Thursday, July 29, 2021

What To Do With Sin

“ …. 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...” — Hebrews 12:1

We attended a church in Savannah, Georgia where the pastor, when he read a passage like this would say, “When you read the word ‘therefore’ you must look at the previous verses to see that ‘therefore’ is there – for. Well, chapter 11 was about people living by faith and the example they set for us.  You may not want to compare yourself to them or even other people you know that you consider “super-saints”, but the truth is that we are all the same.  Once the seed of Adam and now born again through Spiritual seed by faith.  Faith in the same God that those people mentioned in chapter 11 had – anointed by the same Spirit. Set apart like them to bring glory to God the Father.

So Paul is telling us that they are part of a great cloud of witnesses – witnesses of what? Of God’s faithfulness and the reality of living by faith. They can give witness to the fact that it is possible.  And therefore – knowing that – believing that – we should do as they did.  Live a life of faith. Putting a priority of living a life that honors God and is distinctively different from the way the world lives.  That we have the spiritual capacity to lay aside every weight that interferes with “right” living. That we can successfully resist the constant temptation to sin.  Sins of omission and sins of commission. Sins that are hidden in our hearts and thoughts and sins that we carry out. 

Do you think about sin much? By sin I mean practicing a life that is contrary to the new life that God has made so plain to us in His Word and through His Spirit. All of those people mentioned as heroes of the faith, struggled with it and , at times, succumbed to it. Yet they are seen as examples to be emulated. So they were not perfect and neither are we.  They stumbled and so do we. The point is that that they got back up, dusted themselves off, and pressed on in the race.  Sorry for the sin and committed to live a life that reflected their faith and honored God. They were not hypocrites who pretended that they were perfect – but humble – self-professed sinners – forgiven by God in whom they trusted and for whom they lived.

And that is who we are.  So what do you do when you sin? Make excuses for it – blame it on someone else – ignore it – redefine it and say it is not really sin or at least not as bad as what others people do – or maybe deny it. 

Also He [Jesus] spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” – Luke 18:10-14

So what are we supposed to do with sin? Confess it. Confession means to agree with – not reveal a secret. Unconfessed sin is like having a physical problem that you deny you have until it grows worse and causes even more physical problems – maybe even death. I see the turmoil that so many people live in – and that is their reality – that is what everyone’s life is like – so far as they know and have experienced.  But it is not. If they are Christians they have a choice to live another way – but not if they are wrapped up in sin.  Sin ensnares and entangles us. It keeps us from living a life of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23) The life God intended for us.

So what to do with sin? King David was one of those listed in Hebrews 11. He struggled with sin – stumbled. When confronted with it – he confessed and repented. He agreed with God and turned away from it. You cannot overcome sin through “won’t” power – but only by faith and the Spirit. Overcoming sin is a spiritual act. If we could do it on our own, Jesus could have stayed in heaven – the Cross would not have been necessary. But we can’t and the Cross was necessary.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:9

Think about it – Pray about it – Believe it – Walk in it. Let your light shine and give God the glory.

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

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Dealing With The Unexpected

“ …. 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. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways..” — James 1:2-8

Have you ever been in the place when your life was in its “groove”?  Things were humming right along. Harmony in the family, things going well at work, bills are getting paid, everyone is healthy. You don’t really have any problems, not like some people you know. And then it happens. Something unexpected – perhaps even catastrophic. You didn’t realize just how fragile your life was – is – things start falling like dominoes. In the military we called that event a “center of gravity”, some facet of a country that, if defeated, would cause the “house of cards” to come crashing down.  Even those things that were considered to be invulnerable. Who would of thought.  The same thing happens to people.  People have “centers of gravity”. Life is fragile. Those things that we thought could survive any trouble crumble under the pressure of the trouble that has come upon us. 

What I speak of happens to all people whose bodies are held to the soil of this planet by gravity, Christian or not.  Consider God’s servant Job!  However comma there is a difference for us Christians. It is called faith and eternal relationship with the Creator God.  Like Job. To persevere even when the “cards” are falling all around us – when the dominoes are falling – when the weight of the trouble seems more than we can bear – it is our faith that can sustain us.  The idea of weight lifting is that you lift weight that tests your muscles ability to resist the weight – to overcome it. The more your muscles are tested – the stronger they become. You have heard the saying, “No pain, no gain”? Well weight lifting is not pain free. If you lift weights that do not test your muscles, then you muscles will not get stronger – and you will avoid the pain associated with muscle development. 

