Friday, June 14, 2019

Your Heart Won't Be Right, Unless God Is All That's Left

Abraham built an altar…; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar…” —Genesis 22:9

Isaac represented God’s promise to Abraham.  Everything that Abraham hoped for.  Now God was testing his heart.  A test to see if Abraham loved someone or something more than God. What is getting in the way of your relationship with God?  God makes it pretty clear that He is a jealous God and He commands us to not have any other gods in our lives (Exodus 20:5).  That is a quote from the ten commandments.  Other gods are other things that you serve. That demand your devotion above your devotion to the God of heaven.  Something that dictates what you do, what you think, what you depend upon.  It might be yourself, it might be some other thing in the world. The Bible makes it pretty clear. 

 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” – 1 John 2:15-17  

So God is telling us, “if you are going to live this new life, you must sacrifice everything that you treasure .. everything that you depend upon … and serve – trust Me”  I can’t explain it except to say that it is God’s plan and His purpose for His creation.  The original sin in the Garden occurred when Adam and Eve decided that there was another, better way.  We are still doing that.  God has told us there isn’t a better way … that Jesus is the Way.  The Cross is the way.  What is holding you back?  What is it that you have chosen over God?  What is it that you need to lay on the altar?  Don’t delay .. do it today.   

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Looking At What Is On The Inside - Our Spiritual Nature

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” – 2 Corinthians 4:16-17

I am two months away from being 69 years old.  69!!! I cannot hardly believe it.  I have become my grandfather! When I look in the mirror, I see someone who resembles who I was but sometimes I wonder who that is staring back at me.  But why don’t I feel like I am about to be 69?  I have always found it curious, that I don’t feel older on the inside.

Our nature is to look at the outside of a person and make judgements about them.  We all do it.  Jesus spoke to that natural tendency.

You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” – Matthew 23:24-26

He was speaking about the inner man.  The heart of a person that God sees and men don’t.  At least not without the help of the Spirit of God, that is.  I believe that every person is aware of their inner-self because it is God’s way of revealing Himself and our true nature, even to the lost. Inside, I feel, well, ageless.  Think about it.  Like Paul said “Outwardly we are wasting away, but inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” 

The more you are aware of God, the more you are aware of your true nature – the you God created you to be.  People seek to find themselves – but most often, to the exclusion of a Creator God.  That is man’s rebellion.  Our natural tendency is to want to be like God, but without God.  It will never happen.  The God who created you has ordained the conditions of your relationship with Him and has made the way, through Jesus, for you to be who He intended you to be.  No other way.

The next time you look in the mirror, try look past the face and body you see. Look at the inner you.  The eternal you.  And maybe – just maybe you will see a reflection of Jesus – the first born among many. (Romans 8:29)

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Repentance - Our Part In The Process

And he [the prodigal son] arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son’” – Luke 15:20-21

You well know that you cannot change someone’s heart.  Oh, you can love them and want the best for them, but the decision to change, to repent, is all up to them. Many of you reading this have someone in your life that you deeply desire that they would see the error of their ways and have a change of heart. That person might even have been you at some point in your life – or perhaps you are still there.

I believe the father knew where his son was and what he was doing.  But he did not go and get him but waited for the work of repentance in the boy’s heart. The father must have been searching the horizon, perhaps every day, in the hope that his son would return.  Oh, how he wanted to embrace his son and restore him. But, the father waited for repentance. And then, one day, he saw his son crest the hill. Returning home. Not so he could take what he could get and then leave to continue in his sin. But to be restored having a heart change. 

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart—These, O God, You will not despise.” – Psalm 51:17

The son’s heart was changed – humbled – broken in his realization of what he had done and what he had given up.   Convinced he was doing what was right for him, only to realize that what he had chosen was wrong for him.  He returned with the expectation of at best being treated like a slave, but was received as a son – restored.

