Friday, April 9, 2021

Following Jesus – Not An Easy Path

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?” – Matthew 5:43-46

So – You think that you are a Christian – that you have “arrived” spiritual speaking. Then you meet someone who is unkind – treats you disrespectfully – harshly. Perhaps responds to your “good deeds” with disdain or as if they were of no value.  Hmm -  sounds a little bit like the world treated Jesus – the Son of God who came to offer himself as a sacrifice for others. The condition for our service cannot be how that service is received. If it is, then the objective of our service is not glorify God but to glorify ourselves. To use the response of those we are serving or even those we are serving with as a barometer for our own worth is a big mistake. We will eventually be disappointed and discouraged.  Many people do good for the purpose of feeling good about themselves – validating their worth. That happens when they have lost sight of Who has called them – if they had been called to the service by God at all.

When we were serving in Haiti we participated in a get-together on Sunday nights for a few months.  People, mainly U.S. citizens serving in some way in Haiti, would gather. After a couple of meetings, I noticed that many of them were struggling – it was by their words and repeated complaints about how difficult being in Haiti was. Being in Haiti is difficult by definition – and how much more difficult for the Haitians who do not have the option to return to the United States.  One night, I was asked to lead a devotion. I told the group that if God had not called them to be in Haiti – if they were there because they wanted to do a good thing in their own strength then they should go home. Not one person asked for an elaboration. They didn’t want to go home, they just wanted to complain.  I was not asked to share a devotion about, by the way. Relating that story, I was just reminded of a verse in Philippians.

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” –Philippians 2:5-8

In a small way, leaving the “Promised Land” and all of its conveniences was like Jesus leaving Heaven to go to the cross.  As you can see, the issue is one of Agape love and humility.  Serving others requires sacrifice and inconvenience. It is humbling. If feeling good is a requirement for continued service, you won’t serve for long. In fact you will most likely become discouraged and resentful instead.  What exactly did you think Paul meant when he wrote that we should “offer ourselves as living sacrifices” or when Jesus said “to follow Me you must pick up your cross” What exactly did you think that you would be sacrificing?

A sacrifice is not a sacrifice if it doesn’t cost you something. What it gets down to is the question, “Are you willing to pay the price – to suffer the cost?” Are you willing to walk in Jesus footsteps? The life we have been called to is not an easy one – it is humbling and humanly impossible. 

When the young man asked Jesus what it took to have eternal life, Jesus gave him a list of actions, to which the young man said he did all of those. Perhaps he was a little smug as he impressed the people who had gathered with his goodness. Then Jesus, knowing the man’s heart said “Sell everything you own and give it to the poor.” The man went away sad because his sense of worth was found in himself and not God. (Matthew 19:16-24)

What does the Lord require of you? But to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” – Micah 6:8

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, April 7, 2021

Are You Willing To Be A Stepping Stone?

My speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom…” – 1 Corinthians 2:4

“Belief in Jesus is a miracle produced only by the effectiveness of redemption, not by impressive speech, nor by wooing and persuading, but only by the sheer unaided power of God. The creative power of redemption comes through the preaching of the gospel, but never because of the personality of the preacher. … If it is only because of my preaching that people desire to be better, they will never get close to Jesus Christ. “And I, if I am lifted up…, will draw all peoples to Myself” (John 12:32).” Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest

I have often marveled at how God uses mere men and women as messengers to proclaim the Gospel to the world with words and their very changed lives. But it is important to understand that it is not the messenger but the message that brings salvation.  And not just any message.  I think we often get the “cart before the horse”.  My witness to anyone never precedes God … Salvation is a spiritual event and the Spirit of God always precedes the witness.  But, amazingly, God has ordained that we are a part of the salvation process.  Paul said “Some plant and some water, but God brings the increase.”  (1 Corinthians 3:6)

Let me share an example from my life. A Gospel seed was planted in my step-dad’s heart in 1951 on a hill in Korea.  He was a young Marine, part of a 81mm mortar crew. After a particularly intense battle, a Chaplain gave him a small New Testament bible with a reference to John 1:12 written on the inside cover. “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—”  I don’t know what the conversation between them was, but it was not until 1969 did he pray to receive Jesus as his savior and Lord.  He still had that Bible in 1969 and it is in the keeping of one of his children today. That chaplain was a stepping stone, maybe the first on the path to his salvation. We can’t save anyone. We might be the first stepping stone or, if we are so fortunate, the last when a person surrenders their heart by faith in Jesus. You should not think more of your role in sharing the Gospel, but then, you should not think less of it either.  In His wisdom, God has chosen to use us for the hearing of the Gospel as someone walks the path toward salvation. You should not worry about saying the right words. You should worry that you will surrender to the leading of the Spirit. Everyone is saved by grace through faith – not my words and not yours alone.

