Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Making Sense Out Of Jesus – When You Think That Your Gospel Might Be Better Than God’s

But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned”. – 1 Corinthians 2:14

I had an interesting conversation with a young Believer the other day. I guess more revealing that interesting.  We were driving to my “home away from home”, Home Depot, to buy some materials for his home. As we left, we noticed some people walking from house to house with what appeared to be Bibles in their hands.  He said,  “Those are Jehovah’s Witnesses.”  Isn’t that a great name?  My BLOG is not the forum to go into detail about their beliefs.  He said that he enjoys talking to them and Mormons.  He is interested in what they have to say.  That they both talk about Jesus.  I told him that just because someone says Jesus, it may not be the same Jesus that he knows.

That conversation morphed into his belief that God will not turn away people of other faiths.  People who are sincere about their faith.  It just didn’t make sense to him that God would do that. I asked him if he was familiar with John 14:6.  I suspected not and was correct in my thinking.

Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” – John 14:6

That truth cemented with this truth.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” – John 1:1-5

Those to whom the Spirit of God had not given revelation to the Truth do not understand that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and He is the only way to the Father. That doesn’t leave much room for other religions and those who sincerely follow those religions.

Now let’s couple that conversation with another person this week who was talking about his denomination struggling with the issue of same sex marriage.  Legitimizing what the Bible says is sin.  It could be some other sin that a denomination or an individual chooses to embrace as acceptable.  It is the nature of human reasoning to ask “Did God really say ….?” (fill in the ….)   The root of that question comes from the Garden.

Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”” – Genesis 3:1

So I wasn’t surprised by either conversation. When Christians choose to embrace human reasoning – cultural conventions – as preeminent over the Word of God, there are no limits to the heresies that ensue.  Their hearts abandon the Truth and are given over to natural wisdom. In this country we are inundated with the messages that what God says is wrong – sin – is not really wrong, it is simply a choice – another way to live or pursue God.  It is normal and good.

“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, And prudent in their own sight!” – Isaiah 5:20

The Church in the United States is losing its way.  Just as has happened in Great Britain and Europe, so we, too, are following that spiritually treacherous path that leads away from Truth. Step by step.  Concession by concession.

“‘This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men.” – Mark 7:7-8

Think about what you embrace as acceptable and right that is, in truth, contrary to the Truth – the Word of God.  If you choose to look to the culture for truth and what seems reasonable, you have fallen victim to Satan’s deception.  The same subversion of the Truth that started in the Garden.

Monday, April 29, 2019

The Bible – More than Stories.

“And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.” – Luke 24:45

The Word of God is more than a compilation of stories of what people said and did in times past. Of course you know that already.  But from time to time, it is important for us to be reminded, lest we become complacent about the Bible’s significance, its spiritual roots and the role it plays in our personal spiritual journey. The disciples knew the Scriptures but they did not comprehend or understand them.  They could read the words, but Jesus had to “open their understanding” to the spiritual context of those words.

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

God has given us the scripture for a reason, well several actually. Doctrine is a set of beliefs. Reproof is rebuke or chastening. Correction is clarifying what is wrong and what is right. Instruction in righteousness is instruction in right living – How to be like Jesus. The Word – the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17) – is key to right living and victory over temptation to sin. (Psalm 119:11)

The thing is, the Bible is a spiritual book that requires the Spirit of God to understand its truth.  Someone asked me how to explain the Bible to a lost person.  I told them that it is impossible for anyone to grasp the truth the Bible apart from the Spirit of God “opening their understanding.” They must be a Christian to understand the spiritual truth in the Bible.

But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned”. – 1 Corinthians 2:14

Anyone can read the Bible.  It has been published in over 450 languages.  The New Testament in aver 1400 languages.  The Gospel of Mark in over 2300 languages.  Where there was no written language, ministries like Wycliffe, study the spoken language and develop a written version and then teach the people to read.  Its truth cannot be understood apart from the Spirit of God. That being said, the absence of the written Word does not limit the possibility of salvation for those who do not have access to it. 

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.  – Ephesians 2:8-10

We have a great responsibility and calling because of our unfettered access to the Word of God?  But still, many Christians are biblically illiterate, by their own choosing.  They have decided that reading and studying the Word is optional, and they choose not to.  The truth is, God has made the Word available to us for His purpose.

