Tuesday, October 20, 2020

When Jesus Shows Up

Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear.’” —Matthew 14:25-26

Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, ‘Peace to you.’ But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit. And He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts?’” – Luke 24:36-37

Like the disciples, we want the Lord to show up, but when He does, we don’t believe it is really the Lord.  So what was the problem? The problem was the problem. Jesus was not with them physically and they needed Him to be to feel safe.  When He showed who He was – the son of God, the master of the seas -and all creation – not limited by walls and doors – they were afraid.  We are much more comfortable when we are within the bounds of our natural understanding. It is one thing to say “He is the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And another to walk and live in that truth.  Even though Jesus was not in the boat or in the room, that did not mean that He was not sovereign over their circumstances.  I have cited this quote from the Focus on the Family Truth Project several times, “Do you believe that what you believe is really real?” It is a test of faith. Acting on what we believe and not depending upon our circumstances and what we see. 

And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—  the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.  A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” – John 14:16-20

Jesus told His disciples that He was leaving but the Father was sending the Spirit and the Spirit would dwell in each Believer. The presence of God is always with us.  That is why we are told to walk after the Spirit and not after the flesh – by faith and not by sight – living with a supernatural perspective and not a natural  one.  In fairness to the disciples – both times – in the boat and hiding in a room, they did not have the Spirit of God in them. They had the Son of God physically with them.  Their faith was in large measure dependent upon their ability to see Jesus.  Each time He told them to have faith. And that is true for us as well.  We have plenty of reasons to fret in this natural life, but we are not bound by the natural – but by the eternal. We need to see beyond our circumstances, good and bad, and look to Jesus by faith.  What are you struggling with today? Look to Jesus. 

Jesus said to him, ‘Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’” – John 20:29

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

Thursday, October 15, 2020

You Are The Man!

And a traveler came to the rich man, who refused to take from his own flock and from his own herd to prepare one for the wayfaring man who had come to him; but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” So David’s anger was greatly aroused against the man, and he said to Nathan, ‘As the Lord lives, the man who has done this shall surely die! And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity.’ Then Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man!’” —2 Samuel 12:4-6

David had Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah the Hittite, killed to cover his own sin.  Apparently David had reconciled his actions in his eyes.  But it does not matter how justified we might think we are, sin is sin. God confronted David through the prophet Nathan. It was in the face of that confrontation that David snapped out of his delusion that his heart was right before God. Apparently he was in the habit of sinning and then moving on with God – or not.  It was after that confrontation that David wrote Psalm 51.  “Create in me a clean heart o’ God and renew a right spirit in me.”

It is so easy to ignore our own sin and condemn the sin in others.  In psychology the term is “projection”. Psychological projection is a defense mechanism in which the ego defends itself against unconscious impulses or qualities by denying their existence in themselves by attributing them to others. Jesus addressed our proclivity to deny our own sin.

Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” – Matthew 7:4-5

We are so quick to judge others for the wrong they do, and ever so slow to repent from our own sins. We may not have a prophet like Nathan to confront us, but we do have the Spirit of God and the Word of God and people of God who can speak Truth to us.  What can keep us from repenting like David did? It might be guilt. Perhaps a lack of faith. Or worse still – a hardened heart.  There is a saying that when I point a finger at you, there are three pointing back at me. We need to spend less time applying self-righteous judgement toward others, and more time drawing close to God seeking His grace, mercy and restoration.

Read Psalm 51 and then make it your own prayer to God. Listen – we all struggle with sin.

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” – 1 John 1:8-10

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

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Though He Slay Me

Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. Even so, I will defend my own ways before Him. He also shall be my salvation.” —Job 13:15-16

All of us face difficulties in this life. Challenges. Interruptions of our plans and goals.  I have a meeting today to discuss plans for the months ahead. I think I know what I will be doing in the days ahead, but I don’t really. So what happens if or most probably when, those plans are interrupted.  What happens when life does not go the way I thought it would or should?  Consider God’s servant Job. He was doing everything right when everything went wrong – not to plan. Job was a victim. He loved God and pursued righteous living. The question was – would Job still love God if his circumstances changed?

