout About

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” – Philippians 3:13-14

Is there something or are the some things in your past that you deeply regret, but can’t change.  Does your heart hurt because you see the consequences of your sin being played out in your life or the lives of people you care about?  I think most of us do. Those “things’ might be small or may loom large, but in either case, we must be careful that we don’t let our past sins become the reason we say “no” to God today.  That is not to say we pretend like they didn’t happen.  In Celebrate Recovery, they say, “Denial is not a river in Egypt!” It requires faith to believe that God has, indeed, forgiven you if you have sought it with a pure heart.  That is proven in a changed life – where the person has repented – turned away from their sin. It is possible for God to use you even of the people who were touched by your sin have not.  The Bible is full of examples of people that God used in a mighty way who had done terrible things .. committed great sins … and yet, they found forgiveness and were given a new start as they walked with God.  There were some things that they could not do because sins do have consequences.  To imagine that we can do anything and it not affect others is an attempt to justify our sins .. to make an excuse for what we have done.

Our present enjoyment of God’s grace tends to be lessened by the memory of yesterday’s sins and blunders. But God is the God of our yesterdays, and He allows the memory of them to turn the past into a ministry of spiritual growth for our future. God reminds us of the past to protect us from a very shallow security in the present. Our yesterdays hold broken and irreversible things for us. It is true that we have lost opportunities that will never return, but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future. Let the past rest, but let it rest in the sweet embrace of Christ. Leave the broken, irreversible past in His hands, and step out into the invincible future with Him.” –  Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest

Confession – means to agree with God.  We must lay all of our excuses aside and understand that we are no different from anyone else.  All have sinned .. there is none righteous .. only Jesus … and in Him we can be assured of forgiveness.  Forgiveness means that we are no longer facing the penalty for those sins. Yield your heart and life to God and His purpose.  I am certain you are familiar with the phrase, “Let go and let God.” That is what I am encouraging you to do.

"The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children— with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.”  – Psalm 103:8-18 

We don’t have to be enslaved by what sins we have committed in the past, but can be free to live for God by His grace and mercy for eternity.  And that is something to shout about.

To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.” – Jude 24-25

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

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Oh Yes – I Am The Great Pretender

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.–  James 1:13-15

I woke up this morning with that verse on my mind. Waking up to the thought of a scripture happens to me, a lot.  I take it as a prompting to write.  It is not like I scan the Bible to find a verse or topic – it is just like “boom” there it is. Sound strange?  Yesterday I wrote about good and bad pretending as defined by C.S. Lewis. When we live our lives with un-confessed sin – we are bad pretenders.  Some of you will remember the song, “Great Pretender”

Oh-oh, yes I'm the great pretender. Pretending that I'm doing well. My need is such I pretend too much ….. Oh yes I'm the great pretender. Just laughin' and gay like a clown. I seem to be what I'm not, you see. I'm wearin' my heart like a crown. Pretending that you're (that would the Spirit) still around.” – The Platters, November 3, 1955

We are so afraid of what others will think of us if they only knew that we sin and we call ourselves Christians.  So we pretend like we don’t sin – when everyone already knows that we do.  Kind of like the children’s story “The Emperor’s New Clothes”  Everybody knew that he was in his skivvies, he was acting like he was actually wearing some beautiful clothes.  Then a little boy cried out “Look he doesn’t’ have any clothes on!”  Like someone saying of me, “Look! He is a sinner!” Then the pious will cry out in indignation, “And he calls himself a Christian!” 

The struggle we have with sin is real, as you well now.  How we respond to the sin, when we sin, and we will sin, will determine whether we are a good or bad pretender.  As a Christian, living with sin is spiritually deadly.  Sin brings separation – not eternal separation – but it incapacitates us spiritually.  We are living in disobedience even though we pretend that we are not.  It does not fool God.  Do you remember the woman at the well?  Jesus saw past her pretenses and saw her sin. Our sin may be veiled from the world but it is unveiled before God. The solution is a simple one.

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” – 1 John 1:8-10

Confession and repentance brings restoration.  We can’t live rightly with unconfessed sin – don’t believe the lie that a little sin doesn’t matter – James wrote that if we break any part of the law we have broken the whole law. (James 2:9-11) It is all or nothing – no compromise with sin is acceptable to God. 

