Thursday, December 5, 2019

Our Responsibility Is Not To Save But To Shine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Why Is The Spirit Of God Important

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Our Struggle With Wanting To Stay In The Boat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 2, 2019

When A Sacrifice Is Not A Sacrifice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 29, 2019

We Are One In The Spirit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, November 26, 2019

We Try Harder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Choosing the Best Over the Good

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BTW, my partner is going to install that door!

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

Monday, November 18, 2019

We Serve A Just-In-Time God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 15, 2019

The Only Way We Can Be One In The Spirit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Starting In The Right Place

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

To Know Christ and Make Him Known

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 11, 2019

Why We Are Tempted To Strike The Rock

And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand. And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, “Are You for us or for our adversaries?” So He said, “No, but as Commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, “What does my Lord say to His servant?” Then the Commander of the Lord’s army said to Joshua, “Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.” And Joshua did so.” – Joshua 5:13-15

I often quote Joshua 1:8-9. You are familiar with the Story of Joshua, I am certain.  After Moses was denied the privilege of leading the people across the Jordan into the Promised Land, Joshua was given the mantel of leadership. 

The Lord said to Moses,  ‘Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.’ So Moses took the staff from the Lord’s presence, just as he commanded him. He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, ‘Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?’ Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.’” – Numbers 20:7-12

Moses was allowed to see the land but not enter it.  A consequence of his sin. Did that mean that Moses was not heaven bound? No. 

As he [Jesus] was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.” – Luke 9:29-31

Ok – so back to Joshua 5.  The commander of the Lord’s Army is thought to be a theophany – an appearance of Jesus in the Old Testament.  Recall the when angels appeared before men at other times, they would not allow the men to knell before them and worship them – worship belongs to God. In this case Jesus revealed Himself to Joshua and allowed Joshua to kneel and worship.  When Joshua asked if what His intention was – the Lord said Joshua was to join Him not the other way around.  God is not our servant waiting to do our bidding.  We are in the Lord’s army – not fighting with Him but fighting for Him.  A subtle distinction for certain, but a distinction all the same.  God made it possible for the water to flow from the rock and all Moses had to do was obey – speak to the rock – but Moses lacked faith and struck the rock with his staff instead. Didn’t God tell him to bring the staff? Yes.  But He didn’t tell him to use the staff.  In a similar way God showed up so that Joshua and the people could be led by Him not so He could do Joshua’s and Israel’s bidding.

The city of Jericho fell not because they had a strong army – which they did – but because they obeyed God and marched around the city seven times – in other words, they spoke to the rock – they didn’t strike it with their sword.  Our success in our spiritual walk is solely dependent upon our faith and obedience. 

“… ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.” – Zechariah 4:6

Does that mean that we won’t face hardship? No. Does that mean the we won’t experience loss? No. What it does mean is the we are place our full trust and confidence in God, no matter what. Listen – it is hard for us to not strike the rock. To do what makes sense to us and ignore the Word of the Lord.  You are not the only one who struggles with their trusting God.

There is no temptation taken you but such is common to man” – Psalm 119:11

That is why God told us.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes” – Proverbs 3:5-7

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

Friday, November 8, 2019

Be Careful Where You Walk – Stand – Sit

Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper.” – Psalm 1:1-3

I have a picture hanging right about my computer monitor.  It is a picture of a man having a conversation with Jesus.  Under the picture is the quote from Psalm 1:1.  I want that picture in my view everyday when I begin my day – keeping my focus on God and my faith. It is so easy for us to put the world in front of us – let it occupy our thinking and our doing. Walking – standing – sitting.  That is the progression of embracing the carnal life.  It is possible to be around the ungodly, sinners, the scornful without becoming like them.  The problem is that when we are not strong in our faith – keeping God in full view – we, one step at a time, – find ourselves lingering and eventually finding a seat amongst them.

