Friday, May 14, 2021

The Practice of the Presence of God – Day 4

For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified’”  –  1 Corinthians 2:2

“I haven’t followed any particular steps in my own spiritual growth…. My first prayers were about death, judgement, hell, heaven, and my sins….During the first 10 years, however, I worried that my walk with the Lord wasn’t good enough. Because I couldn’t forget my past sins … I used to fall often and then get up again … I feel unable to express what is going on inside me right now. I’m not anxious about my purpose in life because I only want to do God’s will.  I wouldn’t even lift a straw from the ground without His order or any other motive than love for Him.” (pp 39,40,41, The Practice of the Presence of God)

Reading Brother Lawrence’s description of his spiritual path, I think, is pretty much a description of what most Christians experience.  Like a baby … who crawls and then walks, we all go through it.  It is the process of sanctification (big word) – being conformed into the image of Jesus – which the Father has purposed. Sadly for me it has not been a steady climb, but I have plateaued from time to time. But it seems that those seasons when there was not much growth were not the finish line for me, but the Spirit would urge me to press on. Martie and I were born again in September of 1976. The thing is, I think, is to never be satisfied with where we are.  But to pursue God. To practice being aware of His presence.  Martie and I are in Montana right now at the Grand Canyon.  It is magnificent.  A brilliant reminder of God’s creation. God is not in it – as some religions would tell us, but He is present all around us.  Oh that I would be aware of that all of the time.

This following quote is by John Newton (the Amazing Grace guy). I have shared it before but I think it captures what Brother Lawrence was saying.

“I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.”

Me too!

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, May 13, 2021

The Practice of the Presence of God – Day 3

And they said to one another, ‘Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?’”  –  Luke 24:32

“I have taken the liberty, my dear friend, of telling you all of this so you might reexamine your own relationship with God. If by some means (I pray it not be so) it has cooled even slightly, perhaps our brother’s (Brother Lawrence) attitude will rekindle and inflame it.” (p31, The Practice of the Presence of God)

When I read those lines I thought – “YES! And that is why I do what I do in writing this devotion!” – Even when I know that the words I write may seem harsh – that is never their intent. My intent is to rekindle and inflame the heart to burn within you in response to some spiritual truth I might share.

“He [God] wants to possess our hearts completely.” (p33, The Practice of the Presence of God)

You might be thinking, “Oh I know that already.” But what I had to ask, and hope you will ask, is, “Does He really?” Practicing the presence of God is not sitting cross-legged in a room filled with candles and incense reciting some mantra all day every day.  That is not it. Marriage is a dim reflection of what our relationship with God is to be like. Wanting to be together. Wanting to hear each other’s voice. Having intimate conversations. Focused on the relationship and resting in the bond of love. Is that how you feel about your relationship with the Father?  That is what Practicing being in His Presence looks like. To have a burning heart – being passionate about our relationship with the Creator God.

A song has come to mind, as it often does, “In The Garden”. “I come to the Garden alone. While the dew is still on the roses. And the voice I hear falling on my ear, The Son of God discloses. And He walks with me and He talks with me. And He tells me I am His own. And the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.” (Austin Miles, Public Domain) That song speaks to the personal intimacy that God desires to have with His children. I once heard the word intimacy explained as meaning “Into me see”. It is revealing the heart – to do that requires trust and love.  Sometimes I think our motive for confessing our sins is not so much because it affects our relationship with the Father, but that there is a fear of being “cut off” and not getting what we want.  Not the kind of relationship God seeks. It is a love relationship.  One that requires effort. One that reflects the Father’s love.

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” – 1 Corinthians 13:1-8

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, May 12, 2021

The Practice of the Presence of God – Day 2

Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit says the Lord of hosts  Zechariah 4:6

“Whenever he [Brother Lawrence] considered doing some good deed, he always consulted God about it, saying, “Lord, I will never be able to do that if You don’t help me.” When he sinned, he confessed it to God with these words: “I can do nothing better without You. Please keep me from falling and correct the mistakes I make.” After that he did not feel guilty about the sin.” (p15, The Practice of the Presence of God)

There are two thoughts and one principle. 