A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.” – Proverbs 16:9

We are like leaves in the wind. We really don’t have any control over where we might land or certainly not which way the wind blows.  I have been trying to ready the travel trailer to go to the Lake Charles, Louisiana area to support the work there.  The Alabama tag had expired and since we are not Texas residents, I had to get the title transferred and a new Texas tag. So two weeks ago I went to the local tag office. When I arrived, I was told that I had to make an appointment. I asked how I was suppose to know that. (I was not the only one getting turned away – COVID strikes again) They said to check the web site. So I left and checked the web site. The soonest I could schedule an appointment was yesterday.  The trailer leaves today. I got the papers in order and went for my appointment. When I got to the window the clerk asked me if I was having a good day.  I said, “I will answer that after I talk to you.”  I was told that I had to have the trailer weighed on a scale and it had to be inspected before they could process my application. But, they could give me a one day tag so I could move the trailer legally.  I asked if they know who inspected trailers and where I could get the trailer weighed.  They gave me a list of local scale locations and any place that inspects vehicles.  She made a temporary tag.  I wrote the check only to be told they don’t take checks for temporary tags. They said if I could be back by 4:00 I could still get me tag. That was at 10:30. I said “Do you remember the question you asked me when I came to the window? How are you?” She said, “yes”, probably expecting the worst – I don’t envy her job.  I said “I am blessed.” And left. 

I had to go back and hook my truck up to the trailer and then get it weighed and inspected. Amazingly enough, I was back at the window at 2:00pm that afternoon. She told me that it was two hundred and seventy five.  I asked two hundred and seventy five dollars or two hundred dollars and seventy five cents. She said two hundred dollars and seventy five.  So I wrote the check for two hundred dollars and seventy five cents.  She looked at it and said, “No – two hundred and seventy five dollars.” And another voided check later, I got it right. That is what happens when you are both speaking through mask through a little hole in plexi-glass.  (COVID strikes again!) But ….. I got the tag!

We don’t have to be doing something wrong to have something disruptive happen to us.  For me it was inconvenience – frustration.  As I waited in the hallway to go to the window, I watched an old man – meaning older than me – slowly limp down the hall toward the tag office. Bent over, moving slowly wearing a ball cap with the U.S. Airforce emblem on it, suggesting that he was a veteran.  He was turned away, he apparently had not looked at the web site either. You don’t have to look far to see someone with a greater struggle than you have.  We are faced with interruptions, disappointments and hardships every day.  The question is always – “How will you choose to respond?” Is your confidence on God or your circumstances?

“….. count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” – James 1:2-4

How we respond to life depends upon where our confidence is. Is it in our ability to control life’s events or in God who is sovereign over all of creation.  Is my devotion to Him dependent upon good things happening to me. If something goes sideways do I raise my fist at God and ask how He could let this happen to ME! Doesn’t He know who I am? (the answer to that question BTW is “yes He does”) So WHY?!?!?

But I [Jesus] say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” – Matthew 5:44-45

Born again, we bear the mark of the God of heaven in that we are sealed and inhabited by the Spirit of God. And so we should and can bear the fruit of the Spirit in spite of what trouble comes our way. Not because we are good but because He is good. Not because we are able but because He is able. And if you want to talk to Him, you don’t have to make an appointment.

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

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Living Under The Shadow Of Sin

“men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,  unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power.” —2 Timothy 3:2-5

Have you ever wondered why Adam and Eve would sin when their lives were so perfect. In perfect alignment with God. Every need met through His providence. Made in the image of God – God created man with the ability to choose. To choose God or choose their own way. To choose rightly or wrongly. To choose what was consistent with God’s perfect design or to go their own way.  In God there is no wrong only right. While Adam and Eve, and their seed have the ability to choose, all other creation acts on instinct – even what some might think of as affection that animals have for humans is instinctive – not volitional.  I came across something I posted on Facebook some years ago.

