Tuesday, September 29, 2020

The Return Of The Prodigal

“Then He [Jesus] said: A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.” —Luke 15:11-16

I awoke early this morning with the prodigal son on my mind. So I ask the Lord, why? Typically it is because of some event from the preceding day that had been stirring in the back of my mind. But, before I get into that. Have you ever noticed that the scripture says the father divided his livelihood with “them”? To both sons. Very often I have thought of the younger son getting his inheritance and the older son waiting for his father’s passing to inherit.  I looked at several other translations and it is the same.  The inheritance was divided between them. It is not like the older son was left out.  OK so back to the point.

I was having a discussion with my daughter about how children – not her – want to prove that they can choose for themselves – do what they want – the way they want – with or without the parents agreement.  They can make their own way. Even if it proves to be harmful to them and painful for the ones who love them and want the best for them.  You can tell them to be careful, to choose wisely, but they don’t want your wisdom – just your resources.  The receive godly counsel as a lecture and your opinion.  They are bound to do what they want to do. Oh, that is not what your children are like? You are blessed my friend!

I can remember asking my son once if he thought I sat around all day trying to think of ways to mess his life up.  To make him miserable. That is the way a loving parent’s advice is often received. Back to the story. So the young son gets his money and his friends help him spend it. When he is feeding pigs (remember he is Jewish) and thinking that what they are eating is looking pretty good, he remembers his father. I have often said, children will not repent until the pigs food starts looking good.  The point where they realize that they have rejected the best for their own way – to their detriment. It is at that point that they repent – or for some – don’t.  Not all stories turn out with a happy ending do they? We were all children and prodigal.  Someone once said that “We don’t realize that Jesus is all we need until Jesus is all we have.”   It is not a pleasant thing to watch your children struggle. 

So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” –  Luke 15:20-24

A couple things here. First, the father did not seek the son out and bring him back home.  There had to be a heart change. I have often said, “You can make me do it, but you can’t make me like it.” Being physically present does not mean that the person has changed. My wanting you to be different and you being different are not the same thing.  It takes a change of heart. Repentance.  But- when the son did repent, the father received him.  Oh, there is a lot that I could write about that, but I won’t. Not today.  The point is – until we repent, our Father will not receive us as His children.  We will not have an inheritance in heaven. We will have squandered it – wasted it. We see a spiritual reality played out in the lives of loved ones every day.  Second. Restoration requires repentance. Repentance is wrought as an act of our will not by rules imposed by some authority. And so the Father waits – hopeful that one day he will see His son or daughter coming over the hill – returning home.

Softly And Tenderly Jesus Is Calling (Will Lamartine Thompson, Public Domain)

Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling—  Calling for you and for me; 

Patiently Jesus is waiting and watching—  Watching for you and for me!

Come home! come home!   Ye who are weary, come home!

Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,    Calling, O sinner, come home!”

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

Monday, September 28, 2020

The Conflict Between Man’s Wisdom And God’s Design

“Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.” —Genesis 3:1-6

Martie shared something she read on Facebook the other day.  “The serpent did not tempt Adam and Eve to steal, kill, to commit adultery; he simply tempted them to question God’s word.” A statement that brought clarity to a truth.  Satan did not tempt them to do evil. He tempted them to distrust God and trust in their own understanding.  You are no doubt familiar with the idea of the inerrancy of the written Word of God.  The idea that the Bible is the inspired Word of God without error, meaning that the men who penned the scripture, both old and new testaments were inspired by the Holy Spirit. 2 Timothy 3:16 and 17 sums it up. Its source and the purpose for giving it. There are many translations, but the original manuscripts were without error – not merely the musings of man, but the revelation of a holy God to the pinnacle of His creation – mankind. 

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

So – there the two of them are, in the Garden, everything seemed to be going well when temptation came along – Did God indeed say? Or is that really true? It was an opportunity for Adam and Eve to redefine truth. A truth as defined by what they wanted to believe – not what God had said explicitly. You see the question was not did God say it. The question really had to do with did Adam and Eve believe it and embrace it. Or did they want to create another truth – their form of “truth”, one that fit in with their desires. Paul addressed that problem in Romans chapter 1.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.” – Romans 1:18-23

They became futile in their own thoughts – in the Garden, in Paul’s day, and today.  We should not expect the world to embrace Biblical Truth. We should not be surprised when the Truth is rejected – repudiated. Spiritual truth is foolishness to the natural man. Man’s tendency is not to draw to the light but to embrace the darkness. To go his own way. The problem is not with a lost world questioning God’s wisdom and truth.  The problem is with the Church – the children of God – asking “Did God really say?” That what has been made plain in God’s word would be questioned – doubted – rejected by those who claim Jesus as the Messiah, those who claim to be born again by the Spirit … why? …. because it goes against the conventional – current wisdom of mankind. The idea that we can be like God – or more – that we can be our own god – that idea started in the Garden and prevails today.  So many Christians have been and are willing to exchange the truth for a lie. To accept the wisdom of their culture over the wisdom of God.  To view their culture’s definition of right over God’s revelation of right. To call evil good. Be careful Christian!

I can raise the issue in this devotion but it is the Spirit of God that must bring conviction of the truth of what I have written. 

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

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Knowing And Expressing My Identity

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

Dr Tony Evans once said that Christian is not an adjective, it is a noun.  I am not a North American who is Christian, I am a Christian who is a North American.  We tend to use the natural for our identity and then modify it with the spiritual. Our spiritual identities have primacy over our natural identity, be it nationality, race, culture, gender, or even vocation.  Having said that, in my experience, most Christians, although they might "cerebrally" agree with it, do not practice it.  Who we are naturally dominates how we interact with others – Christian or not. Most often, our natural selves are offered first and our spiritual selves are withheld until we see how who we are in the flesh is received.

That is my experience. But, if I read 2 Corinthians 5:16, I find that I am to regard no one according to the flesh.  So, I must conclude that if that is what the Bible says and I don’t do it.  I may even feel justified in not doing it, I only prove that I am sinful and prone to disobedience when my culture, ethnicity, or reasoning tells me, even tempts me to do otherwise. To coin a phrase – let’s call it “reasonable or justifiable disobedience.” Sad to say, the Word does not give room for that idea. Disobedience is never reasonable and never justifiable, but that never stops us from embracing it.

Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” – James 4:17

If you are a Christian – and if you are reading this, my assumption is that you are or at least are considering the possibility – then your responsibility to mankind is to represent Jesus as His ambassador. You have been saved out of the world, so why would you persist in representing it? Let me answer that. We first present our flesh to others because we are devoted to our old man – our old nature – being a Christian is merely an adjective – a modifier of our old nature – it is not who we are – who identify with.  And the people – the Christians we associate with most likely think and act in the same way. So we have a consensus  that our reasonable and justifiable disobedience is OK and acceptable.  Let me say that most of the people in this world have rejected Jesus and agree that they are right in doing so. The thing is, they are all bound for hell.  It is the Word of God that is God’s revelation to man.  Man’s reasoning apart from God revealed will is the very reason we are in the mess we are in. 

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

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Our Quest For What Is Good

“Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, ‘Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?’ So Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. You know the commandments: Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and your mother.’  And he answered and said to Him, ‘Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.’ Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.’ But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” —Mark 10:17-22

I am about to re-read a book written by Os Guinness, “The Call” that has significantly clarified my understanding of God’s call in my life . Actually, Martie and I are going to read it together. I have gotten out of the habit of reading, actually. I much prefer to be visually and audibly “fed” through the television.  It makes one lazy I think. Like floating on an inner-tube on a river or lake.  You really don’t have to exert any effort – just sit there and let the wind and water take you where it will. Filling your mind with drivel and seasoning it with things that you ought not to hear or see from time to time. Speaking of drifting, I think I am drifting away from the point of this devotion.  By the way, Martie is a voracious reader – I envy that quality in her. There  I go again!

When the young man approached Jesus, I think what he wanted to hear from Jesus was that he had chosen the high ground in life. That he was a good person, proven by the good things he had done.  That he was the source and purveyor of “good” in his little world. And, therefore, he should be granted eternal life as his just reward.  The idea that in order to be right with God and worthy of eternal life you must do good things. He had is backwards, like most of the world does. It doesn’t end with God, it starts with God. The young man was not acting out of devotion to God. His devotion was to the world and its riches. Without those, he could not be who he was. When Jesus told him that he had to abandon his first love – the young man stumbled at the thought.

God, the father, is the source. It is far too easy to allow this earthly life to define what it means to be good and right and worthy to have eternal life.  We want to define what “right” is. It is the same problem that Adam and Eve struggled with. The young man was saying to Jesus – “As one do-gooder to another, don’t you think I have done enough to deserve a place in heaven?” Jesus answer was simple, “You can never do enough – be good enough to be worthy of being in the presence of a holy God.” What are you trusting in? What is it that commands the devotion of your heart? Your retirement fund? Your family? Your good works? Martie and I have laid our lives down – rejected the opportunity for success by the world’s standards to serve others.  But that is not good enough.  It is so easy to get the cart before the horse.  Our lives – your life must be a reflection of our devotion to the Father by faith in the Son empowered by the Spirit. Merely doing good – sacrificing for others – that is not what God is asking for.

For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart— These, O God, You will not despise.” – Psalm 51:16-17

So my friends, go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up your cross, and follow Jesus ….. In other words – give your heart and its devotion to God – just like Jesus. It is a spiritual act of worship (Romans 12:1-2) not an act of your will or determination.  Stop trying to be good and put your trust and devotion in the Father (Prov 3:5-6)  who IS good.

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

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Jesus Is Lord Of All

And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, ‘Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?’ 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?’ Then they came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gadarenes. And when He had come out of the boat, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no one could bind him, not even with chains, because he had often been bound with shackles and chains. And the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces; neither could anyone tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped Him. And he cried out with a loud voice and said, ‘What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God that You do not torment me.’ For He said to him, ‘Come out of the man, unclean spirit!’” —Mark 4:37-40, Mark 5:1-8

Until I heard a devotional on these verses I had never made a connection between them. On the one hand Jesus commanded the natural – the stormy sea. On the other Jesus commanded the supernatural – demons possessing the man. In both cases the “offender” submitted to Jesus. There was no argument, just a recognition of His authority and they both submitted to it, while those watching were fearful only seeing and understanding with their natural senses. Now with respect to people, on the other hand, God has given us a choice. We can choose to submit to Jesus' authority or not. For most of the world, it’s not. The village that had just lost a herd of pigs – obviously they were not Jews – were afraid of Jesus and wanted Him to leave – post haste! Like most of the world. Jesus makes people uncomfortable. They are afraid of what they don’t understand.
“But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” – 1 Corinthians 2:14
Without the Spirit of God, if you are not born again by the Spirit, it is impossible to understand spiritual truth. We must submit to the Spirit to live out our new life. Someone once said that if Jesus is not Lord of all, then He is not Lord at all. Do you understand that? Its implications in your life. Like the stormy seas and the legion of demons in the man, we must submit completely to the authority of Jesus. Oh, we want Him to have authority over death so we can go to heaven – the supernatural, but we very often balk at Jesus having authority over our day to day living. What we think about, talk about, how we treat others – our natural life.
Just now I am listening to the rain fall – part of Tropical Storm Beta. I am thinking about all of those people who have lived through worse storms, whose hearts race every time the thunder rolls. Had the disciples not awakened Jesus, I believe they would have survived the storm – why do I believe that? Because they were with Jesus. They had much to learn and much to do. But a time would come when their natural lives would end – some as martyrs for their faith. So what about me? Do I trust Jesus even in the midst of the storm when I have every natural reason to be afraid. The circumstances in this life can be overwhelming. It takes faith to rest in the authority that the Father has given the Son. It takes faith to submit to the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father, and not trust yourself instead. Faith!

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

Friday, September 18, 2020

If You Are Of The Way You Should Walk This Way

“See then that you walk circumspectly (carefully), not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation (unrestrained indulgence in physical pleasures); but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God” —Ephesians 5:15-21

Christians were referred to as people of the Way twice in the New Testament; Acts 9:2 (Paul, then Saul, as he pursued Christians) and Acts 24:14 (Paul before Felix as he defended them). An interesting description of Christians – people who professed faith in Jesus as that Messiah.  And curious that is it used with reference to the same man – before and after his personal encounter with Jesus.  What a transformation. And yet, it is no more significant than what happened in my life and your life, if you are a Christian. Paul, then Saul, persecuted Christians – had them imprisoned, even put to death. And yet, that is not what he is remembered for today.  He was still feared and doubted by those who knew him by reputation before his conversion.  But, when Believers saw the change in him – it was undeniable. Spiritual transformation is inexplicable in the natural. Hearts are changed by faith, supernaturally. Lives are inexplicably altered – turned toward God and away from the world. It is as if you spoke one language one day and you spoke a different language the next. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