The spiritual principle is this. Our new life in Christ is a spiritual one at its foundation and its essence.  We are totally dependent upon God, the Father, God the Son and the Holy Spirit to live it out.  We are saved by grace through faith (Ephesian 2:8-9) and live by the Spirit Who lives in us (Galatians 5:25)

If you go without drinking water for more than 3 days, you will most likely die, some people have lived for 10 days. A person becomes desperate for water when their survival instinct kicks in.  Have you ever felt a desperate need for the Spirit of God? To draw close to the Father? Sadly I don’t always live with an awareness of my dependence upon the Spirit for my new life. I have been foolish in that regard. Thinking I can live me new life on my own. How about you?

Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” – Galatians 3:3

That brings me to the first thought. If there is anything that God asks me to do – if I have the thought to do that glorifies Him and helps others – it is impossible to accomplish without Him.

I can do all things through Christ Who gives me strength.”  – Philippians 4:13

The opposite of that truth is that there is nothing I can do without His strength which is made possible by submission to the Spirit and an abiding relationship with Him.  Living our new lives as Christians is more than being nice or doing good deeds. The power to do rightly from God’s perspective and to live out our new lives lies in our willingness to drink in the Living Water every day.

The second thought is this.  It is impossible live a sinless life, that is to live without sin in this natural life, but it is possible to sin – less. The fact that we sin is not excusable but it is understandable. When we sin it is because we have yielded to our old nature – the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life. (1 John 2:16) To acknowledge to God that “I can nothing better without You [Father]” is to admit that my new life in Christ is totally dependent upon the God and not my personal moral strength and will.  Brother Lawrence was not making an excuse, but was admitting the truth. Understanding the reason that he had sinned. Seeking forgiveness and walking in it.

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

So how is it that Brother Lawrence could say that he did not feel guilty about his sin? He understood that he was forgiven through the blood of Jesus. That is not to say that he did not have remorse – that there was not a need for reconciliation or restitution on the part of the one or ones that were offended, but he was forgiven and cleansed.  We should not confuse guilt and remorse.  Guilt will stifle your walk much like unconfessed sin will. But once confessed – we are no longer guilty before the Father. (there is the spiritual context again) God has cleansed us. But resist the temptation to think that sinning does not matter – that is your flesh seeking the opportunity to have its way in your life.

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?” – Romans 6:1-3

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, May 11, 2021

The Practice of the Presence of God – Day 1

The next few devotions are birthed from a book, The Practice of the Presence of God, that I have read and re-read over the years.  I plan to expand on the spiritual principles or admonitions that are recounted in the book. If you are a reader and have not read it, I encourage you to do so.

To start, I thought I should give you some background on Brother Lawrence. Some of my Protestant readers may be wondering why I am sharing the thoughts of a Catholic Brother. I would say this about that. Being Catholic does not mean you are not a Christian – anymore than being a Protestant means that you are – being born again is dependent upon one thing and one thing alone – faith in Christ. Attending a particular church, identifying with a certain denomination, reciting a creed, or practicing certain rituals does not mean that you are or are not a child of God.

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God [the Father] raised Him [ Jesus] from the dead, [then] you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’”– Romans 10: 9-13

Brother Lawrence [1612-1691], (born Nicolas Herman, in France) served as a lay brother in a Carmelite monastery in Paris. Christians commonly remember him for the intimacy he expressed concerning his relationship to God as recorded in a book compiled after his death, the classic Christian text, The Practice of the Presence of God.

A priest of that time, Father de Beaufort, recalls that "Lawrence was open, eliciting confidence, letting you feel you could tell him anything…Once you got past the rough exterior you discovered unusual wisdom, a freedom beyond the reach of the ordinary lay brother". Another wrote, Brother Lawrence looks rough in appearance, and gentle by manners. This blend demonstrates God in him.

I suppose what draws me close to him is that before he went to the monastery, he was a soldier and served in several wars, yet was used by God for His purposes. Rough on the outside – but compassionate in his heart and actions.  My mom once told me that I was steel and velvet – I trusted that it was a “trait that demonstrated God in me.”

“Brother Lawrence insisted that to be constantly aware of God’s presence, it is necessary to form the habit continually talking to Him throughout the day.” (p12, The Practice of the Presence of God)

The following are questions that I found myself asking myself about the practice of my faith.  I ask them of you to set the stage for the next few days.