The Apostle Paul did not say “if” you fall into trials, he said “when”.  They are unavoidable.  They will come in one form or another. The question is , “How will you respond when they do?”  Troubles will exercise your faith.  For some they will blame God for allowing it to happen – but for others they will seek God for the strength – through faith – to persevere even under the weight of the trial that has come upon them.  Listen, this is not something that can be figured out. Some step by step process – I can’t write a self-help book, “Overcoming problems for Dummies!” Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

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

And that is my encouragement to you, Christian. Have faith – trust in the God who has saved you through that very faith. Know that the trial you are in will strengthen you faith – even if you are not saved from it, but must instead see it through.  Let me close by reminding you of the fruit of the Spirit which is a reflection of a tested faith. You will bear this fruit in spite of your circumstances because it is supernatural – poured out in your life by God grace and mercy.

“…. the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. …… If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” – Galatians 5:22-23, 25

Think about it – Pray about it – Believe it – Walk in it. Let your light shine and give God the glory.

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

Monday, July 26, 2021

Running The Race

“… 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….” — Hebrews 12:1-2

Have you ever run in a race? Or maybe have you ever run – as an adult or teenager? Then you know what it is like.  There was a time when I ran 5 miles a day and 10 miles on Saturday .. that time is long past. But running a distance requires stamina and it requires determination. When my body would start to hurt and my lungs struggled for air, I would start focusing on the next telephone pole – I just had a thought that they are probably not called that anymore. Most often I ran by myself – but there were times when I would run with a buddy. During those times we would encourage and challenge each other – when we felt like we need to stop and walk a while or maybe call it a day!

When I was in the Army we had to take PT tests – Physical Training tests – sometimes several times a year. PT tests were something you had to pass or suffer the consequences – up to being asked to leave the service.  I recall one test in particular while attending the Armor (tanks) Officer Basic Course as a second lieutenant. It was right after graduation from college and my commissioning as an officer in the Army.  As part of the course, we had to take a PT test (several actually). There were four parts to the test, one of which was the 2 mile run.  One of the guys I had been in ROTC with at the University of Florida was in the same class with me. He had always been a little on the “pudgy” side – pudgy by Army standards – always bumping the maximum weight for his height.  As we ran the quarter mile track, I ran past him as he started walking.  I turned around and started encouraging him to keep moving.  Just a couple more laps to go.  The evaluators were calling to me to keep running and leave him.  I stayed with him until he started running again – albeit slowly – but running.  I finished the run within the allotted time, but my overall score was affected – passing but not as high as it could be.  So why share this with you? Not so you think me a martyr but to make a point.

“…. encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Two points to be made.  First – We are told to encourage one another because, from time to time, we need to be encouraged.  To come along others when they are facing difficult times. To “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2) Second – when you do the first, it may come at a cost to you.  You may need to set your agenda aside for the sake of someone else, “to lay down you life for a friend” (John 15:13).  What I am talking about is walking out your faith and loving others more than your own interests.  All of us have opportunities to do that – every day.

By the way, sometime later, that same friend went on to flight school to become an Army Aviator, just like I did. I don’t take credit for that, certainly, but I do think that God used me in my friend’s life at a particular moment to encourage him to press on. Just like He wants to use you.

Think about it – Pray about it – Believe it – Walk in it. Let your light shine and give God the glory.

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


Thursday, July 22, 2021

Don’t Be A Could-A-Had-A

“… And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” — Romans 8:28

God has a grand purpose for His creation. As His adopted children we have the opportunity to participate in the working out of that purpose or not. But our participation is not necessary for His purpose to be accomplished. When I typed “adopted”, I thought about all of the people who have been adopted as children and later sought out their birth parents. For some it becomes their life’s mission, as if to fill a void. For us, we don’t have to search for long – before we were saved by faith and “adopted” our father was Satan. No. I am not making it up. It is not like we didn’t have a family before salvation – there are really only two groups of people in this world – those who are saved and those who are not saved. It is an eternal relationship that I am talking about. We all will spend eternity with God in Heaven or with Satan in Hell. Satan is the “god of this world” which is why he could tempt Jesus in the wilderness.

Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, ‘All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! For it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’” – Matthew 4:8-10

Satan could not give it if it was not his to give.  Otherwise it would not have been a temptation to Jesus. If someone said that if you would do something for them then they would give you your father’s car, you would  say, “It is not yours to give” and it would not be a temptation.  The great deception of Satan is that people have more than two choices – there are many ways to spend eternity with God in heaven. 

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” – John 14:6

We are faced with temptations every day. Temptations to choose poorly and embrace our old nature – missing our opportunity to participate in God’s glorious purpose. Jesus was obedient to the point of going to the Cross, from which people can find redemption by faith through the obedience of the Son – the Way and Truth and Life. It is something that none of us can fully understand but all of us have the opportunity to embrace and find adoption as sons and daughters of the Creator God. But it is not just getting your ticket to heaven punched. God will use us as His plan is played out over the generations. 

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:10

We have the privilege of being active participants in God’s eternal plan and purposes – or not – it is our choice. To join in we must be willing to lay our natural lives and affections down – Like Jesus in the wilderness.  As Christians, our unwillingness to do that will not subvert the plans of God. What He set in motion at the beginning of time, will be accomplished – it will not be thwarted because we choose to sit on the sidelines to watch the game.  When we were assigned to the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment Aviation squadron in El Paso, Texas I remember a TV commercial for Peter Piper’s Pizza.  We loved the Jalapeno pizza! The man on the commercial would say, “Don’t’ be a Could-a-had-a. I could-a-had-a Peter Piper pizza!” And I say to you – “Don’t be a could-a-had-a. You could-a-had-a most amazing life on this planet if only you had chosen God and said “Yes Lord” when you were given the opportunity to join Him in working out His eternal plan.”

Think about it – Pray about it - Believe it – Walk in it. Let your light shine and give God the glory.

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

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

The Beauty Of Nature And Spiritual Understanding

“… 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.” — Romans 1:19-21

Have you ever wondered why people find a sense of peace, wonder, even joy when they see natural wonders?  Could be clouds in the sky, a starry night, green pastures, majestic mountains, lakes, rivers, streams, forests, perhaps a doe with her fawns, other wildlife  – the list goes on. Well, I believe, and am certain the Bible supports that belief, that God has put that wonderment and appreciation in every human being – it is part of our DNA. God’s invisible attributes clearly seen in His creation and yet, for the most part, God does not receive the credit. That is where our sin nature comes in. It is not until we have “spiritual eyesight” can will we give credit where credit is due – that being to the Creator God. 

Being able to see and appreciate what we consider to be beauty is something that we, well … just do.  We don’t understand it. Martie and I recently visited Yellowstone Park in celebration of our 50th wedding anniversary – actually that is not until next January. We were in awe of everything that we saw. Natural beauty surrounded us (as did hundreds of cars).  God’s creation draws us – almost irresistibly, to it – to bathe in its splendor.  And yet there are those who say – there is not God – that all of this organization came out of chaos – it just happened. For those who do not know God there really no other answers – it was either God or it was not. If we say “it was not” then we must come up with some other answer, which by the way, requires more faith than believing it was God. But our sinful hearts will not let us believe God did it.  And even if we might yield to that truth, it is not until we yield our hearts to His Son by faith will we understand.  

Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.” – Ephesians 1:16-21

Think about it – Pray about it - Believe it – Walk in it. Let your light shine and give God the glory.

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

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

The Only Way Two Can Walk Together

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 4:20-21

Have you ever known a family, maybe yours, where the brothers and sisters did not get along? Some unresolved hurt or perhaps disagreement over some issue.  I have been told of brothers who have not talked for years. With respect to our spiritual family – there has been much division. For one reason or another – there has been division and strife in the family. It is not directed at everyone – just some. When it comes to the Church, there is an undeniable racial – ethnic – cultural divide in the Body of Christ. It is like the “elephant in the room”. People just don’t want to think about it and are offended when the issue is raised. As someone once said “de-nial” is not a river in Egypt!