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

We have the Spirit of God in our hearts, (Ephesians 1:13-14) and the Word of God at our fingertips.  All we lack is the will to obey.

For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.” – Luke 12:48

Friday, April 26, 2019

Wanting To Do Good Will Not Stop You From Sinning

“I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” – Romans 7:18-19

Wanting as compared to doing.  We face a constant pressure to do what we want all the while pushing God to the back of our minds.  It’s like the times that you did, or still do, things that you knew were contrary to what your parents had said to do or not to do.  All the while you were doing your own thing you were aware that you were being disobedient.  So you tried to shut their words out of your mind. It’s the same with your heavenly Father.  Paul wrote about this in Romans chapter 7.

I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing…..   Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law;  but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.  What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” – Romans 7:18-25

At the point of disobedience, your heart rate increases, your mind starts racing … you are acutely aware that you are about to step over the line.  The temptation is about to transition to sin.  Sin happens when you make the decision in your heart.  That is why Jesus said you are guilty of murder if you hate in your heart. You are guilty of adultery if you lust.  It is the battle that will rage in you until you see Jesus face to face.  Your old nature must be nailed to the cross every day, every moment.

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13

God provides a way to stop the sin cycle. It is a matter of faith in God and the surrender of your will. Do you look at the waves and your inability to walk on them or to Jesus and His ability to walk with you.  You cannot be successful in your new life by wanting to be good and wanting to not sin.  That is a formula for failure. Don’t be satisfied with “partial” sanctification, believing that the life you are living is as good as it will ever get.  That is not the life you have been called to.  It is the life you have been saved from. You do not have to continue to live that life. How do I know that?  The Bible tells me so and the Spirit confirms it.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Do You Really Have To Pray For People You Don't Like?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I [Jesus] say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:43-45 

Praying for people.  Who are you willing to pray for?  Just the people you care about.  Not just the people you feel sorry for or compassion towards, but those people who treat you poorly, those people you really don’t like.  You should not pray for them merely because Jesus said to.   In a way that’s like your parents telling you to say you are sorry for hitting your brother or sister.  You say “I’m sorry”, after some coaxing, but you don’t mean it. You just said it because you were told to say it.

We pray for those people, not merely that they would be right before God, but because if we don’t, if we harbor anger, disgust, hatred in our hearts, we, ourselves, are not right with God. Like forgiveness, praying for them releases us from a heavy burden.  Jesus was telling those listening to Him and now to us, that we must love, even those who hate us.  Like God loves. That love, which is rooted in the supernatural, enabled by the Spirit and our obedience, is an open door to restoration, but by forgiving and praying we merely open the door.  It is the responsibility of the one who is prayed for or forgiven to walk through the door.  That requires heart change and that can only happen between them and God.

Can you think of someone that is impossible for you to pray for?  What they have done is just too hurtful? They need Jesus. Restoration begins with being right with God. So if I might paraphrase what Jesus told us. “Pray for those who have harmed you in some way.  Pray that they will recognize their sin, not just their sin directed toward you, but they will be convicted of their sin towards God and repent. When people sin against other people, they sin against God. So pray for them. Release them and what they have done to God the Father, lest you, yourself, sin in your heart.”

But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.” – Luke 6:32-36

Have you ever prayed for someone but with no real expectation that God will do anything or perhaps a hope that He won’t?  You don’t have to answer that.  There is no way that you will fulfill the scripture on your own.  If Jesus says do something, his command is founded in faith not in works.  He is not saying “Do the very best you can to treat those people better.”  He is saying “In your weakness, my strength is made perfect..  You can do all things through Me.”  You cannot obey God apart from faith and the power of the Spirit.  (Zechariah 4:6) “‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ Says the Lord of hosts.” So are you supposed to pray for those people with the hope that God will answer? Yes, but your heart and Spirit must be right, first.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

All To Jesus I Surrender - Almost All Is Never Good Enough

“Jesus…said to him, ‘One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor…and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.’” – Mark 10:21

Have you made room for God in your heart?  If your heart was a house, have you given God a room in which to abide, albeit a nice room, or have you given him the whole house.  Each of us has at least a room or two that we have reserved for ourselves.  Like the little  girl that put a “no boys allowed” sign on her bedroom door.  We put a “God not allowed” on some doors in rooms of our lives.  Rooms that hold things that we love and do not want to give up.  Perhaps it is the right to do what we think is right.  Or perhaps some behaviors that are clearly contrary to our new nature and the Word of God bringing the conviction of the Holy Spirit, but to which we are emotionally dependent upon and find comfort in.  Emotionally and relationally unhealthy things.  Things that usurp the sovereignty of God, that occupy places that belong to God.  Like the rich young ruler who loved his wealth and possessions, there are things in our lives that prevent us from experiencing the joy, peace and assurance that comes from total surrender to God.