“Why is there beauty?  Why do we appreciate form and color when all other animals are dumb to it?  Because we are created in God’s image and He is the Discerner of what is good and that discernment has been passed to us through His design and intent for His pleasure and ours. Praise God from whom all blessings flow”

So we have the capacity to choose another way. To reject God and choose man. Because we have been made in the image and likeness of God, we think that we can be like God – that we can be our own god. That is really what disobedience is a reflection of.  And since the Garden, we have lived under the shadow if sin. As you well know, even after we have been born again by the Spirit of God, as we walk in the light, it is easy to step into sin’s shadow. Stepping into the light and then back into the shadow.  Like all Christians, I must constantly on my guard.  Drawn to the shadows – perhaps not overtly – but more likely in my thinking and my attitudes. We would like to think that so long as we don’t act on the sin, we are not guilty of sinning.  That would be nice if it were only true. 

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

He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” – 1 John 3:14-15

The point here is that I don’t have to act on a sinful decision for it to be sin.  The man had committed the act of adultery in his heart – the one who hates is guilty of sin – the problem is that most Christians don’t want to believe it. They have a problem discerning temptation from sin. And on some points, they argue that something is not sinful even when the Word of God is plain, not requiring any spiritual discernment to understand it.  With regard to temptation, Pastor Greg Laurie, a pastor in California, said “Temptation is like a bird flying over your head.  You can’t keep the bird from flying over your head, but you can keep it from making a nest in your hair.”

“But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” – James 1:14-15

I wrote about the importance of holiness the other day.  Being separate from the world. The reason that the Bible speaks to these things is not for a world lost in its sin, but for the children of God who have been saved from the penalty of sin and called to live a new life – no longer in the shadow of sin -  a testimony to the world that we have been saved out of.  When we try to live with one foot in the light and the other in the shadow, we deceive ourselves.  We have a form of godliness, but in our sin, deny the power of God. Listen – so long as we are in this world we will be bombarded with temptations. We cannot resist the power of the flesh on our own.  We are drawn to the shadows like ship crews responding to the sirens’ song crashing into the rocks.  We convince ourselves that we are “not so bad” and rest in our form of godliness calling it good enough. It seems to satisfy the people around us – but it does not satisfy God. He wants the devotion of all of our hearts not just a portion.

Be on your guard Christian – I pray that we all might say with conviction “Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus and His righteousness. On Christ the solid rock we stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”

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

Monday, October 12, 2020

Bread of Heaven – Living Water

“Then Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ Then they said to Him, ‘Lord, give us this bread always.’ And Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe.’” —John 6:32-36

“Jesus answered and said to her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.’ The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?’ Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.’ The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.’” – John 4:10-15

I normally don’t start a devotion with two separate verse references, but as I was considering one – the second came to mind. They are in a way – one in the same. On the one hand Jesus was speaking to people who had received bread and fish to eat and sought Jesus out as a means to satisfy their need for food. Very often God does something in the physical that helps us, but the real point is not physical, it’s spiritual. God had sent manna to Israel while they were in the desert. To satisfy their physical need for food, yes, but more that they would see that He is the provider – Jehovah Jireh. Jesus fed the five thousand. It was a miracle – just like the manna – but putting food in empty bellies was not really the point.

The woman at the well. She went to the well every day to get water. She went in the heat of the day, when no one else was around – out of shame I think – but Jesus offered her Living Water (like manna) so she would thirst no more. He revealed her secrets to her – her sin – it was a miracle. She didn’t want to have to go to the well every day and thought the living water would fix that. But quenching a parched throat was not really the point.

It is in our nature to go to the physical – the natural first. To even see God’s provision as merely a means to satisfy the flesh. We consider possession, wealth, freedom from illness, relational problems as God’s blessing. The only thing we see as spiritual is the fact that we are saved. Having “made the cut” we refocus on our natural life. Jesus spoke to the people and the woman about a spiritual reality. That He was the Blessing from Heaven.

You gave them bread from heaven for their hunger, And brought them water out of the rock for their thirst, And told them to go in to possess the land Which You had sworn to give them.” – Nehemiah 9:15

Nehemiah was referring to the nation of Israel as they wandered in the desert. God provided then and He has provided for you and me now. Not so much in the natural sense. He has given us a place in heaven. The natural is merely a reflection of the spiritual.  Our bodies need to be sustained to prevail. But we will walk this land for 70 or 80 years and then these jars of clay will return to the dust from which they were formed.  As much as we fret over these bodies of ours, it is our spiritual nature that will endure. 