How often do you think about God during the day? When you sit down to eat? In the morning or evening when you read the Bible? Or do you save those thoughts until Sunday morning and cram them into the hour or so that you are on the church grounds?  Does thinking about God all of the time and talking to Him frequently seem a bit excessive to you? Fanatical even? 

One might think, Brother Lawrence was in a monastery and so he had the time for that kind of devotion. Let me suggest that it does not matter where we are or what we are doing – there is always room for God in our thoughts and hearts – we just have to be willing to give it. It is about what is important to you – to me (I am feeling some conviction right now!) How important is your salvation? Upon whom does your well-being depend?

It does us no good to agree that something is right and good and then do nothing about it.  That happens a lot after Sunday morning sermons – or perhaps after reading one of these devotions of mine.

Don’t miss the word – “Practice”. This is not a discipline that magically happens at the point of agreement that practicing the presence of God is important. It requires the discipline of doing it – being intentional.  And, like most things that require discipline, it takes time to hone that habit or skill to make it a part of who you are – reflecting Whose you are.  So why not start today!

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, May 10, 2021

Getting Your Heart Ready When Trouble Comes

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7

Have you ever made a promise to God that you didn’t keep?  That is something that we called in the Army “foxhole religion”  When your life is in mortal danger and you suddenly “get religion”.  You make promises to God. “God if you get me out of this, I promise to be faithful.”  So you get out of it.  Although maybe not for the reason you think.

God sees the heart. The verse I referenced is when Samuel had been sent to anoint the next king of Israel. It is not the words we say, but the attitude of the heart. Since God looks at the heart, the words that come out of your mouth may or may not reflect true faith.  God knows your true intent when you call out to Him.  By the way, if the person calling out to God is an unbeliever – not His child – then the only prayer He will respond to from them is the prayer for salvation. 

if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” – Romans 10:9-10

Many times we pray to God making promises to Him that we have no intention of fulfilling.  And even if we did intend to fulfill them, we may not be willing to accept whatever God’s answer might be – good or bad – in the light of God’s sovereignty.  Jesus prayed (Luke 22:41-43) “He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.”

There is nothing that we will face that compares to what Jesus was facing – incomprehensible for the human imagination and experience. He needed spiritual strength to endure.  And so do we.  God does not need our promises – He wants our devotion and trust.  If you are not ready - spiritually ready - when you find yourself in a foxhole, and you will, facing an impossible situation, and it will be – it will not be a time for empty promises.  So friend – get your heart 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, May 6, 2021

The Ministry Of Being Inconvenienced

Arise, shine… …”  — Isaiah 60:1

“Whenever God gives us His inspiration, suddenly taking the initiative becomes a moral issue— a matter of obedience. Then we must act to be obedient and not continue to lie down doing nothing. […] Drudgery is one of the finest tests to determine the genuineness of our character. […] It is the utterly hard, menial, tiresome, and dirty work. And when we experience it, our spirituality is instantly tested and we will know whether or not we are spiritually genuine. Read John 13. In this chapter, we see the Incarnate God performing the greatest example of drudgery— washing fishermen’s feet. He then says to them, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14). […] When the Lord does something through us, He always transforms it. Our Lord takes our human flesh and transforms it, and now every believer’s body has become “the temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19).” Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest

God will not make us obey and step out .. we must choose to obey Him .. What God asks you to do will likely be contrary to the desires of your flesh nature.  It may not be glorious … it most likely will be mundane … You may never stand before thousands like a Billy Graham … you more than likely will be called to kneel before one, like Jesus.  The Lord had given me Galatians 6:2 as a command to focus on for this year … more correctly, from this year on …. “Bear one another’s burdens and thus fulfill the law of Christ.”  Read Matthew 22:37-39 to remind yourself of the “law of Christ”.  I recall a time when Martie and I sat with a woman listened to her as she poured her heart out for over 3 hours.  The whole while, I was reminding myself of Galatians 6:2.  I mean most of us are willing to give someone a few minutes .. but three hours?  When I was talking with the same woman about repairs to her home a few days later she commented on her visit to our office.  She told me that she was talking to her friend about it.  She told her friend “These people listened to me talk about things I have not ever shared with anyone for over three hours!  Where did these people come from?  Why are they here?”  I told her that we are here because God sent us here.  I told her that we are here not to merely help the houses but primarily to help the people that live in the houses.  That help is more than sheetrock and paint … nails and lumber … it is meant to bring comfort from the God of all comfort … Laying our lives and livelihood down in Alabama and coming to Texas  does not mean we are heroes … it simply means we are obedient.  We have some dear friends who told us that they “live simply so others can simply live”.  It has become wonderful model for us.