That is how it is with us and God.  That is how it is supposed to be with us and each other.  But that kind of restoration cannot happen without true repentance.  That is what we should hope for.  That is what we should pray for.  That is what we must wait for – just like God did with us.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Being Sorry Is The First Step Of Repentance, Not The Last

Godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation” – 2 Corinthians 7:10

Being sorry for something I have done is not enough.  Repentance means turning away from my sin, not merely being frustrated and sorry that I continue to sin.  Conviction of sin is a supernatural act of the Spirit of God bringing an awareness of the truth of our sin … all sin separates us from God.  Sin is to the sinner like drugs are to the drug addict.  The Christian who sins knows it’s not good, it’s contrary to his new nature, but something drives him to want to cling to that sin. The Apostle Paul described his struggle with sin this way.

We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 1 do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” – Romans 7:14-15

The sinner may ask God to forgive him, but really all he wants is relief from the conviction and consequences.  He has not abandoned what it is that draws him to that sin.  This is a spiritual struggle. (Ephesians 6:12)  That spiritual struggle manifests itself in our flesh – through physical actions and our thought life.  So what can we do? We know that sin is stronger than our will to not sin.  The Apostle Paul gave us the answer. It’s Jesus! The Way and Truth and Life.

I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.” – Romans 7:21-25

The danger for us is our tendency to become complacent about the sins we struggle with.  Even accepting.  That is not the life we have been called to. 

So ….. let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1-2

Being sorry that I sin is only the first step to repentance. Repentance is living in a new way and I cannot do that without the power of the Spirit of God and a decision to go another way. 

Lot’s wife left Sodom with her husband but she left her heart in Sodom.  Even though she went through the motions of obeying the Lord, her heart was still devoted to what she had left.  God says don’t look back, but often our heart wants to. We cannot life our new life apart from the power and presence of God and with a heart devoted to Him.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Managing Your Expectations

“Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.” – James 3:10-12

The principle here is that what comes out reflects the nature of the source. It is the same with the affairs of this world.  Our legal system is primarily a reflection of our culture and not the Word of God. The following is an excerpt from Market Faith Ministries, The Christian Worldview Basis for the Rule of Law, 2014.

Over the last century or so, the naturalistic worldview has become increasingly prominent in American culture. In fact, it now dominates all of the major institutions of society. Naturalism is the belief that there is no such thing as a supernatural reality – that is, there is no God to give man any moral guidance. Based on this belief, human beings must create their own morality.

The underlying foundation of a naturalistic understanding of law is relativism. Since there is no absolute authority in existence, every law exists relative to the whims or desires of the humans who make and interpret them. Thus, even a constitutional document is “interpretable” based on the beliefs of those with the power to do interpretation. The idea of a document based on absolute principles or original intent is not part of the equation.”

As Christians our hope is that our government, to include our justice system would have as its foundation the Word of God. That is true in part, but with each passing year the influence of the Word is increasingly diluted.  New cultural norms have taken their place. When we know what is right, but see something else at work, the temptation is to despair. Like the sons of Issachar, who understood the times (1 Chronicles 12:32) we must have a clear understanding of the times we live in.  Might God intervene on our behalf to avert some injustice that is now called justice? Yes, but perhaps not.  The question is, if God does not intervene, will we still trust His sovereignty?  Will we still believe….

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28

Do we still believe….

God “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” – Ephesians 3:20

You can expect to meet disappointments in this life.  Times when you would like for God to show up when we want Him to, but He seems to be somewhere else, or worse, not interested in our trouble. Neither is true, but it may still feel like they are. This was the cry of the Psalmist and it could well be ours today.  The Word of God is eternal and applies to all generations.

Psalm 43

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.”

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Believing Left Is Right Because God Said It Is

“Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.” – 1 Corinthians 3:18-19

I have talked to many people who had been confronted with the conflict of obedience to God and their personal, earthly ambitions.  The “American Dream”, which is not talked about much anymore, is owning a house and having a new car in the drive.

Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” – 1 John 2:15-17

We need to focus on the eternal. But, for many of us, the things of this world dominate us and will demand that we reject God in favor of them. There is a storage industry built around our avarice for accumulating.  We fill up our houses, our attics, our garages (that is why our new car is in the driveway) and so we rent a space to store more things.  Oh, I am guilty too.  There is something peculiar about our drive to have possessions.

