Monday, December 6, 2021

There Is Hope For A Wounded Heart

The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite (desiring forgiveness) spirit.” – Psalm 34:18

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” – Psalm 147:3

Say to those who are fearful-hearted, “Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, With the recompense of God; He will come and save you.” – Isaiah 35:4

My wife and I just watched a documentary on the life of Audrey Hepburn. An Actress was loved by so many and so successful in the eyes of the world. People loved who they saw on the movie screen – forgetting that she was an actress – and like all other actors – she was – well – acting a part. But the documentary revealed Audrey Hepburn the person. What we saw was a woman who struggled with wounds of the heart which affected virtually all of her relationships.  Someone with a broken heart who had a smile on her face.

We can hide our hearts from people – at least from most people who don’t really know us – but not from God. If only Audrey met Jesus along the way – He sees all of us for what we are – deep inside. For Audrey Hepburn, a wounded child seeking what she had been denied – that thing that always seemed to be just beyond her grasp.

I would hazard to say that most, if not all, of us live with wounded hearts. Like I have said before – emotional wounds are not like physical wounds. I have had a number of physical aches and pains – cuts and bruises – sprains – but over time the pain subsided. I have a number of scars that remind me of some of those hurts – but, I cannot feel the hurt. I only know that I had it. Not so with my emotional wounds. Just the mention of an event can bring up the pain it caused – I feel it – like the day it happened. I am reminded that it hurt then and still does. Those memories make us sorrowful. We can pretend that is doesn’t matter anymore, but the truth is that it has shaped us and our view of the world. Just like it did for Audrey Hepburn. Fame and fortune, even acting, does not fix that hurt.

Have you ever eaten a cake made with lard? Frankly I don’t care for the taste – at least the taste of the cake I sampled. The cake did look wonderful. The icing was perfect – but one bite told me that the cake was not like my momma used to make. Like that cake – people can look good on the outside but there is something amiss on the inside. 

There are some things in this life that people are instinctively drawn to – like family. God has “programmed” the desire for family in every person – the desire to have a relationship with our mom and dad is in our DNA. To love and be loved. We want it more than we are likely to admit. When it is denied because of death or divorce, we yearn for it – even if we are not willing to admit it to others or even ourselves. Just like Audrey Hepburn. So what to do?

The documentary said nothing about faith, I suppose because in the minds of the people who put it together – faith had nothing to do with it. But when it comes to wounds of the heart, faith has everything to do with it. 

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

God is able to heal the heart – if we will but yield the hurt to Him and stop trying to fix it ourselves. I was reminded of a song – surprise!

When the day is long and the night, the night is yours alone. When you're sure you've had enough Of this life, well, hang on

Don't let yourself go 'cause everybody cries and everybody hurts sometimes

Sometimes everything is wrong. When your day is night alone (Hold on, hold on) If you feel like letting go (Hold on) If you think you've had too much Of this life, well, hang on.”  Everybody Hurts, Lyrics by Avril Lavigne

When I first heard that song, it spoke to my heart. Everybody has hurts from life. And it is Jehovah Rapha, God who is our healer, that can mend our hearts. He can mend you heart – if you let Him. You will bear the scar, but the pain that comes with the memory will be gone and can no longer be conjured up at the mention of the wound.

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, December 3, 2021

Shining Some Light In The Darkness

“…. who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.” – Romans 1:25, 29-32

It seems the issue of right to life – abortion rights – has bubbled up to the American consciousness – laws being passed – lawsuits filed.  I thought I would try to bring some perspective on the issue – and I know that what I write will in no way be exhaustive. There are so many issues intertwined with respect to the whys and wherefores that the best I can hope for is to encourage you to have a spiritual perspective on the matter. First some facts.

There were 862,320 abortions in the United States in 2020.   60 percent were first time. 60 percent of the women already had children. 80 percent were unmarried. 93 percent of the women had an abortion before 13 weeks, with a large percentage between 6 and 13 weeks. There are arguments about when a fetus is a human life. But wherever the line is drawn by men, after that point a woman has no more right to take that life than they do of their two year old son or daughter. Ok you get the idea.

