Friday, March 24, 2023

Willing To Abandon The Things Of This World

"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life[c]—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever." —1 John 2:15-17

“Our Lord’s teaching can be summed up in this: the relationship that He demands for us is an impossible one unless He has done a supernatural work in us. No amount of enthusiasm will ever stand up to the strain that Jesus Christ will put upon His servant. Only one thing will bear the strain, and that is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ Himself— a relationship that has been examined, purified, and tested until only one purpose remains and I can truly say, “I am here for God to send me where He will.” Everything else may become blurred, but this relationship with Jesus Christ must never be. If we are to be disciples of Jesus, we must be made disciples supernaturally." Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest

Many of Chamber’s devotions were derived from his lectures at a Bible College.  He was speaking to men and women who had been called by God to service beyond what most of us are called to after our conversion.  But, the principles are the same for all of us.  Even the person with only one spiritual gift, and that they may consider to be almost non-essential (God does not agree with them by the way), faces the same challenges that every other saint faces in living their new life.  We are all called to abandon the same things, even though for most it will be an abandonment in the heart, but with a few, it will require physical - actual, abandonment.  It is one thing to say that you love God more than your family, it is quite another to leave your family and go on Mission for God.  It is one thing to say that you do not love the things of this world, it is quite another to sell your house and put your retirement at risk in order to go where God has said “Go!”.

I would find it very difficult to write these things to you if I had no intention of doing them myself.  When I was on staff with Promise Keepers in the ‘90s, there was a saying that was popular among us.  “You can’t teach what you don’t know, you can’t lead where you won’t go, and you can only recreate what you are.”  The secret to going is obedience and faith.  Faith comes from God and obedience comes from a “broken and contrite heart”, wholly submitted to the will of God.  Every step you take for God requires the power of God.  It is a glorious life .. living by faith and not by sight.  The person who abandons the things of the world in their heart is no less faithful than the one who abandons their life physically in response to the call of God.  The point is being obedient to God no matter what He calls you to do or how He says to do it. So when the Spirit whispers in your ear, “This is the way walk in it.”  (Isaiah 30:21) Walk on! … to the glory of God and in testimony to a world that needs Jesus.

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, March 22, 2023

Does God Always Hear Me?

"Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false, and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the Lord, and vindication from the God of his salvation. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob." - Palm 24:3-6

Does it matter that I have unconfessed sin in my heart when I pray to God? Will He hear my prayers? Let me ask this. Can I be in the presence of God with sin in my heart? Having clean hands and a pure heart, I think means that I have dealt with the sins that so easily beset us. You know - the sins I commit everyday. 

"For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it." - James 2:10

It is like washing your feet. Do you remember the story about Jesus washing the disciples feet. Frankly I think the point gets lost because we focus on the physical foot washing and not the spiritual point that Jesus was making.

"He [Jesus] came to Simon Peter; and Peter said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not know now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part in me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “He who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet" - John 13:6-9

Let me say that last verse in another way, "He who has been born again does not need to wash his whole body again - only his feet." The sins that he has picked up as he traveled through the world that day.

1 John 1:9 tells us to confess our sins and God is faithful to "wash our feet".  If we are to stand clean before God - and it is the only way we can stand in His presence, then we need to wash our feet before we do. That is why I do not think that God will hear our prayers if he regards sin in our hearts. If we have dirty feet, if you will.

My point is that you should be careful that you don't minimize the significance of "small" sins. God does not wink at those sins. And neither should we. Jesus has made a way for us to enter into God's presence - but don't forget that He is holy and can have no part of sin.

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, March 21, 2023

How Many Times - I wonder - But Do I Really Want to Know

"Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven." - Matthew 18:21-22

I visited a "life group" (aka Sunday School class) at a local church this past Sunday. The ensuing discussion in the class had to do with forgiveness- John 8 - the adulteress. In Matthew, Peter asks Jesus how many times that someone must forgive another person. Seven seemed like a reasonable number - after all it is the "perfect" number Biblically speaking right? WRONG! Jesus said we must keep on forgiving - forgiving when someone repents - is truly sorry for their offense. Just like God forgives us.