I can remember when my mom was born again.  As one of the four older children, who knew her propensity for angry outbursts all too well, like the other three, I doubted that she was a different person. But over time it became clear to us that  the old mom was gone. That is not to say that she was perfect  - without flaw – she still had feet of clay, but the change in her was undeniable. Can you identify with that in your life? Do you remember what your life was like before your rebirth? I am certain that Paul never forgot what he had done to so many Christ followers. I am certain that there were people who were ready to remind him. There are people like that in your life today.  I was born again in September of 1976. 54 years ago. And yet, I still remember who I was before that day. I regret the years I wasted, but I don’t dwell on it. I certainly don’t yearn for those days. But I do remember how empty they were and how I tried to fill them with whatever the world had to offer. Never finding contentment. Never finding lasting satisfaction. Many people considered me to be a good person, but I was lost – searching and never finding. And then I met Jesus along the way. The verses in Ephesians 5 reminded me of who I was then and who I am now. The world will remind you of who you were then – but the Spirit will remind you of whose you are now!

I am reminded of a quote by John Newton. “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.” Recall John Newton was the captain of a slave ship and after his conversion wrote Amazing Grace. “I once was lost but now I am found.  I was blind, but now I see.” Just like Paul. Just like mom. Just like me! Take time to praise God for your new life in Christ. And then remember to walk in the Way carefully with your eyes fixed on Jesus who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. (John 14:6)

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

Thursday, September 17, 2020

All God Wants Is Our Yes

“You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.  You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” —Psalm 51:16-17

I have had a conversation with three different people on three different days about the same topic. Whenever that happens – I perk up mentally and spiritually. It is at those times that I realize that the Lord is speaking – sometimes through me but most often to me.  The conversations had to do with being used by God for His purposes.  When I share what the Lord has done through Martie and me – it may sound as if I am boasting. And in a way, I suppose I am.  But I am not boasting about what I have done.

As the Scriptures say, ‘If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord’.” – 2 Corinthians 10:17

That was the context of the conversation. That what the Lord calls us to do, we are able to do because of His provision. My part, your part, is but to say “yes” to His call. One of the people I serve with said that I was “one of a kind”. He was referring to my abilities. Flattering as that may seem, to me it is humbling. I know that I have feet of clay like everyone else. I know that God has shaped me – crafted me for the work that He puts in front of me. My part is to yield to His call and to trust in His provision. God never asks me or you to do something that does not require faith and trust in Him to accomplish.  I remember some years ago, I was taking one of my granddaughters on a ride on a Sea-Doo jet ski. She was maybe 6.  Sitting in front of me, she pushed my hand away from the throttle and said “I can do it” and nearly threw me off the jet ski.  That would not have had a good outcome. That is how we are many times as we live this new life and serve the Lord. We become prideful – full of ourselves and believe that its us and not the Lord at work. That we can do it – we don’t need any help – even from God.

The thing about faith and following is that what God asks us to do is not nearly so important as who we trust in to do what He asks us to do.  We glorify God through our obedience to whatever He puts in our hand to do. Men marvel at the what of our calling. Somehow thinking that if God calls you to do big things that you are somehow more significant than someone who never leaves their neighborhood.

Jesus sat down near the collection box in the Temple and watched as the crowds dropped in their money. Many rich people put in large amounts. Then a poor widow came and dropped in two small coins. Jesus called his disciples to him and said, ‘I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.’” – Mark 12:41-44

Having a heart devoted to God. Trusting in Him and not ourselves. I was speaking with another person who is grappling with a decision to follow God’s leading. That person is struggling with having assurance that they will have enough money to live on. I get that. But consider the widow who gave all she had trusting in God’s provision.  It is one thing to speak about faith and another to act on that faith.  Many times what we do as followers of Jesus makes no sense to a world that considers itself the source of all sensibility.  So I asked my friend, “Do you believe that God is calling you to do this?”  He said, “Yes.” So the only thing left to do is for him to yield his heart to it and step out in faith. Easy to say but sometimes terrifying when it is you standing in the lion’s den.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” – Hebrews 11:1

I am often tempted to keep writing – because there is so much to write about. But I sill stop here.  My goal is to encourage you to trust God and not use the world’s measure of success and sensibility as your guide in this life.  In other words, to live by faith with faith in every aspect of your life. You won’t be sorry but you will be challenged.

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

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

The Fruit Of The Spirit Is Not A Gift

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” —Galatians 5:22-25

There is a difference between spiritual fruit – the result of a transformational process – like in an apple tree bearing fruit in its season – and a spiritual gift or ability.  Spiritual fruit is a reflection of a life submitted to the lordship of Jesus. A life that is in step with the leading for the Spirit. Spiritual fruit is not dependent upon life’s circumstances but is revealed in the midst of life’s circumstances – no matter whether the circumstances are good or bad.  To near the fruit of peace, could mean that  I have peace in within me even though there is turmoil raging around me. It is not a feigned peace – like keeping a stiff upper lip. By the way, that phrase has traditionally been used to describe an attribute of British people in remaining resolute and unemotional when faced with adversity. The opposite, and a sign of weakness or fear is trembling of the upper lip. The fruit of the Spirit is very real and very possible in the life of every Believer. But its presence and evidence is a reflection of the condition of each Believer’s spiritual walk.

In Haiti, mango trees are as common as oak trees in our country.  They are everywhere. Huge trees growing along the roadsides. The fruit is available for the picking. Anyone can have a mango pretty much any time of the year. Those mangoes are available, but I must take action if I want a mango. Maybe I will have to climb a tree, but certainly reach up to pluck the fruit from the trees branches.  The same is true for the fruit of the Spirit. God seals me with His Spirit at the moment of my rebirth. At that moment I become the temple of the Holy Spirit (think about the implications of that that Truth). But the fruit will not be mine if I do not submit to the leading of the Spirit.

Earlier in Galatians chapter 5, Paul refers to the works or you might say fruit of the flesh. 

“Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like” – Galatians 5:19-21

I often used the example of a mango tree when I preached in churches in Haiti.  I would tell the people that if you say you are a mango tree (a Christian) but when I look at the fruit in your branches and see sour oranges (another tree that thrives in Haiti) my conclusion is that you are not really a mango tree.  The fruit of the spirit and of the flesh are a direct reflection of the heart. Like a fruit tree, the fruit of the spirit in my life is dependent upon the proper nourishment – spiritual nourishment.  Someone might be saved – but not bear fruit.

Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany, He was hungry. And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. In response Jesus said to it, ‘Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.’ And His disciples heard it. …. Now in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter, remembering, said to Him, ‘Rabbi, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away.’” – Mark 11:12-14,19-21

If Jesus wanted a fig, it did not matter the season. (Read John chapter 1) Jesus wasn’t being unreasonable to expect that tree to bear fruit when it was not the right season? Bearing spiritual fruit is not dependent upon the season or circumstances. The Bible is a spiritual book and what God has chosen to reveal to us through it is, well, spiritual.  Listen, we all struggle with the lack of fruit in our lives. I can always trace it back to my heart. The fruit of the Spirit is for every Believer as a living testimony to their spiritual transformation. Not all of the gifts of the Spirit are for each Believer, but each Believer is gifted with one or more for the purpose of edifying the Body of Christ.  So what kind of fruit are your branches bearing? Like the fig tree, Jesus expects the same from us.

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

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Your Calling Is More Than Holding A Ticket To Ride

"Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” —2 Timothy 1:8-10

“…. who has saved us and called us with a holy calling ….” I think most Christians can easily embrace the idea of salvation. John 3:16 and all that, but where most struggle is with the idea of a holy calling.  It is easy to think of preachers or missionaries as being called, and they are, called that is, but so is every other Christian.  We use the phrases, “vocational ministry” or “full time Christian service” when the fact is that all Christians are servants – full time. There are a few books, in addition to the Word of God, that have proven to be instrumental in my view toward my new life in Christ.  One of those books is “The Call” by Os Guiness.  He wrote, “calling is the truth that God calls us to Himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion and dynamism lived out as a response to His summons and service.”

“…. 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

Salvation is so much more than a mere ticket to ride the heaven bound train. Being born again spiritually is the beginning of eternal life with God, certainly, but it is so much more. It is stepping into God’s purpose for you and for me. A purpose established at the beginning. God knew us before we were formed in our mothers’ wombs.  The question is, are we willing to fulfill that purpose.  Will we embrace our call to service. Or, will we merely acknowledge Jesus on the Cross, the salvation we have by faith and then move on with living life the best we can until we breath our last.

Listen, my point here is that we must live each day with a Christ-awareness and hearts fully devoted to God. My point is to encourage you to be faithful to your calling – no matter where that may find you – that you don’t have to be a preacher, teacher, or missionary to fulfill your call.  I recently watched an Indiana Jones movie (for the umpti-umpth time) – the one about Indy’s search for the Holy Grail.  The thing was the cup (Grail) was not the one with the most jewels or made from a precious metal – it was a common cup.  God uses what seems common to man for His glory and eternal purposes. Somebody like me or you.  Back to John 3:16.  God so loved “you” that Jesus died on the cross for “you”. You think of yourself as of no importance to God? That you have no place in the eternal story of redemption? Think again my friend!

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

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

My Role In This World

“Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, ‘Are You the King of the Jews?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning Me?’ Pilate answered, ‘Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?’ Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.’ Pilate therefore said to Him, ‘Are You a king then?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.’” —John 18:33-37

I was thinking about the election that is coming up. Frankly I have stopped watching the news because all sides have become so caustic toward each other and there doesn’t seem to be any new-news. But .. that got me to thinking about how Christians fit in all of this – not just in the United States, but wherever Christians might be.

The Jews were looking for a warrior Messiah who would free them from oppression.  Many doubted that Jesus was that person, but I would guess that some if not many hoped He would be.  What a disappointment.  Jesus was crucified and the Romans continued with their oppression.  Nothing changed.  I have been thinking about the United States and its future. Things seem to be getting “darker” not “lighter”. The works of the flesh, that which comes naturally from the heart of sinful man, are running rampant – almost as if they have been unleashed.

“Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” – Galatians 5:19-21

So, as a Christian, what is my role in all of this. Well, simply put, my role is to be salt and light. To point the world to Jesus by the way I live my life. Should I vote? Of course. But even my voting should reflect my faith and glorify God. We must remember that we are voting for people who represent the interests of all of the people, not just Christians.  If the majority of the people are not Christians, and they are not, then their interests and goals, even though they might overlap some, are different from Christians in the main.

Jesus did not come to overthrow the natural kingdoms but to establish an eternal, spiritual kingdom. And He did.  And we are citizens in that kingdom.  We have a dual citizenship if you will. 

For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.” –  Philippians 3:18-21

My role – our role, as Christians, is to be ambassadors of King Jesus. To reflect His values in how we live and how we relate to the natural world that we live in.  The lines between the two kingdoms often become blurred – but not because they have somehow shifted, but because we too often forget who our allegiance is to. Our love for God and devotion to our faith wains as we struggle to find balance between the two worlds that we live in.  What is my role in this natural world? It is certainly not to embrace sin and disgrace the One who saved me.  My role is to show the world Jesus.

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

Monday, September 7, 2020

Kouri Kous La - Running The Race

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” —Hebrews 12:1-2

I heard a wonderful message yesterday about faith.  As Christians, we have been called to a life of faith and it IS like running in a race. I don’t know if you have ever run in a race. Certainly we have all run at some time in our lives. But running in a race is different. Running in a race requires that you push yourself beyond what you think you can do. Maybe even doubt that you can make it to the finish line. Lungs burning. Legs aching. Mind racing. Heart pounding. You can hear your feet has they land on the ground beneath them. You can hear the sound of other feet – behind you – getting louder and louder as someone catches up to you and maybe passes you.  Running like that is a discipline.  It is not something you do naturally. It is something that you choose to do.

So when Hebrews says Jesus endured – we can get a sense of Jesus, the man, approaching the cross.  He endured hardship knowing what was waiting at the finish line. Faith means to endure life. Keeping our eyes fixed on the Promise. Faith does not mean that we somehow are able to avoid – Lungs burning, legs aching, mind racing, heart pounding. It means that we are able to endure all of that – endure whatever life may bring. I don’t like hills – well up-hills anyway.  Gravity comes into play – the steeper the hill – the harder it is to overcome gravity. Down-hills – now that is another thing. Gravity is your friend when you are running down hills.  You encounter  down hills much less often in life that you do up hills. I found it helpful to fix my eyes on something no matter how hard the climb. To fix my eyes on it and run to it.  Then fix my eyes on the next thing. With faith – we fix our eyes on Jesus. (Looking unto Jesus) Jesus is our second wind.