There is a book written by Watchman Nee “Sit, Walk, Stand” based upon Ephesians but reflective of Psalm 1. “The Christian life consists of sitting with Christ, walking by him and standing in him. We begin our spiritual life by resting in the finished work of the Lord Jesus. That rest is the source of our strength or a consistent and unfaltering walk in the world.” (Watchman Nee, Sit Walk Stand, 1957)

Do you love the Word of God? Reading it is like have a conversation with the Lord. 

“… do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law [the Bible] shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 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 1:7-9

Let me emphasize a word used in the verses in Joshua – “Shall.”  The use of the term ‘Shall’ in contracts, [think of God’s covenant with us as being a contract] reflects the seriousness of the obligation or duty in that it is like a command, mandatory or imperative. In contrast to the word – “Will.” Will is used in contracts to refer to a future event or action. It does not impose an obligation or duty. My point is that your devotion to the Word of God is not a suggestion – it is a command – mandatory – Imperative. Why is it so important to the Christian life – your life?  “You shall meditate on the Word.” Versus “I will try to read the Bible more.” The word of God is critical to our spiritual well-being.  I will leave you with two verses to think about and pray about.

Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You’” – Psalm 119:11

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

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

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Living With Mixed Devotions – Your Life Is Not Your Own

“…do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

“Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, how I love to proclaim – now and forever I am.” I saw the phrase “Bought with a price” yesterday.  I always try to have ears to hear and eyes to see when it comes to my walk of faith.  I eagerly await for the moment when the Spirit prompts me.  Then I write it down and share it in a daily devotion. Other days – I sit and wait – saying “speak Lord you servant is listening” then I write what He reveals to me.  Is that too mysterious for you? I hope not.  We are not to serve in silence – a life devoid of personal interaction with the Lord through the Spirit.

I was thinking about Paul’s words that he used to describe his relationship with the Father through faith in the Son.  He described himself as a bond-servant, “one who is subservient to, and entirely at the disposal of, his master; a slave.”

“Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began, but has in due time manifested His word through preaching, which was committed to me according to the commandment of God our Savior.” – Titus 1:1-3

Do you see your work-a-day in the sense of being a God’s bond-servant. Or does your heart “buck-up” against that thought? If you have ever served in the military, that is what you are.  You take an oath that the military binds you to.

“ I, Charley, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me.”

Once you take that oath, your life is not your own.  You are told what to wear and what to do. As I thought about this I remembered as a commander having young soldiers stand in front of my desk.  They were not there for a good reason – typically.  Most often it was because they wanted the benefits of being in the military but wanted to decide for themselves what they would do and when they would do it.  The only way that was going to happen was for them to leave the military. If their minds and will could not be changed, then I would accommodate them and send them packing.  Once they were not longer in the military they were free to make their own choices once again.

That desire is much the same as many Christians live out.  They want the benefits of the Christian life – the paid-up fire insurance policy – (saved from hell going to heaven) but they want to decide what is right and what is wrong. Where the analogy fails is that when we sin – God does not send us packing. We are bond servants – we can disobey (sin) – there are consequences – but we are part of the family of God forever.  God will not send us packing – cancelling our insurance policy.  If you are struggling with sin, and we all do, – it is because of a lack of devotion to God. But, like the young soldier standing in front of my desk because of his struggle with commitment to his oath – we may struggle with our oath – our confession that Jesus is Lord – that we are bond servants of the Most High God. Rather than trying to beat your sin problem –  you first need to fix your love problem. There should be no room for any other devotion in a Christian’s heart than their love for God. Love for others is merely an outpouring of our love for the Father.

Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him [Jesus] a question, testing Him, and saying, ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?’ Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.’” – Matthew 22:36-40

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

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

You Are Your Brother's Keeper

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” – 1 John 3:16-18

How important is your comfort to you? How important is your financial security?  How important is your faith in God and obedience to the Word of God? Like it or not, there is a tension between the things of the world and the things of the heavenlies.  Our old nature and our new nature.  I had the privilege of meeting with three families yesterday to hear their stories and their struggle.  Every day they face the possibility of total failure.  So many of us worry about the accumulation of our 401k’s while so many others wonder if they will be OK today – worried they won’t have enough to see it through the day.  Each family I met was persevering in the face of great hardship – it brings perspective.  I was reminded of Matthew 25 when both the sheep and the goats asked Jesus “Lord, when did we see you?” and He answered, “When you did or did not attend to the needs of those in need, you did or did not do it to Me.” It is so easy to walk by or look the other way – when you are focused on yourself.