We were talking to a family member some time ago.  They are struggling with an issue, one that finds its root in the poor choices they made for which they are under the strain caused by the consequences of those choices.  When Martie encouraged them to read the Psalms to find comfort, you could hear a change in their tone of voice.  There was a distance that had not been there before.  It was clear that they were not interested in a spiritual solution.  They quickly diverted the subject from themselves to other people.  Like the woman at the well trying to divert her conversation with Jesus because He was getting too close to the “thing” she was clinging to.  It broke my heart to see them turn away from God in our conversation. 

There are doors to rooms that we don’t want to give God entrance to.  Jesus said “pick up your cross”, “give up everything that competes with your devotion to God”.  The Psalmist wrote “Trust God with your all” Paul said “offer yourself as a living sacrifice.”  I say “Let the doors in your heart swing wide.” The young man did not lack good deeds, he lacked faith in God and devotion to God.  He preferred his priorities, his definition of what is right.  He missed God because of it. Please, don’t make the same mistake.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Jesus - You Didn't Have To Do What You Did, But You Did, And I Thank You

“’Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he [Jesus] explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” – Luke 24:26-27

When I was in Haiti, I was asked why we, Christians, worship the cross.  At first I didn’t know why they would ask a thing like that.  Then I realized that we had a cross hanging on the wall in our home.  Many of the volunteers that came wore crosses around their necks.  So I could see why they might think we were preoccupied with the cross itself.  So I explained that the cross was a reminder that Jesus had risen.  The Catholic crucifix is a reminder that Jesus died on the Cross.  The Christian’s empty cross is a reminder that Jesus was raised from the dead, victorious over sin and death which is why we have hope.  There is no hope in His death, only in His resurrection.  But a cross on the wall or on a chain around the neck is not sufficient.  It is not the cross that saves, it is Jesus who suffered and died on that cross and who was raised on the third day.

Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!” In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.”” – Mark 15:29-32

That was the last temptation the Jesus faced.  Even while hanging on the cross it was not too late to stop what was happening to Him.  Jesus faced the same temptation on the cross that he experienced in the desert.  “If you are the Son of God then …..” then prove Yourself.

Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ” Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ” Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’ ” Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ” Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.” – Matthew 4:3-11

But, Jesus did not come to avoid the cross but to endure it.  For our sakes. Mesi Jezi. (Haitian Creole)  Thank you Jesus.

Monday, April 22, 2019

When God Doesn’t Do What You Wanted Him To Do

“The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” – Luke 24:20-21

Steve, the pastor of University Baptist Church in Clear Lake, spoke about the resurrection story in Luke chapter 24 on Easter Sunday. Appropriate topic for the day, but the thing that got my attention was his emphasis on verses 20 and 21 – not the empty tomb.  Israel had their hope in a coming Messiah who would solve their earthly problems.  The most pressing being the occupation by and the oppression from the Roman empire.  If Jesus was the Messiah, He had apparently failed in actualizing their expectation.  The Romans has killed Him. Even if He was raised from the dead, apparently, He was not mightier that Rome.  But defeating Rome was not why Jesus was sent by God the Father.  It was for the purpose of spiritual restoration.  Freeing a world enslaved by and oppressed by Sin. That was possible even if the Romans continued to occupy the land.  Jesus came to set the captives free – but free from what? Not Rome, but free from sin and separation from the Father.

So what do you expect from the Messiah?  What do you expect your new life in Christ to do for you? Are you satisfied with “mere” salvation?  Is that enough for you? Is it enough if you still suffer from relational, financial, or physical hardship?  If life doesn’t go your way.  If God doesn’t intervene in your natural life.  If you still suffer loss even though you prayed and asked others to pray to God so that might not happen. Is Jesus' resurrection and the salvation we find through faith in Him enough for you? Or, like the men walking to Emmaus, will you be disappointed in the Messiah, and in God the Father, because life didn’t go your way? The way that you thought it should.