To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.” – Jude 24-25

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

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Imagining That You Can Really Be Like Jesus

Each Monday I participate in a meeting – on a Zoom call.  Some of you may know what that is, but until I with joined Houston Responds as part of the Hurricane Harvey assistance, I had no idea. Zoom is a web-based video-conferencing service. Pretty cool actually. Anyway, at the start of each meeting, someone will give a short devotion.  Yesterday the devotion was centered on an excerpt from Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis. As often happens, what was said quickened my Spirit and I knew I should share it with you.

Very often the only way to get a quality in reality is to start behaving as if you had it already. That is why children’s games are so important. They are always pretending to be grown-ups—playing soldiers, playing shop. But all the time, they are hardening their muscles and sharpening their wits so that the pretence [sic]of being grown-up helps them grow up in earnest (p. 188).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

The idea of “pretending” with respect to our faith is not suggesting we be hypocrites but rather that we have a desire to be  like Christ. That we would imagine that we can be and then act as if we are. That fact caused me to see Jesus’ parable about two sons in a different light.

A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father? – Matthew 21:28-31

In the one case a son was struggling with obedience, but yielded to what he was told to do.  Even though he struggled with obedience, he yielded to his father. In the second, the son pretended to be obedient but was not. That son had no interest in being obedient, but wanted the appearance of being so.

There are two kinds of pretending. There is a bad kind, where the pretence is there instead of the real thing; as when a man pretends he is going to help you instead of really helping you. But there is also a good kind, where the pretence leads up to the real thing. When you are not feeling particularly friendly but know you ought to be, the best thing you can do, very often, is to put on a friendly manner and behave as if you were a nicer person than you actually are. And in a few minutes, as we have all noticed, you will be really feeling friendlier than you were. Very often the only way to get a quality in reality is to start behaving as if you had it already. That is why children’s games are so important. They are always pretending to be grownups—playing soldiers, playing shop. But all the time, they are hardening their muscles and sharpening their wits so that the pretence of being grown-up helps them to grow up in earnest.” C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952; Harper Collins: 2001) 187-189.

We must imagine that we can be what God has called us to be and then live that way.  If you don’t believe that God can indeed transform you, then you will never mature. Living by faith requires imagination.  The evidence of things not seen.  (Hebrews 11:1) That is what is imagined. If you allow your life, your failures, to define you, then you may find that you live your life pretending to be righteous, but inside you are disobedient. But if you walk in the light as He is in the light (1 John 1:7) then you will find that at the root of your pretending is Love which leads to obedience, which leads to maturity – but not perfection.  Perfection comes on the day we see Jesus face to face. 

To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.” – Jude 24-25

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

Monday, January 13, 2020

More Of Jesus - Less of Me - The Only Resolution That Makes Sense

Our yesterdays hold broken and irreversible things for us. It is true that we have lost opportunities that will never return, but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future. Let the past rest, but let it rest in the sweet embrace of Christ. Leave the broken, irreversible past in His hands, and step out into the invincible future with Him.” –  Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest

Are you ready for a new year, a new decade? Perhaps you want to change some things about the way you live or look.  You want to breaking some old habits and start some new ones. As you know, most of those resolutions are tossed on the pile of those resolutions abandoned after a few days, weeks or months from previous new years.  There is an old hymn that describes what our attitude should be with regard to our past, our present and our future and the means by which lasting change can happen. “Have Thine Own Way”

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way! Thou art the potter, I am the clay! Mold me and make me, after Thy will While I am waiting, yielded and still. Search me and try me, Master, today! Whiter than snow, Lord, wash me just now, As in thy presence Humbly I bow. Wounded and weary, Help me, I pray! Power, all power, surely is Thine Touch me and heal me, Savior divine! Hold o'er my being absolute sway! Fill with Thy Spirit 'til all shall see Christ only, always, living in me. Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!  POLLARD, ADELAIDE

All of us have things in our past that we regret.  Satan, the god of this world, would have us cling to those things, so that they would define who we are today and limit what we will be in the future.  But Jesus has overcome sin and the grave. (1 Corinthians 15:17) In Him we have new life. (1 John 5:12) Old things are passed away. (2 Corinthians 5:17)  We are forgiven, in Christ. (Ephesians 4:32) It is Jesus that defines us now.  Of course that is not to say that we should continue in sin, but, instead, that we should not let our sins, our failings, in the past be a wall that we cannot get by.  If you want to make a resolution for this year .. make it that you will draw closer to Jesus .. “So turn your eyes upon Jesus.  Look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”  Bòn Ane (Happy New Year)

To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.” – Jude 24-25

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

Friday, January 10, 2020

Tolerance Without Compromise

do not give the devil a foothold” –  Ephesians 4:27

A friend sent me a short video the other day where a Muslim-American politician was speaking to a Muslim audience espousing the need to convert the people of this country to Islam.  I suppose that my friend is concerned that there is a real effort in this country to do that.  Then I thought about the Bill of Rights and the Constitution of our country and the fact that we stand on the principle that everyone has a right to believe what they want to believe. But what if they also believe that everyone else should believe the same thing.  That should not be surprising since, as Christians, we believe that our faith is the “true” faith and God wants everyone to embrace the Gospel and salvation through Jesus.