I told someone the other day that we had been given the ministry of being inconvenienced. They had asked me if it would be convenient for me to help them with some task. Convenient? Why should my convenience be the measure of my willingness to help. As soon as I start thinking of people’s needs as troublesome, I must do a heart check – my heart.

God has a purpose for each of us .. has equipped us each for those purposes.  Our responsibility is to walk in obedience by faith.  Micah 6:8 “What does the Lord require of you, O’ man.  But to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.  God does not actually say “Go” by yourself .. He says “Come to where I am” So …. what are you waiting for? Arise and Shine!

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, May 5, 2021

Changing Your Attitude Toward The Never Changers In Your Life

Jesus did not commit Himself to them…, for He knew what was in man …”  — John 2:24-25

“Many of the things in life that inflict the greatest injury, grief, or pain, stem from the fact that we suffer from illusions. … if we love someone, but do not love God, we demand total perfection and righteousness from that person … we are demanding of a human being something which he or she cannot possibly give. … Our Lord trusted no one, and never placed His faith in people, yet He was never suspicious or bitter. Our Lord’s confidence in God, and in what God’s grace could do for anyone, was so perfect that He never despaired, never giving up hope for any person. If our trust is placed in human beings, we will end up despairing of everyone.”  OSWALD CHAMBERS

Has anyone ever disappointed you? How does that make you feel?  Do you lose hope for them? Have you lost hope for them? Have you given up on them?  It is really pretty easy to do.  I think most people have a category that they put others in called “They are never going to change.”  In a way, we are correct.  They can’t change without help.  Not our help.  God’s help.  Just like He changed you and me … who were never going to change either.  Now the tricky part is that some think that if I am to think differently about that person, I must accept, embrace, the things they do and the life they live.  Not so! But, at the same time, when you cast them off as “unchangeable” you have judged them and condemned them to Hell.  Perhaps because of what they have done to you or someone else, perhaps that is your unspoken hope for them.  I know people in my life that I have done this to.  (This is very convicting as I type these words.)  Listen, God is in the business of saving us from Hell and transforming us to the image of His Son through faith.  Remember the parable of the unforgiving servant? (Matthew 18:21-35) Think about these verses in terms of the people in your life that you have relegated to “They are never going to change”.

(John 3:16) “For God so loved the world” That is pretty inclusive .. doesn’t leave anyone out including the ones that we think will never change.

(Romans 5:8) “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  God did not demand that we do something that we were incapable of doing, and yet He did not, could not, would not embrace us until we placed our faith in His Son.

The second greatest commandment is to love people (Matthew 22:39).  Don’t give up on those “Never Changers”, pray for them.  Change your attitude toward them.  You can’t you say? Of course you can’t, you need God’s help to do that.  What you are trying do in the flesh you can only do in the Spirit.  It is a supernatural act to do what Jesus did.  We need to see others just like Jesus did.  Even while on the Cross, Jesus asked the Father to forgive the very people that rejected Him and killed Him.  There is no way that we can love people like that on our own. 

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” – 1 John 4:18-20

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

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Living Our New Life In Christ Is A Battle – Don’t Surrender

Take up the whole armor of God…praying always…”  —Ephesians 6:13,18

“You must learn to wrestle against the things that hinder your communication with God, and wrestle in prayer for other people; but to wrestle with God in prayer is unscriptural. Don’t become a cripple by wrestling with the ways of God, but be someone who wrestles before God with the things of this world, because “we are more than conquerors through Him…” (Romans 8:37). Wrestling before God makes an impact in His kingdom. If you ask me to pray for you, and I am not complete in Christ, my prayer accomplishes nothing. But if I am complete in Christ, my prayer brings victory all the time. Prayer is effective only when there is completeness— “take up the whole armor of God….” –  Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest

Do you brush your teeth in the morning?  Seem like an odd way to start a devotion?  Brushing your teeth is a discipline.  So is getting up to go to work.  If you don’t do either one, there are negative consequences.  You value your teeth … and you value your source of income .. so you make yourself do those things.  After a while, they become more routine, but still …. You must choose to do them.  That is the same with prayer and obedience.  We must discipline ourselves to do them.  Our natural selves push back – or wrestle with our spiritual selves.  The message is – you are too busy to brush (pray) this morning … you can do that later … or I will just call in sick today … I don’t feel like going to work (doing the will of God) today.  Something I have noticed as I grow older … the speed at which my body atrophies …. How quickly it loses strength .. stamina … tone … is accelerating.  And the difficulty I have getting back to where I was, ugh!  If I slack off in any way, BOOM!  I am sliding down the steep slope of atrophy. 