We sing, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus and His righteousness… On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” But really, is that what your hope is built upon? Or has your faith been subverted and made dependent upon your mortal circumstances?  I am not suggesting that God will not intervene on your behalf, but I believe when and if He does it would be for His glory primarily and not your comfort and avoidance of the unpleasantries of this natural life. 

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” – James 1:2-3

Steve’s sermon was a wakeup call for me.  I was reminded of what Easter is really all about.  Not financial security.  Not avoidance of health problems.  Not the mending of broken relationships.  With the exception of one.  Our, my, restoration to the Father through the sacrifice of the Son. The sermon caused me to think about what life through Jesus is all about.

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” – Romans 10:9-11

That is the reason we celebrate Easter.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Jesus Knows All About Our Struggles

“He [Jesus, the Messiah] was despised, and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and as one from whom men hide their face he was despised; and we esteemed him not.” – Isaiah 53:3

You don’t have to look far to find someone who has dealt with sorrow in their life.  Perhaps they are still struggling with it and “it”, the source of the sorrow, has shaped their view of life.  Perhaps they have lost hope ... they cannot see or no longer trust in the promises of the Lord because of the burden they carry …. They may have forgotten that “Jesus knows all about our sorrows – that there is not a friend like the lowly Jesus, no not one!”

People don’t need your words, they need your love.  Remember, “we love because He first loved us”.  (1 John 4:19) We give comfort to others because He first comforted us.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

God uses us … fragile jars of clay who have met with sorrow ourselves … to minister to others. It’s been said that God never wastes a hurt.  Our job is not to fix them, but to understand they are burdened with sorrow and to love them.  Usually when people greet me and ask how I am doing, they really don’t want to know the details … a simple “I’m fine” is what they are looking for.  You must willing to go beyond that … Ask them how you can pray for them … don’t try to identify with the particular source of their sorrow … Don’t try to solve their problem. The balm of Gilead referred to in Jeremiah 8:22 was used to heal wounds.  Jesus is the Balm for our sorrows, for our wounds.  “Jesus knows all about our struggles, He will guide till the day is done.” Let them see Jesus in you.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

A Weed Is Still A Weed By Any Other Name

“And some seed fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. But other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.” – Mark 4:7-8

When I write these devotions, I am not writing to the unsaved person.  That person has no spiritual capacity.  They cannot understand spiritual truth.  Martie and I met with the realtor who will be listing our home in Alabama.  Before I spoke to her about the house, I asked her, “Are you a Christian?”  She said , “Yes.” I told her that it was important for me to know so I could speak to her about the spiritual context of the home sale.

The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.” – 1 Corinthians 2:14

Someone who is not born again by the Spirit has absolutely no ability to live in obedience to the Word of God.  They cannot hear God? They cannot abide in Christ because they do not belong to God’s household. My primary audience are those who bear the mark of God, the Spirit of God sealed upon their hearts.  I write to those who have professed faith in Jesus and have, at one time, committed to follow Him.  That is not to say that the Spirit could not or would not use these words as seed or water on the seed should the unsaved person be on the path to their salvation.

In John 6, we learn that many disciples who were following Jesus reached a point where they stopped following Him.  So long as we walk this earth, we must suffer the struggle between the flesh and the Spirit.  It is our old, sinful nature that encourages us to limit our devotion to the Lord. When Jesus goes to places where we are unwilling to go, we settle in to a place of compromise. We have reached the limit of our trust and willingness to give up those natural things that we hold dear.  Those things that define our life and relationships.  It doesn’t happen suddenly like a clap of thunder and bolt of lightning, but more subtly like the weeds that grow up amongst the flowers.  Easily ignored when there are only a few small weeds. But one day, the flower garden, unattended, will be taken over, seized. Those few small weeds will have multiplied and have become dominant, choking out the flowers and their beauty, robbing the flowers of their sustenance.