We find it so very easy to show grace and peace and love to people we like or who are like us. But for those that our culture has rejected – siding with our culture and embracing the carnality of that – we reject those in our spiritual family feeling justified in doing so.  It is a great lie that has been perpetrated by Satan and embraced by Christians – red, yellow, brown, black and white (all precious in His sight) as truth and reasonable. All the while chiming in to sing “Oh how I love Jesus!”

For reconciliation to happen – for the Body of Christ to be the light and salt that God intends, there must be repentance – before that can happen there must be confession – acknowledgment of sin before God. I have seen that one group expects another group to do that corporately -  as a whole. But the sin I am talking about is individual – hearts rended and broken before God – one heart at a time. You and I cannot use the sins of others to justify our own sin. “Why did you hit your brother?” the mother asks. “He hit me first” is the reply. The thinking being, “after all I had to defend myself and my anger toward my brother is justified.” My reply to that argument is read the Bible again.

What the Body of Christ lacks is a spiritual response to division in the Body of Christ.  On the other hand right hearts must be on both sides of the relationship,

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

We must both be first reconciled in our hearts toward God and second toward one another.  There can be no unity if there is no reconciliation of the hearts of those seeking unity. The two greatest commandments – the ten commandments summarized – Love God and Love One Another (Your Neighbor). 

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

If our hearts are right, we will not make distinctions between Christians based upon nationality, race, ethnic origin (if you believe the Bible is true, at the root of all humanity’s natural DNA is Adam), cultural practices, economics, or geography. It must be based solely on our faith. We must not only identify with Christ, but with each other. We are to be “one” that the “world may believe the You [the Father] sent Me [the Son]”. Do you see the gravity of division in the Body? Division caused by our flesh – it is no-wise spiritual. Do you understand that anything less than unity in the Body is sin. 

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

Think about it – Pray about it - Believe it – Walk in it. Let your light shine and give God the glory.

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

Monday, July 19, 2021

Finding Your True Identity

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

I have written about our new identity on a number of occasions.  I think that understanding who we are as Christians and what that means with respect to how we live our day-to-day lives is critical and essential if we are to fulfill our purpose.  Imagine that I wanted to be a pilot (which I am). I researched everything about aviation and the science behind flight. I went to schools to learn how to fly and earned my pilot’s license. Perhaps even bought an airplane, but then I never flew again. Oh – I would carefully maintain the airplane – perhaps taxied around the airfield from time to time. I could claim to be a pilot – I was – in fact but not in deed. To fulfill the purpose of being a pilot, I had to leave the ground and take to the skies. Being a pilot became something I did, not who I was. (Hmmm – starting to sound a lot like me!)

To identify with Christ – to identify as a Christian – means that I must not only study about faith – go to “school” or church – place my faith in Jesus – be baptized – but, I have to take to the skies. I must not just “Be” but “Do”. Most, if not all, who read this will agree with me, in principle.  I have not said anything to this point for which I will not get a “Yes” and “Amen”.  

Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany, He [Jesus] 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.’” – Mark 11:12-14

So what does a fig tree have to do with this?  We are to bear fruit in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2) With respect to the fig tree – it wasn’t just anyone who came to the fig tree – it was the One who was in the Beginning – the one by which everything that was made was made (John 1:3) The same One through Whom we have life.

And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” – 1 John 5:11-12

So finally to the point of all of this! If we are to identify with Christ and bear fruit – then we are to identify with other Christians as well. We should not make distinctions between Christians based upon nationality, race, ethnic origin (if you believe the Bible is true, at the root of all humanity’s natural DNA is Adam), economics, or geography. It must be based solely on our faith.

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

We must not only identify with Christ, but with each other. We are to be “one” that the “world may believe the You [the Father] sent Me [the Son]”. Do you see the gravity of division in the Body? Division caused by our flesh – it is no-wise spiritual. That anything less than unity in the Body is sin. If you have confessed have indeed been saved.

For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” – Romans 10:10-13

Think about it – Pray about it - Believe it – Walk in it. Let your light shine and give God the glory.

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

Thursday, July 15, 2021

There Is A Time For Everything

To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven….. — Ecclesiastes 3:1

Time has been weighing heavy on my mind of late. As I get “longer in the tooth” I wonder what waits for me around the next bend in the road that I travel. What happens after the next tick of the clock.  Am I to be like so many dusty books sitting on a neglected shelf – filled with information – but no longer considered valuable.  It is a transition in life – life is full of transitions.  Martie and I were talking about that very thing this morning and then she shared Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 with me.  She pointed out there is not a verse that says there is a time to retire – but, I might add, there is one for a time to die. 

