Friday, October 18, 2019

Navigating This Life

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” – Psalm 119:105

I left early this morning to attend a meeting. I live in La Porte Texas and the meeting was on the West side of Houston.  So I opened Google maps – punched in the address and followed the line.  I almost missed a couple of turns because of the complexity of the intersections between the expressways.  I had given it 2 hours since you never know about traffic.  It took me about an hour and 20 minutes, so I thought “Coffee!”  I clicked on my trusty Starbucks app and there it was -  a Starbucks .3 miles away. I clicked on the icon and followed the line to Starbucks and yes a Grande Pike Place with a double cup! – no room. As I sat in my truck watching the clock tick – well as much as a digital clock can tick, I thought – “I wish life was that easy.”

My life has been a series of nearly missed turns and even some wrong turns as I have navigated the course the Lord has laid out for me. 

“For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.” – Romans 8:13-14

Sometimes I ignore the woman inside my phone, telling me which way to go and just do what I think is best. And I am guilty of not listening to the Spirit of God at times as well. Oh, I hear the Spirit say “This is the way walk in it.” But then, I put the Spirit on mute and go my own way.  It never goes well.  I always seem to end up in a blind alley or on a one way street going the wrong direction.  Hearing God speak, according to Dr. Henry Blackaby, is never the problem.  Obedience – doing what He says – that is the problem. I am in the middle of that right now.  I think I made a wrong turn. I am in the right town, but not on the right road. Have you ever been there?  So what do you do?

When I learned land navigation in the Army – that is using a map and a compass to find your way across the country side – I learned that when you are misoriented – a euphemism for “lost”, you go back to the last known point.  Where were you when you knew where you were.  Go back to that spot – reorient yourself and start again.  Sounds simple – but first you have to admit you are indeed “mis-oriented”, sometimes a tough thing for a guy, and then, humbly, retrace your steps.  What that means for me is that I have to click on the “undo” button.  Even in the face of some telling me – you are not really mis-oriented – just confused.  But – what is the Spirit saying?

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

Understanding – is not the criterion for obedience.  Faith and trust are. 

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

Do you know where you are right now? Are you there because of the Lord’s leading or have you put the Spirit on mute?

“… in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:18-19

Maybe it’s time to go back to the last known point and reorient yourself.

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

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Silent Witness

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense [or reason] to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” – 1 Peter 3:15

There are some who would say that it is not necessary for a Christian to give voice to their faith.  That right living and right doing is a sufficient witness. And they are important but, in my understanding, they are incomplete, in and of themselves.  There must be a telling.  Jesus lived out that example.  There are those who would say that you don’t need to tell people what God has revealed through His Word by quoting it directly, but instead, you can find ways to reword it so it is not quite so “in your face” to a people bound for hell and eternal separation from their creator.

“…speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ.” – Ephesians 4:15

And what is the truth? God’s Word is Truth

“Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” – John 17:17

We are to speak the truth in love and trust that the Spirit of God will do His work in the hearts of those who hear it.  We are to share the Word but not use it as a hammer or sword but more as a shepherd’s staff. We should be motivated by the urgings of the Spirit of God and not merely our own avarice to convert people to our way of believing. God uses us as living testimonies of His grace and mercy through faith in Jesus.  Transformed lives. Jesus is our example. His is the Light of the world but also a rock of offense. I am not the reason that people reject the Truth – it is their sin nature that is the source of that enmity towards God and His Truth.

Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, ‘The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone, and A stone of stumbling And a rock of offense.’” – 1 Peter 2:7-8

I was asked if it was not in scripture that we are all created in God’s image – that is recorded in Genesis.

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

But the Word also says “There is none righteous, no not one.” (Romans 3:10) And “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

We are all God’s creation, but we are not all His children.  But, it is His heart that all would be saved.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” – John 3:16

My conversations are seasoned with the Word of God.  I make no apologies for that. And I want to encourage you to remember that you, too, were not saved to be merely a silent witness.

And if you tell me that you just can't memorize scripture, I would ask you what your home address is or what your children's birth dates are. You remember what is important to you.  I will let you draw your own conclusion about how important the Word is in your life. Think about it and then do something about it.