And he [Jesus]  told them this parable: ‘The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’” – Luke 12:16-20

God says “Do not put confidence or seek consolation through accumulation, but in Me.” I have known a number of people that are devoted to their possessions.  We see the extreme in people called hoarders, but that is really just an exaggeration of the heart of our culture.  The Lord provides resources and we consume them on ourselves.  As if boxes of “stuff” will somehow bring the peace and assurance we so desperately seek. 

Do my words sound a little extreme?  Or perhaps, the Spirit is convicting you about your affection for the things of this world.  Listen, at the core is an eternal struggle between the natural and the supernatural.  If you have boxes and boxes of stuff that you can’t get rid of, not that you need whatever is in the box, but when you see what is inside the box fascinates you – draws you and you just cannot get rid of it.  Friend, you have a lust problem.  Hey, we all do.  But God has given us a new life free from the bondage of our old one. 

God does not ask everyone to sell their house, quit their job, or move to a third world country. But He commands everyone to keep Him first in their heart, to reflect His Son in the way they live and relate to the world, to not care if He does ask those things of them, to be willing to walk by faith and not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7) We either do or we don’t. In the military, when you march you step out with your left foot, which makes it the right or correct foot.  God’s ways are not the world’s ways.  God defines what is right, which may look left to the world. We must resist the flesh and obey God by the power of His Spirit and Word to keep in step with God.   

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

What It Means To Be A Living Sacrifice

“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.” – Romans 12:1

I am certain that you have seen that verse before.  If you read my devotions, then I know you have. What sparked this particular devotion on sacrifice was actually something far different than you might imagine.  My grandson, my one and only grandson, is being inducted in the Alabama Air National Guard this week.  His decision is partly because he needs  help pay for college.  His soccer scholarship is not nearly enough. But mostly because he has always wanted to be a military aviator one day.  A noble aspiration if you ask me. His induction got time thinking about service and that got me thinking about sacrifice.

Sacrifice is giving up something that you care about, for a greater good.  In the military, it might be as small as being away from home for a few years or as big as giving your life on the battlefield.  Military who have “fallen in battle” are highly esteemed in most cultures.  There is a recognition that the person gave up that which they valued most – their very life for the greater good – their countrymen.

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”  – John 15:12-13

Jesus was referring to His sacrifice for the disciples and the world. As Christians, our charge is to live our lives for others and not for ourselves.  The idea is that we should be willing to set our own goals aside, first for God and second for others. That demonstration of love was summarized by Jesus in Matthew 22.

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. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’” – Matthew 22:37-40

Lay your life down for others.  Being a living sacrifice means that what the world values – what our old nature values – is crucified – sacrificed in deference to obeying God and loving others.  For those men that are married, it means this.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” – Ephesians 5:25-27

Think about the implications of that in terms of what you do every day – men. But wives, think about the general command to lay your life down for others – that includes your husband.  The welfare of others is more important that your own welfare.   Does that strike a nerve?  What do you hesitate to surrender.  It is that thing that you love more than God and others.  Perhaps there is more than one thing that you hesitate to surrender.  But wait, there’s cause for hope and not despair! The power to love like this is not based upon your own determination alone. This is a spiritual act requiring the power of the Spirit in you.  The kind of love that Jesus was talking about is a fruit of the Spirit.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” – Galatians 5:22-23

And that fruit begins to grow with the decision to offer yourself as a living sacrifice to God.  There is so much more to say – but it must wait for another day.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Why Do We Worry About How We Look To Other People?

“Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” – John 12:42-43

How important is it for people to be impressed with your appearance? I have to catch myself when I am picking out a shirt to wear.  I have a couple that are actually nice shirts – they have buttons and everything! But I find myself thinking, “What will people think of me if I wear it?” Sounds ridiculous when I type the words. Why would I be concerned with the opinion of someone I don’t even know?  Why would I think that those I do know would think poorly of me for wearing my Hawaiian shirt? The answer is – pride and fear of rejection.  It is my old nemesis, my natural self – my flesh.

Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.”  – Matthew 23:24-26

We worry about things that have no eternal consequence, and miss those that do.  We are worried about how we look and what others think of us.  So much so that we will even sin against God to gain the favor of others.  Why? Because we lack spiritual perspective.  Our lives are supposed to reflect Jesus not the world.  Our concern is supposed to be obedience to the will of the Father and not the praise of men (and women) for how we look and our position in the world. 

Deciding which shirt I wear may seem inconsequential, but it points to something of greater consequence.  It reveals where my focus and devotion lies. If I do what honors God, then I do not have to worry about pleasing others.  I do not have to worry about being rejected because I am not good enough in the eyes of men.  I am a child of God.

It is not the outside that matters, it is the inside that is important.  What are you worried about?

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:16

Friday, May 31, 2019

How To Change Someone’s Heart – When Words Are Not Enough

“Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” – 2 Corinthians 5:16-19

I attended a meeting the other evening where disaster relief leaders were learning about ways to build effective volunteer teams. As a practical exercise, the group shared prayer requests.  Nearly every person in the room talked about their desire to see their children embrace their faith.  Have you ever been watching a movie and you become so caught up in it that you start talking to the people on the screen.  Perhaps they are going into another room and you know what is in the room.  So you tell them not to open the door! Oh, if they would only listen.  But they don’t and what you knew would happen, happens.

That is the feeling those people had as they watched their children struggle with life.  If they would only listen! One of my daughter reminds me of the lectures I would give her when she was at home.  I like to think of it as a training ground for the ministry I would have in later years.  But the truth is that I was speaking truth to her and warning her not to open that door! My definition of a lecture is someone hearing truth and not wanting to obey it. Talk to the hand! Today she often says, “Everything you told me was true.  If I had only listened.” 

We worry over our children when they seem to have rejected their faith in favor of embracing the world and its brokenness. The thing is, we cannot change someone’s heart, not with words or worry.  Only God can do that.  Prisons are full of people who will go back to doing what they were doing before when they are released.  They have been confined, but they have not been changed.  

I [Jesus] will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” – John 14:16-17

God, the Father, sent the Holy Spirit and sealed each Believer to begin the heart change process.  That does not mean that we will always submit to the Spirit.  Even though each one of us is a temple of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16) we still want to open the doors that we shouldn’t.  It is our struggle with our old nature.  We still quench the Spirit’s influence. (1 Thessalonians 5:19) And so do the ones that we love.  What they need in those times is to come under the conviction of the Holy Spirit. We need to pray that the Spirit of God will convict them of their sin and will draw them back to the Lord. And what do we do? We love them without enabling them.  We pray for them in faith.  Do our hearts hurt, absolutely. But so does God’s.  That is why He sent Jesus.  That is why He sent a Helper.  It is a spiritual problem manifested in the natural.

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Knowing The Difference Between Judgement And Discernment

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.. – Matthew 7:1-5

“Who made you the judge!” Have you ever said that, thought that or heard that?  There is but one spiritual Judge.  One moral law Giver.

There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?” – James 4:12

We do not have the authority to judge others. We must be careful that we do not judge others when we see them struggling a sin.  That does not mean that we ignore sin in others, it means that we don’t judge them. Those who are Christians, we can encourage and pray that they will no longer yield to their flesh, old nature, but to the Spirit of God.  Those who are not Christians, we can encourage them to repent and pray to that end.  There is a difference between judging and discernment.  We don’t judge others.  At the same time, we don’t condone the sin.

If the Bible says it’s sin, it’s sin.  Our culture has been busy in redefining right and wrong, but God’s Word has not changed.  Be careful that you don’t let your compassion for people cause you to abandon Truth.  Your compassion for people should compel you to seek after the best for them which, ultimately, is new birth.  You cannot change the hearts of others, only God can do that.

To recognize sin as sin is not judgement it is discernment, but to condemn the sinner for their sin in your heart is judgement. If you tell me you are not sinning, but your actions clearly are sinful according to the Word of God, then I must conclude that you are sinning.  That is discernment.  I cannot change your heart, but I know the One who can.

“Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, ‘Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ When Jesus heard that, He said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.’” – Matthew 9:10-12

We should not abandon the world and those who reject God. Those that are blinded by sin.

But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake.” – 2 Corinthians 4:3-5

You are in the world so that the world can see Jesus - in you, not so you can judge and condemn others. And Jesus said, if He is lifted up, He will draw people to Himself. (John 12:32)  So lift up Jesus.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Joy In Times Of Trouble - Living On The Supernatural Side

“In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. – Romans 8:37

In Romans 12 verse 2 Paul wrote that we are transformed.  2 Corinthians 5:17 he wrote that we are new in Christ, the old has passed away.  Our old, sinful nature no longer has claim to our lives.  Perhaps you have heard the example of a caterpillar and a butterfly, metamorphosis, to describe what transformed means.  Once the process has started, there is no way to reverse it.  A butterfly cannot become a caterpillar again.  That transformation requires patience and struggle.

The cocoon or chrysalis is a like the life that we live, we are enclosed in it, but inside there is something going on that cannot be explained in natural terms.  It is a mystery.  An irreversible process.  Once God has you in His hand, there is no one, not even you, that can change that.

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” – John 10:28-29

Perhaps the greatest temptation that each of us faces is to lose hope that life can be better.  Circumstances may not change but our lives in Christ are greater than the circumstances we find ourselves in.  Loss, hurt, financial problems, broken relationships .. all of those things come with a fallen world.  We are in that world, but as born again children of God, we are no longer limited by this world.

We have a supernatural side.  We have the capacity to live above our circumstances … not struggle under them.  It all depends upon where we look for our source of strength.

If God is for us, then who can be against us?” – Romans 8:31

We are being transformed.  The creator God is on our side.  You can have joy in the midst of the struggle.  Perhaps you are in the middle of one right now! Perhaps for a long time. Hold on to this truth.  Look to the hills from whence your help cometh!

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38-39

Can I get a Hallelujah from somebody?! 

Monday, May 27, 2019

Are You Willing To Meet People At The Point Of Their Need?

“But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” – 1 John 3:17

Have you ever encountered someone who had an apparent need, something inside of you urged you to take action but you turned away, pushing that thought aside?  Perhaps you thought some justifying thoughts.  “They don’t really need help.” “Why don’t they help themselves?” “It’s not my problem.” “Being around them makes me feel uncomfortable.” I could go on.  There are an infinite number of reasons why we don’t help. Or more directly, why we say “No” to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

Helping people will always cost you something. It won’t necessarily be money, but it could be.  But, it might be time, inconvenience, or maybe there will be an emotional cost.  In any case, it is an expression of love.

No greater love has one man than this, that he lay down his life for his friend.” – John 15:13

Martie and I had something like this happen to us recently.  It would have been easy for us to demand our rights. After all we were in the “right”. But there was something else at work.  The person had a weakness that brought them heartache and broken relationships.  They needed grace and mercy.  They needed to see Jesus.  Not like Oral Roberts vision of a 900 foot Jesus. (you can Google that) But the image of Jesus that is imprinted in every Believer.

In Romans Paul encouraged us to resist responding to others as the world responds.

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 12:2

Rather than be conformed to the world’s perspective, allow God to conform you to the image of His Son – Jesus, by the power of His Spirit in you.

For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” – Romans 8:29

As you live out your life, you will be confronted with many opportunities to be “inconvenienced” by others.  The Spirit will not prompt you to help every one of them. But He will some of them.  The implication here is that your heart is open to the Spirit of God – that you are spiritually aware and willing to yield to the Spirit.  What I am writing about is a spiritual act, not merely an act of good will.  God is behind it.  He is helping others through you. God chooses who it will be and when and how, your choice is to obey.  You need the Spirit to see past their want and see their need. And then to say “Yes, Lord. Yes. To Your will and to Your Way. I will trust You and obey.  When Your Spirit speaks to me, with my whole heart I’ll agree and I will answer ‘Yes, Lord, yes.’”     

