Tuesday, December 31, 2019

God Always Requires More Faith For The Next Step

As you actively pursue this life of faith, you will discover that God wants to take you deeper and farther. (I say pursue because for many it is not a pursuit, merely a possession with no intent to deepen the relationship with God.) It seems that our faith is never quite mature enough to match the next purpose God has for us. We have two choices at that point, to open our hearts and minds and submit our will in obedience by faith or to say “I can’t do it” or “I won’t do it” or “I don’t understand why I should do it.” As I have faced greater and greater challenges in God’s leading over the years, I have also found greater joy and blessing by saying “yes” and trusting God. You have heard the saying “I don’t trust you any farther than I can throw you?” Well, you can trust God knowing, no matter what comes your way,  that His intent is in growing you. Christian, as you go about living your life, put your faith in God’s leading, follow Him in obedience and stop depending solely upon what you see.

For we walk by faith, not by sight.” ― 2 Corinthians 5:7

A pastor and his wife were the one family we helped while we were in Mississippi. The pastor was disabled and unable to do the difficult work of rebuilding. Martie and I had been, "generally aware", of a pastor and his wife who lost their home and their church to the storm for a few months. I had sent volunteers out to their trailer to encourage them and to assess their needs, but we had not visited them personally. Martie kept meticulous records and mentioned that we needed to stop by to see how they were doing. The pastor had been in the hospital when Katrina made landfall and had not been physically able to do anything with regards to rebuilding his home or the church. Helping them seemed to be beyond what we could do.

While returning from delivering sheds to families in Pearlington I received a call from Art, a friend who inspected FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) trailers for FEMA. Art asked if there was any way we could pay a visit to ― you guessed it ― the pastor, to talk to him about his roof. We "just happened" to be driving by the road that led to his house. I "just happened" to have a roofer sitting in the back seat of my truck. To make this story a bit shorter, after that phone call, we reroofed his house, installed all of the wiring in the home, set exterior doors, installed a heating and air conditioning system, and completed the rough-in plumbing. God hears the prayers of the righteous, and He heard that pastor. And ultimately, we did more than repair his roof, we finished his house.

We have had our faith challenged in this way, many times over the years. So often, I have struggled with my thinking that, in terms of what God was leading me to do,  "Jesus has nothing with which to draw water from the well". Time and again, the Lord has shown us that He can and will draw the water on our behalf and on the behalf of the people we minister to. Why do you suppose we have trouble trusting God even after He has intervened on our behalf in the past?

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.’ A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’ Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’” – John 20:24-29

Even after the Disciples had walked with Jesus and had seen Him perform miracles, there was a limit to their belief.  What do you think Thomas was struggling with? IS it something that you, yourself, struggle with?

God grows our faith in Him using life’s circumstances.  We wrongly believe that God will always do what we want if we ask right the right way or do the right things. 

“‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord.  ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.’” – Isaiah 55:8-9

What we do know is that God will always do what is right and best, even when we cannot see, trust, or understand.  That is the very definition of faith.  You will never fully arrive with respect to faith in God until you leave this earth.  In the meantime, while you are waiting on heaven, your heart will be in a virtual tug of war between your old and new nature.  You can expect for your faith to be tested and proven throughout your life. You won’t always pass the test, but God can even use your failing the test for His glory and your good. God will always require more faith for the next step in your journey.

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

Monday, December 30, 2019

God Gets Us Moving So He Can Direct Our Path

It’s not about me figuring out where God wants me to go and do on my own. It’s about me listening to the Lord and not trying to solve it like it was some academic exercise, but hearing the still small voice.  Lord, I want to hear your voice and follow you.

Having made our first trip to Haiti, I wish I could say I knew where the Lord was leading us, but I didn’t. I had a strong suspicion that Haiti was part of our future somehow. It would be nice if the Lord would load our next destination into “My Favorite Places” in our GPS and then I could just select it and follow the route to our next place of service. That is probably not going to happen. (you think?) Instead, He wanted us to do what we have done in the past. Place our faith in the One who calls and look for the signs along the way. 

The route may seem treacherous, but God is with us. He is in the boat sleeping while we are in the same boat worrying. And He asks ‘Why are you worrying.’ He is on the water, walking confidently, while we are struggling to keep our head above water. We are concerned about the waves around us and wondering what in the world we are doing outside of the safety of the boat. And He asks us, “Why did you doubt?” Lord we believe, but help us with our unbelief.

So, our first trip to Haiti was a stepping stone on the path the Lord had set our feet upon. I had gone to Haiti ahead of Martie to scout out the land and was hoping for an epiphany, something I could tell Martie ― OK, this is it. But I still saw men as trees walking. I knew my vision would clear in time and we would be in the place the Lord had intended. In the meantime, we must walk in what we knew and would trust the Lord in what we didn’t know.

A friend of ours told me the other day, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” I know that sounds like one of those “Duh!” statements.  But it is actually pro-found in its simplicity.  Accepting and acting when we don’t know is what faith and obedience in the absence of knowing are all about.  Oh, we want to know!  Consider Moses.  (Exodus 2 and 3) God spared Moses as a baby.  God placed him in Pharaoh’s court.  Moses fled Egypt and became a shepherd.  Moses was called by God to return to Egypt through the burning bush.  Moses went to Egypt and led the nation of Israel out of Egypt.

You may have difficulty comparing yourself to Moses.  Don’t compare yourself to him.  God has a plan and purpose for each of us.  Some people get stuck in their journey because they choose to go no further.  The Apostle Paul wrote,

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 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 12:1-2

Your journey may never take you beyond the confines of the neighborhood you live in.  Your journey may be as simple as personally being transformed, sanctified, made to look like Jesus. Right where you are.  There is a saying in Haiti, “ti pa, ti pa” [tea-pah, tea-pah] or “step by step.” That is what being on the move for God looks like.  Perhaps you can identify with John Newton who wrote the song, Amazing Grace.

