Friday, March 29, 2019

We Must Stop Living With The Sin Of – It's Not So Bad

If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth — 1 John 1:6

There spiritual danger with the sin of not so bad. Have you ever heard someone say .. well that is not “so” bad, it’s only ….. you can fill in the blank.  What came to my mind was movies .. there is only one time there is profanity … there is only brief nudity.  Why do we say that? Because we want to justify our actions.  When we do, our old nature is actually debating with the our new nature.  Trying to convince the Spirit  that we are not engaging in sin.  My old nature was characterized by profanity, smoking, alcohol, and self-indulgence.  My old nature has been crucified with Christ, but wants to rise up and take over if it can, if I will allow it to.  The same is true for you.

Perhaps you are trying to think of an excuse about why something you do is not wrong. This is not a diatribe on the evils of drinking a glass of wine.  I want to caution you to reject the practice of acceptance that has become so common in the American Christian culture.  Families struggle with the painful effects of premarital sex … drugs .. alcohol … ours has, and yet Christians pay money to watch those same acts played out on the screen or television and justify it by calling it entertainment.  They argue that it’s just a movie.  Think about this.  Companies spend billions of dollars on advertising every year.  The reason is that they want to influence your thinking.  Do you really believe that they would spend all that money if it didn’t work?  Our culture “advertises” its values in the same way.  Behavior that you personally detest, you actually embrace in your mind by being a willing voyeur. And worse, you allow your children to do the same.

When you compare the natural life with the Word of God, the differences are glaring.  Even though the Spirit in us says “No”, our flesh says “yes”, and our mind says “It’s not so bad!”  There are many other examples, other than the visual media.  All of it is temptation. 

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

Some of the most popular television shows are about crime and crime fighters.  Good overcoming evil.  That is not so bad is it?  But with the good we must accommodate sex, violence, profanity, illicit relationships …. Many things that are contrary to who we are as Christians and we would, hopefully, not participate in.

I think I will let you debate with the Holy Spirit about whether that applies to you.  The bottom line .. we need to apply the same rigor in what we do and watch  as we do in our judging what other people do and don’t do.

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. – Matthew 7:3-5

It's a lot easier to see these issues in other peoples' lives.  But, are you guilty of compromise?  Have you taught your children to do the same? Those who have ears let them hear. Those who have eyes, let them see.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. – Philippians 4:8-9

Thursday, March 28, 2019

The Real Reason Why We Believe

When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death.  “Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.” — John 4:47-48

In this account, man asked Jesus to heal his son of an illness.  Jesus said the issue was really the man’s belief – faith in Jesus and not his son.  Jesus healed the man’s son and the man and his whole household believed in Jesus. The others in the household did not believe because the man believed but because of the man’s testimony.

Salvation is a transaction between one person and God though faith. My faith cannot be inherited by my children.  (Ephesians 2:8-9) I have heard some people say “I have always been a Christian.”  That is not Biblical.  We are born into sin and must be saved out of it by faith. You may not be able to recall the exact moment – for some salvation is like a hurricane and for others a gentle breeze.  But we all know that we have placed our faith in Jesus.  The danger is that some rely on religion – church life for their salvation.  They think that it is the same as saving faith.  Organized religion will not save us. Only faith in Jesus can do that.

I believe that the man, by his testimony, planted a spiritual seed in the hearts of those in his household.  Each one had to believe without actually seeing Jesus, by faith – evidence of things not seen – substance of things hoped for.

Jesus said:  Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” –  John 20:29

The source of our faith does not come from the things or events of this world.  God, through His Spirit, uses the things of this world as seed and water, but salvation comes from the yielding of the heart because of an encounter with Truth and the Spirit. Today, we believe in Jesus without seeing Jesus. In times past, for some it was in the coming of Jesus, for others it was seeing Jesus while He walked this earth, and for us, it is the resurrection and ascension of Jesus with the expectation that He will return for His Bride – the Church.