So what is my point? If you have stopped serving – it is by choice not by design. There are opportunities to exercise your spiritual gifts if your heart and spiritual eyes are open.  The manner in which you exercise those gifts may change – but you are still in the race – if you choose to be. I have said, tongue in cheek, that I refuse to get on a bus with a bunch of “old people” to take a trip to Branson, Missouri.  To become an observer and not a participant.  I remember being contacted by a pastor while we were serving in Mississippi after Katrina. He said that he took the “seniors” on an excursion, an adventure, once a month and wanted to bring them to Waveland. They arrived in a 40 passenger tour bus.  The pastor got off the bus and I said, “You know when they get back on the bus they will be dirty, right?” He had not thought that through so he asked if we could ride around the disaster area and I could explain what had happened.  I did but resolved that I would never do that again – Destroyed homes and uprooted families are not a tourist attraction – or a curiosity and photo opportunity. Maybe that is why I have an aversion to bus rides.

Your usefulness to the Kingdom does not end when you qualify for Social Security. Your earthly value will end when the Lord calls you home – but not until then.  Organized church practice is to group Christians by age. To move older Christians aside to make room for younger ones.  That may work for the culture – but not for the Body of Christ.  There is so much wisdom that has been put on the shelf to gather dust.

The silver-haired head is a crown of glory, If it is found in the way of righteousness.” – Proverbs 16:31

When you see an older person – maybe looking in the mirror – do you see a crown of glory – a fountain of spiritual wisdom – or merely someone who has run their course – ready to be put out to pasture. 

The glory of young men is their strength, And the splendor of old men (and women) is their gray head.” – Proverbs 20:29

Think about it – Pray about it – Believe it – Walk in it. Let your light shine and give God the glory.

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

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Be Careful What You Render Unto Caesar

“'Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?’ But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, ‘Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? Show Me the tax money.’ So they brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, ‘Whose image and inscription is this?’ They said to Him, ‘Caesar’s.’ And He said to them, ‘Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’” — Matthew 22:17-21

We live in a time in the course of human events when there has never been more tension between what belongs to God and what belongs to Caesar (or the culture).  The laws of the land are rooted in the moral code – the consensus of the people in that culture. The laws change over time as the values and beliefs of the generations change. The laws are relative – not fixed. In some measure the laws of man are flawed – primarily because they products of the human heart. There is something called a Venn Diagram, which in its simplest form are two overlapping circles.  Where the circles overlap indicates commonality between the two circles.

In the same way, the laws of God and of Man are like two overlapping circles.  Where the circles of God and Man overlap – there is agreement. Where they do not – there is not agreement. God is a God of order, and He established governments for the welfare of the people.

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.” – Romans 13:1-2

So Jesus was telling those who had asked, that the authority that belongs to the government should be honored and the authority that belongs to God should be also honored. So what happens when there is a conflict. There is an issue that does not fall in the “overlap” of the circles. What to do then? The answer – you must default to the authority of the Creator God. In the military there is something called an “unlawful order”. That is an order – or law – that is contrary to a superior law. For example – an officer may give an order for someone to do something that is contrary to Military, national or international law. That order cannot be obeyed because it would cause you to violate a higher order. (Hope I am not being obtuse with this example.)

God does not change – His Word does not change – but the laws of man – the societies definition of what is right and what is wrong does change.  Do you remember the quote of then President Clinton, “It depends upon what the definition of ‘is’ is.” Man redefines what is right and wrong – even what certain words mean – according to the “prevailing winds” of the time and culture.

As Christians we have an unchanging moral compass, set in our hearts, that points us heavenward. When faced with an apparent dilemma of choosing between what God has said and what our culture says is true – we must render unto God what is God’s. Jesus was saying that if you are asking about paying taxes with money minted by the government – pay the tax – but if you are talking about something that falls within God’s domain and runs against the law of man – you must render your obedience to God.