I used Romans chapter 1 as the scripture reference to give the issue spiritual perspective.  Abortions, with some exceptions, is a way of promoting sin with little or no consequence to the sinner. Our culture (actually most of the countries in the world), having exchanged the truth of God for a lie, has said that removing the fetus from the womb is not killing a human.  But what is at the root of this? Well, it is the fact that there is a fetus at all. Apart from artificial insemination there is only one way for an egg to be fertilized – by having sex with a man. Remember 80 percent of the women are not married. But having sex with someone is nobody else’s business, right? Our culture promotes having sexual relationships outside of the context of marriage as “normal” and acceptable. That message is all around us – glamorized – encouraged.

Years ago, my brother, Rick, gave me a book to read – The Culture of Narcissism. (It is not light reading) In his book, Christopher Lasch argues that the “me generation” was in fact, dysfunctional, empty, and worthy of contempt. Narcissism is a self-centered personality style characterized as having an excessive interest in one's physical appearance and an excessive pre-occupation with one's own needs, often at the expense of others. To simplify that, it is a description of fallen mankind.

With respect to the abortion issue, we seem to overlook the reason the woman has an “unwanted pregnancy” to begin with. We can point to social – cultural issues and wrongs – but the fact of the matter is that the reason is sin.  There is but one solution for sin – that would be Jesus. That message is not well received by people with hardened hearts – to them that solution seems wishful – fanciful – simplistic – unrealistic – perhaps antiquated.  Rather than call it truth, they call it “your opinion”, and accuse you of not caring about the woman who is pregnant with an unwanted child because of her choice to have sex with someone who is not her husband.  That could not be farther from the truth. 

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” – 1 Corinthians 1:18

And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. – John 3:19

Man’s laws constrain behavior that the culture has declared to be unlawful – harmful to others. Faith in Jesus transforms the heart and gives power to resist sin, whatever its form.  

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, December 2, 2021

When God Doesn't Do What We Want

 So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him. Then Jesus answered and said, ‘O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me.’ And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’ So Jesus said to them, ‘Because of your unbelief  for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, Move from here to there, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.’” - Matthew 17:16-20

Have you ever wondered if the reason God does not seem to answer your prayers is because there is something wrong with you? Doesn’t the Bible say that He will – if we will ask in faith that our prayers can move mountains? Is it because I have a problem or perhaps God has stopped listening to me. Does praying do any good? As I type these words, my mind is going to other verses giving me context.

Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” – Job 13:15

Job’s devotion to God, in spite of the outcome for Job was being tested. Jesus told His disciples to pray.

Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven” – Luke 11:2

Not my will but God’s will. And what is God’s will? Does it include something that will allow heartache, loss, grief into my life or the lives of people I care about? Is prayer nothing more than a “crap shoot” – nothing more than stochastic probability like the roll of the dice? So prayer doesn’t really matter? It may feel that way sometimes – maybe more than sometimes. 

Perhaps is it not the desired outcome of our prayer that is most important – even though it feels that way, but the One that we are focused on when we pray that is the important part of praying. There is a song that expresses this attitude

They say sometimes you win some, Sometimes you lose some, And right now, right now I'm losing bad”

Have you ever felt that way?

“I know You're able and I know You can, Save through the fire with Your mighty hand But even if You don't My hope is You alone”

When God does not do what you want do you challenge Him or trust Him?

“They say it only takes a little faith, To move a mountain - Good thing, A little faith is all I have right now”

Have you ever struggled with your faith? There is not a Christian who ever was, is or will be that has not faced that struggle.

But God, when You choose To leave mountains unmovable Give me the strength to be able to sing It is well with my soul

I know You're able and I know You can, Save through the fire with Your mighty hand But even if You don't My hope is You alone

I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt Would all go away if You'd just say the word But even if You don't My hope is You alone – Mercy Me, “Even If”

When you feel the breath of the lion on your neck – when life seems to be falling in on top of you – when you are facing the impossible – when you roll the dice and it doesn’t go your way. 

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7

I think that prayer is not so much about the product (getting what you want) but the process (turning your heart, mind and will toward God). Giving the fruit of the Spirit the opportunity to blossom in your life. Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Spiritual fruit that is not dependent upon the circumstances of life – but the power of God.

