Thursday, February 28, 2019

Understanding The Peace Of God, What It Does And What It Doesn’t Do

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled… —John 14:27 

What is your expectation of God with respect to your faith and everyday living?  Do you think that God is obligated to make certain that you do not have to endure hardship?  That nothing “bad” will happen to you or the ones you love?  No injury, no heartbreak, no death, no failure, no loss?  If you do, that is a problem.  The Bible does not promise that. 

God’s theme song might be “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden!” In fact Jesus said (John 16:33) “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Our peace is in Jesus – supernatural peace … peace in spite of the circumstances you must face in this world you live in .. a world full of sinners.  Peace is a fruit of the Spirit. A peace in spite of your circumstances. 

Because of your spiritual nature and the perspective that is possible, you can understand and respond to life, as it happens, differently. Oh, you wanted to avoid experiencing anything unpleasant and were hoping that your rebirth would provide that for you?  Sorry!  But that does not mean that you can’t experience joy while your feet are still on “terra firma.”  Joy is another fruit of the Spirit.  Are you hoping the world will somehow get better over time?  Not going to happen, just watch the news.  Sin begets sin.  Hurt people hurt people.  The only answer is Jesus.  He is the Hope of Heaven.   

James said (James 1:2-4) “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” 

Look!  All of us have experienced and are experiencing difficulties in this life.  Let God be your comfort in midst of your afflictions. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)  God showed His grace and mercy by sending a Redeemer – Jesus, a peace giver. And then He sent a Spiritual Helper – the Holy Spirit.  Let your light burn brightly in the midst of the trouble that comes your way.  The world wants to snuff out your candle, to replace Jesus with its gods – money and self-indulgence. 

Let people know that our Redeemer lives through your testimony! He is Jesus the King.  He is the Christ.  The Son of God,  who takes away the sins of the world.  Shout hallelujah! And thank God for His wonderful gift … (Ephesians 2:8-9) “…you are saved by faith … it is a gift from God” You have a source of peace when the world is crumbling around you that baffles the world and gives glory to God.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Your New Life Starts With Your Heart

Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment.”— Matthew 22:37-38

When the rich young man approached Jesus (Mark 10:17-22)  I think the man was certain that he had done everything right.  He had not murdered anyone, not committed adultery, not stolen, had not born false witness, not defrauded, and had honored his father and mother. He had obeyed all of the last 6 of the 10 commandments. But Jesus told him there was something that he lacked and then told him to sell everything and give it to the poor.  You see, God looks at the heart of man, man looks at the deeds of man.  

God wants our total devotion like Jesus said in Matthew 22:37-38 and God said to Moses and declared in the first 4 of the 10 commandments. Man is satisfied with a form of godliness.  We think that the answer is in the “DO-ing”, when the answer is really in the “Be-ing”.  The young man went away sad because what he offered Jesus as proof that he should be given eternal life was a not good enough.  It started and ended with him and not God. Jesus asked him to give up the very thing that the man loved more than God – money and possessions.  The man had it backwards. 

Doing good does not result in being good.  Being good results in doing good.  James wrote that faith without producing works is dead (James 2:17)  Because of our faith, the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) should be evident in us.  Good works are a natural result of true faith.  It is not the other way around.  True faith is not a result of good works. (Ephesians 2:8) “We are saved by grace through faith, not of works.”  

The young man was doing the right thing for the wrong reason.  King David said “Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me. …. For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51)  

Is there something in your heart that demands a greater devotion than you have for God?  Something that you trust in more than the One who is trust worthy.  Our Redeemer is faithful and true and is deserving of our total devotion.  Take some time to examine your heart … let the Holy Spirit search in those locked closets and clean them out.  Fulfill the purpose for which you were created and saved, bringing glory to God begins with a heart totally devoted to Him.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

WDJD - What DID Jesus Do? - He Obeyed The Will Of The Father

“Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” – 1 John 2:15-17 

There was a wristband that was very popular that had WWJD on it.  What would Jesus do?  The question was to be a reminder of how the wearer of the band was supposed to respond to the world and life.  I think a more appropriate question is WDJD.  What DID Jesus Do? And how did He do it? 

Jesus, the God-man, faced life just like we do.  Jesus was tempted as we are tempted.  Jesus is called the last Adam.  He was not born with a sin nature, as we are, but He did have the capacity to sin, just like the first Adam.  