Not obeying man’s laws in deference to God’s laws is called civil-disobedience.  It is the response that we witnessed in the life of Dr. Martin Luther King. Don’t expect the culture to applaud you for taking a stand for God. Somebody has to be right and somebody has to be wrong. From the culture’s perspective you will be wrong. And by its definition of right and wrong – you will be. To agree that you are right would mean that they are wrong – see the dilemma?  When there is conflict between the laws of man and God, the only way that the culture will agree with God’s law is by the Spirit of God convicting them of their sin.

This struggle will continue until Jesus returns for His Bride.  To that I say, Jesus come quickly! I shared these thought with you because I want you to be alert and aware of the spiritual conflict that is raging in our country and around the world. I want you to be aware that we are called to take a stand – to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s that is not contrary to that which is God’s.  It will require spiritual strength to do that – to not buckle under the pressure to conform – to go along so you can get along. That is not the purpose of salt and light.

Think about it – Pray about it - Believe it – Walk in it. Let your light shine and give God the glory.

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

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

How To Manage Your Anger

Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business.  When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. And He said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” Then His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.” — John 2:13-17

Have you ever heard someone use Jesus as an excuse as to the rightness of their being angry. I have.  It is a case of finding justification for sin.  Sin you say? Yes. In the Temple Jesus was honoring God by clearing the Temple of carnality – vain religion.  The religious leaders had allowed things that should not be as a means to an end – the end justifying the means. Jesus said no. I would suggest to you that what Jesus did was not permanent – that as soon as He left – the tables were set back up and everyone got back to “business” as usual. But to say that Jesus was angry and took it out on those people – well I think that is not correct. 

With respect to anger, I suppose you have to define what you think anger is.  The Cambridge dictionary says it is “a strong feeling that makes you want to hurt someone or be unpleasant because of something unfair or unkind that has happened” Jesus did not want to hurt someone – He wanted to honor God and make a point to the people.  It was about the sin and not the sinner. For most of us – it is both.  We have a hard time separating the two.  The feelings that rise up in us when we become angry have nothing to do with honoring God and exposing sin. What Jesus did was really about a spiritual problem – He used what people could see to make the point. (Read the next few verses to see His next point to the religious leaders.)

When I was in my first command in the Army, my First Sergeant told me that the soldiers who were brought before me for non-judicial punishment because of some violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice did not know that I was serious because I spoke in an even tone. They were in trouble but did not know it because of my demeanor. So I would raise my voice – maybe stand up from my chair (they were standing at attention). Maybe even lean forward on my desk. When they left my office, I would look at the First Sergeant and ask “How did I do?” and he would say “Great Sir, I think he understands you are not pleased.”  I was making a point – displaying emotion – but without the emotion.

So – anger – the anger that so many struggle with comes from the heart – I have heard it called a “secondary” emotion. In other words – there is something behind the emotion – frustration, disappointment, failure, a past hurt.  Pastor Rick Warren said that “Hurt people, hurt people.” For those who are in a place of authority – vocationally – like at your job – or relationally – like being a parent – it is easy to abuse that authority – to use it as a hammer – against someone who has done something that you are not happy about. (Know anyone like that?)

“‘Be angry, and do not sin’: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” —Ephesians 4:27-32

How can you be angry and not sin – again define anger – it is possible to have righteous indignation (to be angry) and not sin – purely Spiritual. Sin is born in the heart and comes from our fallen nature. I think that 99.9% of the anger that we show towards others has nothing to do with honoring God and everything to do with us, personally. And we would like to justify it by pointing to Jesus in the Temple or what Paul wrote to the Church in Ephesus. So you cling to “Be angry and do not sin” then what do you do with “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” Seems contradictory doesn’t it? I think it sounds like Jesus – the One in Whose image God the Father is conforming us.

So how do you manage your anger? You don’t.  You let the Spirit of God, who is in you, do it. “do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption”

Think about it – Pray about it - Believe it – Walk in it. Let your light shine and give God the glory.

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

Monday, July 12, 2021

Is Jesus Really The Lord Of Your Life?

But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say? Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great.” — Luke 6:46-49

I was talking with a friend the other day. Another Christian. A man that I had high regard for with respect to his faith. He is successful both in the eyes of the world and other Christians. And yet, he shared with me that his faith was shallow. That was a spiritual realization that came upon him.  A revelation brought to his mind and spirit through circumstances and the Spirit of God.  I take you back, once again, to Dr. Henry Blackaby who said, “God speaks by the Spirit through prayer, the Word, other Christians and circumstances.” You could say that God spoke to my friend. Has He ever spoken to you? I suspect so, but perhaps you were not listening or wanting to hear the Truth. It is a common problem for Christians.