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.” ― John Newton

How has the Lord has intervened and redirected your life? Consider your life as part of God’s plan and purpose, not merely has a series of loosely connected events. Or, perhaps when God said “Go”, you said “No.” Do you think that Moses could have said “no” to God’s direction?   Of course, but he did.

“Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the congregation together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and their animals.” So Moses took the rod from before the Lord as He commanded him. And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock; and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?” Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank.” – Numbers 20:7-11

Such a simple thing.  What difference did it make if Moses spoke to the rock or hit it with the rod that God had given him. Moses did it his way because, for what ever reason he did not trust that speaking would be enough – even if that is what God said to do. What was the consequence of Moses disobedience? (Read Numbers 20:12) Why was God so harsh with Moses? 

What if you have said “No” to God or I will do it my own way?  Have you missed your chance?

Most often when we think about God calling us, we think about God taking or sending us somewhere. Changing direction might mean your heart or your thinking, not just your doing or where you live.  

I still remember the valedictorian at our high school graduation opening her speech with 1 Corinthians 13:11. “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”  She was referring to the transition that we all were making to being on our own. But it is also a picture of Christians as they mature and God leads them to a new place of understanding and being.  As a Christian that won’t happen except by faith and a willing heart.

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

Friday, December 27, 2019

God Doesn’t Reveal His Specific Purpose For Us All At Once

God reveals just enough of His plan for us to obey. Then, over time, He progressively reveals what it is that He is leading us to. I doubt that Joseph saw himself sitting at the right hand of Pharaoh when he was sitting in the hole his brothers had thrown him into. He did have the dream about them kneeling before him (Genesis 37:5-8), but he did not know exactly how that would happen. Rather than blame God for what happened, he trusted God and did the best he was able in spite of his circumstances. You might imagine what it is that God has in mind for you, but don’t expect it to happen on your timeline or according to you plans.

“A man’s heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps” ― Proverbs 16:9

God very often leads you to a place that stretches your faith. When we left Montgomery for Mississippi to help for a few days, we had no idea what was to follow.  We found the church where we were supposed to establish a Red Cross shelter and met with the church staff the Friday morning after Katrina made landfall. They had gone with virtually no sleep since Katrina made landfall four days earlier. We had a simple shelter organized and ready for evacuees by 2:00. Martie and I expected to be there for a maximum of 2 weeks. God had other ideas. 

Martie was helping process shelter residents and host volunteers. I was in charge of receiving shipments of food and supplies, organizing food distribution to the community and managing a 24/7 kitchen which fed volunteers, shelter residents, and anyone who needed a hot meal. I was sending pickups and utility trailers into the neighborhoods with food and supplies. 

We also had a medical clinic in the foyer of the church run by volunteer doctors and nurses. They provided emergency aid. After the first week, most of the initial team from our church returned to Montgomery, having run out of vacation time from their jobs. Martie and I stayed. We had already left our secular jobs to join the Military Missions Network ministry but instead we found ourselves in a vital ministry on the Gulf Coast. 

“Now the Lord had said to Abram: ‘Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ So Abram departed as the Lord had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.” – Genesis 12:1-4

Notice that God did not tell Abraham about his destination. A land that I will show you – that was it. And that was enough for Abraham to pack it up and go.  Could you do that if God said “Go”? Would you do that? How old was Abraham? Do you think that Abraham was settled in his life where he was? How difficult would it be for you to be uprooted from your established life?

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

What old things in your life must be left behind? Are you willing to leave them or do you want to take them with you? Largely the old things are what you trust in – depend upon for security and the manner in which you live your life – habits – preferences. Do you believe that God is sovereign over where you are, what you have, and where you are going? Why do you believe that and what would be the evidence of your belief? God sees the heart. “Where ever He leads I’ll go.” For most of us, knowing  where God is leading us, before we go is critical to our agreeing to go – to risk what we have for something we don’t know.

When you place your faith fully on God, it won’t matter the distance that God asks you to travel, the destination He has in mind for you, or what it is that you must leave behind.  It won’t matter if your heart is wholly devoted to God.

“Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” – Luke 17:32-33

That was Jesus speaking.  If you recall, Lot’s wife looked back after God had told them not to.  Why? Because she had left her heart in Sodom.  God had said go to where it will be safe for you but she chose to love what she was leaving behind more.

The struggle Christians have is giving up their devotion to worldly things.  Not all of those things are evil, but they can become gods that we worship and are devoted to more than Jehovah God. God may not ask you to go far from where you live, but He will ask, even demand, that your heart travels far from the things that have gotten between you and Him.

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

Thursday, December 26, 2019

God Acts On Faith Shown Not On Promises Made

God is not an enabler. He does not act based upon promises made, but only upon the demonstration of faith and obedience. He doesn’t act until we take the step of faith. This should not be confused with God’s grace and mercy that He shows to all people so they might come to repentance, (Romans 2:4) or the fact that He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:25)

When you are confronted with the Truth of God, you know it. The troubling question is always, “What are you going to do about it?” The Truth always confronts what is not true. If there is something in your life that is contrary to the nature of God, the Word and the Spirit of Truth will expose it. Once exposed, you are faced with a choice. Do you act in obedience to the Truth or disregard it? That is a kinder way of describing disobedience. Very often we choose to not consider our disregard of Truth as disobedience, but rather merely a choice that is available to us.