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, December 1, 2021

Living With An Imperfect Family

Reflecting on where I am in life.  I think that like me, most of us would want perfection in our family, but, it is an illusion, something just out of reach but no less yearned for. Like a wisp of smoke, you see it but when you try to grab it, there is nothing in your hand. There always seems to be something out of whack.  I suspect a lot of families try not to think about loss – disappointment – broken relationships – unforgiveness – resentments – bitterness – heartache – everything that results from our fallen nature that seems to linger in our new life in Christ.  I am sure you remember the story about Cornelius and his entire household being saved. (Acts 10).  The story didn’t stop there.  Those people went on to live out their lives.  Like me, did you imagine that their lives were trouble-free after that day on or did you stop thinking about them when you read the next verse? Being trouble free while we live on this planet is an illusion – that puff of smoke I mentioned. Jesus said ...... 

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

We long for something that seems unattainable and so we often try to pretend life is what it isn’t.  Do you ever feel the pressure to not let others know that you have problems in your life.  It is as if having problems suggests that you are failing as a Christian.  When we are with Christians, rather than bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2) we hide our pain and struggles.  Have you ever asked someone how they are doing and were dismayed when they actually told you more than “Fine!” or “I am blessed!”

There are moments – some days – when it appears that all is well and then comes the spoiler – a person or event that puts a blemish on what would have been a perfect day. Oh that this life could be perfect.  But as I struggle to not let “reality” dampen my spirits, I am reminded that what I experience is exactly why we all need a Savior.  The matter of the fact is that we will never experience perfection of any kind on this earth.  It will always be just out of reach.  But one day.

I was thinking about the Beatles song “Imagine”.  That song was about an idyllic world – free from trouble.  Free from God and Jesus.  Those guys went on a spiritual journey looking for it – looking for love and peace in all the wrong places.  The answer was and is Jesus.  You have the family that you have.  Your family is your first place of ministry.  No matter what imperfections may prevail, your place is to show them what Jesus looks like by the way you live your life in the midst of their and your imperfections. But you can’t do it on your own! Be filled with the Spirit.  Draw close to Jesus and let your light shine.

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, November 30, 2021

Do You Love God More?

If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” – Luke 14:26-27

There is a tension between the natural and the supernatural or spiritual. And there are some aspects of the natural that seem reasonable, even honorable, that are often chosen above spiritual mandates.  Jesus was speaking to the most important.

“‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?’ Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” – Matthew 22:36-39

Love God first and then love others. Would God ask you to forsake your natural relationships in favor of your relationship with Him? No – He commands it. Jesus did not mean that I am to hate my relatives, but choosing God before them is likened to hating them. Because I didn’t choose them first. God also said to honor our mothers and fathers – the 5th commandment – but that was in the context of the first four which have to do with putting God first. Because I obey the first four (having to do with my relationship with God), I can fulfill the last six (having to do with my relationship with others.

It is like the not-so-funny joke about the wife who told her husband that he never tells her that he loves her.  He answered that he told her the day he married her and if it ever changes he will let her know. That is how many treat God after salvation. Spiritual comes first then the natural – but we can become so busy with the natural that sometimes the spiritual can seem to get in the way. 

To make certain that I am clear – neglecting your family is not the same as putting God first.  God – family – others should be the order of things.  Many Christians must face the reality of people they love not being people of faith.  They may even face rejection for their faith – or at minimum relational distancing – being treated like a person with special needs – not quite right.

If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me [Jesus] before it hated you.” – John 15:18

But my encouragement is not for them – they are incapable of understanding it and see it as foolishness – it is for you. We must constantly check ourselves, else our flesh – old nature – will draw us away.  We may even hear the question that Eve heard in the Garden – “Did God really say …?” Would God really ask you to choose between Him and your wife, husband, children, mother, father? He already has – but not to their detriment but for their good.  If God calls you to go beyond the secular and serve in the spiritual why do you think that He would neglect your family? As a friend of mine would say, “That is stinkin’ thinkin’!” That is you old nature rising up against the new.  It is you will resisting the will of the Father.  The subject is deep – but I think I will stop here – it is enough to consider.

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, November 29, 2021

How Do You Spell Relief?