Friday, May 24, 2019

“I Did It My Way” A Good Song Title, But A Bad Way To Live

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him..” – 2 Corinthians 5:21

I taught a Sunday School class a couple of years ago. I call it “Applied Christianity”.  A friend said he was going to refer someone to my class who needed to be in a beginning Christianity class.  Unfortunately, in my observation, almost all of the Christians. I know need to be reminded of the fundamentals of my faith.  But more, it is not in the knowing but I the doing. We fall short in our applying what we know to do to our daily living. It does us no good to store up knowledge, week after week, if all we do is store up knowledge. So what to do?  Where to start?

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Paul starts by telling us what the Word is and does “God breathed and therefore profitable” and ends by telling us why it does it “so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  But that will only happen if we live a surrendered life.  Surrendered to God, not living in a state of self-trust.  On the back of our currency are the words, “In God We Trust”.  Now you know that is no longer true for our country.  Most of our country lives in defiance of God and for their own pleasure.  Even Christians.  We need to apply our faith to our lives, every day, every moment.

But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” – James 1:22

God did not intend for you to live independently from Him.  Jesus defeated sin so you could walk and live rightly with God as your source, the Spirit as your guide and the Word as the lamp to your feet.  If only you will stop trying to do it your own way and listen to God.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Living The Supernatural Life In A Natural World

“I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet, not I but Christ lives in me. And the life that I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” – Galatians 2:20

Supernatural living in a natural world.  That is what we are born again into, a supernatural life.  Does that statement seem strange when you read it?  Excessive? 

Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.” – 2 Corinthians 5:16-18

The supernatural life – our new life – is one that is totally dependent upon the One who saved us.  For most of us, the events that we face in life are not any different from any of the people around us who are living natural – unspiritual lives. We face the same things.  We do many of the same things.  We work in the same places.  We suffer through the same tragedies of life. But that is where the similarity ends and the difference begins.  The difference between the natural and the supernatural, the Spirit of God.  You, Christian, have at your disposal the power of the Almighty.  You do not have to face this life alone.  You have the power to stand when others fall.  You can endure life with confidence when others wither under the pressures that this mortal life brings. And why can we be so confident?

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.  Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:31-39

That’s why !   

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Immediate Gratification - Not Having The Faith To Wait

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” – Psalm 27:14

There is a recurring theme in the Bible.  Trusting God or trusting in ourselves.  Abram had waited on God to fulfill His promise in Genesis 15. 

Then the word of the Lord came to him: ‘This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.’ He took him outside and said, ‘Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’” – Genesis 15:4-5

He and Sarah were impatient and did something on their own. Ishmael was born. (Genesis 16) But then something happened … there was a transaction of faith between Abram and God, and God gave Abram a new name .. Abraham .. father of many nations.  Both Abraham and Sarah laughed at the thought, but soon after, Sarah conceived.  (Genesis 17) It happened when it was impossible to give credit to men.  God received all of the glory. 

It’s the same way with us.  We know God’s promises, but are unwilling to wait on God.  We want to “make it happen”.  We are even willing to accept something less than God’s best because we lack the faith to wait. 

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.” – Hebrews 11:1

Faith is trusting in something you can’t see . .being convinced that it will come to pass, and then living … making choices in the context of that belief.  Faith becomes stronger when faith is exercised.  Are you facing something in your life that is testing your faith?  Testing your confidence in God?  It is a common malady for us Christians. 

There is or was a TV commercial for T.G. Wentworth where people receiving an annuity or settlement said “It’s my money and I want it now.”  To get some money,  they had to be willing to give up a great deal of their money.  To receive something today, they were willing to sacrifice what they would receive tomorrow.  They didn’t want to wait.  Another example is the businesses that do taxes for people and promise an immediate tax refund.  That is not the government’s money the tax payer receives, but the business provides the money at a significant cost to the tax payer.

Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.”  – Dr. Ravi Zaccharias

Is not waiting on God, sin?  We sure don’t want to think it is.  King Saul was unwilling to wait and it was accounted as sin.  He lost his kingdom. 