Example: Shortly after our conversation with a friend about moving from Ocean Springs to Waveland while we battled against the ravages brought on by Hurricane Katrina, I was asked to meet with a pastor from Montgomery. A number of people from his church had helped us establish the work and served as volunteers. When we met with the pastor, he told us that his church was setting up a volunteer camp in Bay Saint Louis and asked if Martie and I would run the camp. Bay Saint Louis is a sister city to Waveland. We knew then that it was time for us to go. We weren’t certain where “go” would be ― until that day. Since we had no income, the pastor agreed that his church would help us with the mortgage on our house for 6 months.

During one of visits to check on our house, I saw a realtor showing a house across the street. The owners of that house were in the military. The husband had orders to Korea and the wife was going to live with her parents while he was gone for 13 months. So, they were selling their house. I don’t want you to think that I am always hearing voices, but I was prompted to walk across the street and ask the realtor if she could stop by and talk with us about selling our house. She agreed and asked if the couple that was with her could look at our house. Obviously, it was not listed nor had we done any of the “get the house ready for someone you don’t know to look at it;” things you do so the house will show well, but we agreed. After the walk through, the realtor told us that she would return in a few days with some “comps” to give us an idea about an asking price. When she returned two days later and after we discussed pricing, I told her “There is just one thing. God told us to sell the house so we want it sold before you put a sign in the yard.” She looked at me with no small amount of skepticism and said “OK, we will see.” That was Sunday night. She called us on Thursday and said “You will never believe it.  I sold your house!” Well why wouldn’t we believe it! God never blesses except in the context of your obedience.

So – we have been in Texas for two years and have yet to sell our home in Alabama.  Does that mean that somehow we have missed God? No – it means that we have not sold our house.  We have not missed a payment. We are trusting God to provide for our needs.  Our obedience is not contingent upon the house being sold – but in our confidence in the God we serve. He will provide – of that we are certain. I have talked to so many people who wanted to serve God – but first there were things they must attend to ... That struggle in not a new one, quite common to us mortals.

“Now behold, one came and said to Him, ‘Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?’ So He said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.’ He said to Him, ‘Which ones?’ Jesus said, ‘You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and your mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  The young man said to Him, ‘All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’ But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” – Matthew 19:16-22

Do you see what the young man’s struggle was with? Jesus had addressed the last 6 commandments in Exodus 20 but the young man struggled to obey the first one?

Then another of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.’” – Matthew 8:20-22

It’s not enough to agree – to want to do something – we must act by faith. It is only then that God will reveal himself. This young man struggling with devotion.  What if God’s call required you to abandon your natural relationships and life style, would you do it?  Do you see what this has to do with the sovereignty of God and faith? What are the obstacles that would keep you from following the call of God?

Pastor Rick Warren said “God is more interested in your character than your comfort.”

There is a term that those who were in the Army will be familiar with, “Foxhole Religion.”  When you are faced with imminent death in battle, people are prone to look to God, even when they have ignored Him or perhaps railed against Him in the past.  When the possibility of eternity is staring them in the face, they look up. Promises are made to God out of fear and not out of faith. Promises that the person making the promises has no intention of living up to if they live.

God sees the heart.  He knows who is sincere and who is not.  But even if the promise is sincere, that does not mean that God will spare their life.  Many Christians have died tragically.  The people making the empty promises want to be spared death or harm.  They are not the least bit interested in living for God afterward.

God is not interested in our promises about what we might do. He is interested in our obedience – what we actually do.  That is the preferable sacrifice – read Psalm 51.

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

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Our God Knows Your Name

God calls every Believer to live by faith. To embrace the particular place in the Body of Christ that God has ordained for each one of us, for His eternal purposes. He will always lead us to places that require faith in Him. To places where faith is waiting. To places where He will reveal Himself in all of His glory and goodness, if we will only believe.

The goal of the devotions I write is not simply an exercise to stuff more knowledge into your head and learn something that you really don’t see as relevant to your life. Rather, my purpose for writing is to encourage you, in light of the truth of the Word of God, to trust God and to do what He calls you to do by faith.

There is a common failing among many Christians.  That failing is in believing that God really is unaware that they even exist. Certainly they believe that  He sent Jesus for their salvation and their ticket to heaven, but beyond that, they just have to do the best that they can until they are eventually called you their heavenly home.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you” – Jeremiah 1:5

When standing before homeowners that have clearly lost hope – their spirits have been beaten down by their circumstances, I sometimes share the words to a song that the Haitian orphans would sing.

Bondye pa bliye mwen, Li konnen non mwen” – God has not forgotten me.  He knows my name!

My hope is that you will embrace the truth that God does know your name. That He has a purpose for you – specifically.  And that for His glory and your good, you will choose to walk in that truth for the rest of your days.

Merry Christmas my friend!

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

Monday, December 23, 2019

God Calls, Prepares, And Then Sends

God never sends us without preparation. He never prepares apart from His calling. Each sending builds upon the previous. Sometimes Christians get ahead of themselves. They don’t wait for the call or they don’t wait for the preparation ― they just go.

It is a mistake to try to do something for God without God.

Acting solely in the power of your flesh is a mistake. If you do, you have underestimated the reality of the powers of the air and principalities at work around you. My last job in the Army required that I review all the messages that came to our unit. On one particular day I read a message that announced a new, early separation program. The Army was downsizing after the Gulf War. It was then that I heard a voice. It was not an audible voice, more like an impression, but not. What I heard was, “You are sacrificing your family for success in the Army. Choose your family and leave the Army.” I had 17 ½ years in the Army. 2 ½ years away from retirement. 