"It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual.” – 1 Corinthians 15:44-46 

When we are born again, we have the capacity to choose to not sin, just like Jesus.  Temptation is the considering of an opportunity to do your own thing and disregard God.  For you to decide what is best for you, what is right.  

When Jesus was tempted in the desert (Matthew 4:1-14) the first temptation (lust of the flesh) was to satisfy His flesh, “turn stones into bread”.  He had not eaten for 40 days!  Seems reasonable, but then most sin seems reasonable.  It was well within His power to satisfy His hunger.  He had turned water into wine. But that was really not the point of the temptation.  It was to choose something other than God. Jesus response: “Man does not live by bread alone but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”  Often what seems innocent can be deadly to our spiritual relationship with the Father.  The second temptation was to throw himself off of a pinnacle and the angels would catch him. (Pride of life) Jesus response: “You shall not put the Lord, your God to the test”.  You want God to prove you have value to Him.  He already has. The third temptation, (lust of the eyes), “[Satan] showed Him [Jesus] all the kingdoms of the world and their glory;  and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.” Jesus replied “You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.” 

The things of this world are merely enticements for you to place your trust elsewhere.  For many, many people, they don’t own possessions, the possessions own them.  I know many Christians who say no to God because they are shackled by the things of this world.  Satan is called the god of this world.  (2 Corinthians 4:4)  He could offer everything Jesus saw to Jesus because it was his dominion.  We say, “God owns the cattle on a thousand hills” (Psalm 50:10) as if to justify our lust for possessing “the cattle”.  We, in fact, are God’s possession.  Bought with a price.  

 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.” 1 Peter 2:9-12 

We belong to God and should face temptation to act otherwise with the power of the Word of God, just like Jesus did. (Psalm 119:11)

Monday, February 25, 2019

Are You Living Like You're Lost?

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 

I am an observer of people.  I watch how they interact with each other.  How they respond to life.  How they communicate with each other.  What they say and what they don’t say.  One thing I noticed over the years is how we like to compartmentalize our lives.  There are aspects of our lives that are strictly spiritual and others that are natural … old nature things.  How people respond to the events of life often times is with the natural in them.  

The thing is, if you are a Christian .. everything has a spiritual context.  Most contention between Christians has do to with the clashing of the natural – sin – with the spiritual.  Most don’t see it that way.  The saved don’t need Jesus, they need more Jesus.  Their problem is that they are living like they are lost.  They slice out pieces of their lives and expect God out of them.  They just don’t see, or want to see, what they are doing has to do with God. The truth is that they don’t love God with their all or they would do what His Word says to do, by the power of His Spirit and faith.  Rather than criticize or ostracize, we should first remind others of who they are in Christ and what they are doing or saying does not honor God or bring Him glory. .. which should be our and their primary objective in life.  

We attended a church some years ago where the business meeting could become contentions – bitter even.  It seemed that each person had what I call their “pet rock” that they brought with them to the meeting.  The one thing that they wanted to see happen.  They were prepared to defend it, sometimes with angry outbursts.  At the beginning of each meeting, someone would give a short devotion. For one particular meeting, I was asked if I would give the devotion.  I spoke on the fruit of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21) and the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-13).  The meeting that followed was the best meeting I had attended.  Not one indication of the flesh. I might add, it was the last time I was asked to give the devotion! 

We have been bought with a price – the Cross.  We have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus.  We are newly created spiritually and the old things .. the natural … is to be left behind us. That is unless you decide to stick some in your pocket in case you need it some day!  Everything has spiritual context.  And we need to be reminded, because we forget who we are in Christ in the heat of the moment or at the point of temptation.  We don’t see sin as sin, but simply choices that I have a right to make.  Uh ….. no you don’t.  You gave up your rights as a sinner when you were born again by faith in Jesus.  

If you have a problem with seeing sin as sin .. and preferring to live in the natural it is because you have distanced yourself from the fundamentals of the faith.  Your heart has grown cold toward God.  It doesn’t matter how often you go to church or what you tell other people.  Now if what I have described is not you, but you know someone that the “shoe” fits, then point them, lovingly, back to God. That is your responsibility as their Brother or Sister … as a disciple of Jesus … as a child of God. But, if it is you, then repent and let your light shine among men.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Sin Is The Same In All Generations - And So Is The Solution To Sin - The Gospel - Jesus Saves!