Jesus challenged His followers, asking why they verbally acknowledged Him as Lord and yet lived their lives that were not consistent with the faith and devotion they expressed.

These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” —Matthew 15:8-9

This is the defining question we must all face and answer (but will likely ignore) – every day – “Who is the Lord of my life – Really?”  Who defines what I do, how I speak, what you think, how I treat other people? It is in our nature to find something to worship – to put our confidence in – to submit to. Whatever that is will be your lord – your god. It might be God the Father– or Jesus the Son – but, then again, it might be YOU, or money, or acceptance from other people – perhaps possession. My friend came face to face with the Truth of his choices and was brought to his knees, humbly before God.

We were saved to a new life. God wants to be at the center of our reality – not just given a seat on the sidelines. Who we are in Christ should define us not just label us. I have had people say of me, “Charley is the real deal.” Referring to who they thought that I am or was by observation. Words like that are certainly affirming, but it causes me to ask myself if it was deserved. People can see our outside but not our hearts. You never know when someone’s heart is far from God, even though they have a reputation that would suggest otherwise. Like the “Song of the Sirens” Christians are lured to the “rocks of life” every day. I know that I have feet of clay – so do you. Like my friend – we all struggle with our walk of faith. The fact that there is a struggle is proof of our spiritual nature. Like we would say in the Army – you need to keep your head on a swivel.  Be alert. The temptation to misplace your devotion is constant and insidious.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” – Proverbs 4:23

Think about it – Pray about it - Believe it – Walk in it. Let your light shine and give God the glory.

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

Friday, July 9, 2021

God Never Promised Us A Rose Garden

And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground." — Luke 22:41-44

Jesus is our example for living our new life – no I am not saying that being like Jesus in all ways is doable in this life, but He is our example. We know that the Father is conforming us into the image of the Son – so we will be like Him – but perfection will be just out of reach so long as we walk this earth. That is not a reason to be satisfied with our imperfection. We should continue to press on the upward way. Hmmm songs just seem to pop up in my mind!

I’m pressing on the upward way, New heights I’m gaining every day; Still praying as I onward bound, “Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.

Lord, lift me up, and let me stand By faith on Canaan’s tableland; A higher plane than I have found, Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.

My heart has no desire to stay Where doubts arise and fears dismay; Though some may dwell where these abound, My prayer, my aim, is higher ground.”  I’m Pressing On The Upward Way, Public Domain

Read John 17 to get a full account of Jesus prayer in the Garden – but the interesting point in Luke 22 is that we get a glimpse of Jesus the man (I think).  He had a dual nature – but then, if you are born again – so do you.  In order to walk in the will of God we are totally dependent upon the power of God. Jesus did not avoid the Cross – the cup from which He must drink – but the Father sustained Him through it. Even though it resulted in His physical death. We all face grievous troubles in our lives – it is not God’s will that we should face those troubles – He doesn’t cause them – but He can sustain us through them – in times of great sorrow and even if the result is physical death.  

 A friend shared that his daughter’s friend just passed away unexpectedly from an epileptic seizure – she was 3 months pregnant. How tragic. What a great loss. The question on everyone’s lips I am certain is “Why?”  I am certain that everyone reading this could share one or more experiences in this life that we would like to have seen God intervene and prevent them. But He did not. We live in a world that God did not intend, but He allowed. He did press the restart button with the Flood, but even then Noah’s family had its DNA roots in Adam and Eve – a sin nature. There will come a day when God “reboots” His creation – but that is not today – I don’t think. Another song – “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden. Along with the sunshine there’s gonna be a little rain sometime.” That is not in the Bible, but it could be – at least the principle.

 “…. 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. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” – James 1:2-8

Doubt is our nemesis. Lack of faith when facing or in the midst of a trial.  Keeping our focus – not trusting in ourselves to fix it and not blaming God when things don’t go our way. It takes spiritual perspective and understanding to live our new life – which is lived to its fulness in the midst of every circumstance that we must face – good and bad.  

Think about it – Pray about it - Believe it – Walk in it. Let your light shine and give God the glory.

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