Just pause and consider what you believe in and why you believe in it. And if what you have placed your faith in proves not to be Jesus - alone, then yield your heart to Him today. This thought gives new insight into these verses.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. –  Proverbs 3:5-6

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

How To Stop Living A Life That Lacks Joy And Peace

I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. — John 17:4

It doesn’t matter if you are a stay-at-home mom, a business executive, you ride around on the back of a trash truck, or you are a missionary in a faraway land.  You must surrender your will to God to accomplish God’s purpose in your life.  To experience the abundant life that Jesus said is ours.  Jesus said (John 10:10) that He was bringing more life, better life than we were capable of experiencing. In 1 John 5:12 we are told that if we have Jesus, we have life and if we don’t have Jesus, we don’t have life.

The key to experiencing that life is surrender. An easy thing to think about, a hard thing to do.  I believe the reason is that surrender requires trust and trust requires faith.  So, if you are not surrendered to the Lord it is because you lack faith.  Until you are surrendered, you will live a life of missed opportunities.  Opportunities to experience peace and joy, the fruit of the Spirit, in your life no matter what maybe happening around you.

I just had a mental picture of that.  In one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, the main villain has just had his plans upended by the good guys and his ship is being blown apart.  The scene is where he is walking down the stairs to the deck of the ship and parts of the ship are flying all around him.  But he walks on, calmly, seemingly impervious to the calamity around him.  It is that picture that I have of the Saint, walking through life.  There is calamity all about, but the Saint walks on.  Living their life with peace and joy in spite of the challenges they face as they live this earthly life.

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. – Walden, Henry David Thoreau

The truth is that we all struggle.

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.  For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.  So death works in us, but life in you.” – 2 Corinthians 4:8-12

It might be easy to fake it when you are around others, but if you want to live and enjoy your new life as God intended, you have got to give it up. What is “it”?  Your will and want to live your life on your own terms in your own way.

All to Jesus I surrender; all to him I freely give; I will ever love and trust him, in his presence daily live.

All to Jesus I surrender; humbly at his feet I bow, worldly pleasures all forsaken; take me, Jesus, take me now.

All to Jesus I surrender; make me, Savior, wholly thine; fill me with thy love and power; truly know that thou art mine.

All to Jesus I surrender; Lord, I give myself to thee; fill me with thy love and power; let thy blessing fall on me.

All to Jesus I surrender; now I feel the sacred flame. O the joy of full salvation! Glory, glory, to his name! I surrender all …. All to Jesus I Surrender,  Judson W. Van de Venter, Public Domain

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Spiritual Awareness – We All Need Our Eyes Opened

And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” — 2 Kings 2:17 

As a backdrop, the servant had risen in the morning, went outside, and saw that he and Elisha were surrounded by an army.  Elisha showed him that surrounding that army was the Lord’s army.  Three things have happened this past week that reminded me that there is a Spiritual side of things that I am immersed in but that I do not always see.  From time to time, I need the “eyes of my heart” opened.  

Martie and I are going to buy a house in Texas.  Let me leave “buying a house” at that for the time being. I had taken some paperwork to the Title company and was talking with the woman, Cindy, that will be preparing the closing documents.  I was telling her that we had a house in Alabama, when she said “So the Lord brought you here.” Well, that opened the door to a totally different conversation.  I knew that I could talk to her about spiritual things and she would understand.  Instead of a 15 minute meeting, it was 45 minutes.   

Martie and I were visiting the “old town” part of League City.  Not very much to see, but it is quaint and there is a certain calming when walking there.  We stopped at a small park to smell the flowers and some shops just to look. To give you an idea of the type of shops, one shop owner showed me the one shelf that had stuff on it for guys.  At the last shop we stopped at, as we left the shop owner began a conversation which led to our talking about why we were in Texas.  I gave her a Pathfinder card and then a card that provides information about Where Faith Is Waiting. She said was going to buy a copy that day.  Then she told us about a Christian friend who had written a book but regretted not writing a study guide.  I told her I had written one and would talk to her about the process I used to write it.  An amazing conversation.  But that’s not all. 