My guess is that most Christians really do not intend for that to happen.  They thought that they could manage their sin, the desires of their old nature.  Our old nature cannot be managed, it must be crucified and left for dead.  Another thing about weeds.  Some of them have a flower that would lead you to believe that they are harmless … and not a weed at all.  And so it is with our sin.  It may seem harmless but sin always causes separation from God, a quenched Spirit. The issue of sin is not its size.  Like leaven, sin’s presence eventually affects the whole loaf.  We will try to convince ourselves otherwise in an attempt to justify our sin.  Do not be deceived. Loving God with your all leaves no room for anything else.  And if it has already happened to you.  You need to pull some weeds.  How? Confess and repent.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

How Important Is The Word Of God To You?

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

I attended a men’s study group last night.  The group is reading and discussing the Steve Farrar book, Finishing Strong. It was a great meeting and encouraging to hear men who have a heart for God. During the discussion, the topic of the importance of the Word of God came up.  Steve Farrar addresses issues that are cross-cultural, meaning they apply to all Christian men, but my impression is that the book was written specifically for men who live in the United States and other countries where the Word of God is readily available.  That is not a bad thing.  Finishing Strong is a great book. The thing is, as I was listening to the discussions, I was thinking about those Christian men who will never hold the written Word of God in their hands. And if they did, they may not be able to read it because they can’t read.  Those men are totally dependent upon the spoken word. Like so many that I saw in the mountains of Haiti.

Over the years I have heard so many excuses about why people don’t read the Bible. It is not because they can’t read or that a Bible, in a readable form, is not available.  It is because reading the Bible is not important to them.  They just choose not to read. People can watch the news or watch their favorite sports program or television series.  Literally waste hundreds if not thousands of hours watching what does not help them live their lives, but find it impossible to read the Bible for even 10 minutes. It is a spiritual problem – a heart problem.

Speaking of which, a friend of ours, Mitch Reed is having heart surgery this morning – in fact as I type these words.  Please pray for Mitch and his wife Sandy.

“Your Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against You.” – Psalm 119-11

I find it hard to memorize scripture.”  I can’t tell you how many times I have heard that.  Then I ask for their home address and they rattle it off.  I tell them, “You know your address because it is important to you, so you memorized it.”  It is not that they can’t memorize scripture, it is because they don’t want to. The reason – it is part of the spiritual battle we are in.

When Jesus was tempted in the desert by Satan, Jesus rebuked the temptation with the Word of God. Knowing the Word, the sword of the Spirit, is important for spiritual success against temptation.  In the United States, the Word is so available that it is not revered by many Christians.  Rather than read it themselves, they are content to look at it on the big screens at church on Sunday.  Personally, I think displaying the Word on a screen is a mistake. But, I will stop myself there before I start ranting.

If you are ambivalent about whether you read the Bible or not – you have a heart problem.  Maybe it is time for surgery.  I am giving you a referral to my cardiologist – Doctor Jesus. Pay Him a visit and take His advice. You spiritual well-being depends upon it.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Putting The Full Weight Of Your Trust On God

Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths Do not be wise in your own eyes. Fear the Lord and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, And strength to your bones. – Proverbs 3:5-8

So often I quote only the verses 5 and 6 to the neglect of the warning in verse 7 and promise in verse 8.  In my view, trust is the same as faith. Perhaps simplistic, but I would prefer to not wrangle with how many angels and stand on the head (or point) of a pin. An argument considered by medieval theologians.

Because of our old nature, we all struggle with putting the full weight of our trust in God and not reserving some of that trust for  ourselves.  Have you ever leaned against or stepped on or sat on something and it started to give way – to not support you?  I have.  That feeling you get in that instant when what was supposed to support you doesn’t, is what I am talking about.  That anxious moment when you think you are going to fall. That is why we don’t trust God – faith God – fully.  Why we tether ourselves with a rope of self-trust.

Knowing that God is sovereign is not enough for most of us. I get myself into trouble because of what I am about to write. I prefer not to pray for “traveling mercies”.  Follow me on this.  I am in the palm of the Father’s hand.  He is the Creator God.  But, I live in the physical which is fraught with danger.  Bad, unpleasant things happen to Christians.  We all know that – so we pray – please don’t let me be the one those unpleasant things happen to. I think a more appropriate prayer would be – “Lord give me the strength to bear what ever comes my way, to stay my trust in You.”  To which people reply, “Do you mean you should not pray for healing?” That is not what I am suggesting.  Of course our choice is not to be injured or sick but even if we are, we must continue to trust in God’s sovereignty and sufficiency.