And he 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 does not say go hungry so your Brother will not be hungry.  But He does say – “If I have given you an abundance, over and above what you need to live,  it is not so can spend it on yourself." (or build bigger barns.) We have friends – mentors really – whose life motto is “We live simply so others can simply live!” They have been very successful in life, but live in a very simple way.  Are you willing to do without so someone else can simply do? Man has tried to mimic God’s plan for mankind – socialism and communism are natural imitations of Spiritual principles.  They both fail miserably – God is not in it – in fact He is excluded from it.  Since Adam – man has wanted to be – not just like God – but his own god.  1 John 3:16 reminded me of Jesus words in John 15.

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” – John 15:13

Setting yourself aside for the benefit of others. The world will not fault you for taking care of yourself. In fact it will applaud you in your financial success, maybe even call you a good steward.  God, on the other hand might say, “You Fool”.  Think about it – maybe it’s time for a change in your priorities.

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

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

When The “I” In United Is Out Of Place

Therefore if there is any encouragement [consolation] in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy,  fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” – Philippians 2:1-3

A friend of ours – Broughton – would often say that when the “I” in unIted gets out of place the church becomes “untIed”.  Very often Christians think of the local assembly of Believers they are associated with as being representative of the Body of Christ, the big “C” Church.  That is true, in part.  They represent a group of people who were born sinners and are now born again by faith in Jesus – His death – His resurrection – His deity. They are all sealed by the Spirit of God and shown how to live their new life by the Word of God.  They are adopted children, part of the spiritual Israel – Abraham’s promise – the family of God – guaranteed eternal life with the Father. They have the capacity to love that is derived by their faith and the power of the Spirit in them. 

I do not pray for these [Jesus’ disciples] alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word [that would be us]; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” – John 17:20-23

When Jesus prayed that prayer, it was not just for one local church, but for every Believer and every assembly of Believers that would ever be until His glorious return. The problem is that our old nature gets in the way.  In my experience what keeps the Church fragmented is that the “I” gets out of place. That who we are ethnically, geographically, nationally, and economically becomes the condition of unity. Very often the hand of fellowship through the Spirit is not extended before you are willing to embrace my flesh – my old nature – who I am in the world. If you don’t look like me, live like me, talk like me, if you are not from around here, then I will have nothing to do with you – Jesus or no Jesus. There are many reasons that is true – past injustices – mistrust – following the traditions of our fathers (which are not Biblically based) – walking on the other side of the road past the man in the ditch – like the priest and Levite (Luke 10). The man in the ditch was of the same faith as them – but they walked on by.   It was someone that the Jews hated that showed grace and mercy to the man. Who extended the love of God and not the pre-conditions of man.

Before we consider their actions with disdain or contempt – let me suggest that all of us are just one tick on the clock away from being just like them.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:34-35

Our greatest witness to the world is unity in the Body of Christ and our love for one another.  The Church is not doing well in that regard. Often restoration in relationship is contingent upon one party proving they love the other before the one offended will offer their love.  What others do or don’t do is not a prerequisite for my obedience – it is merely and excuse to not obey – God calls that “sin”.  Oh, I could go on.  The Bible is clear about how we should respond to others no matter how we are treated. The two greatest commandments are found in Matthew 22. Love God and love others.  If you are having a problem loving other Christians, the source of the problem can be found in your lack love for God. That is a hard pill to swallow – especially in the face of social injustice  and past generational wrong. Oh I could go on, but I won’t.  Not today.

“He [Jesus] replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’ You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.” And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!” – Mark 7:6-9

This is the root of the problem with unity in the Body of Christ.  It is sin – that we relabel as preference – you can put dark chocolate on it, but it is still sin.  If there is division between Christians with worldly preconditions for unity – both sides need to repent. And if it but one side then that side must repent and the other must be willing to embrace the prodigal.