Saul remained at Gilgal, and all the troops with him were quaking with fear. He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul’s men began to scatter. So he said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings.” And Saul offered up the burnt offering.  Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to greet him. ‘What have you done?’ asked Samuel.” – 1 Samuel 15:7-11

We are unwilling to wait because we don’t trust God.  What is it that you are unwilling to wait for? Don't accept anything but God's best. Waiting on God will always be worth the wait. 

Monday, May 20, 2019

Do You Talk To God, Sometimes Or All The Time?

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Do you know someone who talks to God – out loud?  Do you think they are odd, eccentric or perhaps just a little fanatical?  Maybe, but there may be another possibility and  that is they are merely behaving like children talking to their Father with a sense that He is present and listening all the time. At the high school graduation commencement Saturday, the valedictorian began his speech with “God is good all the time and all the time, God is good.” Words that are not politically or culturally correct, but true nonetheless! When Paul told the Thessalonians to pray all of the time, he was really saying, “Be aware that you are in the presence of God and have the liberty to talk with Him anytime and anywhere, about anything, all the time.”

Talking and praying are the same thing, with the difference that when we pray it is directed to the Creator God, when we talk other times, it can be toward anyone, even ourselves.  Unfortunately, for many of us, we talk or pray to Him only on rare occasions. In times of need where what is happening is beyond us – we need help so THEN we turn to God.  I was talking with our granddaughter, Laura, just the other day about this.  To make my point I stood by a light switch with the light turned off.  I said, “This is how we treat God.”  I flipped the lights on and said, “God I need something.” And then switched the light back off.  The light was my awareness and attentiveness toward God.  I then switched the light back on and said “God did you hear me?” and switched the light back off.

I told Laura that we treat God that way, but that is not what God wants.  I switched the light on and continued to talk with the light on.  “This is how God wants us to live. Always aware of God’s presence.  Always looking to Him, trusting Him. Living our lives with the light on all of the time.” Without ceasing.

It is all too easy to neglect our spiritual nature in favor of our natural one.  Life just seems to get in the way. We just bought a house in Texas.  The back yard has been neglected for years.  Vines have taken over what used to be a beautiful water feature.  You can't even see it. That is how it is with our spiritual nature, beautiful as it is, our spiritual life can become overgrown with our natural life, so much so that others may not even know it is there.  

Perhaps you need to spend more time talking with your Father.  It can and will change your life. Keep that light switch on - let the Light shine.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication [asking or begging for something earnestly or humbly], with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  – Philippians 4:6-7

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Understanding What Is Really Important In Life

“…I am with you to deliver you," says the Lord.” – Jeremiah 1:8

What troubles your life the most, the thought of losing your life or the thought of losing your lifestyle?  I would say that most people don’t worry about their physical death until they are faced with some trauma that threatens their physical life.  Worries about one’s lifestyle are most likely limited to people who live in developed countries.  In undeveloped countries, the people have nothing and no means to ever have something.  Their concerns are more about how they will eat and where they will find water to drink. There is a song by Janis Joplin that describes the attitude of many Christians:

Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz ?  My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends.  Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends, So Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz ?  Oh Lord, won't you buy me a color TV ?  Dialing For Dollars is trying to find me.  I wait for delivery each day until three,  So oh Lord, won't you buy me a color TV?”

Are you thinking, “That’s not me!”  Good.  The point is, examine about what is most important for you to be content?  Is it the possessions and lifestyle that you have or your relationship with the Lord?  Do you see God as the giver of whatever you want or the giver of all that you need? When we talk with people who have lost all of their possessions in a natural disaster, the thing that they want most to preserve or find in the midst of the rubble that was once their home are family pictures.  Dr. James Dobson spoke at a Promise Keepers conference in 1993 about trashing your trophies. He said that when you are lying on your death bed, it will not be your 401K that you will be thinking about, it will be your relationships.