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” –Romans 10:14-15

Don’t believe for a minute that you have the power to save. At the same moment, don’t think that you telling someone about Jesus when the Spirit prompts you is not necessary.  You don’t know which stepping stone you are on the path someone takes to salvation.  But God does!

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, April 6, 2021

Culture And Christianity, Do You Know The Difference

Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” – 1 Peter 1:17-19

“Supernatural sense is the gift of His Son, and we should never put our common sense on the throne. The Son always recognizes and identifies with the Father, but common sense has never yet done so and never will. Our ordinary abilities will never worship God unless they are transformed by the indwelling Son of God. We must make sure that our human flesh is kept in perfect submission to Him, allowing Him to work through it moment by moment.” Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest.

The nature of the natural man is to cling to his culture.  What he or she has been taught is right and wrong by family traditions, friends, the culture they live in. When I was in grade school I can remember reading about the United States being a “melting pot”  where many nations came together to be one people.  Actually , it was man’s attempt to do what only God can do.  That attempt failed.  What I see today is one nation with many cultures trying to cling to what they were before they or their ancestors came to the United States.  People set up enclaves centered on their ethnicity or nationality.  European, African, Hispanic, the list goes on.  It is the nature of man to associate with people who look and act like themselves.  Among Christians, it is the same.  Someone said that 11:00am Sunday is the most segregated hour of the week in the United States. For most people when they read this, their minds will think I am referring to black and white, but it is more pervasive than that.

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” – Galatians 3:26-29

2 Corinthians 5:17 says - old things – including your primary devotion to your race or ancestors nationality – are gone and all has become new.  That is a spiritual truth – a spiritual – supernatural fact.  A truth which many Christians have a hard time living with and applying.  Why? Because devotion to the traditions of their natural fathers are very strong. I have said several times, if I was standing with a group of men and said something against their fathers or ancestors, they would become angry, but if I used God’s name in vain, few, if any, would care.  Why? Because they are more devoted to men than they are to God. When I would preach in a Haitian church for the first time, I would always begin with “Mwen pa blan, mwen fre nou” which is to say “I am not white, I am your Brother”  That was a hard truth to digest for a congregation of mountain people who rarely saw a white man.  My point was that I was not standing before them as a white American, but as an adopted son of God, saved by the blood of Jesus and His resurrection.

How do you want people to see you?  How do you see yourself? First as a Christian? If you believe Matthew 22:37, that you are to love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. Where does that leave your natural heritage and the traditions of your fathers?  Listen, what I am telling you is truth, but it is a hard truth.  It is difficult to embrace for most Christians.  We don’t all have to speak with the same accent or eat the same food or like the same clothing style, but we serve the same Lord and belong to the same family. What the founders of this country tried to set in place with written law, God has already put in place through His Son by His Spirit. So maybe we should act like 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, April 5, 2021

Living Life With A Spiritual Perspective

Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight.” Luke 24:30-31

We live our lives, most often I think, only vaguely aware of the Spiritual reality that surrounds us.  As I listened to Luke 24 being read during an Easter sermon this past weekend, I was reminded of that. Two men, keenly aware of what happened to Jesus were unaware of His presence as they walked the road to Emmaus.  But, when Jesus broke the bread – they were suddenly aware that they were with Jesus.  Can you imagine walking through your day – maybe even talking about Jesus – but then, suddenly – in the blink of an eye – you are aware that you are walking with Jesus.  Would that change your conversation, your thoughts, your attitude, even your actions, knowing that the resurrected Lord – the Son of God was with you. 