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

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Faith Is Not About The Knowing – It Is About The Going

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you …. So Abram went.” – Genesis 12:1,4

I was recently asked the question, “Why do you do what you do, where you do it?”  Thinking about it – it is a good question – I was reminded of Abraham. The condition for responding to – obeying the call of God was not knowing where Abraham was going to “land”, but trust – faith – in the One who was sending. It was the same for the disciples.

And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They immediately left their nets and followed Him.” – Matthew 4:18-20

Do you see the pattern? But sometimes we let consideration of the world get in the way.

Then another of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.’” – Matthew 8:21-22

It seemed like a reasonable – responsible request.  But the man had a divided heart.  That is what prevents many Christians from doing what the Lord calls them to do.  He won’t make you.  Your reluctance to obey does not impede the God of heaven.  So why am I in Houston Texas doing what I am doing.  It is not something that I planned.  When I was in the Army I had a five year and ten year plan outlining the things I needed to do to have a successful career.  But God only reveals my next step in His plan for my life.  How He intends to use me for His glory.  If I will only obey His call.  In every case where God has called us to a place, what I thought we would do was never what we ended up doing.  And there is always a temptation to do things my own way.  To decide for myself what it is that I would like to do or prefer to do.  Maybe I don’t care for the people I serve with. Or perhaps I don’t like what the Lord has me doing. We all must be careful that we keep our eyes fixed on the Lord and not start trusting our feelings or our preferences.

So what has God been saying to you? And what have you been saying back to God? The only right answer is “Yes Lord, Yes to Your will and to Your way. Yes Lord, Yes, 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!” (Lynn Keesecker, Yes Lord Yes, 1983)

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

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

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

And The Church Says “Maranatha”

But of that day and hour [when Jesus returns] no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” – Matthew 24:36-39

People have made predictions about Jesus imminent return for years.  Books have been written about it.  I have read many of them.  But it is all guess-work. The truth is – nobody knows – only the Father. It is His choice and He has not revealed it even to the angels. The term “eschatology” (eska-tology) is a part of theology concerned with the final events of history, or the ultimate destiny of humanity. This concept is commonly referred to as the "end of the world" or "end times". The book of Revelation is about eschatology. Someone asked me if I read Revelation. Of course I have – a number of times – but I told them that I don’t focus on it – I was having enough of a challenge applying the other 65 Books of the Bible and be faithful in right living. Obviously the Book of Revelation, like the other 65 Books, was given for our benefit.

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

That is not my point.  My point is that as the days grow darker – and they are darker – that we should not be looking to the East with the hope that Jesus will suddenly appear – and He will one day – and get us out of this mess.  I suspect that darkest days are still ahead.  This is merely the worst that we have seen. I was talking to a friend – someone who has served with us in Mississippi and Haiti about this very issue yesterday.  We were talking about the fact that what is happening in our country – the great falling away and the embracing of things clearly contrary to God and His Word – have spiritual roots.  It is the only explanation of how people can believe and embrace those things – how people who believe them can have such power and influence over the people who do not. 

And the Church says “Maranatha”. Maranatha is a transliteration of Aramaic words that means “the Lord is coming” or “come, O Lord.” Ok, so I find that I should explain my explanation. A transliteration is to write or print (a letter or word) using the closest corresponding letters of a different alphabet or script. Moving on ….. There are a lot of aspects of eschatology that I am not going to address – let me just leap to the BIG fact – Jesus IS coming back. If it is while my generation still walks the earth – Hallelujah! But it may well not be. God, the Father, makes that decision in the context of His grace and mercy. 

So what are we supposed to do in the meantime? Well – we are to be salt and light – to endure with faith in our hope in Christ. We are not to yield to the pressure of our culture and the prince of the power of the air. Even if we find ourselves standing alone.  We are the Ecclesia – the Church – the called out ones. We are to be a light on a hill. Like the sons of Issachar – two of the mighty men of David, who understood the times, we are to live and walk by the Spirit and be found faithful. There is so much pressure to conform and accept what is wrong as what is right.  The Word of God does not change. Truth does not change. Now is not the time to neglect your faith.  Every day we must put on the full armor of God if we are to stand and shine in the midst of this darkness.

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.” – Ephesians 6:10-18


Monday, October 14, 2019

Normal Is Just A Setting On A Dryer

"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

A Christian author, Patsy Clairmont, wrote a book some years ago with that title.  Another author who wrote about the idea of “Normal” was Watchman Nee, “The Normal Christian Life”. You don’t hear much about him anymore or his books.  Watchman Nee established churches throughout China and held many conferences to train Bible students and church workers. Following the Communist Revolution, Nee was persecuted and imprisoned for his faith and spent the last twenty years of his life in prison. Does that sound “normal” to you?