Now it happened as He [Jesus] went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. And they lifted up their voices and said, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ So when He saw them, He said to them, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan. So Jesus answered and said, ‘Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?’ And He said to him, ‘Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.’” – Luke 17:11-19

There was a commercial years ago – “How do you spell relief? R-O-L-A-I-D-S Rolaids tastes like a mint and works like a miracle!” Until a cure was found in the 1900’s, leprosy was a fatal disease. These ten me were in a hopeless situation when they turned to Jesus. Someone who was “labeled” as unclean had to be declared clean by the priests. The ten men went to the priests and were declared to be clean – free of leprosy. A miracle. And yet, only one sought Jesus out to thank Him and acknowledge God. And that one was a Samaritan – rejected by the Jews.  The ones who should have been grateful were not. I imagine with the trouble behind them, they wanted to get back to their lives before they were stricken by leprosy.

That parable is there for a reason – for our benefit. Not just to shake our heads at the ingratitude shown – but to give us insight into the heart of man – our own hearts. These 10 men were saved from a certain and painful death.  How much more were you and I saved from certain death. Saved to eternal life. Healed spiritually. Made clean. When Jesus was talking to Nicodemus (John 3) and Jesus said, “You must be born again”, He was saying that Nicodemus must be healed – made clean.  I heard a song during the church service this past Sunday.

“When I Think about the Lord, How He saved me, how He raised me, How He filled me, with the Holy Ghost. How He healed me, to the uttermost.

When I Think about the Lord, How He picked me up and turned me around, How He placed my feet on solid ground

It makes me wanna shout, Hallelujah, Thank you JESUS, LORD, you’re worthy, of all the glory, and all the honor, And all the praise.” (When I Think About The Lord – James Huey)

A lot like the one healed Samaritan leper. Are you mindful and grateful for your healing – like he was. Or have you moved on past that and got on with your life. Do you live with an attitude of gratitude?  Do you have a constant awareness of what God has done through Jesus by His spirit as a result of your faith – which has made you spiritually well - eternally. Just like the Samaritan leper.  I suspect that the other 9 men were healed physically but that was the limit and all they were really interested in. So many people just want relief for the moment.

Think about the Lord how He healed you to the uttermost and then shout Hallelujah – Thank you 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

Friday, November 26, 2021

Robbing God Of His Glory

 Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.” – Malachi 3:8

“ … But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God. Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things.” – Acts 5:1-5

Doing good things as a Christian and giving God the credit – is – well ….. Good.  Sacrificing – giving up what the worlds sees of great worth for the good of others is praise worthy. The thing is – the praise belongs to God – not to men.  It is an easy trap to fall in to.  People don’t see God – they see the one who has done the good deed. And when you take credit for something that has a spiritual root – where the glory and praise rightfully belong to God – you are robbing God.  In the case of Ananias and his wife – they made a commitment to men before God and then attempted to deceive men and dishonor God. They wanted to have their cake and eat it too.  Even though they said they would sell the land and give the proceeds to help the Church, they decided they would keep some of the money and tell everyone what they gave was all they received from the sale.  Who would know the difference. And people would be certain to say how spiritual and wonderful they both were.

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

There are three sources from which sins springs in a person’s heart – lust of the flesh – lust of the eyes – and the pride of life.  You can always trace sin back to one of the three.  We love the praise of others.  It is affirming and assuring – comforting even – but at what cost. Recognition is not bad – failing to give credit where credit is due – is.

When you do work that is motivated by the Spirit of God, accomplished through personal sacrifice and resourced through the Saints, others very often extend their thanks and admiration for your work. I know of a number of cases when the accomplishment was shared but there was no mention of God.  To a casual reader it might seem that we are doing a good thing – and we are – but is it our good deed when in reality it is an act of faith and demonstration of God’s provision. I know that the intent was not to “blow our own horn” but if we fail to acknowledge God – that is the unintended result. Something I tell people it that the only credit I can take is saying “yes” to God. The call and the capability come from God. It may seem like an inconsequential oversight – but it is not.

Does that seem like a small thing to you? It shouldn’t. If we are involved in ministry, of any sort, our hearts must be right before God. If we are doing what we do to be recognized by men, then we are being carnal – “having a form of godliness but denying the power of God.” 1 Timothy 3:5

I know that a number of people who read these devotions are involved deeply in ministry. I am face with this temptation all the time as I am certain you are.  Be careful my friends. 