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’” – Matthew 28:18-20

Most often we focus on the “Go” part of those verses. But, don’t you find it interesting that Jesus said He will be with us – always. Does that strike your heart like it does mine? As a born-again Believer, there is not a deed – a thought – that I do or think where Jesus is not present – walking beside me. I suppose that the more important question is – do you care? I mean so what if He is. If we are not devoted to God – loving Him with our whole hearts, then – even though we know it to be true – it will have little to no effect on how we live our lives.  It is like me and carbohydrates. I know that if I eat carbs then I will blow up like a puffer fish. My metabolism is just not what it used to be. Sadly, the “furnace” is not burning as hot as it once was. There was a day when everything that went in was consumed by the fire in the furnace. Not so much anymore. Knowing that and wanting to be healthy, I should stay away from carbs in my diet. I know that, but if I don’t do it – then I know what they consequences will be. In the same way – I know what my life is like if I ignore the Lord’s presence. If I don’t take care to focus on who I am spiritually and how I should consequently live my life.

The New Testament is replete with admonitions to the churches to do just that. People have not changed. The challenges for Christians living in a sin-sick world have not changed. People do not change even though the way they live and the technology they use to live does.  The heart of man is still prone to wander and seek its own way.

My point is that every life experience will fall into its proper place when God is in His proper place.  When we live as if we believe that the Lord is with us. A classic question is “Do you believe that what you believe is really real?”  If you do – God will always be first – and if you don’t – God will often be left in the dust in favor of what is urgent – what your flesh tells you is important.  We are faced with these decisions every day.  But – if we are not spiritually minded – we are bound to choose poorly.  If the Chief End Of Man is indeed to “Glorify God and Enjoy Him Forever” then God must be first and must be the One who determines how we respond to life.   

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. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” – Ephesians 1:15-23

Jesus is head over all things. If you are a Christian, and I so hope that you are, then He is your Lord. I once read that “If Jesus is not Lord OF all then Jesus is not Lord AT all.” “All” does not leave much room for anything else.  Does your heart buck-up against that thought? If so, that is not a good thing.  Be ready, you are going to be challenged today with this dilemma – your challenge is how to respond.  Not eating the carbs that are calling your name – that look so delicious – that promise life and joy but will never deliver on their promises. If you are a Christian – the choice is clear but the choosing requires faith and obedience if you are to respond correctly.  Keep the things of life in their proper place … don’t let your emotions rule .. that place belongs to the Lord of All.

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, April 1, 2021

Balancing Priorities – Deciding What Is Most Important

 “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” – Galatians 5:25

Charles Hummel wrote a book “Tyranny of the Urgent”  The idea behind the book is that we often let what seems urgent be the deciding factor with respect to what we do.  What is “important” is juxtaposed with what is “urgent”.  (OK hang with me here!) There are 4 possible combinations of life situations that we will encounter  – Urgent/Important – Urgent/Not Important – Not Urgent Important – Not Urgent/Not Important. 

So what does that have to do with our faith?  Well, our emotions are tied to what we perceive as urgent.  Something happens and our emotions – “Spidey senses” – tell us that this must be acted upon immediately, it's urgent.  The key is knowing what if it is important and keeping life in perspective with respect to that knowing.  To not respond to the pressure our natural emotions. We make so many decisions based upon how we feel and very often have long lasting negative consequences because of our decision to act, solely based upon the feelings of the moment.  And so, Christian, our challenge is to determines what is important to each of  us.  The text-book (Bible) answer is God, others (world, culture, family), and lastly you. (Matthew 22: 37-39, Romans 12:1-2, Mark 9:35) There are many other references, but those are sufficient for my point.  What should be important is determined first by our relationship with God and our willingness to trust and obey – and not by our feelings/emotions. 

The difficulty starts with the tension between the old life and the new life – that we live in a physical world but have a new spiritual reality that is supposed to be our primary perspective – the filter by which we determine what is important and what is urgent.  In the context of Hummel’s book – Our relationship with God is the determinant with respect to deciding what is important and what is urgent.  For some Christians – it’s OK to agree that we should not love the world or the things of this world (1 John 2:15) in principle but we fail because we do not believe in fact. It becomes a principle not necessarily to be followed, especially when it applies to us, personally.

What my point, friend, is that every that experience will fall into its proper place when God is in His proper place.  A classic question is “Do you believe that what you believe is really real?”  If you do – God will always be first – and if you don’t – God will often be left in the dust in favor of what is urgent – what your flesh tells you is important.  We are faced with these decisions every day.  But – if we are not spiritually minded – we are bound to choose poorly.  If the Chief End Of Man is indeed to “Glorify God and Enjoy Him Forever” then God must be first and must be the One who determines what is important and what is urgent. 