In the Mercy Me song “Even If” a verse says “I know You're able and I know You can. Save through the fire with Your mighty hand. But even if You don't. My hope is You alone.” I think that is actually a reference to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego facing the fiery furnace.

If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty's hand But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up. – Daniel 3:17-18

In the midst of the fire there were four men walking.

“Look!” he answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” – Daniel 3:25

The quality of your Christian life will always fall short of its God-intended potential if you are content with a half-hearted faith.

We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. – 2 Corinthians 4:8-10

That is God’s intent for us.  To show the world Jesus, not matter what comes our way – good or bad.  But we will fulfill His intent only when the full weight of our trust is placed on Him. Traveling mercies or not.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Obeying God Is Not Natural, It's Spiritual

There is no temptation that has taken you that is not common to man, but God is faithful and will with the temptation make a way to escape that you might be able to bear it. – 1 Corinthians 10:13

That sin you try so hard to resist, you most likely will not be successful in resisting it.  Why do I know that? I am all too familiar with the temptation to sin and know what happens when I try to resist sin through my “won’t” power.  God had to send His Son to overcome it.  At the root of our sins is our sin nature.  At the root of our sin nature is our desire to be the “ruler of our world”.

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:4-5

The original sin was our desire to be like God … not in His image and likeness, we were created by Him to be like that, but to take His place.  To be in charge, so to speak.  But God wants us to be like the Son (Romans 8:29) who reflects the Father. (John 14:9)  It seems so simple when you read it, but can be so difficult to live.  We can only live our new life successfully if we live it in the awareness of the power by which we must live it.

Our new life is spiritual.  Our old life is natural.  Every day, we are drawn to the natural.  Sin pulling at us is like the pull of gravity – it never ceases.  We must seek out the spiritual.  The spiritual does not happen naturally.  If you live your life with little thought to the spiritual disciplines, you are in trouble .. spiritually speaking.  Galatians 2:20 says that you are crucified with Christ, nevertheless you live, but it’s not you but Christ in you.  You are sealed with the Spirit. (Ephesians 1)  Jesus is not in your heart, He is at the right hand of the Father as our intercessor and high priest, the Spirit is in you.  The Spirit is what makes the spiritual part of you possible.  Don’t neglect spiritual things .. the Word, prayer, fellowship with other believers … if you do you will find it impossible to live the new life.  Trying to be “good” has its source in the original sin … believing the lie “I can do it, I don’t need God.” 

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Don't Let Sin Take Root In Your Heart

In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. – Ephesians 4:26-28

We must be so very careful.  Our flesh can deceive us. People do or say bad and hurtful things to others .. maybe to you …  and it seems reasonable that they should be criticized or treated in a like manner .. punished even. So we hold on to that attitude towards them and before you know it, it has taken root in us.  We justify it in our minds and perhaps to others, not realizing that it has significantly affected our spiritual condition … and the way we relate to other people.  Our heart becomes hard.

The Word of God is clear about how we, as Christians, are to respond to people .. irrespective of how they respond to us … love your enemies .. pray for those who despitefully use you  (Matthew 5:44) … if someone strikes you on one cheek .. turn the other (Luke 6:29) … these verses – actually commands - are about attitudes toward people that are not nice … When we don’t do what the Word says … sin takes root in our hearts … and over time we come to the place where we accept it or think .. that is just the way we are … If that is you, read 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 to refresh your thinking.

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 [a]imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. – 2 Corinthians 5:17-21

 A word of caution … we cannot do anything that the Lord commands in our own strength .. but only by the power of the Spirit in us.  So please don’t think .. ok, I must try harder. Trying harder will not work … it will only result in failure … How you treat others is reflection of the level of love you have in your heart for God.  If you have an obedience problem, it’s because you have a love problem.  The first step to having the right attitudes toward others, even those who treat you unfairly, is to start with your attitude toward the Lord.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Christian Is A Noun, Not An Adjective

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! – 2 Corinthians 5:17

I heard a preacher speak about the fact that so very often we use the word Christian as an adjective. Like you would use the word, orange.  The shirt is orange. The sun was orange as it rose on the horizon. Of course, there is also a fruit named Orange. And there are over 600 different varieties of oranges. I happen to be partial to Navel oranges. Love ‘em.