We left her shop and walked to the park, then back to our car.  As we were walking to the car I received a phone call from the shop owner.  She told me that she had gone on the web and saw that I was a Vietnam veteran.  The she told me about her husband who was a very successful doctor.  He had been in Vietnam and was suffering from the effects of Agent Orange – Cancer.  He was very depressed.  Struggling with what had and was happening.  It was not the way he had thought he would live out his life.  She asked if I would pray for him.  His first name is Philip if you would pray for him as well. So Martie and I sat in the truck and prayed with her over the phone for Philip. What an amazing privilege and blessing.   Martie said that our going to that shop was God-ordained.  I agree. 

Just yesterday, I was talking to someone at the Alabama tag office.  We are trying to get our tag renewals finished and there was a glitch.  I was talking to the woman, expecting to not get much help frankly.  I explained our situation and that we were missionaries.  When I said that, the tone of the conversation changed and she told me she was a daughter of the King.  We had a great conversation and she is helping us get the problem sorted out.  When we are surrounded, God’s army is surrounding whatever it is that is surrounding us.  

My point to you this morning is this.  Even though our troubles may be many, God’s Spirit is in us and in others.  He can make connections that are impossible for us to make. They happen everyday but our eyes must be open to see them.  This past week was a reminder for me. 

Side Note: There is a new television show, God Friended Me, that has nothing to do with God and everything to do with man.  The heresy is very subtle. Basically it undermines that idea that God would intervene and that connections between people are a result of chance, a roll of the dice or the result of the genius behind a computer program. That it is not God at all.  It avoids addressing sin by calling it choice.  Be careful little eyes what you see. 

This is my prayer for you.

“I [Paul] do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power” – Ephesians 1:16-19

Monday, March 25, 2019

Are You Bored With Your Faith

Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. — Revelation 2:4 

Martie and I were attending church yesterday.  The service was great.  The pastor was spot on with his sermon. That is when I noticed a woman – older than 60 – surfing the web on her phone, looking at groceries, perhaps making a shopping list for Sunday dinner.  Now there could be any number of reasons why she was doing that – dementia comes to mind. Or it may have been that she was just not interested in the sermon.  I most often see that behavior with teenagers who most probably are being made to sit with their parents and they want the world to know that they could care less.  A saying I have used very often is “You can make me do it, but you can’t make me like it!” 

My point is that the woman reminded me of the times when I was bored with a Sunday morning service.  The problem was not really the service, it was my heart.  Cell phone with access to the outside world are an anathema (curse) when they are carried into a worship service.  They enable our ADD and tempt our attention to focus on something other than the reason we are gathered together. I am not railing against technology. I am attempting to describe a problem in the Church – the Body of Christ.   

In the Book of Revelation, Jesus said this to the Church of Ephesus: 

“I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.” – Revelation 2:2-5 

There have been times when my heart has grown cold toward the routines of my faith; reading the Word, prayer, worship. I may not have been surfing the web on my phone, but my mind has wandered and although my body was physically in the pew, my mind and heart were in another place.  That is an indication of a spiritual struggle.

When I have spoken in churches in the U.S., very often I am given the admonition not to go past 12:00 noon. My conclusion is that at 11:45, many people that attend church are more concerned with the meat in the oven at home than the meat of the Word being served from the pulpit.  Their minds and hearts have already shifted to what is going to happen next. We are willing to give God a couple of hours, but the rest of the time is ours.  It is like offering a blemished sacrifice, thinking that it will just have to do.  

One thing I know – if I struggle with this, then it is common to man.  The solution is simple but oh so difficult.  Jesus said, “Repent.”

Friday, March 22, 2019

What You Should Do When Trouble Comes Your Way - Rejoice!

If You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us. — Mark 9:22

What is your expectation of your new life in Christ? Is it that everything will be “hunky-dory”, things will go your way, your troubles will be over?  Troubles will somehow skip over your house and land on another because you are sanctified and justified in Jesus?  If you have been a Christian longer than a day, you know that is not going to happen.  