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

Jesus does not run the race for us. But He ran the race before us. Our success in this life as Christians is wholly dependent upon faith and focus.  Like a runner – we must train ourselves – be disciplined. To be ready for the big race – we must run every day.  We must “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us”. That is a deliberate action – just like lacing up your running shoes – rain or shine – hot or cold – and hitting the road.  You can’t just go for a jog on Sundays and call it good enough.  That will not prepare you for the next hill.

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

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Standing Boldly For Truth And Right

“The next day many Jewish leaders, religious scholars, and elders of the people convened a meeting in Jerusalem. …. They made Peter and John stand in front of the council as they questioned them, saying, ‘Tell us, by what power and authority have you done these things?’ Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, answered, ‘Respected elders and leaders of the people, listen. Are we being put on trial today for doing an act of kindness by healing a frail, crippled man? Well then, you and everyone else in Israel should know that it is by the power of the name of Jesus that the crippled man stands here today completely healed! You crucified Jesus Christ of Nazareth, but God raised him from the dead. This Jesus is ‘the stone that you, the builders, have rejected, and now he has become the cornerstone!’ There is no one else who has the power to save us, for there is only one name to whom God has given authority by which we must experience salvation: the name of Jesus.’” —Acts 4:5-12

What a contrast from the night that Peter denied even knowing Jesus. Why did he deny Jesus? Because he feared what others might think or do. Now he faced the religious rulers who had even more power than the people who had “rightly” accused Peter of being a Jesus follower.  Have you ever been accused of being a Jesus follower? I don’t mean recognized by other Jesus followers. I mean accused of embracing God’s truth in the face of a culture who has rejected that truth and calls it a lie?  A culture that says if you don’t agree with us – agree to call what God has said is wrong to be right – then you are a bad person.

“How favored you become when you are hated, excommunicated, or slandered, or when your name is spoken of as evil because of your love for me, the Son of Man.” – Luke 6:22

How often have you read those words – I hope often – and didn’t really see that as something that would ever happen to you?  I mean don’t most people think of Christians as being good people? (a rhetorical question)

Just remember, when the unbelieving world hates you, they first hated me. If you were to give your allegiance to the world, they would love and welcome you as one of their own. But because you won’t align yourself with the values of this world, they will hate you. I have chosen you and taken you out of the world to be mine.” – John 15:18-19

Because you won’t align yourself with the values of this world, they will hate you.  I didn’t say it. Jesus, the Son of God, did. We have been separated from the world. It doesn’t really matter all that much until you don’t embrace something that is wrong, by God’s definition, as right.  Then you will be accused of being evil. How important is it to you for that not to happen? To be rejected by your culture – maybe even people you care about because you refuse to embrace their sin? This is not about a lack of love for people.  God loved us while we were yet sinners and Christ died for us.  No, it is about embracing sin.  Sometimes it is hard to separate the sin from the sinner. Throwing the baby out with the bath water, if you will.  That separation is a reflection of our spirituality. It is a boldness that comes from the power of the Spirit in us. Just like Peter standing before the Jewish leaders. 

Imagine if we said to God – “God, we don’t need a savior, what we need is for You to change Your mind and agree that we are not sinners.” We want God to agree that the life we have chosen and the things that we do are not really bad. 

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” – Isaiah 5:20

If you are going to take a stand for what God has declared is good – you will not be able to stand on your own – Just like Peter – you will end up denying the Faith for acceptance from the culture – and perhaps from people you know personally.  You will try to justify your choices out of compassion for others.  Truth does not change no matter how much we want it to.  Our willingness to stand for truth and the Word of God does – depending upon our hearts’ devotion.  The Church looks too much like the world because it has rejected the truth for a lie.  Think about it. 

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

Monday, August 24, 2020

What It Means To Be A Follower Of Jesus

“For whom He [God the Father] foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son [Jesus], that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” —Romans 8:29

Who is your role model? Who do you want to be like? Who are you like? Given the context of this BLOG, the most obvious and spiritual answer is “Jesus”. But, for me, I know that I am something short of that goal. Life just seems to get in the way a lot of days.  Oh, I can be like Jesus sometimes – but 24/7/365? Hmmm! That has never happened. Try or wish as I might – I always seem fall short.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” – Romans 12:2

Personally, I think that the reality of our new life – what happens after our second, spiritual, birth, is that we enter into a spiritual struggle between the old nature and new nature that will continue until we stand face to face with Jesus. Our temptation is to be conformed to the world – to not be transformed. To embrace our old nature – to love God less and the world more. We all struggle with it. Some are more successful than others – and in my view – that does not make those with the greater struggle any less saved. The New Testament epistles are replete with encouragement to do and admonition to not do. 

“…. let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1-3

To be successful in this new life of ours is to resist sin, embrace the Word of God, keeping our focus on Jesus. We are to be salt and light in the world.  Our job is not to change the world. Our job – our responsibility is to point the world to the One who can change hearts and eternal destinies.  As imitators of God we should be His reflection – a sharp, supernatural contrast to the natural.  Of course we should do good things – but that is a result of the love we have for God, primarily, and the difference that love relationship makes in our lives. We should not continue in sin. We should not and must not become content with a “little” sin in our lives as if it does not matter to God.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.” – Ephesians 5:8-11

I want to encourage you to examine your life – as I must do mine – considering our ways in light of the God we serve, the Savoir we follow, the Spirit that leads us and the Word that enlightens us.  It is something we must do every day – perhaps every minute of every hour. The journey – the life – that God has called us to is impossible to walk and to live without Him.  Don’t deceive yourself and imagine that it is OK to be lukewarm. It is not. Jesus did not go to the cross so we could live lukewarm lives.

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

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Straddling The Spiritual Fence

 "And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: ‘I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.’” —Revelation 3:14-16

After all the time that you have called Jesus, Lord, do you yet struggle with sin and the temptation to sin?  I do and I would like to think that I am not alone. Jesus – the Amen and the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, the First Born among many in the spiritual family of God, the Lamb of God – He saved me from the penalty of Sin – but not so I might continue to sin as if sin is inevitable and to some degree acceptable.  I think that was the problem with the church of Laodicea – a group of people that were content with being lukewarm – wanting to be both – saved from hell and content with accommodating sin.