That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which it may be said, “See, this is new”? It has already been in ancient times before us.” – Ecclesiastes 1:9-10 

When we walk with the Lord in the light of his word, what a glory He sheds on our way! While we do His good will, He abides with us still, and with all who will trust and obey. Trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” (Trust and Obey, Public Domain)  There are probably not too many Millennials who would know that hymn.  John Stammis, the author, wrote over 100 hymns. I often wonder what he had experienced that was the inspiration for the words he penned.  The life of a Christian living in obedience to the Lord, yielding to the leading of the Spirit is one filled with joy.  But then there is this issue of sin, crouching at our doorstep. 

Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.’” – Genesis 4:6-7 

The nature of man does not change from generation to generation, even if we want to believe that it has, nor does the reality of sin.  If you consider people in the context of their flesh, the cultural and generational clothing and technology may change over the years. Just as I am typing this and not writing with  a quill and ink.  As many as 100 people, virtually around the world,  will have read these words by the end of the day using computers, laptops, tablets, and even phones … incredible, yes?  

But the spiritual nature of man has not changed and won’t change on its own.  In every generation, until Jesus returns, there will be sheep and goats.  Those who belong to the Creator God and those who belong to the god of this world.  And for us sheep, our challenge across the generations is to trust and obey. If you watch the news you can see the depravity of man at work – the result of sin.  You may think that the world is worse now than it has ever been.  It’s not.  Your frame of reference is a mere 80 years or so.  Sin has reigned since the Garden of Eden and the fall of man.  In Genesis 4, Cain murdered Abel.  Even a casual reading of the Bible will reveal the heart of man and the heart of God. The need for Divine intervention – that would be Jesus. 

When I would ask a good friend of mine, one of my mentors, “What do you think?”, he would answer, “Jesus Saves”  This world is a mess. The only way to clean up the mess is Jesus.  I am the way and the Truth, and the Life ...”  – John 14:6 

I once heard someone say “If Jesus is not Lord OF all, then He is not Lord AT all.”  God demands everything if we want to follow Jesus.  No other gods, our whole heart, a living sacrifice, picking up our cross and going where He leads, living by faith , walking with the Spirit.  That has not changed since Jesus spoke the words during His ministry and will not change, ever.  We spend a lot of effort trying to figure out how to reach each generation .. how to attract them to the Light.  God has already implemented a “trans-generational” solution.  (John 12:32) 

when I [Jesus] am lifted up from the earth, [I] will draw all people to myself.”  – John 12:32 

Perhaps you are having trouble with obedience?  We all do to some extent, but when we walk with the Lord in the light of His word .. what a glory He sheds on our way! Jesus is the answer for the world today – and tomorrow – and forever. You just need more Jesus, the spiritual manna from heaven, in your diet.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Resisting The Spirit Of God - Common As The Cold - Dangerous As A Cancer

Do not quench the Spirit.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:19 

Has the Spirit of God ever spoken to you [convicted you] about something that was contrary to what you wanted to do?  If you are born again and therefore have been sealed by the Spirit, He has.  Why? Because we tend to follow the ways of the flesh.  The Spirit convicts us of sin, when we are living or doing in a way that is contrary to the nature of God and our new nature.  The question is, “How do you respond when He speaks?”  Do you say “yes Lord”? Or do you “turn the music up to drown out His voice” because you don’t want to do the very thing He is saying – do? The Bible calls that quenching the Spirit or putting the fire out.  

If you recall the story of Stephen in Acts 7?  Stephen told the people; 

You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you – Acts 7:51 

The people resisted the influence of the Holy Spirit. If you remember their response to him was that they killed Stephen. [It was Paul who held the cloaks of these who threw the stones.] Oh Saint, this life we live in the flesh we live by faith.  (Galatians 2:20)  God through His Spirit will always prompt you to obedience.  The Spirit will convict you of those things that hinder your unfettered relationship with the Father.  You cannot offer anything that is acceptable to God if you do not have “clean hands and a clean heart”.  If you choose to ignore the prompting of the Spirit you are doing nothing more than practicing vain religion.