Who would do that? Yet, I knew it was God and I knew what I must do. I spoke to Martie and shared with her what I believed God was saying to me. She replied “I agree. I believe we should leave the Army, too.” To bring this into context, I was up for a promotion to Lt. Colonel and was already identified to go to U.S. Space Command to serve in a Lt. Colonel position, a Joint assignment. I was on my way, succeeding, as far as the Army and the world were concerned. But I was failing as far as God was concerned.

Both Martie and I have learned how important it is that in whatever we did as husband and wife we must be in spiritual agreement.

“How can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” ― Amos 3:3

We have committed to leave our old life behind and follow Him wherever He leads. I used to be an Army Officer. I used to be a helicopter pilot. I used to be an Operations Research and Systems Engineer. I used to be a lot of things. Now I am something of greater worth, a dedicated servant of Jesus Christ. We don't know where the Lord will lead us in the days ahead. We never expected to be where we are now or where He has sent us in the past, but we do know that we are where God wants us to be today, doing what He wants us to do now. He had prepared us then and is yet preparing us for His purposes. Martie asked me if I regretted leaving the Army, because she knows how much I loved it.  I told her, “No, I don’t regret it, but I do miss it.” .  I gladly laid my Army career at the feet of Jesus. Had I not, I would not be typing these words at this very moment.

A sacrifice is not a sacrifice if it doesn’t cost you something.

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man (or woman) will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” – Matthew 16:24-25

Following God’s call will always require you to abandon something. What are some aspects of your life that God’s required you to lay aside. Discontentment is when what once brought you joy becomes drudgery.  God often uses discontentment (lack of joy) to prepare you to go. I call it a holy discontent.  Have you ever heard the phrase, “They are never satisfied.” I think the lack of satisfaction is the result of a lack of obedience to God. We can try to find fulfillment in many things other than God, but whatever we find will never be enough – it will never satisfy the hunger that drives us.

Preparation is not always pleasant. The reason something is happening is not always clear when it happens. If you live your new life depending on pleasant circumstances to be the proof that you are in the center of God’ will, you are in for a disappointment and are sure to be disillusioned. 

Consider how God prepared Joseph for His purpose. On the face of it, Joseph traveled a strange and difficult journey considering he was someone for whom God had a purpose. God gifted Joseph with discernment and wisdom. Recall that Joseph was sold by his brothers into slavery because they were jealous of him. He rose to prominence as a slave only to be falsely accused and thrown into prison. He again rose into prominence as a prisoner and was called to Pharaoh’s court. He rose into prominence once again and at that point, fulfilled his purpose. When he did finally face his brothers, this is what he said to them.

Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” ― Genesis 50:19-20

While serving in the midst of the devastation brought on by Hurricane Katrina, a volunteer asked me, “Do you like being in Mississippi?”  I thought for a moment and answered, “There is nothing better than being in the center of God’s will. Geography has nothing to do with it. I love being in Mississippi!” I can’t tell you how many times that I have shared that principle with others as an encouragement to say “yes” to God. God had prepared us for Katina – Haiti – Harvey, although we did not see it as preparation at the time.  What has He prepared you to do – what is He preparing you to do next? Live a life of anticipation – always looking for the next God-purposed opportunity.  And when it comes – embrace it by faith.  It will most likely cost you something but it will most certainly be for the glory of God and the good of others.

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

Friday, December 20, 2019

Going To The Vineyard – Accepting God’s Call

Where there is confidence in the knowing, there is peace in the going.

“Do you believe that what you believe is really real?” ― The Truth Project (Focus On The Family), Dr. Del Tackett

You will only act on the principles of faith in God as found in the Bible if you believe they are true. Responding to God’s calling in the positive requires faith. There are events that have happened and that will happen that are too big, too difficult, perhaps too hurtful, for us to bear. And yet we hear the Lord saying, “Do not fear, cast all your cares on Me, do not let your heart be troubled”.

You don't need to know how God will do something, but rest in the confidence that He will do something. Embrace the promise that it will be for your good and His glory. Where there is confidence in the knowing, there is peace in the going. The test is not in hearing God or even in agreeing what He says is right, but in the going. Walking by faith is not done in the absence of fear and doubts, but in spite of your fear and doubt.  God’s love casts out all fear.

’But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?’ They said to Him, ‘The first.’” – Matthew 21:28-31

In the parable, Jesus spoke of two sons. One said he would go and did not, the other said he would not go and did. The proof of obedience is not in saying the right words, but in doing the right thing.  You may have heard the phrase, “He talks a good game.” Words can be used to impress others with our spirituality – even though it might be feigned – but God sees our hearts. Like the Apostle James wrote – Faith and obedience are revealed by what we do.

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

I am certain that you have heard that you should not let your past define you.  Remembering the past may be the reason many Christians are hesitant to step out for God. That is not to say that sins do not have consequences. It may be that those consequences disqualify you from certain roles in the local church, but they do not prevent your being useful to God. 

There is an old hymn the helps bring this truth into focus.

What though the vile accuser [Satan] roars
Of sins that I have done;
I know them well, and thousands more;
My God, He knows not one.”

– His Be The Victor’s Name (The Vile Accuser Roars), Samuel Gandy, 1838

A pastor friend says “God can hit straight with a crooked stick.” Another pastor reminded me “and there was a man named David.” David committed grave sins. But, David repented, found forgiveness and God used him for His purposes. And He can use you and me as well, but we must be willing to go to the Vineyard.

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

Thursday, December 19, 2019

God’s Specific Call For You

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” – Ephesians 2:10

You have a special place and purpose in the Body of Christ. We all do. Each of us has been called to our purpose. Not everyone has been called to be a missionary to another people, a pastor, a teacher, an evangelist, but we have all been called to our place in the Body. We should not look at callings, such as being a pastor, as meaning that those people are somehow more important in the kingdom than others, like you and me, might be. That, my friend, is worldly thinking. Everyone is the same to the Father. The source of the power to do what He calls us to do is from Him and not ourselves. We can’t, or shouldn’t, take credit for it. Apart from God we are spiritually impotent. We are incapable of doing anything, by our own power, that has eternal significance.

