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