Praising God with your lips while your heart is far from Him. (Matthew 15:8) You might as well be watching TV for all of the spiritual good that is being derived!  We are a stubborn lot.  Holding on to attitudes and habits that are clearly contrary to who we are in Christ. You are not alone in this struggle, it is the struggle of every Christian.  But God has given you the power to overcome, and the means to live in victory.  You must pick up your cross daily and yield your life to the leading of the Spirit.  That requires faith and that comes from God. But it also requires a choice to be made by you. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The Challenge Of Rejecting The Reasonable For The Impossible

“I claim the holy right to disappoint men in order to not disappoint God.” – A.W. Tozer 

When I read that quote, it pricked my heart and resonated with my spirit, so I thought I would share it with you.  Sometimes - perhaps often times - we are faced with a choice; do we try to please men or God? 

God's ways are not our ways, meaning the world’s ways - but we would like to change that if we could. If what you believe God asks you to do does not conform to the conventional wisdom of the culture or even your family, there are two possibilities; either God is indeed at work or it's not God at all. You need the wisdom of God to know the difference.  When it is God, the opinions of men should not matter. 

Men will ask you, "But what about .... ". On the contrary, when God says "Go", He will say .. "sell everything ... pick up your cross .... love me with everything ... your whole heart .... If you love Me, obey Me." How you respond will be telling. It's always your choice who you obey. When you choose God, the choosing will always require faith and obedience. 

It would be a wonderful thing if the world was in sync with God, but we know that is not the case.  Trying to find balance between the world and God is what most of us try to do.  And it seems so reasonable when we do.  The problem is, that one will always go wanting because of the other.  

“No one can serve two masters .. you will love one and hate the other.” –  Matthew 6:24 

If you turn to the world for answers when God has spoken and made His will clear, you will most often be tempted to disobey God to choose something more reasonable in the eyes of man.  Well-meaning Christians will speak to you about making other choices or at least delaying your obedience.  It is like the serpent in the Garden asking “Did God really say?”  [And no, I am not calling my Christian friends serpents!]  Their counsel is well intentioned but can be with selfish motive.  Their arguments are logical, even reasonable, except for one thing.  God said “Go”.  Jesus asked his disciples “Where is your faith?” “Why did you doubt?”  Instead of looking to Him, they were looking at the natural laws .. the impossibility of the situation … which gave way to fear and doubt setting in.  

In our life, personally, God has given and He has taken away … It is not our lot to accumulate possessions, for long any way.  It is not a question of how much of the world and its relationships that you must lay down at Jesus feet.  The question is “Are you willing to lay down whatever is in the way of what God has called you to?”  Like Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love Me [Jesus] more than these?” (John 21:15)  Then, in essence, Jesus said to Peter - "Show Me!" 

How about you?

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Be The Light Even If It Hurts Someone's Eyes

How do you filter life’s events? In other words .. what is the source from which you respond to what happens to you and around you?  Since this is a faith-based BLOG, the “right” answer is by your faith.  But that may not be what actually happens.  If we fail to embrace the primacy of our new nature in our life then we will put the natural in the front of the line .. at the top of the stack of responses to life.  

 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” – Galatians 2:20

The life I now live in the body ... means my natural life, my old nature, the nature I was born into, has been usurped by Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  How I respond to life should always be based on who I am in Christ, now and not who I was before Christ.  In Romans 12:2 the Apostle Paul said “Don’t be conformed to the natural but be transformed by the supernatural.”  Loving God first and completely does not leave any room for the flesh and the natural.  

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.” – Luke 14:26-27 

That means that you must put the natural in its proper place and it cannot be ahead of Jesus and your new life. Most people want to be in harmony with their family.  Sometimes our faith gets in the way of that natural harmony.  Many people want the acceptance of their family more than anything.  Family is everything. It is the most important thing in their life. It can even be their god.  If you are a Christian, keeping your family first may not be possible unless you are willing to compromise your faith.  

Have you ever “tucked your faith in your pocket” when you are around certain people so as not to offend someone?  If you have, you put the natural ahead of the supernatural.  You chose to deny your faith in favor of  acceptance from the world .. and that may include your family and friends.  You don’t have to be offensive, but you should also not be apologetic.  We are called to be salt and light.  