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” – Galatians 5:16

You are going to be challenged today with this dilemma – what to respond to and how to respond.  If you are a Christian – the choice is clear but requires faith and obedience to respond correctly.  Keep the things of life in their proper place … don’t let your emotions rule .. that place belongs to God.

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 30, 2021

Are You The Servant Or The Source?

For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. We, however, will not boast beyond measure, but within the limits of the sphere which God appointed us—a sphere which especially includes you. For we are not overextending ourselves (as though our authority did not extend to you), for it was to you that we came with the gospel of Christ; not boasting of things beyond measure, that is, in other men’s labors, but having hope, that as your faith is increased, we shall be greatly enlarged by you in our sphere, to preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man’s sphere of accomplishment. But “he who [boasts], let him [boast] in the Lord.” For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends.”— 2 Corinthians 10:12-18

Have you ever done anything for anyone in the name of Jesus? Maybe served on a mission form your church – or with another organization. Or maybe you just did something that was kind to a stranger. How did that make you feel? Good? Fulfilled maybe.  There is a snare that we can fall victim to if we are not careful.  Imagining that somehow it was us and not God that was the source of the good deed.  The difference is very subtle. There are plenty random acts of kindness taking place every day by people who have not been born again.  The difference between the “sheep” and the “goats” is not good works. It is not the works of people but the power of the Spirit.  I will not pretend to understand the deep things of God. Meaning that I don’t fully understand what is taking place spiritually when a Christian is serving in obedience to the leading of the Spirit. I do know that there is something supernatural taking place when what we do is done in the name of Jesus. Is every good deed done by a Christian motivated by the Spirit of God? No. We are physically no different than lost people in the physical sense. But we are markedly different from lost people in the spiritual sense. 

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. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands.” – Ephesians 2:8-11

As we walk and do in obedience to the Spirit of God according to the will of God, we fulfill the purpose of God.  It is not the good we do that makes us right before God and effective witnesses for Christ, it is faith and obedience that results in good works that have been ordained by God.  And if that is the case, how in the world could we ever be so bold as to take credit for the good we do. It is a temptation and a slippery slope.  People praise me for what they see as the wonderful things that I do in serving others.  It is at that point that I have a choice – do I bask in their praise and take undo credit or recognize that what they see is God at work in the life of a mere mortal and give God the credit.  I now all too well that I have feet of clay. I must be on my guard that I don’t rob God of His glory in those moments. I encourage you to do the same.

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

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 29, 2021

How To Keep A Spiritual Perspective

Therefore I [Paul] 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 [heart] 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 1:15-21

All of God’s creation has a spiritual context. The Creator of all things is Spirit. It is His creation that has a physical existence. But – it you are born again by the Spirit – you also have a spiritual nature.  Now here is the challenge for us – those who walk in the Way.  The challenge is living in a physical world with a spiritual perspective.  People who are not Christians cannot understand spiritual things – that being the true context of their existence. 

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. For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.’ Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom;  but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God..” – 1 Corinthians 1:18-24

They are blind to the truth because they do not have the Spirit of God in them. That thing that empowers Christians to see the world in its true context and to live their lives differently from those who are perishing.  Some Christians don’t see things that way.  They prefer to think that the natural has nothing to do with the Spiritual. And so, they live their lives pretty much like those who are perishing. The parse out a few hours or minutes a week to address the Spiritual and the rest of the time they embrace the natural.  So where am I going with this?

As Christians, our lot in our new life is to be a reflection of Jesus to a world that desperately needs Him.  To see life in the context of the Spiritual reality and not the Natural which is a corrupted version, man’s idea, of God’s intent for His creation. As we experience life and see the course of history being played out, our role is to be salt and light – difference makers – not go-alongers.  It is important that you know what God has said – what He has revealed in His Word and through His Son and Spirit. Why? So when you hear the question – first spoken by the serpent in the Garden – “Did God really say ….. ?” You will know if He did or not. When the world says – “Doesn’t this make more sense? Don’t you think that what you believe is archaic – no longer relevant?  Don’t you want to be relevant in your culture and not rejected?”  Good question. That is something you have to decide – and many do – that they prefer acceptance from their culture – after all – the culture is physical – is here and now. God and His precepts seem so far away. God has not moved. But your heart and its devotion to the Father have drifted away from Him.

Be careful my friend – each of us are is just one step – one choice – one like on Facebook away from drifting.