Read the Bible – for the Jews, there were only two types of people – Jews and people who were not Jews.  For us, there are those who are saved and adopted into the family of God by faith and those who are lost and bound for hell.  So – although we Christians, in this country, are to be tolerant of other faiths and non-faiths, we believe that there are really only two kinds of people, saved and lost. Well …. Our country was founded on Judeo-Christian beliefs, but by definition has never been a Theocracy, a country under the rule of one religion.  In fact many of the founders of this country were escaping that when they came here as immigrants. But, if you think that everyone should be a Christian, and I do for their eternal sake, then don’t you see a conflict in our religious goals versus our national goals? So what to do.

I entitled this devotion “Don’t give Satan a foothold”, because I believe that our concern or fear about the dominance of other religions in this county gives Satan a foothold in our lives and impacts our faith. When I watched that video, frankly my first thought was , “How do we prevent this?” There seems to be a greater and greater tolerance for non-Christian religions and less tolerance for Christians.  But that is merely a reflection of the founding principles of our country. As a culture, in comparison to other nations of the world, our country is in its infancy. When I was in grade school, I was taught that the United States is “melting pot”, where all cultures, ethnic groups, faiths come together and are blended.  Well that may be true to some extent but many cultures and ethnic groups and faiths want to cling to their roots while embracing the prosperity that can be found here. There will always be tension among groups when that is true and that will always be true. Unless, of course, everyone could find common ground through faith or when Jesus returns. 

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” ― Matthew 7:13-14

Jesus was telling us that many more will reject the Gospel than accept the Gospel. Christianity is not something that is to be imposed on people as in a Theocracy. I am certain you have heard about people being killed because they refused to become Muslim.  By the way – people claiming to be Christians have been guilty of that in times past  as well.  So what are we to do?

As Christians, our place is to be a light in a dark world.  To first trust God and His sovereignty and not men and governments.  We are to put God ahead of our country but at the same time submit to the law of the land, so long as it is not contrary to God’s law.  This county’s moral tide will ebb and flow over time.  People with competing goals and faiths will always be in contention with each other.  In all of that, we must be true to our faith – our witness – and our God.  We must stand on our beliefs and not compromise truth to get along – which is the foot hold that Satan is looking for.

To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.” – Jude 24-25

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

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

I Can’t Save Anybody But I Can Tell Everybody

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect”  1 Peter 3:15

Have you ever shared your faith with someone? Maybe went door to door. Maybe you have a taken a class on how to share your testimony and the Gospel. Or maybe you have decided to leave that aspect of being a Christian to others. I have heard it said that speaking in public, to people you don’t know, is one of the greatest fears that people have. You can get over that fear with preparation and practice.  Just like anything else in life, there are always going to be people who do “whatever it is” better than you.  That maybe important if you are getting paid to do it, but when it comes to giving you testimony – sharing your faith – not so much.

You see, when it comes to faith issues it is the Spirit of God who does the real work.  We are merely messengers.  Are you familiar with the term “Don’t shoot the messenger?” Well you don't shoot the messenger because all the messenger is doing is relaying information.  The message was crafted by someone else. In the case of the Gospel and your new life in Christ, the message is from God, the Father.  It is not up to you to save the person you are speaking to. It is impossible.  That said, you can’t argue anyone into heaven.  When someone comes to faith, perhaps when you are speaking to them, it is because the Spirit of God has gone ahead of you – preparing their hearts.  Your meeting is the means by which they hear the Gospel, the very thing their hearts have been yearning for.

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?  And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” ― Romans 10:14-15

Implicit in the telling is the showing.  What I mean is that your life should reflect your message.  If you were buying a Chevy but the salesman was driving a Ford, you might wonder why he promotes one thing and does another.  That does not mean you must be sinless – none of us are. It does mean that your life should reflect your love of God and willingness to walk in the light.   

