Friday, May 31, 2019

How To Change Someone’s Heart – When Words Are Not Enough

“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.” – 2 Corinthians 5:16-19

I attended a meeting the other evening where disaster relief leaders were learning about ways to build effective volunteer teams. As a practical exercise, the group shared prayer requests.  Nearly every person in the room talked about their desire to see their children embrace their faith.  Have you ever been watching a movie and you become so caught up in it that you start talking to the people on the screen.  Perhaps they are going into another room and you know what is in the room.  So you tell them not to open the door! Oh, if they would only listen.  But they don’t and what you knew would happen, happens.

That is the feeling those people had as they watched their children struggle with life.  If they would only listen! One of my daughter reminds me of the lectures I would give her when she was at home.  I like to think of it as a training ground for the ministry I would have in later years.  But the truth is that I was speaking truth to her and warning her not to open that door! My definition of a lecture is someone hearing truth and not wanting to obey it. Talk to the hand! Today she often says, “Everything you told me was true.  If I had only listened.” 

We worry over our children when they seem to have rejected their faith in favor of embracing the world and its brokenness. The thing is, we cannot change someone’s heart, not with words or worry.  Only God can do that.  Prisons are full of people who will go back to doing what they were doing before when they are released.  They have been confined, but they have not been changed.  

I [Jesus] will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” – John 14:16-17

God, the Father, sent the Holy Spirit and sealed each Believer to begin the heart change process.  That does not mean that we will always submit to the Spirit.  Even though each one of us is a temple of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16) we still want to open the doors that we shouldn’t.  It is our struggle with our old nature.  We still quench the Spirit’s influence. (1 Thessalonians 5:19) And so do the ones that we love.  What they need in those times is to come under the conviction of the Holy Spirit. We need to pray that the Spirit of God will convict them of their sin and will draw them back to the Lord. And what do we do? We love them without enabling them.  We pray for them in faith.  Do our hearts hurt, absolutely. But so does God’s.  That is why He sent Jesus.  That is why He sent a Helper.  It is a spiritual problem manifested in the natural.

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Knowing The Difference Between Judgement And Discernment

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.. – Matthew 7:1-5

“Who made you the judge!” Have you ever said that, thought that or heard that?  There is but one spiritual Judge.  One moral law Giver.

There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?” – James 4:12

We do not have the authority to judge others. We must be careful that we do not judge others when we see them struggling a sin.  That does not mean that we ignore sin in others, it means that we don’t judge them. Those who are Christians, we can encourage and pray that they will no longer yield to their flesh, old nature, but to the Spirit of God.  Those who are not Christians, we can encourage them to repent and pray to that end.  There is a difference between judging and discernment.  We don’t judge others.  At the same time, we don’t condone the sin.

If the Bible says it’s sin, it’s sin.  Our culture has been busy in redefining right and wrong, but God’s Word has not changed.  Be careful that you don’t let your compassion for people cause you to abandon Truth.  Your compassion for people should compel you to seek after the best for them which, ultimately, is new birth.  You cannot change the hearts of others, only God can do that.

To recognize sin as sin is not judgement it is discernment, but to condemn the sinner for their sin in your heart is judgement. If you tell me you are not sinning, but your actions clearly are sinful according to the Word of God, then I must conclude that you are sinning.  That is discernment.  I cannot change your heart, but I know the One who can.

“Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, ‘Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ When Jesus heard that, He said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.’” – Matthew 9:10-12

We should not abandon the world and those who reject God. Those that are blinded by sin.

But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake.” – 2 Corinthians 4:3-5

You are in the world so that the world can see Jesus - in you, not so you can judge and condemn others. And Jesus said, if He is lifted up, He will draw people to Himself. (John 12:32)  So lift up Jesus.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Joy In Times Of Trouble - Living On The Supernatural Side

“In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. – Romans 8:37

In Romans 12 verse 2 Paul wrote that we are transformed.  2 Corinthians 5:17 he wrote that we are new in Christ, the old has passed away.  Our old, sinful nature no longer has claim to our lives.  Perhaps you have heard the example of a caterpillar and a butterfly, metamorphosis, to describe what transformed means.  Once the process has started, there is no way to reverse it.  A butterfly cannot become a caterpillar again.  That transformation requires patience and struggle.