The point that I want you to understand is that since you have been called to fulfill your place in the Body it is God’s desire that you be faithful in that calling, whatever it is. Don’t use the world’s standards to judge your value in the kingdom of God. Let your light shine and trust God to use it for His glory. We each have a God-ordained place and purpose. To fulfill our spiritual destiny on this earth, we must be willing to trust God or as a pastor friend of mine says, “To faith God.”

God calls whom He wills, for what He wills, and sends where He wills. Our part is to obey.

God places His saints where they will bring the most glory to Him, and we are totally incapable of judging where that may be.” ― Oswald Chambers

God has a specific and personal purpose for you.  Your greatest challenge is to believe that God can use you for His glory and eternal plan.  How He uses you is up to Him, not you.

Think of ways that God has used you in the past or present, no matter how big or small you might think it is.  Perhaps you should write them down as a reminder.
You are useful to God for His eternal purposes.  As significant as salvation is, that is not the end of the story.  You may not be called to preach, but each of us has a place in the Body of Christ. And it is not sitting in the pew on the back row. The common call makes it possible to be part of the Body of Christ. The specific call results in God designating you to be a specific part of the Body.

For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.  For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many. – 1 Corinthians 12:12-14

Think about what makes you the same as all other Christians before God. One part of the Body of Christ more important than another part of the Body.

If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,’ is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,’ is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.” – 1 Corinthians 12:15-18

And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need.” – 1 Corinthians 12:21-23

There is a difference between our roles in the Body – but no difference in the importance of each role – they are the same.

Think of it this way. Jesus is the mind.  The Holy Spirit is the heart.  Christians are the body parts – each having its function.

"But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.” – 1 Corinthians 12:24-27

It is God and not you who decides what it is you are supposed to do in the Body. Think about why is that important from each of us to know and remember.

Something to think about:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

Most Christians don’t think a lot about being more than saved and the challenges of personal holiness associated with being a Christian.  That is really only the beginning of realizing our new life in Christ.  That thinking is the way we think as infants in our faith.  God wants us to be mature in our faith, which means that we must go beyond the comfortable and into the places were faith is waiting. 

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

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

God’s Common Call

Moreover, whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” ― Romans 8:30

Reading the New Testament, you see that one idea of calling has to do with becoming a Christian and living a life apart from the world. No longer drawn by the world’s song to indulge yourself and reject God, but rather to embrace God and reject the world. Many Christians spend much of their remaining new life struggling as they try to resist responding to that song. That is because our old nature longs to dance to the rhythm of the sin-filled world!

Our common calling is our call to a new life, loving God with “all”, following Jesus, living by faith, and submitting to the influence of the Spirit of God. We have been called to a new life. To live it, we have been given a new DNA.

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

Some people say “I have always been a Christian”, but that is not Biblical.  We were all born into sin. Can you remember when God called you to salvation through Jesus? As a reminder, write a brief description of when and how that happened. It is important to know when you were born again, but it is not necessary to know the hour and minute.

Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” – Matthew 22:37

Part of the common call is to put God first.  Take a moment to consider how loving God with “All” has shaped the way you live your life.

Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.” – Psalm 139:7-8

When I was in grade school – maybe even high school, the teacher was in the classroom, the students were on our best behavior.  But the classroom was in chaos as soon as the teacher left the room.  Consider what the benefit might be for your life if you were constantly aware of God’s presence. What are some ways that you can keep yourself God-aware?  Always being mindful that He is always in the room.

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

When someone responds to God’s common call old things die and new things replace them.  What old things in your life have passed away? What things seem to persist in clinging to you? It is a common struggle – you are not alone in it.

We can’t live our new lives in isolation from other Christians.  Dr. Howard Hendricks, a professor at Dal-las Theological Seminary before his passing in 2016, once said, “Every Christian needs a Paul, a Barnabus and a Timothy in their life.  A Paul who builds into your life [a mentor], a Barnabas who will keep you ac-countable, and a Timothy into whose life you can build.”  In my experience finding those relationships is not something that you can make happen, but some-thing that will evolve through the providence of God.  Paul’s spiritual maturity must surpass yours.  That of Barnabas must be at least equal to your own.  Timothy will be someone who wants to grow in their faith and for whom you will be a Paul. 

Are there people in your life like that today?  If not, pray that the Lord will bring them your way. And then look expecting for them to show up.

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

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

So You Want To Be Like Jesus

"If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple… In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples. ” ― Luke 14:26-27,33

Jesus gave up everything to come to Earth for our redemption. He laid his life down. (John 15:33) To be a faithful follower of Jesus.  To fulfill your purpose on this earth requires that your love for God be greater than you love for anything else … you father and mother, spouse and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. To hate them means to not love them more than God. 

Very often, we are faced with spiritual challenges.  Faced with a choice – do what the Spirit of God has led us to do or choose that which we prefer to do.  It may be a small thing – or it may be something that is life changing.  It will always be contrary to the desires of our flesh – our old nature – what most people would call reasonable – not big deal.     