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.” – Matthew 5:6

Trusting in God and focusing on eternal things is liberating. We still live these natural lives of ours, but our confidence is not in our circumstances or natural health and wealth. Our satisfaction should not be dependent upon what the world has to offer – wood, hay and stubble – it will all be consumed by fire one day.  But we, who are spiritual – born again, yet trust in the natural anyway don’t we. It is our “go-to”. Our first choice.

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” – 1 John 2:15

We must not deceive ourselves. We can't love both. We will love one hate the other. (that is in the Bible – I will let you find it) If we place our confidence in the natural – God must, be definition take the second seat.  I am certain you will mentally balk at that notion, but the proof is how we live our lives.  It is a common struggle – depending on the things of the world comes naturally – but that was our old life – but I want to encourage you to resist it - abandon it - lay it down and fix your eyes and your heart on Jesus – Who is our righteousness. The Bread of Life who gives living water.

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

Friday, October 9, 2020

Show Me The Love

"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.” —Ephesians 5:25-29

I participate in a ministry meeting each Monday. Part of the routine is for each of us to say one good thing that happened personally and one that happened ministry wise.  I shared that Martie was getting some better from her spinal surgery and after almost a year, we were finally able to sit next to each other. The married guys in the meeting looked the other way and the women all said how sweet that was. Listen – if you are married, then the person you are married to should be the most significant person on the planet to you. Because, if you are married, you are joined together as one flesh. You have made a love commitment to that person and God should be in the center of that relationship.  Why would you not want to be with them? Why would you not want to sit next to them?

The verses preceding the ones I quoted speak to the issue of submission – submission in our culture is a four letter word! It has a negative connotation.  It means vulnerable, likely to be taken advantage of. The Bible says we are to submit to the Lord, to the Spirit, to one another, and, yes, that includes wives to their husbands …. But as to one another .. husbands to their wives.  Ephesians 5 speaks to how the family unit is to function. God has designated the man – the husband – as the head of the family.  That means that he is primarily responsible for the well-being – physically and spiritually – of the family.  That means that he is to love his wife just like Jesus loved the Body of Christ and made the ultimate sacrifice.  Husbands are to love their wives sacrificially – to lay down their lives.

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

How much more for the person you have declared is the most significant person on this planet. I know that for some reading this, that is not how the marriage worked out.  That level of love was not there. It might be because God was never part of the union. Getting married in a church does not make a God-honoring marriage anymore than going to McDonalds makes you a hamburger.  It could be that there was an uneven yoke – one was a Christian and one was not.

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” – 2 Corinthians 6:14

When Martie and I got married, 48, almost 49, years ago neither of us were born again. It is by God’s grace that we each were born again on the same night kneeling at our bed next to each other. Yes, next to each other. My mom married my dad for the wrong reasons and that marriage ended in divorce. It was not until 17 years later would she be born again as would her second husband and my spiritual father. My point is there is opportunity for redemption. Jesus died for all sin. Sin is doing that which is contrary to the God’s design. I am certain that you have heard the phrase “That will leave a mark.” After someone falls or is injured in some way.  Divorce always leaves a mark.  The ones who are divorced may want to deny it. They may convince themselves that their children will be OK, but it leaves a mark. God does not erase the mark, but He does apply balm to the wound. 

I remember when I was in high school that I tried to talk to my mom about how the divorce had marked my life. She told me to stop trying to make her feel guilty.  With divorce comes regrets and perhaps guilt. God can bring healing, but He may not restore a broken relationship.  In my life I have seldom seen that a happen.  But he can and will bring healing, although there may be a mark – a scar – from the wound.

When I started typing this I did not know that this is where the devotion was headed. But, still, it is about love and a love relationship. It is about God’s intent and man’s corruption of that intent. About a culture’s attempt to gloss it over and pretend that the corruption is normal – even unavoidable.  When you read about a movie star that has been married five times – what did you think? Are your sad for them because they are looking for something that cannot be found in the place they are looking? Or do you think – that is just the way celebrities live – that is normal celebrity life. It’s not. Inside, they are no different than you and me. When they are alone – away from the attention – they are just like you and me. And their choices have left an indelible mark – one that all the fame and money cannot cover up. But God can bring healing.