So how do you reconcile the idea of faith, hope and love with the reality of living your life in a sin-sick world?  How do we have faith, we have hope, we are loved and demonstrate the love of God in spite of the world we live in?  In spite of the trouble that comes.  

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” – 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 

Does that sound like we are going to live a “trouble-free” life?  Right after I was born again by faith, my step-dad told me that my struggle had not ended, but had only just begun.  He was referring to the spiritual struggles that I would face.  Jesus said: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33  

James wrote:  Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” – James 1:2-4 

The troubles we endure in this mortal life are a test and without a test there is no “test-imony”. The troubles that we face in this life produce the “fragrance of Christ”. 

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.” –  2 Corinthians 2:14-15 

In the testing of your faith through the realities of living this life on earth, the world can and should see Jesus in you.  That is unless you choose to face life on your own.  Doing your best to deal with whatever comes your way.  Ignoring the power that is within you that comes by faith and doing your best to deal with your trouble using your own wisdom and strength.  Oh friend, God did not intend for you to live your new life the same way that you lived your old one.  You are more than a conqueror in Christ Jesus.  Your charge from God is to live by faith and not by sight.  Every day you must “look to the hills from whence your help cometh.”  When trouble comes your way, look up, trust in the Lord and so let your light shine among men .. to the glory of God and the salvation of the lost.  Your strength produced by your faith is why you can rejoice in times of trouble! 

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Leaning Forward In The Foxhole

You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.  No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules..… — 2 Timothy 2:3-5 

Have you thought about living the Christian life as a battle?  It is you know.  

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.  Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. – Ephesians 6:11-13  

As Christians, we must be disciplined like a soldier to live this new life in Christ.  Holiness does not just happen.  Walking after the Spirit and not the flesh is intentional.  In the Army they say that “you fight the way you train” meaning that if you don’t prepare yourself for battle, you will not do well when the battle comes.  Don’t start your day unarmed, vulnerable to your spiritual enemy’s attack.  Ephesians goes on to talk about the weapons that the Lord has provided … 

"Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness,  and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;  above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;  praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints –  Ephesians 6:14-18  

We must be careful that we don’t get caught sleeping on duty.  Another saying is that we should be “leaning forward in the foxhole”.  That means being ready every day, every hour, every minute for the spiritual battle that is looming over the next hill.  That just reminded me of a song .. “If we ever needed the Lord before .. we sure do need Him now and we need Him every day and every hour.”  

You need a battle buddy.  Another Christian who can stand guard with you, watching your back, helping you stay awake and alert.  

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.  – 1 Peter 5:8

My encouragement to you today is this …  

Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.  Let all that you do be done with love.  – 1 Corinthians 16:13-14

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

What is Biblically Correct Is Not Necessarily Politically or Socially Correct

Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth.… — John 17:17 

God has revealed His nature, His love, His desire for mankind to be reconciled to Himself through Jesus, the living Word and the Bible, the written Word.  Men make laws through governments and develop traditions – norms – through cultures that are not necessarily, and very often not, consistent with God’s revelation. 

What you see in the news is that truth being played out every day. It seems that the chasm between “Thus sayeth the Lord” and “Thus sayeth man” is growing wider and deeper with each passing day. Our faith and life are defined by God’s revelation and the inspiration of faith through the Spirit of God. The Bible is the source of authentication of right and wrong.

I was in a meeting recently where the discussion had to do with cooperating with other faiths to help people in need.  As Christians, we work alongside people of other faiths and those who have no faith, every day.  Friendships  develop in the workplace and in our neighborhoods. But that does not change who we are.  We should never compromise our testimony or witness of the Truth to establish those relationships or to keep them.  We are in the world but not of the world.  