He then went on to share a parable about the unforgiving servant.  Someone who had been forgiven for much but was unwilling to show the same grace and mercy to others. By the way, we should not confuse forgiveness and trust. They are two separate things. Forgiveness should be granted to a repentant person, but trust must be earned. Having a lack of trust has nothing to do with loving someone or forgiving them. It is a recognition of a person's weakness in some area of their life. It is easy for us to point to other's weaknesses and brush aside, make excuses for, our own. The fact is that there are areas in our lives where we cannot be trusted either. It is the issue of the speck and the beam.

"For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 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 7:2-5

To be forgiven means that what you have done will not be held against you. I told the people in the meeting that I know when I have forgiven someone because when I remember their sin, I no longer am angry, bitter, or resentful toward them. 

"For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us." - Psalm 103:11-12

How can it be that we, who have been forgiven for so much would be unwilling to grant that same forgiveness to others?  Well, in short, it is our sin nature that has risen up. Unless we have the attitude of David in Psalm 51, we will not find forgiveness. Forgiving someone just like God has forgiven us is a reflection of the light that is in us as children of God - redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. Be careful about demanding retribution for the offenses of others when people come to you with a broken and contrite heart.

"Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight— That You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge..... Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners shall be converted to You." - Psalm 51: 1-4, 10-13

Did you catch that? Forgiving is teaching transgressors God's ways and sinners will be converted.

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, March 20, 2023

Go And Sin No More

"When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” - John 8:10-12

I wish I could say that what I am about to write will be indisputable - but I don't think it is. It is what I believe that Word of God says but the effect of sin in the Believer's life has been a point of debate for centuries. Smarter and godlier men and women than me have struggled with the reality of sin in the lives of those who have been saved from the consequence of sin which is eternal separation from God.

So - the point of my writing this is to challenge your thinking not cause doubts about your faith. A new friend here in Florida has invited me to attend his Bible study class this Sunday morning. When I asked what they were studying he said (texted actually) "John 8:2-11, Jesus gave me grace and forgiveness."

When I read the passage Jesus words, "Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more." brought Romans 8 to mind. The woman had sinned. Jesus was not pretending that she had not. But He was calling her to repentance and a life of faith in Him. I think that He was telling her to abandon her life of adultery. To choose to go another way. I don't think he was telling her to never sin again.  But like so many before whose faith was accounted to them as righteousness, she could look forward to that day, to Jesus and His sacrifice for many. The Helper, the Holy Spirit had not yet arrived. That wouldn't happen until Jesus had ascended. The point is that doing what Jesus told her to do would require faith not simply trying harder to not sin. The thing is, she would sin again. Perhaps not adultery, but sin she will - just like us after we are born again by faith. 

It is an interesting conundrum we face. We are to resist temptation - not sin - yet we will give in and we will sin again. So what is the deal?

"There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh" - Romans 8:1-3

Trying to live a sinless life through the human effort - to be acceptable to God by trying to be good is futile. We were not saved because we decided that we would not sin anymore. We were born into sin and it was impossible for us to overcome the penalty of that sin or our being drawn to it like a moth to a flame.

 "But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." - Ephesians 2:4-9

Because we continue to struggle with sin in no way means that our sins do not matter. Meaning that somehow my sinning does not matter since I have been saved from the eternal consequence of sin.

" Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous. Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more,  so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?" - Romans 5: 18-21, 6:1-3

God, the Father, sent Jesus, the Son, to suffer and die - in our place. We focus on the cross and His physical death - which was necessary - but there was something eternal going on as well. Where Jesus, the innocent, was separated from the Father so that we, the guilty, might be saved through Him. How could we think that continuing in sin is OK - of no importance.

"If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all 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 1:6-10

If you live your life any way you choose - walking in the darkness - in the power of your flesh - and not by the Spirit - you may fool others, but you do not fool the One who called you out of the darkness into the light.

"No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it." - 1 Corinthians 10:13

We are each faced with temptations - every day. I wish I could say that I have not sinned since I was born again - but that would make me a liar. I do find that my sin is predominately internal and not external. Mine are sins of the heart which man cannot see, but God can can see them. 

Don't be content with your propensity to sin as if it does not matter anymore. Walk in the light.