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 26, 2021

The Ministry Of Inconvenience

 Then Jesus answered and said: ‘A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 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. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?’37 And he said, ‘He who showed mercy on him.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’”— Luke 10:30-37

I had an epiphany the other day. You know, when you realize something that has been staring you in the face – but you didn’t see it – at least from the proper perspective.  Martie and I have been serving people who have faced hardships for one reason or another since about 2005. That service can be very demanding. Your life is not your own. Parsing out time for yourself can seem to be out of reach. Declaring that enough is enough is, well, it can feel very selfish and unspiritual.  It does not take long for you to come up with some very good reasons to just say “No”! I am not going to do it. That is too much. Too invasive on my space. What about me?!?!?!

The other day, during the course of my doing what I am doing in Texas, I was asked when it would be convenient for me to help someone. DING DING DING!!! I suddenly saw the essence of the parable of the Good Samaritan and the deep meaning of John 15:13.

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” – John 15:13

What I heard – in my heart – which is where the Spirit speaks to me – was “you have been given the ministry of being inconvenienced”. Sound strange? I – Martie and I, are here to serve others. So often, out of concern for us, the people in need will ask when it will be convenient for me to help them. To which I now respond – “you tell me when you are available and I will make myself available.” I hope that does not seem merely noble to you – that is not my intent – but that it would sound Biblical. Being willing to go and do when it is not personally convenient is an act of mercy. The priest and the Levite were too busy to be bothered with what was right in front of them. The Samaritan was too compassionate to walk by. Serving others requires sacrifice.  Certainly it requires spiritual discernment – there are some who will take advantage of your kindness and mercy – there will be times when I don’t offer help – but only if my spirit is checked by The Spirit.  Laying you life down means considering someone else’s time to be more important than yours.    

Listen – the life we have been called to must be lived by the power of the Spirit and the instruction of the Word.  It is and will always be in conflict with our flesh – our old nature. There will always be those who say – “You have done enough”. It was enough that you stopped and bandaged the wounds of someone who doesn’t like you and would not give you the time of day. You don’t need to take them anywhere nor spend your money on someone you don’t even know.  You have to draw that line – no one will fault you for just going your way.  I mean look at the priest and Levite – if they didn’t think it was important to help a fellow Jew, don’t feel bad about limiting what you are going to do.  Except for one thing – it is not man that has saved us and called us. It is the Creator God through the sacrifice of His Son. 

Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” – Matthew 16:24-25

How important is your time. What in this life is more important that serving others. Only one thing – serving God (Matthew 22:37-39). The one springs forth from the other.  We love because God first loved us. (1 John 4:19) Are you willing to be inconvenienced by others? If yes, then you better get ready!

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 25, 2021

Batteries Not Included

 Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.’”— John 3:4-8

Did you every receive a gift – a toy perhaps – something you really liked? Your excitement rose as you looked at it and imagined what it would be like to play with it. But then you noticed something written on the box labeling. “Batteries not included” As cool as the gift was there was one thing wrong with it.  It was dead and would not come to life – to function as it was intended until it had batteries. And, of course, you didn’t have the batteries. Ugh! If it had wheel, you could pretend but you would have to make it move because the mechanism inside needed what only the batteries could provide.

It is the same problem that Nicodemus faced along with all of mankind (I know that some today are offended by the use of “man” as if it excludes women, but it does not and I would say that using mankind in the spiritual sense of the term and not the world’s interpretation – I do not try to be politically correct – but I do so want to be spiritually correct – so no apologies) But I digress.  The problem is that because of sin – we are born with no batteries included.  That would be the Spirit of God. So Jesus was telling Nicodemus that what he wanted to have – eternal life – was out of reach because he had to be born again – born by the Spirit.  The Spirit is what allows us to function the way that the Designer intended. Without the Spirit we are nothing more than a knickknack on the dresser. 

So why I am I sharing this with you today.  Not because I think you have never read the 3rd chapter of John.  I assume you have or are at least familiar with John 3:16.  It is faith in Jesus that makes our spiritual rebirth possible. No, I want you to consider the impossibility of most of the people around you of functioning – living – loving in the manner in which the Designer intended without the Spirit of God. Consider how great a difference there is between you – made alive toward God  through by faith and your subsequent rebirth – and people without the Spirit – no batteries if you will.  This is not a point that should make you prideful, but sad. Jesus wept over Jerusalem.