To have your life in proper perspective requires that you have spiritual perspective. To have spiritual perspective requires that you practice spiritual disciplines.  That you seek God first for His sake and not for your sake.  Do not think about what you want and then seek God, seek God with the confidence that He will give you what you need.

Love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. Then love others … ” – Matthew 22:37-38

If you do that, there is no room for the love of things of the world.

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.” – 1 John 2:15

Out of the love for the Father will spring the love for what He loves.   Let me give you a hint,  it won't be a new car or a big screen TV.   

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

God’s Definition Of Adultery – Not Just An Act But An Attitude

“Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, ‘The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously’?” – James 4:4-5

I referenced this verse in the devotion yesterday.  Sometimes we speed right past words in verses thinking that they don’t apply to us.  Adultery is one of them. That is because we think of adultery in the natural context and not the spiritual. I looked up the “current” natural definition of adultery.

Adultery, sexual relations between a married person and someone other than the spouse. Written or customary prohibitions or taboos against adultery constitute part of the marriage code of virtually every society.”

Jesus said that you don’t need to have a physical relationship with another person to be guilty of adultery.

 You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” – Matthew 5:27-28

Sin is birthed by the lust of our flesh and consummated in our hearts. The physical act is merely a reflection of a sinful heart.  So what does adultery between two people who are in a covenant relationship have to do with our relationship with God?  I will tell you what I think.

You know that “You shall not commit adultery” is one of the ten commandments.  So it must be important. We typically think of that commandment in terms our relationship with others.  The first two commandments have to do with our devotion to God.  No other gods in our lives. Nothing that would cause us to be unfaithful in that relationship.  Jesus said the greatest commandment was to love God with every fiber of our being.  (Matthew 22:37) That does not allow for devotions that would be in conflict.

We commit adultery in our heart when we embrace our culture when it is clearly in conflict with the Word of God.  When we answer Satan’s question, “Did God really say?” with “No He didn’t”, when He did.  We very often commit adultery in our relationship with God in our hearts. When we trust something other then God more than God.  When we are devoted to something else.

The temptation to be unfaithful toward God and His precepts is always knocking at the door of our hearts.  Being tempted is not sin.  Yielding to the temptation – even if it is just in your heart is sin.  Does sound extreme to you? It is extreme.  So extreme that God sent His Son to save us from it.  He sent His Spirit and gave us the Word of Truth to help us resist the temptation.  Adultery toward God is a problem among the Saints.  That is why we are cautioned about it in the Bible.  That is why the Spirit prompted me to encourage you to be careful and to be faithful.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Praying To God – What’s Love Got To Do With It?

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” – Philippians 4:6

Prayer is one of those things that everyone knows to do and most have a problem doing.  Some think it is a big deal if they pray in a restaurant before they eat. (I have always found it curious that we typically don’t pray over the appetizer just when the main course comes. It’s like appetizers don’t count.) Some only pray when they are in a church service.  Some pray only when they are in some sort of trouble. Some when they want something, like a house or car or some other worldly possession. Imagine if the only time you heard from your children was when they wanted you to give them something. (For some, that is not too hard to imagine.) How would you feel about your relationship with them?

“… You do not have because you do not ask.  You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” – James 4:2-4

So often we live our lives the way we want, patronizing God on Sunday morning, demanding that He prove Himself to us by bailing us out of jams and satisfying our lust for the things of this world. Sound harsh? It is the cold truth.  How dare we think that we can barge into the presence of God and demand that He do what we want.  We don’t get to make the rules of our relationship nor do we get to decide what is best for us.

We need to wake up! When we come into the presence of the Creator God we must remember that it is only because of Jesus that we can.  It is only because of God’s grace and mercy that we are His children and can ask even for a crumb of bread.  How dare we approach a holy God with unclean hearts and dirty hands. But we do.

 The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters. Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.” – Psalm 24:1-4

Prayer is a holy conversation with the Creator God.  To be able to talk to God and know that He hears you is a gift. Make prayer a habit and not a ritual, but make certain your heart is right first. Approach God understanding your depravity and His holiness.  It is an expression of our love and devotion.  A reflection of our hearts and the quality of our relationship with the Father.