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

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

Bound For Eternity - Which Departure Gate Are You Taking

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day." - 2 Corinthians 4:15-16

You are aware of people's preoccupation with wanting to be or look younger than they are? If they can't reverse the aging process - which they can't, then at least they can try to look younger. Companies make millions of dollars every year convincing people that they can look young if they can no longer be young. I am sure you have heard that you are never to ask a woman her age. I have never been sure about why not - unless it is about vanity. Hello! I have to catch myself now and again. 

This year I will be 73. It is not uncommon for people to be surprised by that - and honestly, somehow I get a feeling of accomplishment, like I can take credit for it, when they comment that they had no idea because I look younger. Vanity raises its ugly head again! My physical body is not the inner man Paul was referring to. Our bodies are made of the dust of the earth. The earth's elements. And those bodies are bound to die just like those in every generation before and after us. Until Jesus comes back. There is no fountain of youth that can change that. No pill. No cream. No diet plan.

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

We don't like to think about that, and should not dwell on it. It's just a fact. But what about what Paul calls the inner man (man being used generically). Personally, I have noticed that I don't "feel" any different on the inside. I might be 73 on the outside but I might well be 23 on the inside. It is the inner-me. The inner us that has an eternal capacity. We all have it. The admonitions about how we are to live and do from the Bible are not addressing the outer man - but the inner man. The heart of man if you will.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." 2 Corinthians 5:17

When we are born again, the inner-man is no longer bound to the first Adam like the outer man is - that old man is bound for an eternity separated from God, but we are redeemed by the second Adam, Jesus, bound for an eternity with the Creator God. And more, the way we relate to the world is new. Our regenerated inner man, a reflection of Jesus nature, is expressed through our outer-man. Or should be. And so, our preoccupation should not be about how we look on the outside, but how much light is shining from the inside.

You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." - Matthew 5:14-16

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, March 16, 2023

Having Faith But Still Having Doubts

“So He (Jesus) asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You (Jesus) can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”” - Mark 9:21-25

Up front – Some may think that devotions should be short.  A few sentences.  I write what the Lord lays on my heart.  Sometimes, like today, it can be lengthy.  No apologies, just know that is not likely to change.  

Have doubts? Join the club friend. I was talking with someone the other day.  The matter was concerning what seemed to be the imminent death of a loved one.  He said, “I sure hope that when I die, I find out this (our hope in heaven) is really true.”  (Have you ever had that thought?) That statement set me back for a second.  I never thought of him as having any doubts about his faith, but there it was.  The stress of the death or grave illness of someone you care about seems to have the effect of removing inhibitions from people.  Those situations reveal things that they typically keep hidden, and you wonder “Where did that come from?” or “I had no idea they felt that way!”  But to the point …

As Christians, we are on a journey of faith – like in Pilgrim’s Progress.  We are jars of clay, formed from dust.  There is something called the Law of Thermodynamics, actually there are 4 laws, like Newton’s 3 Laws of Motion, except different. “Energy cannot be created or destroyed. In other words, in a closed system, the total amount of energy that can be taken out of the system will be equal to the total amount of energy that was put into the system.” That might be why people think that they can be reincarnated.  If you leave this form, you will “pop-up” in another form.  Zero sum.  Whatever is taken away is put back in.  (Hang with me, I am almost finished with the physics lesson!!!) My point is that these “laws” are nothing more than man’s observation of God’s creation.  The truth is that God can do what He wants to do, whenever He wants to do it.  He operates on an eternal clock and we operate on seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years. Hey, we do the best we can.  

Here is the problem.  If we try to figure God out on our own, we are doomed to failure.  

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” - Isaiah 55:8-9

You, with your mortal natural mind, cannot figure God out.  

The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.” - 1 Corinthians 2:14

You see, in order to not have doubts, you must see the world as God does, and you can only do that by the power of God’s Spirit in you.  We are given an account of a young boy being healed by Jesus in Mark 9.  The boy was apparently beyond human help, but not beyond the help of Jehovah Rapha.  The God who heals!

All of us face impossible situations. Situations that challenge the promises of God and our faith.  Hebrews 11:1 says that Faith is about things hoped for and not seen.  If you want to strengthen your faith you can do two things.  First, be reminded of when God showed up in impossible circumstances and next, keep your heart and mind fixed on Jesus.  If you don’t do that you will suffer spiritual atrophy and when that happens you will be plagued by doubt. (Proverbs 3:5-6) “Trust in the Lord in all your ways and not your own mental capacity.” In one of the Indiana Jones movies, Indy was confronted by a huge man with a huge sword.  Then Indy remembered that he was carrying a gun, so he shot the man carrying the sword.  Well, in a way, Indy is me and you.  Faced with impossible circumstances, we must remember that we are “packing”.  We have the Holy Spirit in us .. the Creator God is on our side .. and He is faithful to His promises. You can believe that!