If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. – John 15:19

That is something that is hard to remember and embrace when you are living in the world.  Physically and relationally you spend the majority of your waking hours amongst people that do not share your faith or values.  99% of television, movies, and other forms of entertainment that you are exposed to every day reflect the values of those whose hearts are far from God.  And you know what, Christians often like it – even hunger for it – make excuses for it as not being that bad.  Of course I am not referring to you and me!

We are living in a dark, perilous time. People are no longer ashamed of their sin, but flaunt it.  They are praised by our culture.  I want you to consider what is going on and caution you that we all must be careful about embracing what is contrary to our faith, even if it is as “innocent” voyeurs watching through a television screen or in a movie theater of listening over a radio.   A warning about this danger comes to us through the parable of the seed.

Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit. – Mark 4:18-20

There is a song that we taught our children when they were very young. “Be careful little eyes what you see, ears what you hear, tongue what you say….” The same admonition applies to adults, to you and to me. It might be something as innocent as a bite from an apple.  Be careful. 

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

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Spiritual Understanding Does Not Come By Magic But By Growing In Maturity In Your Faith

We know that all things work together for good to those who love God… — Romans 8:28  

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 then God making something good out of them – maybe even fixing them.  Well … that would not be “all” things now would it? Only bad things.  While it may be true what men intended for evil, God meant for God, God can and will use the good and bad for His glory and our ultimate good.  

Be on the alert Christian.  There is a reason you meet who you meet, for things to happen the way they happen.  God is weaving all of those life events into a beautiful tapestry, for His glory and our good.  When I meet someone I think “Lord, why did I meet this person?”  And so should you when you meet someone.  The meeting is primarily not for your benefit, but for God’s purposes.  God is amazing, the original multi-tasker.  Are you 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 develops not by magic but by maturity.  So many Christians are content with life in the spiritual nursery.  They are content with milk when they should be eating meat.  They are content with salvation which is a magnificent thing but are unwilling to grow in their faith and fulfill their God-given purpose. To them Paul wrote: 

Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?” – 1 Corinthians 3:1-3

And so, like Paul, wanting to encourage all the Saints to walk in a manner worthy of their calling, I share this encouragement with you ….  

I 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. That power is the same as the mighty strength.” – Ephesians 1:17-19 

And so, from the day we heard, (I) have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. – Colossians 1:8-10 

I can hardly wait to see what God is going to do in and through you!  How about you?

Monday, March 18, 2019

What It Means To Follow Jesus

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” – Matthew 16:24-26 

You say you believe in Jesus. That is good.  You go to church.  That is good. You try to be a good person.  That is good.  I do those things to.  But, it is not good enough.  Jesus demands more from us.  James wrote: 

Faith without works is dead …. and by works faith was made perfect.” – James 2:20,22  

Jesus would say, “works without faith is also dead.”  Doing good things is … good, but those good things must spring from faith in Jesus and not merely a desire to do good things.  Even the lost do good things.  Jesus said that “No one is [truly] good but One, that is, God.” – Matthew 19:17 

 So let’s  look at what Jesus expects of us. 

  1. We must deny ourselves.  That means that we must abandon our worldly priorities and embrace God’s revealed will for man.  That is a spiritual mandate.  It is accomplished by faith and the Spirit of God in us. The Spirit of God is in us if, and only if, we are born again. Doing good and going to church in and of themselves can be accomplished by the lost as well as the saved. 
  2. We must take up our cross, not just once but every day.  So what does that mean.  Do you get a picture in your mind of Jesus dragging the cross  down the Via De La Rosa and up the hill that was Calvary?  I think that what Jesus was referring to was not the journey to the cross but what happened on the cross. Total and deliberate surrender of His life to the will of the Father.  In doing that He fulfilled His purpose:
But for this purpose I came to this hour…And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” This He said, signifying by what death He would die. – John 12:27, 32-33