When you think about Christians and what they should look like and how they should behave – what a “normal Christian” looks like, what do you see in your mind’s eye?  Is it someone who looks like you? They like the same worship style, the same clothes, well … the same.  When you are in church – what do you think when someone is not dressed the same as you? I am not talking about indecent clothes, but maybe not what you would consider appropriate for church.  The pastor of the church we are attending showed up in a t-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops to preach, to make that point in his sermon yesterday.  Were people offended by his choice of clothes? Would you be?

I suppose living and serving in Haiti is what helped me gain some perspective on this question. I have seen people come to worship under tarps and lean-to’s.  They sit on logs or stand for the service.  They wear the clothes they have. They come before the Throne of Grace with humble and contrite hearts. It is one thing to dress a certain way  in defiance toward other people (like parents or for the shock value)  – that in itself is sin – there is nothing humble or contrite about that. But clothes are not the defining factor of someone’s spiritual condition or their acceptability to God.

People used to call the clothes they wore to church their “Sunday-best” or “Sunday-go-to-meetin’” clothes.  They wanted to present their best to God – which was supposed to be a reflection of presenting their lives and hearts to Him – but that part was eventually lost and it became an issue of the “outside of the cup” and what we look like to other people – and God? Not so much. That is our inclination – wanting to impress others and wanting to judge people who are not like us. The odd thing is that those same people may very well be judging us because we are not like them.  Crazy isn’t it?

I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.” – Psalm 63:4

And it is not just about clothing.  Have you ever been in a church where they did not lift their hands up? I think for fear they might be judged as charismatic or Pentecostal.  The only one allowed to lift a hand might be the pastor when he prays – but maybe not even then.  I remember being in a service and a guest was saying “Speak – speak so” during the pastor’s sermon. He was agreeing with the truth being spoken.  Apparently the guest did not know that you are not supposed to speak during the sermon (but today it is OK if you surf the web or answer texts on your cell phone!) Well maybe an Amen now and again is suitable, just no shouting or pew jumping!

For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners’.” – Luke 7:33-34

Something the pastor pointed out, the Pharisees and religious leaders rejected John the Baptist for not doing one thing and rejected Jesus for doing the things that John did not do.  In order to be acceptable, John and Jesus  had to be like the Pharisees.  If you do not abide by the traditions established by men – then you must be wrong. Listen – people don’t like it when you don’t embrace their definition of “right”. I did not say God’s definition – but man’s slightly or greatly modified version.  Don’t be so quick to judge. 

Man’s traditions and rules of behavior are like a heavy burden placed on your shoulders that you must bear in your own strength. Rather than using traditions as a measure of what is right – use your spiritual discernment by the Spirit in you and the light of the Word of God and then demonstrate the same grace and mercy that God showed to you toward others. God’s laws are fulfilled in Jesus and the Spirit gives us the ability to live our new life. 

Come to Me [Jesus], all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

Think about it!

Friday, October 11, 2019

The Problem With Jumping To Conclusions About Others

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

Our initial impression of others is most often determined by what we see.  We then put them into a “pigeon hole”, label them, and draw conclusions about their character and heart and we don’t even know them.  The Pharisees looked good – commanded the respect of the people – but Jesus, who saw their hearts – their true nature – told them that they needed a clean heart and then the outside would be clean as well. 

I met a man yesterday – his name is Deacon. (What a great name! – Servant of others.) Had I met him on the street, I may very well have passed him by. He was small in stature and was missing most of his teeth.  A vehicle mechanic by trade.  But when he spoke – the Spirit of God revealed Himself.  Deacon and a tender spirit and there was a warmth in his eyes that drew you close.  As we talked – my spirit resonated with his. He is a man of the Word and his conversation is seasoned with scripture. Not in a “Thus sayeth the Lord” in your face way – like someone putting too much salt in their cooking – but in a natural – flowing way that revealed his love for God. Like the Maranatha song, “A Man of the Spirit – A Man of the Word.”