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

Monday, November 4, 2019

Trusting God In The Middle Of A Storm

Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace, be still!’ And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. But He said to them, ‘Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?’ And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, ‘Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!’” – Mark 4:39-41

When Jesus was sleeping before He calmed the sea – He was not concerned about what the storm might do – He’s “the master of the sea Billows His will obey” It was the disciples that were not in control of what was going on.  That is just like life isn’t it?  There is a lot that is going on in our lives – very little do we have control over.  We do not have sovereignty over anything really – we are just hanging on – by our fingertips are times.

The wind and the sea do not have a free will – oh – they have their own nature and they interact the rest of creation – sometimes in violent ways, but they must do as their creator commands. That is the way it is with all of creation, except with man.

So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” – Genesis 1:27

We are different from all of His creation – we have a free will.  We can step outside the bounds of God’s intent. We are not forced to obey but free to disobey.  Certainly there are consequences for our choices, but, still, we are free to choose.  God has given us the means to do right – to live in harmony with His intent – a Restorer – Jesus Christ – a guide- His Spirit and – a revelation of His will – His Word.  What we must do is place our faith and trust in His provision. Jesus asked the disciples – “Why are you so fearful”? Jesus was right there – physically, with them. Yet they feared for their lives.

Before we consider their actions with disdain or contempt – let me suggest that all of us are just one tick on the clock away from saying the same thing to Jesus.

“Teacher [Master], do You not care that we are perishing?” – Mark 4:38

After we are born again – we still have a free will – but that will is to be submitted to God – every day.  We are to be like the wind and the waves with respect to our obedience.  To do the will of the Father should be our goal.  Paul wrote that we should offer ourselves and living sacrifices to God – laying our free will down on the altar – each day.

“I [urge] 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

That will only happen if you are intentional about your faith and determined to follow the disciplines of our faith. My encouragement today is this.  When you are in the middle of your next “storm” remember that God is with you in the midst of whatever it is that has struck fear and worry in your heart.  He always has your best in mind.  You may get knocked about – drenched by the waves brought on by the storm – but you are now and will always be a child of God.  

The eyes of God are upon me, He sees everything I do. The arms of God are around me, They keep me safe and secure.

And He knows where I am Every hour of every day He knows each thought I think He knows each word that I might say.

And although there've been times  I've been out of His will I've never been out of His care.” – (Dallas Holm, I've Never Been Out Of His Care, 1991)

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

Friday, November 1, 2019

Yielding To The Authority Of Jesus

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” – Romans 10:9

What does it mean exactly that Jesus is Lord? I mean it is fundamental to our faith – necessary to being born again.  To explain it simply – hopefully not simplistically – if He is your Lord then you do what He says to do – live the way He says to live – love the way He says to love.  When I was  a commander in the Army, I had significant authority over the men and women in my unit.  I won’t go into the details, but hasten to say – that my authority as a commander was given to me by the Army – it was not something I brought with me or a decision I made.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” – Matthew 28:18

Jesus was given His authority to be Lord from the Father. And so, we are to acknowledge and yield our lives to His authority. In a similar way that the men and women in my unit were to acknowledge my authority and obey my orders.

When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. ‘Lord,’ he said, ‘my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Shall I come and heal him?’ The centurion replied, ‘Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, ‘Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.’” – Matthew 8:5-10

The Centurion – a soldier – a commander – understood what authority was and acknowledged Jesus’ authority. “Just say the word.” Jesus has all authority and all He had to do was speak it and it was done. It says the Jesus was amazed that this Roman had so much faith in Him.  He had not see faith like the Centurion’s even among the Jews.