Salt that has lost its saltiness [its ability to do what it was created to do … flavor and heal] is good for nothing and should be cast out to be trampled under men’s feet.” – Matthew 5:13 

I was thinking about last  Christmas.  Christmas is a reminder that God sent His Son so we might be saved from our sin and restored to the Father.  The world is trying hard to erase that Truth from this celebration and make it about money.  It is not politically correct to say “Merry Christmas”, instead it’s happy holidays.  My wife and I were in a restaurant during the Christmas season.  After dinner, as we left, the hostess said “Happy Holidays.”  I was almost out of the door when I returned to her desk.  I looked her in the eyes said “It is OK to say Merry Christmas to me.  I won’t be offended.” She said , “We were told to say ‘Happy Holidays’.” I said, “I understand, but Merry Christmas.” Then she replied, “Merry Christmas.” 

You need to be salt and light – what you were created to be (2 Corinthians 5:17).   Have you ever been in a dark room and someone opened the curtains or turned the lights on.  Did it hurt your eyes?  That is what you do spiritually when you are around other people who are living in darkness.  Be the light!   Not to harm them, but to reveal the truth to them.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:16

Monday, February 18, 2019

Temptation - I Hear You Knocking, But You Can't Come in

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

As a Christian there are a few things that are certain. One is that you are going to die one day.  Another is that if you are born again you are going to heaven when you die.  That is because you have eternal life in Jesus.  Another is that you are going to face temptation to sin until you do .. go to heaven one day.  The question is .. How will you respond to it?  

Temptation is not sin, but what you do with temptation can lead to sin.  ( “When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”  – James 1:13-15 

You will face opportunities to sin by way of temptation every day.  First you must recognize that your struggle with temptation is a spiritual issue not a physical one. 

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” – Ephesians 6:12

My point is that if you try to defeat temptation through shear will power or I suppose, more appropriately, “won’t” power, you will fail.  You are trying to do something that is impossible.  It’s likened to trying to save yourself.  You need faith and the Spirit of God to be saved, not works or personal effort. (Ephesians 2:8-9)  The next time you are tempted do what Jesus did … trust in God and His Word. When Jesus was tempted in the desert in the ways the Apostle James described in James 1. Satan tried to get Him to focus on Himself, but Jesus would only focus on the Father and His Word. 

Pastor Greg Laurie said with regard to temptation, “You can’t keep a bird from flying over your head, but you can keep it from making a nest in your hair.” God has made a way to deal with the temptation He knew we would face because we live in a sinful world. 

Your Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against you.” – Psalm 119:11 

You don’t have to sin. You don’t have to give in to the temptation to sin. But you most likely will. That doesn’t mean you should resolve yourself to it.  Let God continue to conform you into the image of His Son. Don’t make excuses for your sin.  Confess it and be cleansed. 

If you confess your sin, God is faithful to forgive you of your sin and cleanse you from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:9

Saturday, February 16, 2019

When You Think You Can't Go Any Further, God Will Provide A Second Wind

When I was in the Army, we would do a lot of physical exercise as a unit.  I can remember with one particular unit in the Aviation Squadron of 3rd Armored Cavalry in El Paso, Texas,  I had a squadron commander that trained us for war.  Not just physically, but mentally.  We had a saying “you fight the way you train”.  Well, in one case he used our physical training to help us with mental toughness.  We were used to running a particular route.  Early in the morning – 5:30 early – we called it O-dark thirty. We knew the landmarks for our 3 to 4 mile run.  We knew when we were half way and we knew when we were at the finish.  By then, we were ready to hear “Quick time – march”, which in civilian vernacular means – stop running and start walking or marching. Well, one day we got to the “finish line”, but we kept running.  

We were always exhausted by the time we got to that point. You were mentally prepared to stop, but he kept running.  You are already thinking the run is over, and I am thrilled we are at the finish line – but the squadron commander kept us running right past the point where we thought we could not go on!  We ran for another half mile or so.  What was the commander’s point?  We can do more than we think we can.  War is very demanding on the body and the mind.  You must be able to go beyond yourself. 

God will call you to go beyond yourself ... to do what you thought you could not do … to bear what you thought you could not bear. How? God will not tell you to suck it up through pure determination. He has provided you with a second wind. 