Listen – God will give all us opportunity. The question is, “Will we be ready and willing when the opportunity comes knocking?”

This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ Says the Lord of hosts” ― Zechariah 4:6

You don’t have to be an eloquent speaker – merely a faithful servant. Being a witness to the Gospel is a basic Christian responsibility.  Jesus said –

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” – Matthew 28:19

That means as you go – as you live your life – be ready to do what God calls all of us to do. Oh, one other thing. Paul wrote …

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.” – 1 Corinthians 3:6

You never know what your place is – planting – watering – or harvesting.  Just remember, it is God that makes it grow.  You just need to be ready and willing.

To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.” – Jude 24-25

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

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

God Never Asks You To Do Something That You Can Do Without Him

You will always need God to accomplish what He sends you to do. We were just talking about Gideon. God used Gideon to defeat an army of thousands using only three hundred men, torches and clay pots. When Moses sent the twelve spies across the Jordan to spy out the land, all but two (Joshua and Caleb) came back with bad news. In the minds of the ten, it was impossible for Israel to defeat the giants that lived there. It was too hard a task. Forty years later, Joshua was once again standing at the banks of the Jordan. The task was the same. Joshua was to take the land for Israel. And the Lord said:

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” ― Joshua 1:9

God chooses to use ordinary people to do what is impossible in the minds of men. If you are going to do something for God, you cannot do it apart from God. What we do is by the power of God through His Spirit.

This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ Says the Lord of hosts” ― Zechariah 4:6

I would be at great fault if I did not make it clear that anything that was accomplished during our journeys must be credited to the dedication and commitment of the hundreds of volunteers that helped us. Time and again, the right people with the right skills, heart for service, and financial resources came to Mississippi, and later to Haiti and to Texas. When we faced the trials and challenges that we faced, we often had no idea how to overcome them. “But God” is perhaps one of the strongest phrases in the Bible. It appears no less than 47 times. But God met the challenges and trials using the volunteers who would come to our aid.

I could not possibly acknowledge each one, each group, each church that set their lives aside to help the “man in the ditch.” I would have to devote an entire chapter of my book, “Where Faith Is Waiting” to each of them. Not only did they minister to the people in the communities, but they ministered to Martie and me. What we did, where we served was a very difficult and, at times, a dark and dangerous place to be. They were like the balm of Gilead for us personally. They encouraged us. They blessed us. They stood in the gap for us. To this day we count many as dear friends and partners in the fields in which the Lord has set our plow. And we knew that is was by God’s providence that we were able to do what we did.

 “‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’  Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” – Matthew 22:36-39

If you read Matthew 22:36-39 you see that God requires all of your devotion and that devotion then gives birth to a love for others. Saying yes to God re-quires faith ― trust ― obedience. Where we get into trouble is when we make choices in our own wisdom. Have you faced faith challenges in your life? Are you facing one now?  Would you be willing to go to a difficult place or become involved in a difficult circumstance? Or maybe you feel like you are already there.

Most people I know put a limit on their devotion to God.  They struggle with natural devotion and spiritual devotion.  Anything can become a god if we let it have preeminence over our devotion to God.  The second greatest commandment is to love others, but that is the second greatest, not the first.  God really asks very few to physically abandon their families to serve him.  But He commands every one of us to abandon any and all devotions that would push Him aside. 

Even loving Him more requires Him to do it.  We can’t do it on our own.  We must do it by faith by the power of the Spirit.  There are many admonitions in the New Testament to love others – above ourselves – but never above God.  The temptation is strong, but God is stronger.  God never asks us to do anything that we can do on our own except this one thing; to lay our lives down at the foot of the cross, to trust in God and not ourselves.

I share what od has done in our lives not as a point of boasting about ourselves, we are nothing. No, we are boasting about what a great God we serve and hope to encourage you to say “Yes” to God and go to a place uncertainty.  A place where you must trust in God and not yourself.  It might be right around the corner. Or with the next person you meet. 

To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.” – Jude 24-25

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

Monday, January 6, 2020

In God’s Economy, There are No Coincidences

God weaves a web of relationships that is improbable and, more likely, impossible for man to orchestrate. When I meet people, I always ask the Lord ― “Why am I meeting them?” I can’t see very far down the path He has me on ― but I know that some of the people I meet along the way will play a part in my journey and my mission which is to point people to Jesus.