If we understand that when we were born again by the Spirit of God by faith in the Son of God, by the grace and mercy of our Father God, then that should change how we view ourselves, other Christians and the rest of the world. When I was in Jacmel, Haiti I preached in Haitian churches twice a month, and had the occasion to preach in other churches from time to time and at crusades as well.  I often begin by say to the people, “Mwen pa Blan, mwen frè nou.” Translated, “I am not white, I am your Brother.” I knew that they new that I was not from Haiti and I was physically – naturally, different from them.  My point was that I was the same as them – identical in fact, spiritually. That we were part of the same family because of Jesus.

I was talking to my daughter about fruit trees.  She said that she knows a guy who has a fruit tree that has branches with three different citrus fruit growing on it.  Two types of limes and a variety of lemon.  I thought that is what the different ethnic groups in the body of Christ are like. Variations of fruit but all connected to the same source of life – part of the same tree making them part of each other. I am not a lime, I am your Brother.

I [Jesus] am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. – John 15:5

That is so difficult for people to embrace if their natural heritage dominates their thinking and their doing.  That is at the root of why someone can call themselves Christians and be bigots at the same time.  They view the world and the people around them from the context of who they are biologically and socially and not who they are in Christ.
People mistakenly use Christian as an adjective when they say someone is a Christian doctor, lawyer, African American who is a Christian, Chinese who is a Christian, White – Caucasian Christian.  It is natural for a people group to be drawn together because of genetics – cultural heritage and customs. Or some other attribute that they find in common.  But – being a Christian means that you have a new DNA - a spiritual DNA that is identical to mine. You are a Christian who is a doctor, a lawyer, an African American, etc.
Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth [a]through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever. – 1 Peter 1:22-23
When I was in grade school I learned that the Untied States was a “melting pot” where all nationalities were blended together into one people. They were all Americans.   That was a great concept, but failed in its implementation. You see unity like that is impossible for the natural man.  Unity like that is consistent with God’s intent for creation, but impossible for man to accomplish apart from the Creator.  This nation is stratified by the cultures that have immigrated here.  There is disunity caused by the natural things that make a group of people distinct form other groups of people.  Each group demands representation in government and in the public market place. The reason is that unity is not natural – it is supernatural, so each group must “fight” for its place in this society. Jesus said:
By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. – John 13:35
We cannot expect people are far from God to do what only God can do. That is why we must identify as Christians first.  To let our light shine.  Don’t make acceptance of your natural self be the requirement for loving your Brother or Sister.  If you do, you set the stage for a natural not a spiritual relationship.  The world needs to see the “real deal” unity that comes by the power of the Spirit of God and not legislation.  That starts with getting our hearts right with God. The laws in our country don’t – can’t change hearts – only behavior and sometimes not even behavior.  Acceptance of other Christians only happens when we are right Spiritually. Do people see Jesus in you or do they see the world and your natural heritage?

Saturday, April 6, 2019

You Were Not Saved To Go To Church – But To Be The Church

On this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.  — Matthew 16:18

Martie and I are back in Alabama getting our house ready to sell.  I saw a neighbor and he was asking me how our ministry in Texas was going.  He is a Christian so our conversation had a spiritual tone. I am always alert to indications that someone is born again because it allows me to speak in a different context with an expectation that they will have spiritual understanding.  I told him that we were selling our house and would be in Texas for the foreseeable future.  Meaning until the Lord moved us on.  After a several minutes of sharing what God has been doing through us and to us, he commented about “going to church” alluding to the fact that we both sensed the presence of God’s Spirit during our conversation.  I told him that we are not saved to got to church but are saved to be the church. That caused me to remember Jesus words about establishing His church.

To elaborate on that point I need to share the context of Matthew 16:18

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock [the truth that I am the Christ] I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. [Because I am the Christ] I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ. – Matthew 16:15-20

[The brackets indicate that I have inserted clarification to the verse]

The Church and the Body of Christ are synonymous with those who have been born again by the Spirit. The church that you attend on Sunday morning is not the Church – big “C”.  It is a place where the Church gathers for corporate worship and equipping of the Saints.