The idea that it is OK with God if we live like that is a lie from the pit of hell.  Jesus railed against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees because they embraced the idea of straddling the spiritual fence.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. 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. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” – Matthew 23:23-28

God looks at and judges our hearts – not our appearance or the pretenses that we present to others. We compromise our faith for the comfort we find in the acceptance of the world. We yield to sin because it is so easy to do – like slipping on an old pair of shoes – worn and conformed to our feet and the way we walk. We do it with no thought of how displeasing it is to the One we have said that we love with our whole heart. The One who is always present – even in the darkness that we think we hide in as well revel in our sin.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7

We are to be salt and light in the world.  Our job is not to change the world. Our job – our responsibility is to point the world to the One who can change hearts and eternal destinies.  As imitators of God we should be His reflection – a sharp, supernatural contrast to the natural.  Of course we should do good things – but that is a result of the love we have for God, primarily, and the difference that love relationship makes in our lives. We should not continue in sin. We should not and must not become content with a “little” sin in our lives as if it does not matter to God.

We will all struggle with the temptation to so long as we live in these mortal bodies – but that does not mean we should be content with sin.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.” – Ephesians 5:8-11

I want to encourage you to examine your life – as I must do mine – considering our ways in light of the God we serve, the Savoir we follow, the Spirit that leads us and the Word that enlightens us.  It is something we must do every day – perhaps every minute of every hour. The journey – the life – that God has called us to is impossible to walk and to live without Him.  Don’t deceive yourself and imagine that it is OK to be lukewarm. It is not. Jesus did not go to the cross so we could live lukewarm lives.

….. those of you who do not give up everything [everything about your culture and way of living that you love that is contrary to the Word of God] you have cannot be my disciples. Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” – Luke 14:33-35

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

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Being A Real Imitation

"Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” —Ephesians 5:1-2

Great sermon this past Sunday – made me think! I am certain that you have heard the saying “He or she is the spittin’ image of …..” Meaning that he or she acts just like the person mentioned.  Probably mom or dad.  Of course that can be good or bad depending upon the person’s character they are being compared to. You might have also heard the saying, “The apple does not fall far from the tree.” Same idea. So what does that have to do with who we are as Christians.

I think that most of us live our lives without much regard to who we reflect.  We are just trying to get by. Doing the best we can. We are content with being who we are. Acknowledging God and Jesus, but not going overboard with separating ourselves from the culture we live in and its practices.  We live most of our lives in the grey area between the spiritual and the natural. We have resolved that some things are just not that bad – not sin really. We live in a comfortable space. Certainly not spiritual fanatics – but absolutely not like those sinners that we would never associate with or want to be like.  We don’t really imitate God – in a radical way – but we do kinda-sorta look like Him. Especially on Sunday mornings.

My point here is not to send anyone on a guilt trip – but to encourage everyone to stop and reflect on God’s calling – that His commandments are not suggestions but expectations. Is I am having a problem with my family resemblance – it is not my Father’s fault. It is a willful decision that I have made.  Being imitators of God is not a product of my efforts to do better but a result of my loving God and yielding my heart and devotion to Him.  We all know if we are living rightly as Christians. We all know what is expected of us. The problem is not in the knowing – it is in the doing.  

We are to be salt and light in the world.  Our job is not to change the world. Our job – our responsibility is to point the world to the One who can change hearts and eternal destinies.  As imitators of God we should be His reflection – a sharp, supernatural contrast to the natural.  Of course we should do good things – but that is a result of the love we have for God, primarily, and the difference that love relationship makes in our lives.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.” – Ephesians 5:8-11

I want to encourage you to examine your life – as I must do mine – considering our ways in light of the God we serve, the Savoir we follow, the Spirit that leads us and the Word that enlightens us.  It is something we must do every day – perhaps every minute of every hour. The journey – the life – that God has called us to is impossible to walk and to live without Him. As I type these words – songs are rolling through my mind – “I need thee every hour – Most gracious Lord. No tender voice like Thine Can peace afford. I need Thee, O I need Thee

Every hour I need Thee. O bless me now, my Savior I come to Thee. I need Thee every hour Stay Thou nearby. Temptations lose their power When Thou art nigh” – another song is – “Precious Lord, take my hand Lead me on, let me stand. I am tired, I'm weak, I am worn. Through the storm, through the night Lead me on to the light. Take my hand, precious Lord Lead me home.”

Be blessed by friend

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

Friday, August 14, 2020

Knowing Doesn’t Mean You Are Growing

"But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?” —James 2:18-20

Had a conversation with my sister-in-law the other day about spiritual maturity. I find it difficult to write about it for fear that my words might seem pious or condescending – neither of which is my intent. Instead my intent is for them to be them to be an encouragement to all of us who are walking after the Spirit and resisting the urge to walk after the flesh.

James was addressing the problem of thinking that faith is enough.  To put it another way, if I am saved – then that is good enough.  I can go on with my life. I don’t have to stand for good and stand against evil – I can just live my life – go to church – remain silent – stay sheltered in my holy huddle. That is enough.

James said that faith without works is dead.  I would add that works without faith are also dead.  Doing good in this world is not just for the here and now, but it is also for the here and then. What we do as Christians has an eternal aspect that is absent from any other good that might be done. The absence of the Spirit does not make “good works” any less good, but they don’t have a spiritual component that brings glory to God and points people to Him through faith in Jesus.

Because of our faith – we are – should be – compelled to love – to show compassion. It is the fruit of our faith. If our total focus is on our comfort and our well-being – every man for himself thinking – then something is not right in the faith department.

…… to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” – James 4:17

Meaning you have missed the point if you think that merely accumulating knowledge by attending church or studying the Bible is the end-game.  God wants us to apply that knowledge by faith for His glory and the good of others. 

If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” – James 2:15-17

So what are you doing to show your faith in God and love for God and others? 

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

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Showing The World What Right Looks Like

“The next day John [the Baptist] saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”— John 1:29

The world is on a constant hunt for a treasure that is and always will be just out of reach … peace and harmony.  The reason is the root of the problem – sin. And sin is a spiritual problem…… Does that see too simple? It seems to be an overstatement of the obvious doesn’t it? Indulge me and allow to me substitute some words for sin. But first – consider that God, the Father, sent Jesus, the Son, and eventually, the Spirit of God, to the earth. A spiritual solution to a spiritual problem.  You see – man could not do anything to fix his sinful nature – it took faith in the One that God the Father sent to do that.

Let’s go to Galatians for a short list of word substitutes.

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like.” – Galatians 5:19-21

Quite a list wouldn’t you say? All of these words reflect some sinful action derived from our sinful nature – all requiring a spiritual solution.

So about that word substitution. Adultery is a spiritual problem. Idolatry is a spiritual problem. Hatred is a spiritual problem. Envy is a spiritual problem. Murder is a spiritual problem.  Have any problem agreeing with those substitutions.  Well, since they came from the Bible, probably not.  As a spiritual problem – they need a spiritual solution.