I believe that the Holy Spirit works at “both ends of the stick” at the same time. What I mean is that if He is leading, then He is also preparing hearts to agree that “This is the way” (Isaiah 30:21). If we look at people as the source of our provision, we are looking too low. We must look to the hills! (Psalm 121)  There are no coincidences in the life of a Saint. God is always at work, all around you. The question is, “Can you see Him at work?” Even in the mundane, simple things, God is at work.

 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” ― Romans 8:28

It seemed that each time we solved one problem, another one would pop up. It is a little like that arcade game where you hit a gopher’s head with a mallet only to have another pop up. The more you hit, the more heads pop up. While we were in Haiti, we raised and provided funding for 6 church schools. We had the salaries; we had the books; we even had the uniforms by the providence of God. A pastor shared a Haitian proverb, “Empty stomachs have no ears.” Most of the children were coming to the schools without having eaten and would not eat until they got home. If there was food to eat. I recall Martie measuring children for uniforms in La Vallee. When one little boy took his shirt off to try on a uniform shirt, you could see all of his ribs. Martie cried.

We needed to feed the children (Matthew 25), but how to do it. By this point there were several hundred children in the schools. That represented thousands of meals each week. And we would need water and a place to cook the food.  

While in Haiti, I had two phones. One for the U.S. and one for Haiti. One day I received a call on my Haiti phone from the U.S. It was a bit unusual. It was a man, Lou, who lived near Chicago. He told me that he had been visiting his uncle in Demotte, Indiana. Churches from same Demotte that helped so much with hundreds of sheds in Mississippi. I had sent an update to the churches that had pro-vided volunteers and financial support. In the last up-date I mentioned that I needed food for the children. The churches would make copies of my updates and distribute them to church members. Lou’s uncle showed him the update and asked if Lou knew any-thing about it. Lou did not and that is why he called me. You see, Lou had been providing food to school children in Jacmel, the same city we were working in, for the past 16 years. He said he would be in Jacmel in two weeks and would like to meet to talk about how we might partner in feeding children. We would need to pay for shipping, but the food was free. Do you see God’s hand at work?

“Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means ‘queen of the Ethiopians’). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip, ‘Go to that chariot and stay near it.’ Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ Philip asked. ‘How can I,’ he said, ‘unless someone explains it to me?’ So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading: ‘He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.’ The eunuch asked Philip, ‘Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?’ Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.” – Acts 8:26-35

Philip was prompted by the Spirit to connect with the Ethiopian.   At the same time, the Ethiopian was reading Isaiah – seeking God. Has anything like that ever happened to you?  Prompted by the Spirit to speak to someone, and they were ready to hear. Did you see it as God at work or did you just right it off as an amazing coincidence.

 God is a “just in time” God. He is never late. We may become impatient, but God is always on time – His time.  When I meet people, I always ask myself, and the Lord, “Why am I meeting this person?” “How is God going to use this for His purpose and glory?” 

When I received the phone call about the food for the children, I knew the impossibility of me orchestrating that connection.  So often we miss what God is doing in and through us and the people we meet.  What He did through men and women in the Bible, He is doing today.  The same Spirit is at work in all of us.  Are you ready and willing to be used by God? God is ready and willing to use you for His glory and the good of others.

Paul wrote and I pray in agreement:

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.  I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as His mighty strength.” – Ephesians 1:17-19  

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

Friday, January 3, 2020

God Uses Unlikely And Unknown People

He does that so that He can be glorified through their obedience. Even a cursory reading of the Bible reveals how God chooses those that the world would never choose to bring Him glory and blessings to people.

D. L. Moody was a shoe salesman who never attended school beyond the fifth grade. After his conversion he became an evangelist and publisher, who founded the Moody Church, Northfield School and Mount Hermon School in Massachusetts, Moody Bible Institute and Moody Publishers in Chicago. He never went to seminary but led thousands to faith in Jesus. You never know how God is going to use you as you walk by faith in obedience to His call. 

Edward Kimble, a Sunday School teacher, led D. L. Moody to the Lord, whose preaching led to the conversion of Frederick Meyer, who influenced Wilbur Chapman, whose preaching led to the conversion of Billy Sunday. During a Crusade in Charlotte, North Carolina, Billy Sunday asked Mordecai Ham to preach in his absence. It was during Ham’s preaching that Billy Graham placed his faith in Jesus. Billy Graham’s son, Franklin Graham has followed in his father’s footsteps as has his daughter Anne Graham Lotz. You plant and water, but you may never know what your obedience to God’s call will produce, but He does.