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

Such is your life of faith.  When you are facing life head on.  When you have run past the place where you thought that was “as far as you could go” or “as much as you could take.” When your heart was broken.  When your dreams are shattered. Like the Apostle Paul, in the face of his great personal trials, he had gone beyond himself many times, running on the fumes of faith – Spirit power, and not his own determination and wisdom. 

Not falling out of the run requires discipline and faith.  In our runs in the Army, there were always people who would fall out, who could not go on, who lost heart and confidence.  They fell by the wayside.  The same way with Christians.  I am not talking about loss of salvation.  The people I mentioned were still in the Army, they needed more physical training so they could serve in the manner that was expected of them.  And so it is with us as Christians.  There are many who don’t have the faith to keep up with where God wants to take them.  They need more training ... more confidence ... more encouragement ... more faith. 

I remember taking a PT test in the Armor Officer Basic Course.  That test is something you had to pass to be successful in the course.  Well, a friend of mine stopped running during the two mile run.  He had a look of pain and exhaustion on his face.  I stopped too so I could encourage him to finish.  The evaluators called out to me and told me to keep going and leave him behind.  I could not and would not.  He finished ... passed, barely.  But he passed.  So did I, but helping him cost me something, I knew that when I stopped to help him. 

 No greater love has one man than this, to lay down his life for his friends.” – John 15:13 

I am not bragging, I am making a point.  Not only do you need faith to persevere, but we need each other. We are supposed to encourage one another to love and good works. 

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” – Hebrews 10:24-25  

Some need more encouragement than others. Who do you know that needs to be encouraged in their faith .. to continue to run and not fall out .. even when they think they can’t go on?  They need to know that even though they feel like they are alone, they are not.  Come alongside them and help them. You may not need to do something, but you may just need to be something – a friend. Understand that it will cost you something.  Be willing to pay the price and bring glory to God.

Friday, February 15, 2019

It Is God And Not Our Culture Who Decides What’s Right And What’s Wrong

Walk in the light as He is in the light…—1 John 1:7 

Does the fact that you continue to sin concern you?  Even a little bit?  Or are you content with living the life of a marginal Christian? Are you accommodating sin in your life because, well frankly, you like it?  One of the biggest threats to being faithful to God is the love of our culture.  

If you embrace what our culture offers or promotes as truth and right, even though the Word of God says it is a lie and wrong, then that is exactly where you are.  Living a marginal life.  Like Nero, playing your fiddle while Rome is burning. Listen, freedom from sin is not freedom to sin.  It is really not OK.  

It is a mistake to look at other Christians and what they do or don’t do as a measure of right. The problem is, so many “Christians” are so in love with the world and the things of the world, that if you look at other Christians and not Jesus, you can find justification for what you do and don’t do very easily.  

Even churches struggle with the draw to the primacy of culture over worship and practice.  Churches will cancel activities in favor of the Super Bowl.  Seems harmless enough on the surface.  But at its core is the exposure of a heart problem.  Don’t ask them to come to church instead … the preacher may be preaching to empty pews.  

I want you to think about where your heart is and where your priorities are.  Loving God and not loving the world is not an option, it’s a command.  

Do not love the world or the things in the world. Do not love the world, neither the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, the Father's love is not in him.” – 1 John 2:15

We live in perilous times.  Our culture is growing darker by the day.  People are looking to the government (who is their god) to solve the problem with more laws. But many of the laws they pass only encourage more sin.  Instead, the solution is Jesus.  The Church has becomes so used to following a compromised way of Christian living, like the frog in the pot, that they think “the water (the practices of our culture) is just fine”, when in fact it is coming to a boil. 

You might be thinking, “He is not talking about me! – that is not my church."  If not .. praise the Lord, but be watchful … the temptation is all around you.  The bottom line …… Each of us should examine our heart.  Child of God …. I am encouraging you to let the light of Christ shine  (Matthew 5:16) .. first in your home and then the world.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Your Testimony Is About Jesus .. Not About You

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” – Acts 1:8 

I was talking with a painter and his son some time back.  Our conversation drifted from what had to be done in the house, to more personal matters … who we are, why we are what we are.  I feel strongly that God has these men helping us for His purpose and not just for the money they will receive.  