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

What To Do When Someone Treats You Unfairly

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” - Matthew 5:11-12

I was talking with someone the other day.  I thought we had a good relationship.  That we saw the world in the same way – from God’s perspective.  That we understood that we each were devoted to living for Christ.  Then, out of the blue, they suggest that I was acting with wrong motive, a lack of integrity. The feeling that flooded in was indignation.  What they had suggested was the farthest thing from the truth.  I could feel the “old man” wanting to rise up. I know that my tone changed, even though I controlled my tongue.  

Has that ever happened to you?  Being falsely accused is painful.  It’s one thing to have actually done wrongly and then be found out.  It is quite another to have done nothing wrong, but be accused and treated as if you had all the same.  Jesus said you are blessed when that happens. By the way, that is what the people - including religious leaders, did to Jesus as well.  So you want to be known as a Jesus follower.  You want to do the will of the Father. Are you willing to suffer like Jesus did? Or are you “in this” for the good stuff only?  

In verses 13-16, Jesus went on to say that we are to be salt and light.  The habitation of the Spirit of God makes it possible to respond to the world – even when there is injustice perpetrated against you – in a way that glorifies God.  It means that you must lay your pride and ego on the altar.  You must resist the temptation to “strike back”.  Listen it is one thing to not do something but feel it in your heart.  It is another thing to not do something and then have compassion for the person giving the unjustified offense. 

Sin is birthed from the heart not the hand or the mouth.  The Apostle John said that if you hate you are guilty of murder.  (1 John 3:15)  Jesus said if you have lustful thoughts about a person of the opposite sex, who is not your spouse, you are guilty of adultery.  (Matthew 5:27-28) You don’t have to act on the thought to have sinned.  It is when you resist the thought and submit to the Spirit that you are salt and light.  Showing grace and mercy is a spiritual act and is contrary to the nature of your flesh.

It is not something that you can do by trying to control yourself.  You will be successful only if you stop trying and start trusting. So what did I do?  There was a struggle in my heart. The “old man” wanted to rise up, but he did not, by the grace of God. Instead, I followed up our conversation with a text telling them that I understood that they had significant responsibility and a difficult job to do.  

You see, it was really not about me at all.  It was about the stress of the responsibility they had to bear.  Had I made an issue of it out of pride and a feeling that I needed to vindicate myself, I would have done harm.  Oh, my flesh would have “felt” better, but there would have been no salt and light.  

Life is full of opportunities for you to show Jesus to the world. But, you have to be ready and you have to be willing.  Are 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

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

When God Shows Up

"But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased." - Matthew 14:30-32

Some time back I saw a miracle happen.  God showed up in an impossible situation.  My oldest sister, who had significant lung and heart problems was in the hospital.  Her lungs had stopped working.  She was on a ventilator.  The hospital staff was trying to prepare the family for the inevitable.  The family had accepted the fact that our sister was not leaving the hospital alive this time.  While I was talking with my sister she wrote on a pad of paper, "I may go to heaven today"  She was ready. 

In 1976, as a brand spanking new Christian, I had led my sister to the Lord.  In preparation for her death, I had reminded her of that, of whose she was, a child of the King.  That her hope was in Heaven.  That God knows her name, she is not forgotten. I had put the call out for prayer to the Saints. Her children and husband had asked me to pray for her, multiple times over the past few days.  They had a look of desperation in their eyes. They were helpless and perhaps, hopeless.  And then, God showed up. The unimaginable happened. The doctor removed the ventilator tube and she started breathing on her own.  One morning she was making her peace with God.  Saying her last goodbyes. The family was flying in expecting the worst.  The next afternoon, she was sitting in a chair, eating and talking.

I taleked to her daughter after the miracle about faith and confidence in God.  So very often when we pray, we pray without real hope.  We are really not expecting God do intervene.  Oh, we would love it if He did, but we don't have the confidence that He will.  Perhaps He is not really listening.  I reminded her of Jesus responding to Peter on the water and the disciples in the boat … "Why did you doubt?' "Where is your faith?"