Think about what D.L. Moody doing for a living before responding to God’s call. He didn’t have much formal education. What qualified him to do what he did for the kingdom of God and future generations is the same that qualifies all of us. God does not call the qualified, He qualifies the called. Perhaps you feel that your Christian life is inconsequential. That there is nothing of value that you can offer God. Perhaps there are things in your past that you feel make you unusable.  God is the God of second chances. Consider your spiritual passion. We all have one. If there were no limitations, what is it that you want to do in the kingdom of God?

Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit.”  – Zechariah 4:6

Understanding and embracing the fact that it is God and not you that equips you for service is the key to successfully fulfilling your purpose and calling? The question is, “Are you ready and willing to make that a reality in your life?”  Consider Gideon. 

Now the Angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth tree which was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon threshed wheat in the winepress, in order to hide it from the Midianites. And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him, and said to him, ‘The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!’ Gideon said to Him, ‘O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.’ Then the Lord turned to him and said, ‘Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?’ So he said to Him, ‘O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man.’” – Judges 6:11-16

You know that Gideon was not confident that God had picked the right man. Once Gideon yielded to the call to what was beyond him, God used him to do what seemed impossible.  Read what happened when Gideon went to battle in Judges 7.

There is nothing that God has purposed for you to do that you can accomplish without Him.  The men in the Bible, the men who did mighty things, did them by the power of God not by their own wit or strength. To serve God in the place that He has chosen will always require faith.  Like Gideon you can look at your heritage or perhaps your education and training in light of what God has called you to do and wilt in fear at the thought of saying “Yes.” The effectiveness of your ser-vice is limited by the quality of your faith and your willingness to trust the One who calls.

All too often, we are willing to acknowledge that the Word of God is truth and can be trusted until it is use that the Lord is calling to get out of the boat – to do the seemingly impossible.  And Jesus asked Peter, “You of little faith…. why did you doubt?” – Matthew 14:31

Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

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

Believe it!

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

Thursday, January 2, 2020

God Speaks To Us By His Spirit

According to Dr. Henry Blackaby in his book, Experiencing God, the Spirit uses the Word of God, your prayers, life circumstances and events, and other born-again Believers as the means of communication with you. The means by which God speaks to us are not mutually exclusive, but are mutually supportive. God uses one means to reinforce another. In other words, God will speak to you using more than one of these means. As I read the Word of God, the Spirit may impress a truth on my heart. Perhaps I have read the verse many times before, but in that moment in time, God had a word for me. Then the same day I will hear the same verse or someone will address the same issue with me. Or maybe two people, not related in any way, will talk to me about the very thing that God addressed in my heart while I prayed. The challenge is to have the discernment to know when it is the Spirit at work and not merely our flesh.

I was on staff with a ministry called Promise Keepers for a season. During the 1996 Promise Keeper’s Pastors’ conference in Atlanta there was a time of prayer – a solemn assembly if you will. We were called to a time of reverent silence as all 39,000 pastors prayed. As I stood there with my eyes closed, I asked God, “God, how are you going to show yourself? Are you going to split the roof of the Georgia Dome open and send down your Shekinah glory? Or maybe send a great rushing wind and flames will appear about the heads of your saints?” Well, I must admit that I peeked. And when I looked up, all I saw was a single dove flying in circles above the great throng of pastors. I closed my eyes again. After the prayer I looked up, but the dove was gone. I figured it had been my imagination running away with me. It was just then that the guy standing next to me said, “Hey, did you see that dove flying up there?” Guess it was not my imagination after all. I was reminded of Elijah in the cave.

And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ So he said, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.’ Then He said, ‘Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.’ And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earth-quake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.” – 1 Kings 19:9-12

God does not speak to us in the way we might expect. In this instance, it was as if God was confirming His presence through the dove. The next day I was at home. It was early morning, and as I do nearly every morning, I got up to put the coffee on. I looked out through our patio doors to the deck, and there, sitting on the deck rail was a dove, looking back at me. Seem odd? For the next week, I was convinced that I was being followed by doves! Sound crazy? I would drive down the road, stop at a corner and a dove was sitting on the ground at the corner. This didn’t happen just once, but many times. And you know what, it is still happening. Does that seem odd? It did to me, until I remembered what an optometrist friend would say. That is not odd my friend, it’s God.

Perhaps there was  a time when God has spoken to you; during prayer, while reading or hearing the Word, through life’s circumstances, or through other Christians. Dr. Henry Blackaby said that it is not knowing that it is God speaking that we struggle with.  Our struggle is obeying what He is telling us to do.  Do you remember a time when you knew that God was speaking, but you did not want to obey Him?