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, November 25, 2021

Doing Things Out Of Habit Not Worship

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31

“ … he (Paul) took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of them all; and when he had broken it he began to eat.” – Acts 27:35

… foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.” – 1 Timothy 4:3-5

There are aspects of our faith that can easily become rituals – things we do that have a spiritual root, but lack spiritual sincerity. Praying before a meal is one of those things. Instead of being something that you get to do – giving thanks to God for His provision – it becomes something that you have to do – because that is what you do before you eat.  We teach our children to pray but it can become something like saying please and thankyou or not chew with your mouth open. It is a rule and not an act of worship

This is the day that our country celebrates Thanksgiving – and yet this country, on the whole, does not worship the God that was being thanked. In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Native Americans shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. Think about that – people of different cultures coming together to give thanks. This holiday – has been commercialized and diluted to a secular event. The major events are parades, sports and the pardoning on a truly by the President – heard God mentioned yet? Me neither.

We make it a point to pray before our meals – even when we are in a restaurant.  A curious thing – perhaps alarming – for some reason people never pray before they eat the appetizers – but wait until the meal is served. It is as if appetizers are exempt. Ritual – not worship.  I think it is important to express our faith whenever we are given the opportunity. Praying in public is one of those ways.  You might be surprised to discover that there are other Christians in the restaurant with you but they are intimidated and choose not to pray.

I was thinking about a practice that has fallen into disuse. We used to ask the server if they would like to pray with us. If they did, I would ask them if there was something they would like us to pray about.  There was one restaurant in particular when the server said, “I know what you want to do!”, meaning that she knew about our praying with the servers. As I said, we have not done that for some time – I am thinking that we need to revive the practice. 

My encouragement is that you be mindful of what you do and why you do it. Don’t let prayer become something that you have to do – but something that you get to do. Thank God for His provision – for your daily bread. Be spiritually aware at all times. Realize that you can glorify God – even in a restaurant. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

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, November 24, 2021

Almost Persuaded

 “‘King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you do believe.’ Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘You almost persuade me to become a Christian.’  And Paul said, ‘I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains.’” – Acts 26:27-29

Whenever I hear or read those two words together, I am reminded of Tennessee Ernie Ford singing the song, “Almost Persuaded” – almost persuaded now to believe – almost persuaded Christ to receive – almost persuaded but lost. When Philip Bliss wrote that song in 1871, he must have been thinking about Paul’s conversation with King Agrippa. Philip Bliss composed the music “It Is Well With My Soul” written by his good friend Horatio G. Spafford. He also led the music at a number of D.L. Moody’s evangelistic meetings. It is amazing how God intertwines lives. Tragically, Philip Bliss and his wife died in a train accident in 1878 – he was 38 years old. 

That reminded me of another person whose life came to an abrupt end. Right after I was born again, a second lieutenant in the Army, I considered becoming a Chaplain. I figured that I was a Christian and I was an officer – so it made sense that I should be a chaplain – I was feeling the call to ministry.  I sought the counsel of a friend and mentor, who was a chaplain, as well as advice from other mature Christians. (Henry Blackaby wrote that we hear God’s voice through prayer, the Word, circumstances, and the counsel of other Christians – and  I found that to be true.) One of my friends, a Lieutenant Colonel – Ed Herr, talked to me about my decision.  At the time, I was in the Armor Branch (think tank corps) In the Army, officers where their branch insignia on their collar.  Ed said, “If you become a chaplain you will wear a Cross on your collar (designating a Christian chaplain) but as a “line officer” (a combat officer) you wear a Tank on your collar.  Soldiers expect Chaplains to act a certain way. But you will have a much more effective Christian witness if you are wearing the Armor insignia.  I took his advice and did not become a chaplain. But that is not the main point of the story. Ed was selected to go to the Army War College – the school that leads to a promotion to full colonel.  The night of the welcoming dinner, Ed went back to the car to get something for his wife. He was confronted by two men – robbed – and killed. Hard to understand.

Coincidently the last song that Philip Bliss had written before his death was the chorus and music for the hymn, "He Knows" which was written by Mary G. Brainard, which began as follows: "I know not what awaits me. God kindly veils my eyes..."