What is it that you are struggling with? That your flesh is resisting. That you know you should do, but the tug of the world is strong. It is a faith issue – a problem of trust that God will provide. Let me leave you with this encouragement from the Apostle Paul.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 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 12:1-2

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

Monday, December 16, 2019

Having The Same Spirit Is Not Enough

"What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?” ― James 2:14-16

Unity in the body of Christ is something that I have encouraged for many years.  Very often, I think, many Christians think of unity between Christians that are different ethnically, culturally, geographically, or maybe in the way they worship or feel about the sign gifts (prophecy, healing, speaking in tongues) much like their relationship with distant cousins.  They   acknowledge the relationship by virtue of the family tree but really have nothing to do with them. They might boast about the relationship if that person is famous, but that is for their own benefit and reputation, not the relative’s.   

God – through James – is telling us that unity – spiritual relationship is more than having a benevolent attitude for other Christians.  It is taking action when you see them in need.  Frankly, it is too easy to give money to your church and consider you have done your good deed.  That you have not walked on the other side of the road because you tithe and your church has a ministry for those in need.  That is good – but James was not writing to churches – he was writing to people in the church.  I have noticed that it is much easier for Christians to look to a distant land – perhaps even travel there and serve in some capacity for a week or so – than it is for them to walk across the street or across town.   

As I have written before (I always struggle with that wording. I want to write, “As I said”, but I didn’t say it, I wrote it)  I watch people as I listen.  Their faces and body language often reveal much more than the words they speak.  When a Brother or Sister of another ethnic group speaks of unity, it is much deeper that sharing the same Spirit.  They already know that.  But, if I may expand on James words, unity without works is also dead.

Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this …” – 1 Peter 3:8-9

Each of us has opportunity to demonstrate Agape love to others. Don’t merely “hire out” your compassion for others and call it good. Be willing to walk to the other side of the road, not just to put a few dollars in a can held by an outstretched arm – or think that your tithe is good enough.  Not when you know the Spirit is prompting you to go further.  But to perhaps sacrifice for someone else like the Good Samaritan. He did more than give money, although he did that too. 

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:34-35

I could write more, but I won’t. I think you get the idea. In consideration of this Christmas season – I want to encourage you to love others like God loved us. 

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

Friday, December 13, 2019

We Must Be More Than A Silent Witness

"But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear...” ― 1 Peter 3:15

What is it that I must speak to this morning? That is the question I must answer every time I sit down to write a devotion.  I am sitting here this morning asking the Lord that very question.  Each one of us should be asking that question.  There is a British television series called the “Silent Witness”. It is about the use of forensic science to learn about a crime – “who dunnit” – from a corpse – a witness that cannot speak. Giving a reason for the hope you have suggests that something about you motivated a discussion about why you are the way you are.  Why you live the way you live.  Why you persevere the way you persevere.  Why it is that you seem to be different from the rest of the world.

Of course for someone to ask those questions – you would have to be different – not odd but different. Your life must reflect  love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. All qualities that others lack but crave, wishing they might even have one to cling to. Those qualities are the fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-23) They are qualities that are a product of being rooted and grounded in the Word of God and submitted to the Spirit of God.  And when people see that in you … they often want to know why.  It is nothing that you can take credit for achieving.  Those are life qualities that are supernatural.  You have them, not because of your lack of trouble in life, but you have them in spite of your troubles, life’s circumstances.  Otherwise telling people about Jesus and new life in Christ, when your life is no different than theirs, is like a Chevy car salesman trying to sell a Chevy to someone who drives a Ford when the salesman drives a Ford, too. 

Our lives are to be distinguishable from the world.  If you were in a line up – you with people who were not Christians – all of you wearing how you cope with life on your sleeves – would you stand out – could someone pick the Christian out of the lineup?  Would they pick you? Or would they say – “Nope, I don’t recognize any of them.”

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

But let’s say they do – you are so obviously different from the others – it is easy for them to say “That’s him or her! That’s the Christian!” So you are carted off to the interrogation room and questioned about why you are different.  That is your opportunity to give the reason for the hope that is in you with meekness and fear. You are not afraid of the one asking the question (at least you shouldn’t be) – but you are in awe of the One who brought the change in you.  The One who is making you different from the rest of the world – day by day.  You don’t have to be a preacher or some super saint to give a reason, to tell others about Jesus and your new life.  You just need to actually be different.  Salvation is spiritual and requires the Spirit to be in the teller and to be working in the hearer.  God will give you opportunity to tell – all you have to do is be ready.  And when the opportunity arrives, to no longer be silent.

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

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Keeping Your Mind And Spirit Fresh When Your Body Is Frail

"… we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” ― 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Martie goes to see the neurosurgeon today for a follow-up after her spinal fusion. She is recovering well.  Her body sports so many “battle scars” reminders of the nature of our natural life and the trials it brings. Yet she presses on with determination and hope.  She and I often refer to our younger years – when our bodies were healthier and more vibrant.  Not so easily tired. The important question is not about how old we are on the outside, but how mature we are on the inside.  I was talking with a co-laborer yesterday about the work we are involved in.  She said that she and I are a team – she talks about a concept or issue and I share a scripture that applies to it.  It reminded me of the work that God has done in my life – the transformation that has taken and continues to take place.  I find that scripture comes out and I don’t even think about it.  My mind is fresh and my spirit is strong though my body is frail.

But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”   – Galatians 6:14

 I am not bragging about my spiritual maturity – more – I am marveling at the work that God has done in me.  That would be my prayer for all of us – that one day each of us would look around – figuratively speaking – and realize that God has done a mighty work in our particular jar of clay.  That is my hope for you.  Oh – I am far from the goal – still. But inch by inch, I crawl through this life ever seeking to know Jesus and make Him known. And in that struggle – God is conforming me into the image of His Son, and one day, the process will be complete – but certainly not on this side of heaven.  In the meantime – I will continue to seek to bring glory to His name through the living out of my life to the full. I am reminded of a quote by John Newton, the writer of Amazing Grace.