The cocoon or chrysalis is a like the life that we live, we are enclosed in it, but inside there is something going on that cannot be explained in natural terms.  It is a mystery.  An irreversible process.  Once God has you in His hand, there is no one, not even you, that can change that.

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” – John 10:28-29

Perhaps the greatest temptation that each of us faces is to lose hope that life can be better.  Circumstances may not change but our lives in Christ are greater than the circumstances we find ourselves in.  Loss, hurt, financial problems, broken relationships .. all of those things come with a fallen world.  We are in that world, but as born again children of God, we are no longer limited by this world.

We have a supernatural side.  We have the capacity to live above our circumstances … not struggle under them.  It all depends upon where we look for our source of strength.

If God is for us, then who can be against us?” – Romans 8:31

We are being transformed.  The creator God is on our side.  You can have joy in the midst of the struggle.  Perhaps you are in the middle of one right now! Perhaps for a long time. Hold on to this truth.  Look to the hills from whence your help cometh!

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38-39

Can I get a Hallelujah from somebody?! 

Monday, May 27, 2019

Are You Willing To Meet People At The Point Of Their Need?

“But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” – 1 John 3:17

Have you ever encountered someone who had an apparent need, something inside of you urged you to take action but you turned away, pushing that thought aside?  Perhaps you thought some justifying thoughts.  “They don’t really need help.” “Why don’t they help themselves?” “It’s not my problem.” “Being around them makes me feel uncomfortable.” I could go on.  There are an infinite number of reasons why we don’t help. Or more directly, why we say “No” to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

Helping people will always cost you something. It won’t necessarily be money, but it could be.  But, it might be time, inconvenience, or maybe there will be an emotional cost.  In any case, it is an expression of love.

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

Martie and I had something like this happen to us recently.  It would have been easy for us to demand our rights. After all we were in the “right”. But there was something else at work.  The person had a weakness that brought them heartache and broken relationships.  They needed grace and mercy.  They needed to see Jesus.  Not like Oral Roberts vision of a 900 foot Jesus. (you can Google that) But the image of Jesus that is imprinted in every Believer.

In Romans Paul encouraged us to resist responding to others as the world responds.

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

Rather than be conformed to the world’s perspective, allow God to conform you to the image of His Son – Jesus, by the power of His Spirit in you.

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

As you live out your life, you will be confronted with many opportunities to be “inconvenienced” by others.  The Spirit will not prompt you to help every one of them. But He will some of them.  The implication here is that your heart is open to the Spirit of God – that you are spiritually aware and willing to yield to the Spirit.  What I am writing about is a spiritual act, not merely an act of good will.  God is behind it.  He is helping others through you. God chooses who it will be and when and how, your choice is to obey.  You need the Spirit to see past their want and see their need. And then to say “Yes, Lord. Yes. To Your will and to Your Way. I will trust You and obey.  When Your Spirit speaks to me, with my whole heart I’ll agree and I will answer ‘Yes, Lord, yes.’”     

Friday, May 24, 2019

“I Did It My Way” A Good Song Title, But A Bad Way To Live

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him..” – 2 Corinthians 5:21

I taught a Sunday School class a couple of years ago. I call it “Applied Christianity”.  A friend said he was going to refer someone to my class who needed to be in a beginning Christianity class.  Unfortunately, in my observation, almost all of the Christians. I know need to be reminded of the fundamentals of my faith.  But more, it is not in the knowing but I the doing. We fall short in our applying what we know to do to our daily living. It does us no good to store up knowledge, week after week, if all we do is store up knowledge. So what to do?  Where to start?