It’s the same with our spiritual life.  A life without spiritual discipline is a life of spiritual weakness.  The danger is .. you can become used to that condition and start to think that it is normal.  Well, it may be common, but it is far from “normal” if you are a Christian. I want to encourage you to get serious about your spiritual condition … God has called you to so much more than mediocrity in your faith walk.  I can encourage but the Spirit must convict your heart, if you are in need of conviction.  A dear friend said that my devotions were poignant.  Isn’t that an interesting word! Not used much anymore and frankly, although I have heard it and seen it written, I was never really sure of its meaning.  Some synonyms (another sparsely used word) are; affecting, emotional, impactful, impressive, moving, stirring. If what I write does those things then I know I am on the right track. My goal is to encourage and motivate – not to discourage or condemn. Most often what I write brings conviction to me – all we like sheep!

Consider your new life in Christ.  As Christians, like Jesus, we have two natures.  Your spiritual nature should be dominant. Like Jesus, we should seek to do the Father’s will.  Like Jesus, we must stand against temptation with the Word of God.  Like Jesus, we must be disciplined to talk to the Father and look to Him.  Like Jesus our lives should bring Glory to God , the Father, through obedience and devotion.  Like Jesus …. Our desire should be to fulfill the purpose the Father has given 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

Monday, May 3, 2021

Oh How I Love Jesus

"They [Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee (James and John), and two others of Jesus’ disciples] went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing. But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Children, have you any food?’ They answered Him, ‘No.’ And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish." – John 21:4-6

I don’t know about you, but it is disappointing when I spend time fishing and all I end up doing is “drowning worms”. These guys were professional fishermen and yet they caught nothing. I am certain it was not for the want of trying. Have you ever done that? Thought – maybe I should try that spot or that one – or maybe go back to the one where I started fishing.  So there is Jesus, asking a question that He knew the answer to.  “Having any luck?” For men, well people in general, to admit that what they are doing is not successful is difficult if not impossible. I think it is a little bit of pride seasoned with self-esteem. I don’t want to admit failure so I will just keep trying.  Someone was once that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different outcome.

So the disciples listened to the stranger calling from the shore and they caught a net full. So guys, same net, same boat, same body of water and only about 100 yards from where they had “put in”.  It was then that they recognized that it was Jesus. Later Jesus asked Peter 3 times if Peter loved Him. You can read about it.  The same question can be asked of us. There is a song that came to mind that is not sung much anymore, “Oh How I Love Jesus”. I thought about that song as I read John 21. We can point our righteous finger at Peter for denying Jesus. But as someone else said, “Then you point your finger at someone, there are three fingers pointing back at you.”

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

The story of the disciples fishing is an example of living life with and without Jesus. Loving ourselves versus loving Jesus. We spend most of our “born again” lives doing what we think is right and best, which is not necessarily in line with the Way. We aren’t catching any fish, but we fish on. Surely my life choices will work, this time! It is a love problem. We love to say we love God, but we don’t live it out.

Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” – 1 John 2:3-6

Pretty clear isn’t it? Pretty simple isn’t it? Pretty hard isn’t it? Pretty convicting isn’t it? Living our new lives on our own, not listening to Jesus calling from the shoreline, “Do what I say and you will be blessed!”

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

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, April 30, 2021

What To Do When The World Treats You Badly

"We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, … we are dishonored! … we both hunger and thirst, … we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. … Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. ..." - 1 Corinthians 4:10-13

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

Has that ever happened to you?  Being falsely accused is painful.  It’s one thing to have done wrongly and then be found out.  It is quite another to have done nothing wrong, but accused all the same.  Jesus said (Matthew 5:11-12) “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” And that is what they did to Jesus as well.  So you want to be known as a Jesus follower.  You want to do the will of the Father. Are you willing to suffer like Jesus did? Or are you “in this” for the good stuff only? 