Jesus make a man of me, with Your integrity Man of the Spirit, Man of the Word
A servant of the LORD, an offering outpoured. Man of the Spirit, Man of the Word
A man of mercy, fire and light. A man who loves the truth
Who runs to win the crown of life. And lives to honor You.

That describes Deacon. So often I meet people who want to first present their natural – the outside of the cup – occupation – ethnicity – socio-economic status – nationality and then they will get to the spiritual.  They don’t realize that they have revealed their hearts – the inside of the cup – in the process.

When I would preach in a Haitian church the first time -  I would always begin by saying “Mwen pa blan – mwen se fre nou.” (I am not white – I am your Brother) I would then explain the Biblical truth of our Spiritual relationship referencing scripture.

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. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17-20

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” – Galatians 3:28

Even in the face of that Biblical truth, I suspected that many of those in the congregation struggled with getting past the fact that I was not like them with respect to the outside of the cup  – my ethnicity – socio-economic status or nationality. Not so with Deacon.  We had “church” in a church building ravaged by Tropical Strom Imelda.  I was blessed in our meeting – encouraged in my faith – and connected to a Brother in Christ – I am a better man for it. I wonder how many other opportunities I have missed. And so I pray for that I might not miss any more -  and I encourage you to do the same. And so …. As Paul encouraged for the Ephesians, I encourage you with this.

“…. I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, [I] 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 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” – Ephesians 1:15-19

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Do The Words I Say Really Matter?

A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” – Luke 6:45

The words that a person uses reveals their heart.  I listen to people very carefully for that reason.  God knows our hearts, but we are limited and can only gain insight into the heart of man in a couple of ways – by what the person says – over time – and by the gift of spiritual discernment that the Spirit grants to some but not all. 

Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.” – James 3:10-12

Something that I have noticed in television programming – even in the news – is the use of profanity. It started out with a one or two little words – words that you can find in the Bible – but words that were perverted in their meaning and used as profanity.  And when there was no outcry – from the television censors – not even sure those still exist – they didn’t keep it from airing or bleep it out – the media moved on to the next level of profanity. Until today, anything goes.  Martie and I change the channel – stop watching. When you see something or hear something that is contrary to our new life in Christ and do nothing in response, you send a message that what you saw or heard is “OK”. In the Army we said that when you ignore a violation of a standard, you establish a new standard.

Before I was born again, profanity was a normal part of my conversation. It flowed out of me like water from a spring, the water was bitter, but I thought it was what water was supposed to taste like.  But then I met Jesus and He changed all of that.  The water had to be treated at its source – my heart – for it to be sweet and not bitter.  All of the profane words I used to say are still stored in my brain.  I still hear them every day.  But I don’t use them.  Before they flowed from my mouth as naturally as the breath flowing from my lungs, today they are absent from my conversations.  They don’t even come to mind.

Something I have noticed when I have been around other Christian men. I will be talking to someone and they will form a profane word with their mouth, catch themselves and use another word instead. I suppose in deference to me and who they think I am. The thing is, they have revealed their heart even without saying the word.  You don’t have to say it for it to be sin – you only have to think it and then embrace it – decide to say it – even if you catch yourself and use another word. Out of the abundance of the heart.

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I [Jesus] 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

Do you see Jesus’ point? When we sin – sin happens in our hearts and then the sin is sometimes revealed by what we do or say.  In God’s economy, you don’t have to do it to be guilty of it.  The reason I am writing about this is because I know many Christians struggle with profanity – and if they don’t see it as a problem – then that is a problem. I hasten to add that I am not standing in judgement over any of you that are in this struggle.  We all have sinned and, sadly, we all continue in our struggle with sin.  One of your struggles might be profanity – while my struggle is with something else.

I want to encourage you in this ….

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

Don’t let endearment to our culture dim your light – Let it shine before all men to the Glory of God.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Does My Sin Really Matter?

{Note: I have been told that my devotions are too long – that people want to read something short so they can move on to something else.  Making no apologies, I write what I feel the Spirit is prompting me to write – trusting that the ones who need a Word from God will hear the Spirit speak to them. Charley}

The short answer to the question is “Yes”!

For I [Jesus] tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 5:20

The Pharisees and teachers of the law were considered the religious elite.  People that were living right and right with God.  Jesus said they were but white-washed tombs filled with dead men’s bones. (Matt 23:27) They looked good on the outside.  They held a position among the common people that commanded respect from the common people. But the Pharisees and teachers positions and their practices were not enough to save them. What the people thought was the ultimate in religion fell short of the kingdom of God.