As I looked around the waiting room in CICU yesterday, I saw relief on the faces of those who loved my sister. But I was amazed to see that they missed the fact that Jesus had just showed up in their midst.  He reached out His hand and pulled Sherrie up from the water.  He had stretched out His hand and said, "Peace, be still." to the storm that was raging in CICU that day.  But there was no glory given to God. No recognition of God's answered prayer.  They focused on what happened - Sherrie was not going to die - and not why she was not going to die.  

This had given me pause to reflect.  Proverbs 3:5-6 are verses that are part of the scriptural foundation in my life.  That day, I was reminded that, for the most part, people don't trust in God but see the world in the light of their own understanding.  Those who are lost and blind to spiritual things, are incapable of seeing God at work, although they do see the result of His working.  They just don't know why something happened.  But the Saints should have been shouting Hallelujah in the halls, instead they were looking for their car keys so they could go home and get some rest. 

I want to encourage you to be watchful and aware.  This faith of ours is not a vain faith.  The Bible does not just represent some nice thoughts that help us get through life.  God is real.  He still intervenes in the affairs of man.  He hears the prayers of the Saints. And from time to time, He shows up and does something miraculous.  That time, it was for my sister's good and for His glory. And I praise Him for it.  Hallelujah!

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, March 13, 2023

Standing In The Presence Of God

"…having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus…" —Hebrews 10:19

We must never lose sight of who God is.  You may think, “Oh I know who He is.  He is the  ……. “ Yet we can become irreverent in our attitude and even references to God.  Have you ever heard someone call God “the man upstairs”?  Maybe they refer to Jesus as "JC".  Or maybe they use the name of the Father or the Son as some form of an expletive - profanity. Normally when I hear that I assume that the person is not born again, but unfortunately that is not necessarily so.  Do you recall when God spoke to Moses on the mountain?

“When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.”  - Exodus 3:4-6

Why take off his sandals?  When you are in the presence of the Creator God, you must stand clean before Him.  Taking off his sandals represented all of the things that Moses had picked up from a sinful the world.  As born again children of God, we have access to the Holy of Holies – God’s presence through the blood of Jesus – through the veil that was torn.  But that does not mean that we can approach God with sin in our heart .. any way we want to .. like the relationship between us is up to us and not God. 

Years ago it was customary for people to dress up in the “Sunday-go-to-meetin’ clothes” when they went to church.  It was akin to taking off their shoes in the presence of God.  Today – there is a casualness with respect to church attire.  Shorts and flipflops are considered acceptable.  It’s not really about the clothes you wear on the outside but your heart on the inside.  

Jesus said  “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” Matthew 23:25-26 

A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart.” Proverbs 21:2

 I want to encourage you to consider how you approach God.  If you are going to talk with Him – your heart must be clean.  You should have a reverence toward Him.  Moses had to look away because of God’s glory.  I have a friend who stands in his bare feet when he preaches.  When I first saw that, I thought it was a little quirky.  But on reflection, it is actually out of great reverence toward God.  A reminder to himself that what he is doing has eternal consequences as he is fulfilling his God-given purpose. He is very aware that he has a great responsibility to a holy God and must stand clean before Him.  How about 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

Acceptance From My Father

"Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure." - 1 John 3:1-3

I was working with a volunteer the other day. I showed her how to use a pneumatic construction stapler to secure slats on a bed frame. She was so excited and said that she wished that her dad could see her - he would be so proud. I took a picture of her stapling the bed frame and sent it to her. Her comment made me think about seeking a father's approval.

I think seeking approval from our fathers is something that is woven into our DNA. The only problem being that we live in a world that has been corrupted by sin - just like everything else that is good and rightly designed by God.  People want approval from their parents, and their dads in particular. Their dad may be a good dad or a not so good dad, but still there is the hope that he will approve of his children. Affirming their value. Allaying their doubts that they are somehow flawed - not good enough - unloved even.