  1. We must lose our [natural] lives. We struggle to save ourselves in this world.  Believing that life style, possession, wealth, security, and reputation among our peers are worthy, admirable goals for our lives.  Jesus said that if we choose those things then we will miss what God has purposed for us.  If we try to save the life the world offers then we will lose or miss the life that God intends.
  2. Our devotion must be to God and not the world.  If people choose the natural life and reject Jesus, it doesn’t matter how successful, loved by others, wealthy, or healthy they are; when this life is over, they are bound for hell. 
It is not wrong to have wealth, to be prosperous, so long as that wealth and prosperity does not become your god.  I know some people who are wealthy who also have a love for the Lord.  Their faith is demonstrated by their generosity and is not dependent upon the balance in their bank account.  Their trust is in God and not what they possess.  They could live as easily without wealth as with it. Unfortunately, they are the exception and not the rule.   The Bible speaks to the struggle we have with trusting in the world and not God, in many places, both Old and New Testaments. No matter what socio-economic station we find ourselves in, the question that must be addressed is not how much of the things of this world we have, but how much of us do the things of this world have.  What you have does not really matter, what has you does. Paul wrote: 

“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:11-13

What are you trusting in, really? 

Friday, March 15, 2019

The Call Of The Culture To Compromise

I woke up at 3:00am this morning thinking about this.  When God wakes me up, He has a purpose in mind. So here goes. 

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.”  – Romans 12:9 

On the face of it, that should be simple enough. Living it out is another thing altogether.  It would be great if after we were born again, we were impervious to the call of our culture, to the natural, the old ways.  The truth of the matter is that a civil war rages within our hearts and will.  There is a constant temptation to compromise, to take sides, to yield to the wisdom of man and reject the mandates of God. 

I know that I am a sinner saved by grace.  I know that I am very much like John Newton, who is quoted as saying, “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.” 

It is in our nature – our old nature – to want to conform to the world, to like what the “crowd” likes. But God said, “Don’t do it!” 

“…. 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 

The only way we will be successful in this new life of ours is if we intentionally lay our lives down.  That means to focus on our relationship with God first and with others second.  Loving others is the Second greatest commandment.  Our tendency is to get things out of order.  We love others first and God second, or third, or ….. 

The light of the Church – the Body of Christ – in the United States has become but a flicker. Morality has become a relative idea. What is morale or acceptable is determined by our government or the loudest voice.  The voice of Satan is grown louder asking the question “Did God really say?”  The Bible – the Word of God – is no longer the moral compass of our nation. I must add, even when it was the foundation for the laws of this nation, people struggled with obeying it. 

After watching the news last night, I told Martie, my wife, that I had figured out the problem in our nation. It seems that sins of the powerful – the wealthy – those in the entertainment industry – in politics are being exposed at a frenetic pace.  More and more every day. (Yes I know that is an incomplete sentence!) I told her, “I have figured it out! All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God!”  She told me that someone already said that! The thing is that what people don’t seem to understand is that the reason these things are happening is the same reason that God sent Jesus. 

As for the Church – those who are called by the name of Jesus – whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, we are silent – watching – perhaps even conforming to the “new truth” being defined by our culture.  If you recall the children’s story about the Emperor’s New Clothes, just because the emperor said that he had clothes on did not make it so.  And just because our culture says something is right when the Bible clearly says it is not, does not make it right.  It is still sin -no matter what you call it. 

I am including this scripture because I want you to think about it in the context of our culture and your life.  Don’t compromise. Let your light shine through your life. The darker the night, the brighter the light.  I was just thinking about when I used to fly helicopters in the desert at night.  With no light from the sky or ground, it was very dark.  But then, someone on the ground would light a chem-stick, just a little thing, and I could see it from far off.   Be that light!

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.” – Romans 1:18-32 

This was about people when Paul lived in the first century – but it could have been written about the people living in our country today.  Like King Solomon said “There is nothing new under the sun.” The hearts of men and women are the same from century to century, generation to generation.  If we ever needed the Lord before, we sure do need Him now. And we need Him every day and every hour.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Are You Going To Church With Dirty Feet?