There is none righteous, no, not one.” – Romans 3:10

There is no amount of effort that can make us right enough for heaven.  Are you thinking that you know that already?  Then why do we insist on trying to be good enough?  Very often settling to be like the Pharisees – if we can’t stop sinning then at least we can look good to other people! It is really crazy thinking. Thinking that other people don’t know about our struggle.  All of us struggle.  All of us are tempted. We are made to be righteous not through personal effort – but by faith in Jesus.

For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.” – Romans 5:17

The righteousness necessary to “enter the kingdom of heaven” is found in and through Jesus. So what does that mean for our day to day living. 

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:8-10

There is that word “gift” again.  Righteous is something that is given by God through Jesus – because we can never be good enough.  We cannot overcome sin or the temptation to sin on our own.  Living a righteous life is a spiritual notion, not something derived from an intense desire to do the right thing.  When I consider my own life.  When I look around and see other Christians and how they live. I am reminded of my need for Jesus.  I am right before the Father because of my faith in the Son by the grace and mercy of the Father.  We are transformed into the image of the Son by the power of the Spirit and the renewing of our minds. (Romans 12:2)

Listen – there are some who would tell you that your sins do not really matter – that living like the world – those who are lost – well it’s OK. That is a lie.  What is true is that God knows we have feet of clay.  He has given us the Spirit as a promise, a teacher and a help to live our new life. As the world gets darker – day by day – the pressure to put our light under a basket – to take it off of the lampstand is greater and greater. Our light – whose source is from the Spirit and faith in Jesus – the Light of the world – hurts the eyes of the lost and they want it to go away.

You don’t have to be sinless to be useful in the kingdom. But at the same time – you should not be content - satisfied with your sin.

Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?” – Romans 6:1-3

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” – Galatians 2:20

Pray about this and let the light of Jesus shine through you.

Monday, October 7, 2019

What Did God Really Say?

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” – Ephesians 2:1-4

Do you remember what your life was like before you were born again? I do. My life was full of insecurities and self-centeredness. I was living for today. Trying to survive. Interested in seeing that I took care of myself, because no matter what anyone said to the contrary, I believed that I was on my own.  Even my relationships were all about what I could get out of them. I was living a life just like Paul described. A life just like everyone else – at least everyone else that I associated with was living. 

But then I met Jesus and my life was changed.  Not all at once, but bit by bit. The thing is, that the change in my life has not been a steady climb, but erratic, with pauses along the way.  Those pauses were a result of the struggle that persists inside of me, to this day – the struggle between my flesh and the Spirit of God.

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

The reason that the Bible says what it says is because God understands our nature – our tendency to go our own way – the way of the world. The temptation is for us to pause in our transformation and embrace the pattern of this world.  It can be a comfortable place – living like the unsaved world – preferring what the world has to offer – having our lustful selves fed and satisfied with those things that we were saved from. As comfortable and familiar as slipping on a old pair of shoes.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”” – Genesis 3:1

That was the “ruler of the kingdom of the air” speaking to Eve and he asks us the same question.  Wanting to convince us that God is OK with the way you live and with your self-promoting priorities. They are not self-indulgent – they are actually blessings.  You don’t have to be poor to be holy. It is not a sin to look out for number one – to make certain my future is secure. It is really Ok to build bigger barns.

Did God really say …..

“‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’” – Matthew 25:41-45

Yes He did! That describes the way of the natural world.

I included the following verses in my post on the 4th then the pastor preached on them Sunday.  I always see that as the Spirit emphasizing the point.  This is what the Spirit is saying counter to what the god of this world would have us believe.

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:13-17

The darker the night – the brighter our light!

Friday, October 4, 2019

Our Trouble With Rejecting Both The Sin And The Sinner

As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him. Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi’s house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him. And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners? When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”” – Mark 2:14-17

I am certain that you are familiar with this story.  The day that Matthew met Jesus. The response of the religiously correct – the scribes and Pharisees to Jesus association with tax collectors and other sinners. And Jesus response them. “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” This world is getting darker – sin is becoming more blatant. People no longer hide their sin but wear it proudly.  As the Church, our charge is to be a light in a dark world.  Just like Jesus. To see sinners as needing Jesus, not condoning the sin, but recognizing that Jesus came to call sinners to repentance.