“While Samuel was lying down, that the Lord called Samuel. And he answered, ‘Here I am!’  So he ran to Eli and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ And he said, ‘I did not call; lie down again.’ And he went and lay down. Then the Lord called yet again, ‘Samuel!’ So Samuel arose and went to Eli, and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ He answered, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” (Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, nor was the word of the Lord yet revealed to him.) And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. So he arose and went to Eli, and said, ‘Here I am, for you did call me.’ Then Eli perceived that the Lord had called the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, ‘Go, lie down; and it shall be, if He calls you, that you must say, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears.’ ‘ So Samuel went and lay down in his place. Now the Lord came and stood and called as at other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel answered, ‘Speak, for Your servant hears.’” – 1 Samuel 3:3-10

Sometimes we miss the fact that it is God speaking to us.  It takes someone with more maturity to recognize it and help us to see.  Do you have someone like Eli in your life? Who is it? How have they helped you in the past?

In my experience, God speaks to us using more than one of the methods.  Sometimes all four.  When God was sending us from Mississippi to Haiti was just such a time.  Through the Word and prayer, the Lord had been impressing on me that it was time to leave.  Our time in Mississippi was done.  It was then that three people, who did not know each other, living in different states, talked to me about leaving Mississippi and going to Haiti. I was talking with a friend in Mississippi who was not a Christian. When I told him we were going to Haiti, he drew close, looked me in the eyes, and asked “Are you Crazy?”  You see, he didn’t know it was God, he only heard thunder.  I told him, “It’s not my idea; it’s God’s.” 

You may not see doves, but you might.  You probably won’t hear a voice from heaven.  But if you seek Him, He will be found.  Listen and you will hear. Then obey.

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

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

God Always Requires More Faith For The Next Step

As you actively pursue this life of faith, you will discover that God wants to take you deeper and farther. (I say pursue because for many it is not a pursuit, merely a possession with no intent to deepen the relationship with God.) It seems that our faith is never quite mature enough to match the next purpose God has for us. We have two choices at that point, to open our hearts and minds and submit our will in obedience by faith or to say “I can’t do it” or “I won’t do it” or “I don’t understand why I should do it.” As I have faced greater and greater challenges in God’s leading over the years, I have also found greater joy and blessing by saying “yes” and trusting God. You have heard the saying “I don’t trust you any farther than I can throw you?” Well, you can trust God knowing, no matter what comes your way,  that His intent is in growing you. Christian, as you go about living your life, put your faith in God’s leading, follow Him in obedience and stop depending solely upon what you see.

For we walk by faith, not by sight.” ― 2 Corinthians 5:7

A pastor and his wife were the one family we helped while we were in Mississippi. The pastor was disabled and unable to do the difficult work of rebuilding. Martie and I had been, "generally aware", of a pastor and his wife who lost their home and their church to the storm for a few months. I had sent volunteers out to their trailer to encourage them and to assess their needs, but we had not visited them personally. Martie kept meticulous records and mentioned that we needed to stop by to see how they were doing. The pastor had been in the hospital when Katrina made landfall and had not been physically able to do anything with regards to rebuilding his home or the church. Helping them seemed to be beyond what we could do.

While returning from delivering sheds to families in Pearlington I received a call from Art, a friend who inspected FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) trailers for FEMA. Art asked if there was any way we could pay a visit to ― you guessed it ― the pastor, to talk to him about his roof. We "just happened" to be driving by the road that led to his house. I "just happened" to have a roofer sitting in the back seat of my truck. To make this story a bit shorter, after that phone call, we reroofed his house, installed all of the wiring in the home, set exterior doors, installed a heating and air conditioning system, and completed the rough-in plumbing. God hears the prayers of the righteous, and He heard that pastor. And ultimately, we did more than repair his roof, we finished his house.

We have had our faith challenged in this way, many times over the years. So often, I have struggled with my thinking that, in terms of what God was leading me to do,  "Jesus has nothing with which to draw water from the well". Time and again, the Lord has shown us that He can and will draw the water on our behalf and on the behalf of the people we minister to. Why do you suppose we have trouble trusting God even after He has intervened on our behalf in the past?

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.’ A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’ Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’” – John 20:24-29

Even after the Disciples had walked with Jesus and had seen Him perform miracles, there was a limit to their belief.  What do you think Thomas was struggling with? IS it something that you, yourself, struggle with?