Now as He [Jesus] drew near, He saw the city [Jerusalem] and wept over it, saying, ‘If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.’” – Luke 19:41-42

I marvel at the fact that once I was lost but now I am found – that I have batteries. So many don’t. The thing is that getting batteries – being born again by the Spirit is not the end game. It is the beginning. God has purposed that His sons and daughters will be lights and witnesses to the message that Jesus shared with Nicodemus. That we will live in a manner that honors God and gives testimony to our being made alive in Christ.

My point – Christians should encourage other Christians to honor God. Those who are not Christians – and some who are but have abandoned the faith, encourage each other to live in a manner that gratifies their lusts – the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life. Don’t think for a minute that we are all not vulnerable to drifting away from our new life and becoming immersed in a ‘form of righteousness’.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17-21

We have been given the ministry of reconciliation.  Pointing the world to Jesus, the Great Reconciler. Christian, these are spiritually perilous times we live in. Just as many generations have faced before us. Think about it, Paul wrote to the Corinthians nearly 2,000 years ago. We cannot isolate ourselves from the world – God has sent us out to be witnesses to His grace and mercy through His Son. But we must insulate ourselves from the influences of this world.  Jesus was a friend of sinners, and yet did not participate in their sin. Instead, He encouraged them to repentance and restoration. And we should do the same. We cannot live our new life in our own power – but only by the power of God that is in us. ( yes I wrote this paragraph in my last devotion)

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 22, 2021

We Must Be Insulated Not Isolated

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. 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,” —Ephesians 2:1-6

Martie and I watch 2 sermons on Sundays. We get our second COVID shot the end of this month. But we are still undecided about when we are going to start attending the services in person. I find it interesting that I have encouraged people to meet together (not forsaking assembling together) and here we are at one year of not doing that very thing. So we get a double dose on Sunday. But then I wonder about the many who don’t have the luxury of the internet streaming Sunday sermons into their homes. Those same people will not be reading this come to think of it. How far is my concern supposed to go? A challenge for all of us.

In the context of Ephesians 2, can it be that while I struggle with my own faithfulness and temptation to drift back to the way I “once walked” that God might use me to encourage others to resist doing the same thing? The answer is yes. Pastor Morgan Bailey would say, “God can hit straight with a crooked stick.” Meaning that God, in His wisdom and power can use any of His sons and daughters, even with their imperfections.  There is not one pastor – evangelist – teacher, past present of future that lived a perfect life – even after their new birth.  All of us are drawn to our natural side. That is why Paul was encouraging the Ephesians. Reminding them of where they had come from and encouraging them to resist the temptation of go back there.

 “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’” – 1 Corinthians 15:33

You are only going to get that kind of encouragement from other Christians.  I was thinking about some kids that I hung out with when I was in grade school. I was about 10 years old I think.  There were three brothers. We did what boys do, but there was more.  They encouraged me to do what I would normally not do. One day, I took money from my mom’s piggy bank – to buy some soda for all of us.  I knew it was wrong even as I stole into her room and took the money but my friends told me that it wasn’t and I wanted to be part of the group so I went along with it. The owner of the local grocery store called my mom and told her that I was spending money in the store. She confronted me and I confessed. That was the end of my association with those brothers.  Not long after, the grocery store owner gave me a job pricing cans, stocking shelves and scrubbing the butcher block – and until today I never connected the two events. There were 9 of us in my family and we lived simply. I guess he knew that and had compassion for us. 

My point – Christians should encourage other Christians to honor God. Those who are not Christians – and some who are but have abandoned the faith, encourage each other to live in a manner that gratifies their lusts – the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life. Don’t think for a minute that we are all not vulnerable to drifting away from our new life and becoming immersed in a “form of righteousness”.

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” – 2 Timothy 3:2-5

Christian, these are spiritually perilous times we live in. Just as many generations have faced before us. Think about it, Paul wrote to the Ephesians nearly 2,000 years ago. We cannot isolate ourselves from the world – God has sent us out to be witnesses to His grace and mercy through His Son. But we must insulate ourselves from the influences of this world.  Jesus was a friend of sinners, and yet did not participate in their sin. Instead, He encouraged them to repentance and restoration. And we should do the same. We cannot live our new life in our own power – but only by the power of God that is in us.