As I shared a little about my past and why I was in Texas, the young man smiled and said that what I was doing was a great thing.  When the world gives us credit for our acts of service, we are at a critical point. If all I do is impress those men with my service and fail to communicate for whom it is that I serve and why, I have failed in my mission.  

All the world can see is the manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit in us. Selfless acts extended toward others.  Recognition of what we do is good, but is  hollow and vain without the Gospel at their center.  

You can impress people with the “whats” in your life but fail in your mission if you do not tell people about the “whys”. Why you do what you do.  

We love because He first loved us.” – 1 John 4:19 

If you are living by faith and in submission to the Holy Spirit, then people will see Jesus in you. But you must tell them Who it is they see. You must be His witness. Don’t rob God by taking credit for what He has done and is doing. The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, not to absorb the glory as our own. 

Paul said, “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” – 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 

If people are not drawn to Jesus, but to you, then you have missed the point of your encounter with them.  Be careful that you don’t neglect the Gospel, your primary mission in your new life, in favor of people being impressed with who you are or what you do.  Every bit of that is for the glory of God, not your personal glory.  Resist the temptation to like these men. Instead glorify God and lift Jesus up.

"Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.”   – John 12:42-43

Resist the temptation to like these men. Instead glorify God and lift Jesus up. Fulfill your purpose and your calling.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Do You Want People To Think You Are Perfect?

Henry David Thoreau said, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”  In general, most people are very aware of what is wrong with them and don’t have any idea of what to do about it.  Moreover, they don’t want others to know that they are flawed. Too late! If you have spiritual understanding, you will know that “all have sinned” …. “There is none righteous” … “all we, like sheep, have gone astray” … “we are jars of clay” … we have no hope, but for Jesus! 

Our tendency is to try to hide our imperfections .. or at minimum make excuses for them … and condemn the imperfections in others.  Jesus spoke of the speck and the log. 

 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.”  — Matthew 7:3-5 

Well, if you knew how to do that – you wouldn’t have the struggle you have would you?  The truth that we refuse to embrace is that we can only live our new live if we yield our lives fully  to God and stop trying to become “good” on our own; living in fear that people might find out that we are failing miserably. 

The Apostle John wrote “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”  — 1 John 2:16-18 

It’s our pride or the lack of confidence in our faith that drives us to judgement of the imperfections in others, all the while trying to hide or deny our own. “Denial is not a river in Egypt!” – Pastor John Baker, Celebrate Recovery That is not to say that we ignore sin, or the fact that there should be consequences for sins.   You who have spiritual understanding should see the struggle of the soul for what it is .. the need for Jesus .. new life in Him.  You were once lost but now your found .. was blind but now you see.  

How did Jesus respond to sinners?  He told them to repent .. to have faith in Him.  They did not all do that then … and they do not all do that now … Just be careful that you don’t sin in your eagerness to find fault in others or deny your own.  In psychology the term is “projection”.  Where a person projects their shortcomings onto others.  It is easier .. less stressful if you can deal with your problem in someone else’s life. (Speck and Log)  In this case, the speck you see is merely a reflection of the log in your own eye.  The bottom line is that when we do that, our focus is on ourselves and not on Jesus.  So stop looking at others, even stop looking at yourself, and look to Jesus.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Why You Have Problem Living Like A Christian

When it pleased God…to reveal His Son in me… — Galatians 1:15-16

Sin entered in through the first Adam.  Redemption entered in through the second Adam, Jesus Christ.  — 1 Corinthians 15:45  The need for and the reality of redemption through Jesus is pretty simple to understand.  So why is it so hard to live in that redemption? The truth is that it is not, so long as you are willing to lay your life down and live by the faith and the power of the Spirit.  

You — cannot live your new life in Christ through determination and effort.  You can only live that new life through submission and sacrifice.  

We, first, must stop trying to “be good” and, then, allow Him who IS good to live through us.  The word Father means Source.  God is the source of all that is good.  When Jesus was referred to as “good teacher”, Jesus replied, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.” — Mark 10:18 

It is by His grace that we are saved through our faith.  — Ephesians 2:8-9  Do not be content with a mediocre Christian existence.  Merely attending church will not make you a better Christian.  You can sit in a pew with a hard heart just as easily as you can sit on your sofa at home.  Another conference is not the answer.  