God grows our faith in Him using life’s circumstances.  We wrongly believe that God will always do what we want if we ask right the right way or do the right things. 

“‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord.  ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.’” – Isaiah 55:8-9

What we do know is that God will always do what is right and best, even when we cannot see, trust, or understand.  That is the very definition of faith.  You will never fully arrive with respect to faith in God until you leave this earth.  In the meantime, while you are waiting on heaven, your heart will be in a virtual tug of war between your old and new nature.  You can expect for your faith to be tested and proven throughout your life. You won’t always pass the test, but God can even use your failing the test for His glory and your good. God will always require more faith for the next step in your journey.

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

Monday, December 30, 2019

God Gets Us Moving So He Can Direct Our Path

It’s not about me figuring out where God wants me to go and do on my own. It’s about me listening to the Lord and not trying to solve it like it was some academic exercise, but hearing the still small voice.  Lord, I want to hear your voice and follow you.

Having made our first trip to Haiti, I wish I could say I knew where the Lord was leading us, but I didn’t. I had a strong suspicion that Haiti was part of our future somehow. It would be nice if the Lord would load our next destination into “My Favorite Places” in our GPS and then I could just select it and follow the route to our next place of service. That is probably not going to happen. (you think?) Instead, He wanted us to do what we have done in the past. Place our faith in the One who calls and look for the signs along the way. 

The route may seem treacherous, but God is with us. He is in the boat sleeping while we are in the same boat worrying. And He asks ‘Why are you worrying.’ He is on the water, walking confidently, while we are struggling to keep our head above water. We are concerned about the waves around us and wondering what in the world we are doing outside of the safety of the boat. And He asks us, “Why did you doubt?” Lord we believe, but help us with our unbelief.

So, our first trip to Haiti was a stepping stone on the path the Lord had set our feet upon. I had gone to Haiti ahead of Martie to scout out the land and was hoping for an epiphany, something I could tell Martie ― OK, this is it. But I still saw men as trees walking. I knew my vision would clear in time and we would be in the place the Lord had intended. In the meantime, we must walk in what we knew and would trust the Lord in what we didn’t know.

A friend of ours told me the other day, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” I know that sounds like one of those “Duh!” statements.  But it is actually pro-found in its simplicity.  Accepting and acting when we don’t know is what faith and obedience in the absence of knowing are all about.  Oh, we want to know!  Consider Moses.  (Exodus 2 and 3) God spared Moses as a baby.  God placed him in Pharaoh’s court.  Moses fled Egypt and became a shepherd.  Moses was called by God to return to Egypt through the burning bush.  Moses went to Egypt and led the nation of Israel out of Egypt.

You may have difficulty comparing yourself to Moses.  Don’t compare yourself to him.  God has a plan and purpose for each of us.  Some people get stuck in their journey because they choose to go no further.  The Apostle Paul wrote,

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” – Romans 12:1-2

Your journey may never take you beyond the confines of the neighborhood you live in.  Your journey may be as simple as personally being transformed, sanctified, made to look like Jesus. Right where you are.  There is a saying in Haiti, “ti pa, ti pa” [tea-pah, tea-pah] or “step by step.” That is what being on the move for God looks like.  Perhaps you can identify with John Newton who wrote the song, Amazing Grace.

I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.” ― John Newton

How has the Lord has intervened and redirected your life? Consider your life as part of God’s plan and purpose, not merely has a series of loosely connected events. Or, perhaps when God said “Go”, you said “No.” Do you think that Moses could have said “no” to God’s direction?   Of course, but he did.

“Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the congregation together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and their animals.” So Moses took the rod from before the Lord as He commanded him. And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock; and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?” Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank.” – Numbers 20:7-11

Such a simple thing.  What difference did it make if Moses spoke to the rock or hit it with the rod that God had given him. Moses did it his way because, for what ever reason he did not trust that speaking would be enough – even if that is what God said to do. What was the consequence of Moses disobedience? (Read Numbers 20:12) Why was God so harsh with Moses? 

What if you have said “No” to God or I will do it my own way?  Have you missed your chance?

Most often when we think about God calling us, we think about God taking or sending us somewhere. Changing direction might mean your heart or your thinking, not just your doing or where you live.  

I still remember the valedictorian at our high school graduation opening her speech with 1 Corinthians 13:11. “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”  She was referring to the transition that we all were making to being on our own. But it is also a picture of Christians as they mature and God leads them to a new place of understanding and being.  As a Christian that won’t happen except by faith and a willing heart.

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