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

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

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

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

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

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 28, 2021

No Longer Cool To Be A Christian

 "We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored! To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now." - 1 Corinthians 4:10-13

Paul was writing to the Corinthians describing how the Apostles were treated by the world so that Jesus might be revealed to a world spinning itself toward oblivion.  When I read those words, I could not help but reflect on what the world thinks of us Christians today. What we embrace as truth about God and mankind as it is revealed in the Word of God is contrary to contemporary thinking and objectionable when shared. The world demands tolerance, which is to say that if I believe it is right, then who are you to say it is wrong. And if I can get others to agree with me, then that is proof that I am right in my thinking and doing.  If we choose to stand on the Word then by the world’s standards we are fools, weak, dishonored, reviled, persecuted, defamed. We are wrong and embrace a lie, not the truth.  This is not a new problem – but for many Christians it is a new and shocking realization. 

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.” – 2 Timothy 3:2-5

There are those who identify with Jesus, but have chosen to embrace a re-interpretation of the Word to match with the world’s version of truth. Asking the question the serpent asked Adam and Eve, “Did God really say …..” It is the idea that you cannot love someone if, at the same time, you call them sinners. That makes you a hater. So then, that would make God a hater and the Bible is not true – God did not love us while we were yet sinners – He couldn’t and neither can we. Do you see the stream of thought here? Of course there are Christians that struggle with separating the sin from the sinner. That is because it requires the power of God for us to do that. God did not wink at our sin – He sent His Son to save us from our sin.  To undo what was done in the Garden. My point – be careful that you don’t compromise the truth for a lie to find acceptance from the world and the culture you live in. 

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 1:28-32

Really you should read Romans 1 starting at verse 18 for a clear depiction of where our country is with respect to its morality and mores in 2021. Remembering that those words were penned almost 2000 years ago.  The point – sinful man has not changed – only technology has.  If I am blind, wearing glasses does not give me sight. A nice home, money, or even a cell phone, does not make me better than the men and women of any other century, past or future. I shared these verses yesterday.

"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." – Romans 12:2

"Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection." – Philippians 3:8-10

We live in a time when using the word “man” instead of delineating both men and women makes you kin to a misogynist. At the same time it is acceptable to use the Lord’s name as an expletive and the use of profanity is more than acceptable – even encouraged among some Christian circles as a sign that you have a deeper spirituality. Do not be deceived. The word “tolerance” has been redefined to mean agreement that what is being tolerated is good.  This is a spiritually challenging time we live in.  If you want to know what is true and good – read the Word of God.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

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 27, 2021

Your New Life Is Not Yours To Live

"God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot?" - 1 Corinthians 6:14-15

Jesus submitted to the will of the Father who chose not to remove the “cup” from which Jesus was about to partake – the Cross at Calvary. Jesus died to the world and was raised up by the Father – not on His own. Jesus did not lay in the tomb counting the minutes until it was time to make His move and come out of the tomb. His resurrection from the dead is a picture of our new birth. Once we were all dead toward God but by faith, we too were resurrected. Transformed – like Jesus – new creations.

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" – 2 Corinthians 5:17-20

"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

We live out our lives as Christians in a natural body. That body is subject to life in the natural world even though we are born again supernaturally.  It is that paradox that we struggle with every day.  The key is to live our lives with a keen awareness of that very fact.  The New Testament reveals the ministry of Jesus, the mystery of our inclusion in God’s plan of restoration, and a guide to how we should live our new lives in Christ.  New lives lived out by the power of God – not our vain effort to be like Jesus by our own power. We have been sanctified – set apart by faith in Jesus – and we are being sanctified – made to be like Jesus through faith and the power of God.

"For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren" – Romans 8:29

"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." – Romans 12:2

"Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection." – Philippians 3:8-10

Dr. Francis Schaeffer, a Christian apologist, wrote a book entitled, “How Should We Then Live”. The question has to do with how Christians should live in a world that does not know Christ and not pursue those things that are contrary to God’s creative design.  I quoted these verses to encourage you to remember who you are – just as I am doing even as I write these words, and remember that the new life we live – we live by faith having been called to be witnesses not just by words but by the way we live and love.

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