Yielding your heart to God is the answer.  Picking up your cross daily and following Jesus is the answer.  Offering yourself as a living sacrifice is the answer.  Living by faith.  Walking by the power of the Spirit.  Not leaning on your own understanding but trusting God is the answer.  

Do you need other Christians to help you to encourage you, most certainly.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken!  But you can hang out with Billy Graham with your hard heart to no avail.  And this culture, this fallen world will certainly harden your heart toward the things of God.  Don’t kid yourself.  Don’t pretend.  We all struggle with the same issues.  

Friend, we all need more Jesus.  He is the way, truth, and life. — John 14:6

Monday, February 11, 2019

When You Go To Church Do You Leave Your Heart At Home?

Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” – Psalm 37:4 

That verse can be taken two ways.  First, if you pursue God then He will give you anything your little heart desires.  Second, if you pursue God, He will make His passion, your passion.  He will change your “wants” to those things that reflect His will and purposes.  That is what Jesus was telling Peter through His questions to Peter in John 21.  “If you love Me, then pursue those things that I pursue.  Do what I say to do, even if it makes no earthly sense.” 

What makes missionaries distinctive is that they place less value on earthly comforts and relationships than they do on the call of Jesus on their lives to pick up their cross, abandon the things of this world, and follow Him.  To feed His sheep if you will.  The thing about a shepherd, when everyone else is at home sleeping, he is standing guard over the flock. We just spent 14 months  living in a travel trailer, parked next to a church, listening to the cars zoom up and down the highway and jets fly over at all hours.  My point?  God has called us to this place. When He calls, you must be willing to lay what is comfortable and familiar, down and go and do where He says go and do. 

From time to time when I tell my wife that I love her, she will say “I love you more.” Then I say “No, I love you more.” And we go back and forth several times with that.  But where is the proof of that love? The proof of love is not in our words, as affirming as they might be. These are some expressions of love. They all require sacrifice. 

Husbands toward wives:  

Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her.” –  Ephesians 5:25 

Us toward God: 

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” – Romans 12:1-2 

Us toward God and Others:

“‘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 22:37-40

Do you love God enough to give yourself up for Him?  – your hopes, your dreams, your comfort, your secure retirement, your family holidays, the list goes on ….. The theme of the Bible is that God is supreme and deserves our total devotion … like David, we must love God with our whole heart. (1 Kings 14:8).  Listen, men, you won’t love your wife that way if you first don’t love God that way.  You won’t love others if you don’t love God first. And you won’t love God that way if you are unwilling to lay your life down.

I listened to a sermon yesterday where the pastor said “Religion without godly living has no value.” Going to church is not enough.  Not if you leave your heart at home.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Living Your Life With A Half-baked Heart

“Trust and obey for there is no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to Trust and Obey”  

James wrote “Faith  by itself, without works, is dead” (James 2:17).  The implication is that we are to do something.  Martin Luther – who rested on Romans and Justification by faith – called the Book of James a “right strawy Epistle” meaning it was difficult for him to swallow given his right rejection of the idea that you could get to heaven by doing good things - by works. 

"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”  – Ephesians 2:10 

Ephesians 2:10 gives a hint that the works we are to do cannot be done without Jesus – they have a spiritual context.  Good works are a product of our faith.  We tend to think of us doing something by ourselves.  Not so.  If you have faith you will show it by being obedient to the Father, that may mean but, does not necessarily mean, giving  a cup of cold water to a thirsty man.  Even the unsaved can do that … and they do.  There are many who are lost that do “good” things for others.  

Think about the story of the rich young ruler.  Faith, the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1), is all about trust in the Father and in the work of Jesus on the cross and His resurrection.  Listen, God never reveals Himself to us and through us in the absence of our obedience to His will, it is always after.  If you are living your life with a half-baked heart – one foot in heaven and the other planted firmly in the world – you ask God for blessings and then call your new car a blessing which you bought on credit and are indebted to the world?  

John wrote, “love not the world or the things of this world” (1 John 2:15)  Mark my words, when you are laying on your death bed, it will not be the car that is on your mind and heart.  You know what God wants you to do … so do it. You will be blessed beyond measure .. but it won’t be a new car .. and that, frankly, won’t matter to you because your heart will be fixed on the Father.

Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you [change your desires to His] the desires of your heart.” – Psalm 37:4