I am not what I ought to be — ah, how imperfect and deficient! I am not what I wish to be — I abhor what is evil, and I would cleave to what is good! I am not what I hope to be — soon, soon shall I put off mortality, and with mortality all sin and imperfection. Yet, though I am not what I ought to be, nor what I wish to be, nor what I hope to be, I can truly say, I am not what I once was; a slave to sin and Satan; and I can heartily join with the apostle, and acknowledge, ‘By the grace of God I am what I am.’” – John Newton, Letter 1772

Can somebody say – “Amen!”

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

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Keep Your Eyes Open - Life Is Like A Box Of Chocolates

I [Paul] keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” ― Ephesians 1:17-19

I made my annual pilgrimage to the VA clinic yesterday.  Each year it is the same – visit 1 – lab work – a month later, visit 2 – see the Doc.  I am fortunate in that regard I suppose that my health has not changed much over the past several years. But I digress. My appointment was for 8:00 am.  I checked the web site and saw that the clinic opened at 7:30, it was a 50 minute drive so I planned to arrive about 7:45. I actually arrived earlier just after 7:30. I walked up to the door and imprinted on the door were the words “Open 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.” What ?? I did not dress to stand outside in the cold wind so my only option was to go back to the car and wait and wonder.  Wonder why the web site said 7:30 and the door said 8:00 and since the door was locked, apparently 8:00 was the correct time.  I tried to suppress bad thoughts about whoever is supposed to keep the web site current. Reminded that our web site was not current either.  S’funny how trivial things – prideful things, like “Who are they to inconvenience me!” creep into our thinking and steal our joy.

That is about when I noticed a flashing sign two doors down, “Open – Coffee”.  Well, perhaps my day was about to get better.  I had been in that shop before – a year before.  It is actually a ministry of a local church. All I had was a $100 bill and a credit card.  I typically don’t carry that much money, it had been in my wallet for about a month, actually.  I didn’t want to pay for a cup of coffee with a $100 bill not did I want to pay for a $2 cup of coffee with a credit card.  That is when the man behind the counter asked if I was a veteran.  When I said yes he said “The coffee is free for veterans, thank you for your service.” That led to a conversation about my service, particularly about Vietnam – Desert Storm and PTSD.  I shared about our ministry – and why I was even in Texas talking to him.  Then he shared about their ministry, his and his wife’s.  He said that they always imagined that they would go to some distant place to serve but the Lord had kept them right there in Texas City.

That is when I shared the story of the time in Mississippi when someone asked me if I liked being in Mississippi in the middle of a devastation.  I answered, “There is nothing better than being in the center of God’s will for your life – fulfilling His purpose.  Geography has nothing to do with it. So, yes, I love being in Mississippi.” I told the man that it appeared to me that God was using them both for His glory and the good of the many veterans who entered that shop.  Sometimes we wonder if what we do matters – does our sacrifice make a difference for the Kingdom and in the lives of those we serve.  And sometimes the Lord uses us to remind others that it does – even though we may not see the fruit of the seeds that we plant through our obedience.

I asked him how their work was funded – he told me that they were volunteers and people donated the money for the free coffee, about $200 a month.  That is when the Spirit prompted me, “Give him the money!” So I handed him the $100 bill and said “Use this to help pay for the free coffee.” By far the most expensive cup of coffee I have ever had and, by far, the best cup of coffee I have ever had.

The moral to this story is this – Life – trivial things – can capture your heart and attitude – be on your guard and always be on the look out for spiritual opportunities.  You never know when you might have the opportunity to encourage someone in the faith. One closed door might just lead you to a door that is open and a blessing is waiting on the other side. It might even be when you are buying a cup of coffee!

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

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Another Name For God Is Biology

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.” ― Romans 1:21-23

I was watching the latest episode of 60 Minutes this last Sunday night.  They were interviewing a famous geneticist about the research he is doing with DNA and cell regeneration.  He talked about the marvel of Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and Ribonucleic acid (RNA).  (No! I am not going to make this a biology lesson, so read on!) To paraphrase, he said that he was amazed at how biology could bring such order into being. He stopped short of suggesting that there was a God in heaven.  That comment reminded me of Romans chapter 1.  As Christians, we should not marvel at a world that rejects the notion of a creator God – an intelligent Designer who brought about an intelligent – ordered design.  In the absence of acknowledging God, people have come up with all kinds of theories as to how it happened – none of which are proven and none of which require any less faith than believing that there is a Creator God. 

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” – Romans 12:20

So what about us who believe there is a Creator God? And beyond that believe that He loves His creation and made a way for life with Him beyond this mortal life? How should that impact or thinking and doing?  I received an email from a friend this morning asking about Martie’s recovery.  I wrote, “Appreciate your concern.  As you know – it is not long after a critical incident that well-wishers focus on other things.  I, sorry to say, have been guilty of that myself from time to time. Not a criticism – just a reality in the course of life. So thanks for not forgetting.”

People get busy with life.  The world needs to see God – not just in the order in biology and DNA, but in the lives of His children.  It is easy to “forget” to have your attention drawn to worldly things – not bad things – just things that crowd out God. 

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34-35

This season is all about John 3:16.  I was just going to post that verse until I re-read the verses that follow.  What a great reminder as we face down another Christmas celebration.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” – John 3:16-21

My encouragement is that you celebrate Jesus more and gift giving less.  Let the world see Jesus in you. Shine Bright.  Love one another.