I have known a number of people that were denied that approval - that affirmation - in their childhood and even in their adult lives.  They spend their lives seeking it. Trying to grasp something that they want desperately but is always seems just out of reach. Maybe they just have to try a little harder! They may even see other siblings receive approval which only reinforces the idea that maybe it's them. Maybe they don't deserve it. Listen, if this is not you then you are indeed blessed. But if it is you, then you need to read this because there is good news.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.  In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory." - Ephesians 1:3-14

Our Father loves us with an everlasting love. We are accepted and blessed, not because we deserve it but because He loves us. Because Jesus made the way for us. And we have been sealed by His Spirit, like a stamp of His approval - proof that we are His children. Approval not based upon how He happens to feel that day - He never changes and His love never fails. I did not have the impression that the woman I mentioned had a bad relationship with her dad - but still the need to affirm his approval was important to her.

As a final note. Dads and moms, make certain your children know that they are loved - not because they are perfect - but because they are your children. Show them the love of your Father and point them to Jesus. Be the 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

Friday, March 10, 2023

Touch Of The Masters Hand

'For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us." - 2 Corinthians 5:14-20

I was listening to a song yesterday - "The touch of the Master's hand". In short, it is about a violin being sold at auction. No one wanted it until someone picked it up, tuned it and with the bow played a beautiful song. The bidding went up from a few dollars to thousands. When asked why that happened -what made the violin so valuable, the auctioneer answered - "It was the touch of the master violinist's hand."

That led my thinking to 2 Corinthians. We all remember who we were before we met Jesus on the road. For many of us, we have a hard time believing that our lives can be a beautiful song because of our old lives. But if you believe the Word of God is truth, and I hope you do, then you must know that the Word is truth for everyone - including you. The Accuser will always be ready to remind you that you have a past and you are no-wise perfect. That is true as well because on your own you are not even close. But in the Master's hand you are. Not because of anything you have done, won't do or will do, but because of Jesus and His work of reconciliation for us to the Father.

This is a word for someone today - I don't know who and really don't need to. I want to encourage to embrace your new life in Christ. 

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, March 9, 2023

Obedience Is About Trust Not Understanding

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones." - Proverbs 3:5-8

 “There are times in your spiritual life when there is confusion[…]. It is not a matter of right and wrong, but a matter of God taking you through a way that you temporarily do not understand. And it is only by going through the spiritual confusion that you will come to the understanding of what God wants for you. […]  he time will come when everything will be explained. Jesus said that there are times when your Father will appear as if He were an unnatural father— as if He were callous and indifferent— but remember, He is not. “When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). Will He find the kind of faith that counts on Him in spite of the confusion? Stand firm in faith, believing that what Jesus said is true, although in the meantime you do not understand what God is doing.” - Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

Understanding is not a pre-condition for God’s expectation that we obey Him.  There is something called Root-cause analysis that is intended to ferret out the true source of a particular problem.  One method is called the 5-Whys.  No – not 5 Guys, 5-Whys.  You keep asking why to every answer to why until you get to the root cause.  Perhaps you remember the saying, “For the want of a nail a shoe was lost, for the want of a shoe a horse was lost, for the want of a horse a king was lost, for the want of a king a kingdom was lost.”  The root cause of losing the kingdom was the loss of a nail in the horse’s shoe.  

Well, we ask “why” of God often as a pre-condition for obeying Him.  Have your children ever challenged you as their parent with “Why”?  “Because I said so!” was often my answer.  In a great respect that should be sufficient with God.  That He said so. We understand His nature.  We understand that there are things that we don’t know - that we don’t know.  God sees from beginning to end.  Jesus asked the question 

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”  - Matthew 7:9-11

Of course this had to do with praying to God, but the expectation is the same.  God will do what is best for us and what will bring glory to Himself as we obey Him.  It is critical that you know it is God.  If it is in His Word, His Word is truth (John 17:17)  You must be a Christian to know His voice (John 10:27)  And that means your heart must be right, as a result of submitting your life to the Spirit of God.  Ignoring God and going your own way is not good, in fact, it’s sin.  

 “Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.” -  James 4:17

There is a song that goes, “Yes Lord, yes.  I will trust you and obey.  Yes Lord yes, to your will and to your way.  When your Spirit speaks to me, with my whole heart I’ll agree. And I will answer Yes, Lord .. .Yes!”  

But friend, don’t stop with Yes … James reminds us that faith without works (stepping out in obedience by faith) is dead.  – of no practical value.

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