So many people we all know believe that they have plenty of time to choose Jesus or not. Christian or not, we are not guaranteed our next breath or heartbeat, let alone a long life. The Bible does not tell us about what happened to King Agrippa after his encounter with Paul – but it is not much of a stretch to imagine that he was never born again. Almost persuaded. 

You never know when God will use you as a stepping stone on the path that leads to someone’s salvation. Be ready and be faithful. Some are blessed to be present on the day  their decision is made – while still others, most, are one of many who point others to Jesus but never see that new birth. Whatever the place God puts you on the path – your responsibility is to be faithful in your witness. If Paul could not convince the King to be saved – what makes you think that you have that power.  Salvation is a personal, faith decision – a transaction between a person and God and not the product of a convincing argument made by man. An evangelist may speak – but it is God who calls and the Spirit who convicts the sinner. 

BTW – this was not the direction I thought this devotion was going – but it where the Spirit led. I trust that someone needed to read it for the glory of God.

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, November 23, 2021

What Motivates Us To Just Walk On By

Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.” – Luke 10:31-34

The Good Samaritan – you are well versed in that story, I am certain. I have written about a number of times. The question Jesus asked at the end of the parable was, “Who was the neighbor?” Which one acted rightly?  It was not the ones that you might expect.  The ones that cold recite scripture and verse what people of God are supposed to do. It was the one that had no reason to go out of his way. Before I go on, I want to remind you that the Bible is more than an equivalent to the Rules of the Road for the state you live in.  It has a spiritual source – it is the breath of God and requires the power of the Spirit of God and our submission to the Spirit to live by it. 

I say that because I think that we sometimes forget that and think that everyone – born again or not – should obey it. They should, but they can’t.

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. – Romans 5:20-21

God’s creative intent was not that we be given a list of shall nots, but that because of our relationship with Him that we would live in harmony with all of creation.  Since the fall of Adam we have proven that we need help to be what God intended. That we can’t do it on our own.

So to my point – what we see on television  and read on line is all man trying to achieve their idea of what “right is”. All around the world there is tension between people groups.  Groups that represent differences in ethnicity, nationality, religious belief, politics, geography …. the list is a long one.  The root of tension between those groups is sin.  What you see on television or read on line is a reflection of the natural world – shouting out that it needs a savior. Of late the solution seems to be to use violence to make it happen.  Think about it. Do you really think there is anything spiritual in that? It is all carnality – mankind trying to fix man mankind. So what are we supposed to do about it?

Well – first off – we can’t solve the problem with more laws or more tolerance or more money – the problem is spiritual and needs a spiritual solution. That solution, unfortunately won’t be realized until Jesus returns. Things on this earth don’t get better on their own. So we do nothing? God Forbid.

You can divide mankind into two groups. Those who are born again and those who are not. Pretty simple. The way those who are born again live and relate should be based upon the fact that they are all adopted into the family of God through faith in Jesus.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” – Galatians 3:28

As Christians we are all the same – unfortunately – we are more like the priest and Levite than we are the Samaritan.  Wish it were not so but it is.  I see all those sources of tension at work in many Christians that I know – and they seem to feel justified in how they feel and how they relate.  They are blind to their sin. There is a Christian man I know that I call brother but he does not – he catches himself each time – I can see it in his body language – I reason it is because that word is reserved, in his mind and heart, for people in his ethnic group. Race does not make you my brother or sister.

When I was in living in Haiti and I would preach at a Haitian church, I would always begin with the words, “Mwen pa blan, mwen se fre ou” (I am not white, I am your brother). Then I would share 2 Corinthians 5:17. Nationality does not make you my brother or sister. When I was in Alabama speaking at predominately white churches, someone at the church would invariably say, “You are not around here are you?” Because of I didn’t have a Southern accent. But more – it was the suggestion that I was not like them. I had ancestors who lived in Virginia as early as 1650. Geography does not make you my brother or sister.

What is my point – as Christians we have a responsibility to be salt and light in a dark world. The world wants what God offers but on their terms not His. We are His ambassadors. And how will the world know He sent us?

By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:35

Our place in this messed up world is pretty simple really. Let me sum it up.