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

Monday, December 9, 2019

Keeping Your Devotion In Its Proper Place

The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him. From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.” ― Genesis 12:7-8

The life of Abraham – the father of faith – set an example for us.  God blessed Abraham and the first thing that Abraham did was to acknowledge God’s provision.  Then he looked to his own needs and pitched his tent, but then built another altar to God.  The point, I think, is that Abraham kept who God was and is and who Abraham was in light of who God was and is.  As we live each day we should be like Abraham.  Always keeping in mind that we belong to God and our purpose is to glorify him through our lives and actions.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” – 1 Peter 2:9-10

An interesting contrast is Lot, Abraham’s nephew and his response to Abraham giving him his choice of the land. 

So Abram said to Lot, ‘Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herders and mine, for we are close relatives. Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.’ Lot looked around and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan toward Zoar was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company: Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. Now the people of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord.” – Genesis 13:8-13

While Abraham demonstrated humility and trust in God, Lot took the best and then embraced the people in the city of Sodom.  You know how that turned out. My point is that often times, Christians fall victim to their flesh.  They accept the good things and turn toward the world and away from God. It could well be that Lot saw nothing wrong with living close to Sodom, except recall that eventually he moved out of his tent into the city. Embracing the world is such a subtle thing.  It makes sense – Lot need to be closer to the markets.  It was better to live in a house than a tent.  Nothing wrong with having nicer “digs” is there? I guess that depends on what you have to trade off to get them.  If it costs you your devotion to God, perhaps a tent was not so bad. 

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” – 1 John 2:15-17

The point for today is to encourage you to be careful in your life choices.  Keep God first in your heart. And if He isn’t, perhaps today is a good day to start.

“…. an expert in the law, tested him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’” – Matthew 22:35-40

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

Friday, December 6, 2019

In God’s Economy There Are No Coincidences

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

I was talking with a friend who called from California just the other day about Haiti when he told me that he felt the Spirit urging him to bring a team to help with our work in Texas.  WE spoke about it briefly. Even talked about a time from, January.  Martie and I would love to see him and the folks he brings with them again.  They are like family as are people from other states who have joined us in our work in the past.

The next day, I visited a home and listened to the homeowner as she described what needed to be done and why things were the way they were after 2 years.  The effects of the disaster on a home are obvious, but I always ask the Lord to show me the effects of a disaster on the homeowners which are not so obvious.  It was clear that this homeowner was trying to persevere, but was heart weary.

As it turns out, the husband is a firefighter – working three jobs actually – just to make ends meet. And guess what, my friend from California is also a fire fighter and an expert builder.  Were the call and the visit a coincidence, I don’t believe they were.  I believe they were a “God-incidence”, something that was brought together by God not some stochastic event – like the roll of the dice.

God weaves a web of relationships that is improbable and, more likely, impossible for man to orchestrate. When I meet people, I always ask the Lord ― “Why am I meeting them?” I can’t see very far down the path He has me on ― but I know that some of the people I meet along the way will play a part in my journey and my mission which is to point people to Jesus.

I believe that the Holy Spirit works at “both ends of the stick” at the same time. If He is leading, then He is also preparing hearts to agree that “This is the way” (Isaiah 30:21). If we look at people as the source of our provision, we are looking too low. We must look to the hills! (Psalm 121)

There are no coincidences in the life of a Saint. God is always at work, all around you. The question is, “Can you see Him at work?” Even in the mundane, simple things, God is at work.

Very often we think of Romans 8:28 in terms of bad things happening, and God making something good out of them. Well, that would not be “all” things now, would it? Be on the alert, Christian. There is a reason you meet who you meet, for things to happen the way that they happen. God is weaving all of those life events into a beautiful tapestry for His glory and our good. Meeting people is primarily not for your benefit, but for God’s purposes. God is amazing, the original multi-tasker. Having trouble seeing how God can use anything that happens to you? If you are born again, you are now walking in a new reality, a spiritual reality. You need to have spiritual perspective and understanding. That does not come by magic but by maturity.

Like Paul wanting all the Saints to walk in a manner worthy of their calling, I share this encouragement with you:

For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” ― Colossians 1:9-10

I can hardly wait to see what the next thing is that God is going to do, how about you?

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

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Our Responsibility Is Not To Save But To Shine

“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” – Ephesians 3:20-21

Times have changed since I was a young boy.  I suppose that is true for every generation.  Our country is in moral decline and that decline seems to be accelerating.  A preacher said that the greatest spiritual growth is happening in third world countries.  Perhaps that is because great wealth and possession encourages independent thinking – “I don’t need God” thinking.

We should be concerned for the souls of the people who think that way – who reject God, shun the Spirit and mock the Way and Truth and Life. Can things get any worse in this land? The answer is “Yes they can.”  But I would encourage you to rest on this one thing – Our God Reigns! That will never change – generations will come and go – the morality of the nations will rise and fall – like the tides of the sea – but God will always be God –  Jesus will always be the Way – people will always need a Savior.

Our place in all of this is to shine brightly in the midst of the darkness. The darker the night – the brighter the light.  When ever I write that, I remember flying a helicopter in the desert. No lights anywhere. Sometimes hard to see the horizon – the sky blending in with the ground – but then – someone would break a chem-stick – just a small thing – it produced a soft glow – green or red – but I could see it from far off.  That is like our light.  Our responsibility is not to save but to shine.

Don’t for a minute think that all hope is lost – our God reigns – He is an eternal source of hope – spanning the generations – even ours and that of our children and their children.

Vindicate me, O God, And plead my cause against an ungodly nation; Oh, deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man!

For You are the God of my strength; Why do You cast me off? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?

Oh, send out Your light and Your truth! Let them lead me; Let them bring me to Your holy hill And to Your tabernacle.

Then I will go to the altar of God, To God my exceeding joy; And on the harp I will praise You, O God, my God.

Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.” – Psalm 43:1-5

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