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 19, 2021

God Wants To Use You As A Stepping Stone

My speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom…” —1 Corinthians 2:4

“Belief in Jesus is a miracle produced only by the effectiveness of redemption, not by impressive speech, nor by wooing and persuading, but only by the sheer unaided power of God. The creative power of redemption comes through the preaching of the gospel, but never because of the personality of the preacher. … If it is only because of my preaching that people desire to be better, they will never get close to Jesus Christ. “And I, if I am lifted up…, will draw all peoples to Myself” (John 12:32).” OSWALD CHAMBERS, My Utmost For His Highest

I have often marveled at how God uses mere men and women to proclaim the Gospel to the world. But we must keep in mind that it is not the messenger but the message that brings salvation.  And not just any message.  I think we often get the “cart before the horse”.  I never precede God … The Spirit of God has always preceded me.  I am but a part, one stepping stone, of the salvation process.  Paul said “Some plant and some water, but God brings the increase.”  (1 Corinthians 3:6) A seed was planted in my step-dad’s heart in 1951 on a hill in Korea.  A Chaplain gave him a bible with a reference to John 1:12 written on the inside cover. “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—”  It was not until 1969 did he pray to receive Jesus as his savior and Lord.  We should not think more of our role in sharing the Gospel with others, but then, we should not think less of it either.  In His wisdom, God has chosen to use us for the hearing, and perhaps seeing, the Gospel.

 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” – Romans 10:14-15

Don’t believe for a minute that you have the power to save. At the same moment, don’t think that you telling someone about Jesus when the Spirit prompts you is not necessary.  You don’t know which stepping stone you are on the path someone takes to salvation.  But God does! We use the term, “leading someone to Christ”. I don’t know that we will have the experience of praying with someone who places their faith in Jesus through our sharing the Gospel. That is not the litmus test for our spirituality.  It is not a prerequisite for your place in heaven – faith in Jesus is. Another point – you don’t have to be school trained to share the gospel with someone – you just need to be empowered by the Spirit. Salvation is the Spirit’s work in the heart of the sinner. You may be the last stepping stone before they are born again – or you may be the first. Which one you are does not matter. What does matter is your willingness to be part of the path they follow. That is our purpose.

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 18, 2021

Choosing To Not Be Angry – A Reflection Of Spiritual Fruit

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” – Galatians 5:19-23

Anger – you know the feeling don’t you? That feeling that rises up inside of you? Like a jug quickly filling up with water until it overflows.  You face is flushed.  Your heart is racing. But is it anger? Or is it frustration or disappointment? For men, anger has been referred to as a secondary emotion.  In other words there is something at the root of the anger response being displayed.  Often times the reasons for anger are indistinguishable and their expression through you is likewise indistinguishable.  Many people try to explain how they respond or excuse how they respond to life and problems by pointing to their ancestors and their family’s dominant country of origin. It is inherited, but you have to go way back to find its origin.  All the way back to the Garden. 

I have a little different perspective on anger as an emotional response.  I recall a time when we ran into a plumbing snag at the house we were working on.  It was fixable, but it might cost one or two thousand dollars.  The plumber was talking to me on the phone, almost apologetically because he knew that we are a ministry and the home owner had no money to pay for something like that. I could sense that he was expecting me to be unhappy and perhaps even angry (frustrated – disappointed).  I told him – “Man, I have been in two wars.  Unless someone is dying – I don’t get upset about it” I went on to say I know two things – “God is good” and “Jesus Saves”.  That brought perspective into the issue.  I told him that, in fact, I was happy that I was dealing with the problem and not the home owner.  (Galatians 6:2) “Bear one another’s burdens and thus fulfill the law of Christ.” 

In my personal experience, if I can’t quell my anger – in other words, not let my emotions rule – it is a pretty good indication that I am not fully submitted to the Spirit of God.  People often point to Jesus being angry in the temple, seeking to justify their own anger.  I would say that the next time you go to church and the money changers and vendors are set up in the foyer – go ahead and drive them out with a righteous anger.  But don’t use Jesus as a reason to justify your flesh and sin.  Others who are looking for an excuse for themselves may buy it, but God doesn’t. 

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” –  James 1:2-3

Letting the emotion of anger have its way is a temptation -  a fierce temptation – that will spring on you without notice – like an ambush.  The only way you will “survive” an ambush is if you fight your way through it.  To do that you must have prepared yourself for such an occasion beforehand.  How you do that I will defer for another devotion.  But suffice it to say that the temptation to express anger is no different than any other temptation.  Let me share this verse as a reminder.

Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” – James 1:13-15

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