What if I was to say Prejudice is a spiritual problem. Bigotry is a spiritual problem. Racism is a spiritual problem.  Judging others is a spiritual problem. As a spiritual problem – they all need a spiritual solution.  Man cannot resolve their root cause – only Jesus can.  Do you think that God might be trying to show us that we are seeking natural solutions to spiritual problems and the solutions that we conjure up, all of our good intentions will never – ever solve those problem? God is the source of spiritual solutions – and they can all be found in Jesus. 

Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all. Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.” – Colossians 3:9-14

Someone once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different outcome.  We have laws in the country, states, counties, and cities that say in essence – don’t sin, as defined by man, or you will be in trouble with the law. Yet, our prisons are full. We have laws that say we cannot show prejudice or bias toward others because of race, color, creed, religion, etc. and yet the streets are filled with protesters and rioters. The problem is not that we don’t have enough laws.  The problem is that we don’t have enough Jesus.

We must stop trying to justify our sin. By the way – to sin means that you disobeyed the Word of the Lord. Not caring about the affliction others suffer because it doesn’t affect you is – yes that’s right – it is sin. The solution for not caring is a spiritual one. The real reason you don’t care is because you don’t love God enough.  When you love God like Jesus said to love God, you will not be able to help but love others.  The solution to the problems of this world will never be fully resolved until Jesus returns. But, in the meantime, Christians can show the world what “right looks like” if they will only first fully commit their hearts to God and then fully commit their lives to each other and then let the light of Christ shine in this dark world of ours. Christians, we need to stop talking about it and start doing it – one heart at a time.

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

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

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Mop-a-day-oh

“But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he [a man in the ditch] was. And when he saw him, he had compassion.”—Luke 10:33

The Lord woke me early this morning. Does that sound odd? Or perhaps I should ask – does He ever wake you up? What is it like? I wake up and there is a thought that comes immediately to mind. Actually it was two words – courage and m’ap-ede-ou. I will talk about the second before I do the first.

M’apedeou is a Haitian Creole contraction. The first time I heard it was years ago at an orphanage in Jacmel.  If you “un-contract” the words it is “mwen ap ede ou” – I will help you. I had asked someone to help me and they responded with m’apedeou. Since my conversational Creole was not that great, at the time, I had no idea what they said. We speak in contractions all of the time and think nothing of it. So why did the Lord bring that memory to the forefront of my mind at 3:00 a.m.? God often asks us to do what is impossible for man to do. To do what others would refuse to do. To walk to the other side of the road when we have no “real” responsibility to help.

Someone in the ministry I work with was contacted by some from the city help line. It seems a 72 year old widow, suffering from a recent stroke, her only companion a Chihuahua, was having a serious plumbing problem.  They asked if the ministry could help. The request was passed to another person and then found its way to me – as Pathfinder Mission – a ministry that provides that sort of help. I asked the contractor that does work for us – COVID 19 has eradicated the volunteer work force for a season – to look into it. It was the sewer line from the house to the main line – concrete pipe that had deteriorated. So I told him to fix it. Then I asked the Lord to provide the funds to pay the contractor. Does that seem out of sync to you? A prudent person would first find the money and then do the work. 

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

When Peter climbed out of the boat it was in response to a command that defied nature. Men cannot walk on water. But he did – by faith. God asks us to live like Peter – the Lord called me out of the boat to help that woman. And then the contractor told me that the problem was not just with the cement pipe but the black cast iron drain pipes and the galvanized supply lines and the water heater. My reply was – of course it is. It is always something else.  Then I was reminded that the Samaritan not only bandaged the wounds, but took the man to a place where he could be cared for and paid for it.  Someone had fixed a break in the cement pipe before, but they did not fix the problem.

I am not trying to impress you with my obedience or spirituality. I am trying to encourage you to listen for God’s voice and be willing to do what seems impossible for men. We are all called to get out of the boat from time to time.  To be willing to do something that runs against the grain of what seems reasonable to the natural man. That is where the second word comes in. Courage.

This Book of the Law 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 1:8-9

Courage is not action in the absence of fear, but action in spite of fear. God asks us to trust Him and do the impossible – the improbable – the unthinkable. And when we step into the water, like with Joshua and Israel stepping into the river Jordan – the river backs up – but our feet touching the water did not cause that to happen. Our faith and obedience did.  God acted for our good and His Glory! The woman I mentioned I have never seen – and will probably never see – that is not necessary. We have helped a lot of people through this ministry and that by the power of God. People that we will never meet this side of heaven. Them knowing who we are, who I am, is not the point. Listen, when you worry about recognition, you are very near to robbing God of His glory. And the temptation will come calling – trust me. So today and every day – be ready to help those in need – whatever those needs might be – be willing to step out of the boat – to defy the natural and trust God – God who is able to do exceedingly abundantly more than we can ask or think. Remember …..  

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

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

Monday, August 10, 2020

What Dominates Your Thinking And Your Doing?

 "Jesus answered [Pilate], ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.’ Pilate therefore said to Him, ‘Are You a king then?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.’”—John 18:36-37

 We live in the natural world with all of its problems and sin.  We long for the kingdom of God to dominate the affairs of this world, but the truth is – that won’t happen until Jesus returns. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone embraced the Truth of God and harmony and unity reigned in this world – in our country.  Instead we are faced with a pandemic – for some it is real and for others it is a conspiracy.  We are faced with political turmoil – Democrats have their agenda and plan to make life in this country better – Republicans have theirs – now Marxists and Socialist have stepped forward declaring their ideas of what is right and what is truth.  Those who are born again are choosing sides – with hope that whoever they have aligned themselves with will be right and will prevail. But the hope we seek will not be found in this president or the next – only in the Source of all hope. So what to do?

In my view, the answer is not found on CNN – FOX – Facebook – or some other place – but in the Bible – God’s revealed truth that surpasses all generations – cultures and races. It is the eternal truth that there is none Good but One – the Creator God.  He is the source of all that is good and right. People look for heaven on earth – on the natural earth, but it cannot be found.  The kingdom that Jesus brought to the earth is a supernatural one. One that cannot be experienced except by the Body of Christ – but can be seen. But only then, when those who have been saved by faith are living in obedience to the Truth of God by the power of the Spirit of God.

I would never presume to tell anyone how to vote – but, I am encouraging all the saints to be faithful to the God who saved them through faith in Jesus and Who set them apart by the Spirit of God to be a living testimony to the love of God.   