We all need Jesus.

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

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Knowing and Doing What Is Right

“But now I [Jesus] go away to Him who sent Me….. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper [the Holy Spirit] will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged…… when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.” —John 16:8-11, 13-14

Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as our helper. He brings conviction to the world – the world knows what is right and wrong before God, but chooses to embrace what is contrary to the will of God. Just as we did before we placed our faith in Jesus and received the Spirit of Truth as God’s seal of redemption, eternal life and adoption as sons and daughters of the Creator God. 

Do you want to know your lineage, who your ancestors are? My dad, long before Ancestry.com, researched the Elgin ancestry. He spent hours writing letters, making phone calls. He tracked our ancestors all the way back to the 1600’s when Elgins first arrived on this continent. The thing is that all he really knew, and all we really know, are names of people.  You don’t know their character. You don’t know them. The people that promote the genealogy even suggest that you might find you are related to some historically significant person as if somehow that significance transcends time and is imputed to you.  Looking for significance as if it might justify us, validate us, even elevate us.  But as Christians, our natural lineage is not so important as our spiritual lineage – at least it should not be.  I have written about our culture’s infatuation with our ancestry before. Finding pride in our DNA. Our mortal bodies are but of dust. Part of this planet. But there is an eternal quality – our spiritual heritage that we should be more interested in. Our significance is found in Jesus who is our justification and righteousness. Because of your faith in Him, you are a child of the king – the Creator God.  When you were lost you had nothing to turn to but your natural ancestry, all of whom are but dust. But now Christian, that is not so.

Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, You must be born again.’” – John 3:3-7

The truth that we are born again is something that too easily loses its luster if we are not careful. The draw to the natural is strong and it is pervasive.  God sent a Helper, so that we might be encouraged through the prompting of the Spirit to be on our guard against the temptation to embrace what the world says is right but what God says is not.  We are cautioned to not quench the influence of the Spirit. Like ignoring the will of your parents and doing what you want to do in spite of their caution. 

Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit.” –  1 Thessalonians 5:14-19

Paul was writing to Christians then and now. Telling them and us what their and our habits should be and warning them and us to not ignore the influence of the Spirit in their and our lives.  Even those words that Paul penned to the church in Thessalonica were a result of the influence of the Spirit of God in Paul’s life.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God [God-breathed – pnuema -  a reference to the Spirit], 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

Walking after and living by the Spirit of God is a discipline – a choice – choose well my friends.

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

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Holiness Is What God Wants From Us?

“…. if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” —2 Chronicles 7:14

That verse was shared during a recent meeting I attended.  I was reminded of its prominence some years ago. Michael Card, a Christian musician, released a song called Heal Our Land in 1994 with that verse at its core.  Many Christians, in the United States at least, hoped that a revival or awakening would spread across this land.  Really hoping that the light of Christ would shine and our culture would make a turn towards God and away from darkness. Well, here we are today, 26 years later – and the days seem darker than ever.

I thought it might be helpful to unpack that verse to give perspective. There are several, what I think are, significant points. First – “if my people called by my name” means God’s people which means His spiritual children – not created mankind – but people born again by the Spirit. (1 John 3:1) “will humble themselves” If we need to become humble that would suggest that there is a lack of humbleness among His people. God requires humility from us which requires that we have a heart change – love ourselves less and Him more. (Micah 6:8) (Matthew 22:37-39)  “and pray and seek my face” To pray and seek His face means to seek Him out. To focus on Him as the source – just like Jesus did. (Philippians 4:6-7) “and turn from their wicked ways” What! Isn’t it the country that needs healing? But the lost are not God’s children.  He loves them and sent His Son to save them from their sin, but that does not make them His children. Jesus said this to the Jews ….

Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me.” –  John 8:43-45

In the eternal context, there are only two kinds of people in the world – lost and saved. You father is either the god of this world, Satan, or the God of heaven – Jehovah God. And the God of heaven wants his children to not live like the children of the god of this world – Satan. Ouch! So it is not that the lost would turn from their wicked ways – they can only do that by the power of God through faith in Jesus, but that Christians would live be the Spirit and not their old nature – identifying with and accommodating a culture that embraces the darkness. It is then – when our hearts are clean that God will hear us and heal our land – not for our comfort but for His glory out of His love for His creation. Does it bother you that our obedience – the condition of our hearts –  is somehow tied to the darkness in this country?

There is a song – “Take My Life” by Micah Stampley that I first heard in a country church in Alabama. It was that song that was rolling around in my mind as I wrote this devotion this morning

"Take My Life"

Holiness, Holiness Is what I long for

Holiness Is what I need

Holiness, Holiness Is what you want For me


Righteousness, Righteousness Is what I long for

Righteousness Is what I need

Righteousness That's what you want for me

 

So take my heart And mold it

Take my mind Transform it

Take my will Conform it To yours To yours Oh Lord

 

Brokenness, Brokeness Is what I long for

Brokeness Is what I need

Brokeness, Brokenness That's what you want For me

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

If we want to see change in this country – the change must start in us.  God wants us to be holy – a bright light in a dark place. So let your light shine Christian.

“…. but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’ And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear” – 1 Peter 1:15-17

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

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Who or What Can Separate Us?

“Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” —Romans 8:33-35

I woke up this morning with this question on my mind. We met for lunch with a friend the other day. The conversation drifted into politics. It was only briefly, but a pinch of politics, to me, is like a pound of salt. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is important for the Christian voice to be heard – in our political system as well. But, politics is divisive – it divides family – friends – communities. It reminded me of the question – who or what can divide us – separate us.  If you agree that the Spirit of God unites us – with our Creator and with one another – and political differences can cause us to be divided – then what is it that dominates our being – our relationships? The spiritual or the natural. 

The acts of the flesh are obvious: ……. hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions…” –  Galatians 5:19-20

Those attitudes – no matter how hard you try to justify them – have nothing to do with the Spirit of God and should not – ever – be expressed in the lives of Christians – but they are aren’t they? Every day. For some reason, people – Christians believe that certain aspects of their lives are not governed by their new nature. That thinking is born out of our sinful nature and our struggle with living by the Spirit and not the flesh.  Our friend told us that they were at odds with a relative because of different political views. There is nothing – not one aspect – of our lives that is not under the authority of our Lord – not one thing that is exempt from being submitted to the Spirit of God. Not one. But …. Most Christians live like they don’t believe it.  They live like there are certain aspects of their lives that are exempt. That they are free to act out in their flesh, their old nature and still be a witness for Jesus. Some might call that hypocrisy – but never the ones guilty of it. They would call it – justified.  Reading about it, you might agree with me, but it is in the practice of the truth that so many stumble.  You are in the middle of it before you know it. You can be convinced that you are right in your attitude toward someone and be absolutely wrong.

About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. Then a voice told him, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’ ‘Surely not, Lord!’ Peter replied. ‘I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.’ The voice spoke to him a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’” – Acts 10:9-15

Peter was convinced he was right in his thinking that the Messiah came for the Jews and not others. That he was to have nothing to do with the Gentiles. But God revealed the truth to him on the roof top and his subsequent encounter with Cornelius. Are there people that you have decided are “unclean”? Perhaps because of their ethnicity. Perhaps you are Black or Hispanic and have decided that white people are not worthy of your relationship simply because they are white or some other color or background.  Or maybe it is politics or maybe you just don’t like people from the Northeast or West coast or the South. You think you have it figured out – you feel justified in harboring those feelings – and you may not even know the person beyond seeing them or shaking their hand. Peter was convinced until God showed him otherwise.

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:35

In the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10), the question was asked, “Who is my neighbor?” in other words, who am I supposed (or do I have to) to love. Then Jesus shared the parable about someone the Jews hated showing love to someone who hated him. The love of God transcends every aspect of this natural life. Our challenge is to allow the Spirit of God to rule in us and shape us – transform us by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2)  Are you willing to let God show you a better way to love? It is contrary to your culture’s thinking and doing.  It is supernatural. Stop kidding yourself in thinking that God is pleased with dissension and strife. 

He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” – Micah 6:8

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