“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” – Luke 6:46

The military has its own justice system. The law book is called the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).  Members of the military are subject to civilian local, state and federal laws and the UCMJ. Article 92 – Failure to Obey A Lawful Order – says that service members must obey the lawful orders of those with the authority to give them or they can by punished under Article 92.  Punished for being disobedient and depending upon the severity – even court martialed. Jesus was asking His followers why they called Him – Lord – but didn’t obey Him.  The reason is because, unlike the Centurion, they called Him, Lord, but did not acknowledge His authority over their life choices. (Ok here we go!) That is something we all struggle with. For a Christian – the punishment for disobedience is not death – Jesus was punished for us – but it is a violation of a love relationship – of trust.  We so often treat choosing our own way or the way of the world – our old nature and rejecting the Word – Jesus, as no big deal. But we are so wrong.   

Someone once wrote “If Jesus is not Lord of All – then He is not Lord at All!” How are you doing with that? Does it seem impossible? My point is not that we must be perfect while we walk this earth – that is not going to happen. But the fact that we do sin – don’t do what Jesus says – well, that should matter. We must stop making excuses for our disobedience – our lack of faith and trust and confess it – acknowledge His authority afresh and then press on – in repentance and the power of the Spirit and the counsel of the Word. I will leave you with an appeal from the Apostle Paul.

I urge 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

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

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Are You Willing To Wait On God?

But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.” – Isaiah 40:31

I am certain that you are familiar with this verse. Great verse with a great promise and a great visual.  But what comes with it is great difficulty. The reason – we don’t want to wait.  There is a great example of not waiting in 1 Samuel 13, about King Saul.

“As for Saul, he was still in Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling. Then he waited seven days, according to the time set by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him. So Saul said, “Bring a burnt offering and peace offerings here to me.” And he offered the burnt offering. Now it happened, as soon as he had finished presenting the burnt offering, that Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might greet him. And Samuel said, “What have you done?” Saul said, “When I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered together at Michmash, then I said, ‘The Philistines will now come down on me at Gilgal, and I have not made supplication to the Lord.’ Therefore I felt compelled, and offered a burnt offering.” And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you. For now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue. – 1 Samuel 13:7-14

So the prophet Samuel told King Saul to wait. He waited and when Samuel didn’t show – he panicked. Since Samuel wasn’t there to do what Samuel was supposed to do, Saul decided he would do it himself. He saw his men getting restless and the enemy getting closer.  It was time to take things into his own hands. He could kill an animal for a sacrifice. He could start a fire. He could pray. He knew what the prophet had told him, but maybe the prophet was misinformed. Not doing what God says to do – not keeping His commandment is a euphemism for sin.  We like to think that doing what God says to do is optional – actually it is.  We can choose to sin – just like King Saul.  We can choose to not trust God but trust ourselves instead.  There are always consequences for that.  I am reminded of my old friend – Proverbs 3:5-8

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, And strength to your bones.” – Proverbs 3:5-8

I have seen so many people – Christians – choose a way other than the way that God has made clear – because they did not want to wait.  They looked around them – what they saw caused fear to set in – and the did what they thought would allay their fears, only to find out that their problems were compounded. Don’t try to be a Lone Ranger Christian.  Thinking that you can live the life on your own. Don’t isolate yourself from the influence of other Christians and the local church.  You are part of a spirit body.  If a finger is separated from the hand – and the body – it cannot do what it was designed to do – work in harmony with the others fingers and thumb.  Refusing to engage with other Christians is really no different than what King Saul did.  Trying to do it on your own. 

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near…” – Hebrews 10:19-25

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

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Six Dregrees Of Separation

 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” – Matthew 14:25-27

I have been waiting for the violence in Haiti to settle before I travel to Jacmel.  I was supposed to go with a friend and partner in the Gospel, Pastor Doug Moyer from Comptche, CA. Comptche is 3 hours north of San Francisco.  I had told him that another friend, Pastor Alan Cross had recently moved to Petaluma, CA to pastor a church there.  Both men have served with us in Mississippi and Haiti.  Doug told me that he had taken Disaster Relief training at Alan’s church, before Alan was pastor there. Doug is a pastor and a first responder.  He said that he had noticed that the church had become a shelter for the people fleeing from the fires in Sonoma County.  Alan and I have been texting back and forth as he set the shelter up in his church.  Alan was recounting the time that we set up a shelter together in Ocean Springs after Katrina and reflected on how God has prepared him for this time.  I replied to Doug ….