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.” – 1 Peter 2:9-10

Before we were born again, we were not united as a people, but now we are united – called out of a dark world into His marvelous light.  That unity has been stunted by sin. The influence of our old nature and the particular people group we were born in to. Why would we want to cling to the darkness? Why would we want to embrace what we know is sin, calling it good? Why would we seek natural solutions to spiritual problems? Why do we prefer to embrace our old nature and the sin that comes with it and think that at the same time we are holy and pleasing to God? Why do we fear?

I will lift up my eyes to the hills—From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; The Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, Nor the moon by night. The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore.” – Psalm 121:1-8

Where are you focused in this difficult time in our nation’s history?  Who or what are you trusting in the midst of the social, medical and political pandemonium that is raging all around us?  Should we pull our heads back into our shells and hope the trouble passes by us? No. But rather, we should be, must be a light in the darkness. United by the Spirit of God in the face of the cultural division and great fear that has become so obvious.  What does secular division have to do with a spiritual people called by God and separated for His glory? Each of us must decide – we must choose.

And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” – Joshua 24:15

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

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

What Does Love Have To Do With It? It Is The Thing That Connects Us

This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”—John 15:12-13

That’s right. It is love. Not as the world loves – but the love of God.  Our capacity to love others the way that God loves us comes from God not from an intense desire on our part.  A desire that comes from our will and not God’s. When we try to do that – the love fails.  The world demands that you DO and then your love is proven. God demands that you LOVE and then the proof will show itself in the way that you do.

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” – James 2:14-18

I am certain you have heard many teaching on these verses. Martin Luther struggled with the book of James since he was convinced that our righteousness comes from faith and not works. (I agree with him, by the way). He called is a “strawy” epistle – meaning it was hard to swallow.  I believe James’ point is not that works come before faith, but that works are a natural product of faith. We have a tomato plant in our back yard and it has never yielded one tomato, not one. So what good does it do? It doesn’t get big enough to shade us from the hot Texas sun. That would be something. Likewise, as Christians, we are to demonstrate the love of God – through various means – by good works – good works that are fruit born from our faith in the One who called us out into new life.

If you do something nice for someone that you don’t like because it is the Christian thing to do – you have missed the point. If you do anything out of duty – meaning if you had the option you would not do it – you have missed the point. If you have a problem loving other Christians because they are not like you – you have missed the point. In fact – you have a love problem – not toward them but toward God. Verses I used yesterday …

We love Him because He first loved us. If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.” – 1 John 4:19-21

Must love means that it should flow from us – as if we had no choice. Our flesh may push back and provide any number of reasons why we should not love someone or even like them – that is the nature of our spiritual struggle.  The Body of Christ is divided because Christians are yielding to the flesh and not the Spirit. Preferring cultural traditions over the providence of God. Do you want the world to see Jesus? Do you want the light of Christ is shine into this present darkness?

 A new commandment I [Jesus] 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

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


Monday, August 3, 2020

Loving God Is Easier Than Loving Others But It Is Still Difficult

Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him 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.’”—Matthew 22:35-39

Suppose I asked you if you love God – if you are a Christian I am certain that you would say, “yes”. I mean why would I ask you that? Doesn’t your proclaimed faith prove that? Loving God is the greatest commandment. It covers the first four of the BIG TEN. (The last six are covered by the second commandment.) But there is a catch – loving God the way Jesus said we are to love God does not leave any room for loving the world – there is nothing that can be our primary devotion except God. Oh, you get that? I am not telling you anything that you don’t already know. The words in the Bible do not change and yet we are encouraged to meditate on the words of the Word in order to have a prosperous and successful new life in Christ. (Joshua 1:8) In reading those words, the Spirit of God uses them to reprove (reprimand), correct, and instruct all Christians. My point, we need to be reminded that our primary devotion is to God.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” – 1 John 2:15-17

How much do you struggle with keeping God in His proper place in your life.  It is too easy to let the things of this world – things that seem to bring some sort of comfort to you to dilute your love for and devotion to God. You know it’s true! So if what is easy is difficult – how easy is it to love others?

People who are not perfect – who do not have your best interest in mind. People who really don’t care about your problems but are more interested in what you can do for them.  People who are not like you. People who don’t share your values – your heritage – don’t live like you – don’t look like you – don’t talk like you. People that God says to love because He loves them. Let me share a secret with you.  You can’t love others – not on your own anyway.

 We love Him because He first loved us. If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.” – 1 John 4:19-21

So you see – we must love God the way Jesus said, if we have any hope in loving others. If you don’t love others, it is because you are having a problem with God not being in the right place in you life. Now don’t confuse loving others with liking what they do. God did not like what we were doing before He sent Jesus to die for us.

For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” – Romans 5:6-11

The lack of unity among Believers is proof that we struggle with loving God and loving others.  Fixing that problem starts with each of us. Think about it.

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


Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Staying In Stride With Jesus - It's A Supernatural Ability

"Enoch walked with God…" —Genesis 5:24

“The true test of a person’s spiritual life and character is not what he does in the extraordinary moments of life, but what he does during the ordinary times when there is nothing tremendous or exciting happening. A person’s worth is revealed in his attitude toward the ordinary things of life when he is not under the spotlight (see John 1:35-37 and John 3:30). It is painful work to get in step with God and to keep pace with Him […] In learning to walk with God, there is always the difficulty of getting into His stride, but once we have done so, the only characteristic that exhibits itself is the very life of God Himself." - Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest ”

I was walking down the hall with a friend the other day, but his pace was much faster than mine.  I soon found myself a few yards behind him.  I thought, “I guess my age is catching up with me.”  Then it dawned on me that I might just be out of shape!  We can get out of shape spiritually too.  

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.  Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.  So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.  - 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

This new life we live requires the discipline of an athlete.  Without proper spiritual conditioning, we will find ourselves falling behind, getting spiritually winded – another way of saying that we will struggle with sin and obedience.

There are two qualities that are important both in manufacturing and in the Christian life.  Validity and Reliability.  Validity means that whatever it is, is made and functions according to the designer’s plan.  Reliability means that it continues to function in the same valid way every time.  Have you ever said of someone that they are unreliable?  That they can’t be counted on? Well, perhaps that could be said of us as well with respect to our walk with the Lord.  We all have feet of clay, but we also all have the Spirit of God and the capacity to live a super-natural life.  A life dependent upon the One who saved us and not ourselves. And so my friend, I think we all need to look to Jesus and pick up the pace!

"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." - Hebrews 12:1-2

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