Salvation and  the realization that I needed to repent of my sin was spiritual not natural.  I didn’t think my way into eternal life.  The preacher who preached the sermon did not save me. I was saved by grace through faith – not the preacher’s words.  Did God use Dr. Dunn in my salvation – yes.  Just as He used my parents and others to plant seeds and water.  But – when the time was right – I came under conviction by the Spirit of God and received salvation by faith in the Son of God. Jesus was not condoning Matthew’s sin and the sins of those who came to eat with them.  He acknowledged their sins and called them to repentance.  It is difficult for us to not reject the sinner – not to condemn them for their sin – not to consider them unsavable – not to act as if we were God – not act as though we are somehow better and more deserving of salvation than they are.

Also He [Jesus] spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:  “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” – Luke 18:9-14

If you have a problem with seeing sinners as in need of a savior and can’t get past the sin, you don’t understand your calling as an ambassador of Christ.  When people wore the WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) wrist bands some years ago, it was often an attempt to remind them to curb their own behavior – to manage their sin.  Listen.  The closer Jesus got to the Cross, the fewer people were willing to follow Him. Many could follow in the power of their flesh – they agreed with the good things He spoke about – the healings – which were allegories – reflections of the spiritual healing that could be found in Jesus. But as He drew closer to the Cross – the natural agreement was not enough – their natural minds could not accommodate the spiritual truth – what it meant to follow Jesus.

Then He [Jesus] said to them all, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.’” – Luke 9:23

So, as Christians, are we supposed to call evil – good? No! We are supposed to bring the Good News to a world that is in tail spin.  We are to love the sinner and hate the sin. That is not a verse in the Bible, by the way. But, it is a principle in the Bible, clearly. Actually that phrase was written in a letter from Saint Augustine to some nuns in A.D. 423. 

We should follow his advice, but more, Jesus admonition to be faithful to our primary mission.

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:13-17

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Struggling With A Divided Heart

Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” …. Jesus said, “‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’  ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions..” – Matthew 19:16, 18-22

The young man was certain that what he was doing good things … things pleasing to God. He was doing enough to be welcomed by God into heaven. But Jesus pointed out that the greatest commandment is to love God with everything.  The man didn’t – even though he did good things, he loved, trusted, desired  money and possessions more than God.  He was not willing to give them up – even for eternal life.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” – Ephesians 2:8-9

Before we shake our heads in dismay, I want to caution you that all of us struggle with divided hearts from time to time. When we allow other devotions to captivate us, we are drawn away from the One who deserves all of our devotion.  Perhaps it is something that your culture or your common sense – says is admirable – responsible – praise worthy. But God says, “Let it go and obey my call, my leading.”  Perhaps obeying God will take you to a place where you have less than you think you need to be happy – content – satisfied. Your desire for those things might cause you to say “no” to God and go away sad.  It is not because we don’t know what is the right to do, it is that we choose what is not right to do, even if what we choose is not bad it itself. Choosing anything that is contrary to the will of God is sin.

I think we have all been there. When, like the young man, we are faced with the dilemma or is it a tri-lemma – trust God or trust ourselves or the things of this world – we are faced with a crisis of belief.  The choice we make will expose where our trust is.

"Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we trust in the name of the Lord our God." – Psalm 20:7

It is a very real struggle.  We know in our hearts what we should do. Most, if not all, of us have faced the choice and have chosen poorly. It is not that our choosing somehow limits God. No, but it does mean that we missed the best that God has for us.  Are you faced with a choice – a decision – something that might threaten your comfort – financial stability or future? Are you willing to trust God and obey Him?  Dr. Henry Blackaby, in Experiencing God, said that our problem is not in knowing if God has spoken to us.  The problem is in obeying what He “has” said.

Are you struggling with a decision.  Perhaps you know what God has said – but right at this moment you lack the faith to obey.  Been there – done that. This faith life is a day by day – moment by moment existence.  Seek godly counsel. Talk to someone you trust – someone who is a Paul, a mentor, to you. Of course pray and read the Word of God. As you read, listen for the Spirit’s voice. If you are married – speak to your spouse. Assuming they are a Christian as well, that you are evenly yoked – I believe that the Spirit of God will speak to both the husband and the wife about matters of the Spirit.