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

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, November 22, 2021

When Doing Right Is Wrong

But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.” – 1 Corinthians 8:9-13

A friend of mine posted on Facebook that a church (happens to be in Texas) was chanting during the worship service, “ Let’s go Brandon.” In case you are not “in the know”, which I was not before today, the chant, according to the press, “has exploded on the right, as a “cri de Coeur” (a cry from the heart; heartfelt or sincere appeal) that takes sarcastic swings at President Biden and the mainstream media without running afoul of technology censors." I was quick to tell my friend that one church in Texas does not represent all churches in Texas – but it does and should raise concern.

But here is the “rest of the Story”! The church had rented their sanctuary out during the week. It was not on Sunday and it was not a Church event. One thing I learned in the Army – the first report is never accurate.  To know how to respond requires more information.  It may well be that the church, in its entirety, supported that event – but there is no proof of that. However it does emphasize and important point and Biblical imperative. Sometimes you must not do what is right or legal if it will cause your brother to stumble.

The church had not done anything wrong – that event could have gone on anywhere. However, the fact that it appeared that the church was sanctioning a political event – taking sides if you will – cast dispersions on the faith. The appearance of evil.

Abstain from all appearance of evil.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:22

It may be that the church in question does not care what others think – that they are not their “brother’s keeper”, but the Bible is clear that we are and we should care – lest we cause someone to stumble. If something wells up inside of you at the thought of not doing something that you want to do and in which there is no sin – that feeling is from the old – self-centered – nature. Choosing to not do something that is permissible has to do with submitting to one another – which is a spiritual act. It is about thinking about others before you think about yourself.

Pick something else – say alcohol – that is always an attention getter! I may believe it is ok to drink a glass of wine, but I should not go into a bar and drink that glass knowing that although I may use moderation in my drinking – there are many who do not. I should not encourage wrong behavior but should glorify God and point others to Jesus in all that I do. The Jesus who sacrificed everything for our sakes.

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, November 17, 2021

Is It OK For A Christian To Say #@$%_!(

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 4:29-32

Profanity was a big - or I guess I should say, natural, part of my vocabulary before I was born again.  I thought nothing of it - unless I was around women and children.  So I guess I did think something of it after all.  But profanity like a number of other things in my life virtually disappeared, old things passed away, from my thinking and speaking - no matter who was listening. Sure, they are just words - but then again - words are a reflection of the heart.

"A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks." - Luke 6:45

Martie and I have been watching with great dismay as profanity has found its way into virtually every aspect of life. You see it written on cars - in publications - on television - in movies. In print you may see the first letter followed by a series of dots or special characters like I used in the title of this post.  The thing is - our minds fill in the blanks so the objective of the writer is fulfilled as if the word had been spelled out in plain text.

There used to be censors for television and movies that prevented profanity and sexual content from being made public - then they started using ratings to warn people or entice them that they would be exposed to certain "adult" content. It is OK for adults but not for children.  I learned that lesson when I was a child.  I spent many hours sitting on the back steps having taken a bite of soap for cussing in front of my mom - I might have been 5 or 6 at the time.  The thing is, the words I used I had heard from her! (long before she was saved I might add) Kids were carded at the movie theaters to prove they were old enough to watch certain ratings.  Now they can watch what they want right in their own living rooms.

Martie and I have a small plaque sitting on the side board just below our television that says "Above All Else - Guard Your Heart" - Proverbs 4:23

It is a reminder that the television is a portal through which carnality can finds its way into our home and minds.  And just when we think we have found something "safe" to watch - BOOM!!! There it is - profanity at its best - or worst!

I have talked with some Christian men who seem to think that the use us profanity is not only permissible but is actually a sign of some superior spirituality. It is a sign that they are MEN of faith, when what I see is carnality.  

 "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you." - Philippians 4:8-9

How do you reconcile the using or listening to profanity in light of that admonition? I do not think it is justifiable. Thinking it but not saying it is not an escape clause in the Bible.  Jesus said that if you think it - embrace it - you are guilty of it. (He used adultery and murder in our thought life as examples. Matthew 5:21-30)

My point here is to encourage you to be on your guard. Do not use the excuse of "that is just in the movie" as a reason to "dip your toes" into the culture and what is offers as OK all the while being in conflict with what the Spirit would tell you is NOT OK.

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” – Matthew 5:13

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