Just reading your email this morning - I am always amazed at how the Maestro conducts the symphony of believers – BTW, I believe Jesus is in the first chair 😊 Each orchestra member must follow the conductors lead, but is responsible for playing the right notes at the right time in the right way.  I have heard of six degrees of separation in social networks, but I think separation between two people is fewer with God – in fact I am certain it is.”  

“Six degrees of separation is the idea that any two people are six, or fewer, social connections away from each other. As a result, a chain of "a friend of a friend" statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps. It was originally set out by Frigyes Karinthy (was a Hungarian author, playwright, poet, journalist, and translator. He was the first proponent of the six degrees of separation concept, in his short story, Chains) in 1929 and popularized in an eponymous 1990 play written by John Guare. It is sometimes generalized to the average social distance being logarithmic in the size of the population.” (Wikipedia)

Guare’s play was made into a movie in the early 90’s starring Will Smith and Donald Sutherland.  Although popular, I don’t think the theory has been proven scientifically. But even if it was, God is not bound by natural laws. Just like Jesus walking on the water and healing people that had been disabled all of their lives. 

Dr. Henry Blackaby in the study “Experiencing God” said that “God is at work all around us and wants us to join Him.” I can tell you from personal experience that God can and does bring things together in supernatural ways.  Ways that are beyond probability. 

We have been working with churches in close proximity to Houston (close as defined by Texans!) to encourage them to partner together in their communities to respond in unity to the needs of people affected by natural disasters.  Yesterday we visited a single parent who needs help with her home.

Something for you to chew on, I believe the only difference between a widow and a single mom is the manner in which the husband left the home.  The life challenges both women face are virtually identical.

Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. ” – James 1:27

This woman had been referred to us by a case worker.  Through the course of our conversation with her, we discovered that she attends the same church that we have been working with to become part of the local disaster response church coalition. We were looking for a way to encourage the church to engage and now the Lord has led us to one of that church’s members.  We could not have arranged that.  In fact, we were surprised when she told us where she attended church because she is does not live close to the church in question.  

Elisha prayed that his servant’s eyes would be opened.  Paul prayed that for us as well.

Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding [hearts] being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power…” – Ephesians 1:15-19

Look around my friends – God is at work all around you – if you will only open your spiritual eyes you will see some amazing things.

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

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Our Problem With Forgiveness And Trust

… The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt.” – Matthew 18:26-30

Don’t you find people curious, maybe even perplexing? I have read the parable of the Unforgiving Servant many times but have seen it played out by people I know many more times.  We want forgiveness for what we do, but we don’t want to extend that same forgiveness to others.  I have written this many times before, but it bears repeating – the Bible is a spiritual book – the Word of God – what He tells us to do must have the power of the Spirit at its root – not the power of our will or won’t.

Have you ever heard someone say “I just can’t find it in me to forgive them!” Maybe you’ve said it yourself.  Don’t you think that God knows all about our human frailties and tendencies?

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

Scripture is “God-breathed” or inspired through the Spirit of God. We were given that parable so we would know that we are to forgive in the same way that we have been forgiven by God by the power of God in us.  So let’s talk about trust. We are to forgive but that does not mean that we necessarily trust. The king who forgave would most likely not give the man more money.  Trust is an easy thing to lose and a hard thing to get back. Just because you forgive someone does not mean that you make yourself vulnerable to them. In my thinking, people must demonstrate repentance before they should be trusted.  God does not ask us to enable bad behavior. We can forgive without the offender being repentant. But we should not trust until they prove they are repentant. That failing is at the root of abusive relationships. The abused forgives and the abuser continues to abuse. 

Are you struggling with forgiveness – maybe you are refusing to trust even though the person has repented. If you look closely – you will find a lack of forgiveness at the root and a wanting for the person to be punished as the goal.  Just like the unforgiving servant.  Lord help us all!

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