And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ; so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love.– Ephesians 4:11-16

The Church is the Church not because of Peter but because of Jesus, Who is the Christ.  Peter and the other disciples were gifted to do what they did by the Spirit of God in the same what that your pastor is gifted.  The same way that Billy Graham was gifted for his role in the Church as an evangelist and the same way that you have been gifted for your place in the Body of Christ.  The Christian singer and song writer, Keith Green,  said “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to McDonalds makes you a hamburger!”

And when you do go to church, and you should not forsake that Biblical mandate of assembling with other Christians, keep your eyes fixed on Jesus to whom the Church belongs and not on the people around you or the music that is used to facilitate worship.

Be the Church wherever you go and you will discover another truth.

For where two or three gather in my [Jesus] name, there am I with them. – Matthew 18:20

Friday, April 5, 2019

If You Are Going To Follow Jesus, You Can't Take Your Eyes Off Of Him

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross [daily] and follow me. — Matthew 16:24

There is a danger that we learn to “rattle off” verses, perhaps secretly “smug” with the fact that we know them, but don’t stop to consider what they mean.  Not considering that we should actually apply them to our lives.  For example, consider your cross in the context of Jesus' cross.  His Cross was the will of the Father, the very reason Jesus came to this earth to begin with.  I just watched a Tim Tebow clip on Facebook where he was talking about painting John 3:16 on his face when he was quarterback at the University of Florida.  John 3:16.  God sent His Son to pay the penalty for our sins.  He sent Jesus to be crucified.  Jesus laid down everything in Heaven to sacrifice Himself for us.  

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

So what do you imagine picking up your cross entails?  To do the will of the Father means that we must obey Him, even when it costs us something, maybe everything.  And it will.  Following Jesus means that our value system must change.  Are you more concerned about the balance in your 401K than the fact that your heart might not be OK with God?  I think many people are afraid that God will ask them to abandon what they treasure.  Guess what, He already has.  Following Jesus means to choose the Father.  The challenge is to be willing to distance ourselves from the things that we had wrapped ourselves up in  - house, car, job, etc. – those things are normal - reasonable -  responsible - parts of the earthly, secular life, but can prove to be stumbling blocks as we follow Jesus. Consider Paul’s encouragement to us.

Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.  – Hebrews 12:1-3

The key to success is fixing your eyes on Jesus, like Peter had to do as he sank into the sea.  If you are going to follow Jesus you have to look to Jesus.  Have you ever followed someone in a crowd of people?  It can be a challenge.  If you lose sight of that person, you may feel a little panic – your heart rate increases – you become anxious.  Is that how you feel about Jesus?  It should be.  Jesus did not say pick up your cross – and then do your own thing.  He added, follow Me.  If you don’t do both, you can’t be His disciple.  You will certainly be saved, but you will not be living the life God intended.  Your life will not reflect Jesus.

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags. – Isaiah 64:6

You can’t live your new life on your own on your own. Your effort was not good enough before your new birth and it’s not good enough now.  Lay it down and pick up your cross .. then follow Jesus in obedience to the will of God and His glory.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Only God Can See Your Heart, But Your Mouth Will Reveal It To People

Those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart….For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man…— Matthew 15:18-20

I have made it a practice to listen more than I speak. I have learned that if you listen long enough, you will hear the heart of the person speaking.  It usually takes more than one conversation, but eventually you will hear the heart.  Only God can see the heart of man.  We cannot.

The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? – Jeremiah 17:9

Indeed!  I believe a fear that is common to everyone is that someone people will find out who we “really” are!  Well …. Bondye konnen … God knows … shouldn’t that cause us to tremble?  Yet somehow, we have taken the truth that God knows and relegated to something small when compared to the possibility that “man” will discover that we are fallible and are not quite so virtuous as we seem. As Christians, we often live a charade hoping to deceive those around us, and sometimes we do, but to what end?

As born again children of God we are to live for His glory and not for the praise and acceptance of men. We must stop trying to live up to people’s expectations and live for God. So many people struggle with finding acceptance from their parents, their family, their friends, or their co-workers.

These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  – Matthew 15:8

The reason the Bible addresses this problem is because God knows it is a problem for us.  We struggle with allowing the things of this world to dominate us and influence how we live and relate to God and man.  Although seeking the acceptance of people as most important may help you feel better about yourself, it can never compare to finding acceptance from the Father through Jesus.  The only way that you will know that acceptance is by deliberately drawing closer to the Father.

Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you. – Matthew 6:33