He [Jesus] came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’  Jesus replied, ‘You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ ‘No,’ said Peter, ‘you shall never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.’ ‘Then, Lord,’ Simon Peter replied, ‘not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!’ Jesus answered, ‘Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.’ For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not everyone was clean.”  – John 13:6-11

During my series on forgiveness I mentioned that although a Christian sins, they do not lose their salvation. It does however affect them spiritually. They are not on speaking terms with the Lord.  There are denominations built on the premise that someone, once born again by the Spirit, can be essentially “un-born again”.  

I am not a “school-trained” theologian so my thoughts on this should be tested by you.  See for yourself be studying the Word and listening to the Spirit of God.

When I read John 13, the image in my mind was one of the disciples feet being dirty, in the spiritual context, because they were walking in the world and had picked up sins along the way.  When we are born again by faith, our whole body is washed.  As we live our lives, day by day, our “spiritual feet” get dirty and they must be washed. 

If we confess our sins He is faithful to forgive us of our sins and cleans us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:9 

That is a picture of having our feet washed. If we refuse – and continue to live with our sin – we are not properly connected to the Lord. (You can have no part with Me.) But we do not need to have our whole body washed again.

Back to Forgiveness – can you see that if someone refuses to be restored when they sin against you, they are also refusing to be restored to the Lord?  It is not just about you.  The thing is, many Christians think they can walk into church with dirty feet and praise the Lord.  They deceive themselves, and those around them for that matter.  But God sees the heart.  Their actions are no different than the Jews offering blemished sacrifices to the Lord in the Temple.  Not much has changed has it?

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Biblical Forgiveness – Forgiving And Forgetting – Part 5

To  summarize our discussion on Forgiveness.  

First: Offering forgiveness is not an option, it is a Biblical command. 

Second: Forgiveness is not an exercise of our natural will, but our supernatural surrender. 

Third: Forgiveness offers peace to the one forgiving and the hope of restoration should the prodigal repent and return. 

Fourth: The goal or hope of forgiveness is restoration for the sinner and not merely relief for the one offended. 

There are two main actors in the forgiveness process.  The one who was offended and the one who is guilty of the offense.  When Bob, the one offended, decided that he wanted restoration with Fred, the one who sinned.  Bob had to be willing to forgive – hold Fred harmless – and in doing so find peace and comfort from God.  By faith, it was possible for Bob to forgive Fred and be at peace with Fred without Fred ever repenting and confessing.  There was possibility of peace even when there is no reconciliation. It was a peace that is spiritual not natural. Bob had to accept that hope of forgiveness, which is restoration of the relationship, might never happen. It is that lack of closure that people find so unsettling.  They want restoration, just like God wants restoration. (For God so loved the world …. ) 

I have told people that I know when I have reconciled my heart toward someone who has sinned against me.  It is when I no longer get anxious or angry when I think about their transgression. I must do my part, surrender my right to retribution to the Lord even knowing that they may never do their part. That is between them and God.  My heart is at peace, a little sadder because restoration and reconciliation has not happened perhaps, but at peace all the same. 

Final thought

Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sinned against us.” – Luke 11:4 

 Jesus told the disciples to pray that way.  When we do, what we are really asking is this, “God treat us the same way we treat others.”  Think about what you are asking God to do. “God, you said we should forgive like You forgive.  God, I am asking that You forgive me the way I forgive others.” So, if I refuse to forgive others then I want God to refuse to forgive me.  And He will, you know why? Because in my refusal, I am sinning against God.

I have not heard many sermons preached on these verses, but they are critical to our understanding the importance of forgiveness and the need for us to initiate restoration, even if our advances are rejected.  How people respond to our offer of forgiveness is not our responsibility, but how we respond is. I will close my thought on forgiveness with these verses and admonition. 

“Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.  Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.  Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” – 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 

God has given us the ministry of reconciliation.  We must be faithful to it, careful to not let our flesh – hurt feelings or a demand for restitution or, worse, retribution cause us to sin ourselves.  

‘Nuff Said! I am off to the next Biblical conundrum!