How can two walk together unless they be agreed.” – Amos 3:3

God asks you to go places and do things that will stretch your faith. I am reminded of a quote from the Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.

“Aslan is a lion - the Lion, the great Lion." "Ooh" said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion"..."Safe?" said Mr. Beaver ..."Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.”  ― C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

What are you waiting for?

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

What Happens When We die?

Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord.  For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” – 2 Corinthians 5:5-8

I would argue that Paul makes a compelling argument for the first law of thermodynamics. (And you are thinking – “OK – here we go again!” Martie, my wife told me that when I go off like this that people really aren’t listening, they are just being polite!)  So humor me for a moment. Please read to the end.

"What is the first law?", you ask. – since it seems to have slipped your mind.   “Energy can neither be created nor destroyed; energy can only be transferred or changed from one form to another.” (First Law of Thermodynamics – aka – the Law of Conservation of Energy)

Death.  It is not something people like to think about - but it is something everyone will think about and experience. We don't get to choose when, where, or how we will die, apart from taking our own life that is. But death is a certainty unless Jesus returns first and even then the first law of thermodynamics will take effect.

" … it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment .." Hebrews 9:27

So in the context of the first law - Paul was saying that when a Believer dies – they are “transferred” from one form to another. Get it? Good! Why bring it up? I am not intending to be morbid, but reflective.  This past weekend, Martie and I went to Northern California to celebrate the life of a dear friend and partner in the Gospel – John Turnbull. John, as of August 11, 2019 is now absent from the body so he is …. Yes, you got it don’t you! Present with the Lord in another form.  Do you know who invented the law of thermodynamics?  Not the one who observed and described it …. That was Sadi Carnot a French scientist who died in 1832.  No – it was God – the creator so why should it come as a surprise that when we die the law of thermodynamics, one of His laws for His creation, is at work?

To my point.  One of the speakers at the memorial service was a neighbor of John’s.  As I listened to him, it became apparent to me that the man was not a Christian.  As he pontificated on his own near death experience – or was it an actual death and he came back to life? Anyway – he failed to mention the Father of lights – His Son – Jesus who is the resurrection and the life – nor the Spirit given to us by the Father – nor the fact that John was now with the Lord. I suppose that he wanted John's wife to know that there was something beyond the grave.

His words caused me to think about how the lost think of death.  Most suspect that there is something after life on earth – they just don’t have the foggiest idea what it might be – but it certainly has nothing to do with our Jesus.  

"For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools." Romans 1:20-22
People wonder what their will existence be like after death?  Some think they will be reincarnated.  Maybe, it will be something toadally (sic) different! Like becoming a toad in their next existence maybe. Do you remember the line in “Oh Brother Where Art Thou?” – Delmar O'Donnell: "We thought you was a toad!" Pete: "What?" Delmar O'Donnell: [leaning in, speaking slower] "Weeee --- thooooought ---- youuuuuuu ----- waaaaaas ----  a toad-ah!"

I am not making fun of the speaker – actually – in fact I thought it is very sad.  He may have been grand standing a bit, but he revealed his desperation to understand what happens beyond the grave. He knows there is something. We all know there is something. Natural laws cannot be disrupted or undone.  God put them into place. Only He can change them. The simple, inescapable truth is this.  If you are not a Christian when you die – the law of thermodynamics will take effect - for everyone.  The thing is – the result for the lost will be that they are not with the Lord – they will exist but are hell bound and that will not change either. The only thing that can change their destination is a decision they can make before they die. That is putting their faith in Jesus.  

Pray for that man and his family. The entire pew that was sitting with him nodded their heads in agreement with him as he spoke. Pray for them as well. No amount of thinking - human wisdom - or wanting something else to be true will change the Truth - the Truth will eventually reveal the lie for what it is. (As Jesus said to Nicodemus who wanted to know the answer to the same question – "You must be born again." - John 3)

Tennessee Ernie Ford sang a song – Almost Persuaded (Philip Paul Bliss – Public Domain)

"Almost persuaded” now to believe; “Almost persuaded” Christ to receive;
  Seems now some soul to say,  “Go, Spirit, go Thy way,
  Some more convenient day  on Thee I’ll call.”

“Almost persuaded,” harvest is past! “Almost persuaded,” doom comes at last;
  “Almost” cannot avail;   “Almost” is but to fail!
  Sad, sad that bitter wail— “Almost—but lost!”