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

Paul starts by telling us what the Word is and does “God breathed and therefore profitable” and ends by telling us why it does it “so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  But that will only happen if we live a surrendered life.  Surrendered to God, not living in a state of self-trust.  On the back of our currency are the words, “In God We Trust”.  Now you know that is no longer true for our country.  Most of our country lives in defiance of God and for their own pleasure.  Even Christians.  We need to apply our faith to our lives, every day, every moment.

But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” – James 1:22

God did not intend for you to live independently from Him.  Jesus defeated sin so you could walk and live rightly with God as your source, the Spirit as your guide and the Word as the lamp to your feet.  If only you will stop trying to do it your own way and listen to God.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Living The Supernatural Life In A Natural World

“I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet, not I but Christ lives in me. And the life that I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” – Galatians 2:20

Supernatural living in a natural world.  That is what we are born again into, a supernatural life.  Does that statement seem strange when you read it?  Excessive? 

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.” – 2 Corinthians 5:16-18

The supernatural life – our new life – is one that is totally dependent upon the One who saved us.  For most of us, the events that we face in life are not any different from any of the people around us who are living natural – unspiritual lives. We face the same things.  We do many of the same things.  We work in the same places.  We suffer through the same tragedies of life. But that is where the similarity ends and the difference begins.  The difference between the natural and the supernatural, the Spirit of God.  You, Christian, have at your disposal the power of the Almighty.  You do not have to face this life alone.  You have the power to stand when others fall.  You can endure life with confidence when others wither under the pressures that this mortal life brings. And why can we be so confident?

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.  Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:31-39

That’s why !   

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Immediate Gratification - Not Having The Faith To Wait

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” – Psalm 27:14

There is a recurring theme in the Bible.  Trusting God or trusting in ourselves.  Abram had waited on God to fulfill His promise in Genesis 15. 

Then the word of the Lord came to him: ‘This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.’ He took him outside and said, ‘Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’” – Genesis 15:4-5

He and Sarah were impatient and did something on their own. Ishmael was born. (Genesis 16) But then something happened … there was a transaction of faith between Abram and God, and God gave Abram a new name .. Abraham .. father of many nations.  Both Abraham and Sarah laughed at the thought, but soon after, Sarah conceived.  (Genesis 17) It happened when it was impossible to give credit to men.  God received all of the glory. 

It’s the same way with us.  We know God’s promises, but are unwilling to wait on God.  We want to “make it happen”.  We are even willing to accept something less than God’s best because we lack the faith to wait. 

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.” – Hebrews 11:1

Faith is trusting in something you can’t see . .being convinced that it will come to pass, and then living … making choices in the context of that belief.  Faith becomes stronger when faith is exercised.  Are you facing something in your life that is testing your faith?  Testing your confidence in God?  It is a common malady for us Christians. 

There is or was a TV commercial for T.G. Wentworth where people receiving an annuity or settlement said “It’s my money and I want it now.”  To get some money,  they had to be willing to give up a great deal of their money.  To receive something today, they were willing to sacrifice what they would receive tomorrow.  They didn’t want to wait.  Another example is the businesses that do taxes for people and promise an immediate tax refund.  That is not the government’s money the tax payer receives, but the business provides the money at a significant cost to the tax payer.

Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.”  – Dr. Ravi Zaccharias

Is not waiting on God, sin?  We sure don’t want to think it is.  King Saul was unwilling to wait and it was accounted as sin.  He lost his kingdom. 

Saul remained at Gilgal, and all the troops with him were quaking with fear. He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul’s men began to scatter. So he said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings.” And Saul offered up the burnt offering.  Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to greet him. ‘What have you done?’ asked Samuel.” – 1 Samuel 15:7-11

We are unwilling to wait because we don’t trust God.  What is it that you are unwilling to wait for? Don't accept anything but God's best. Waiting on God will always be worth the wait. 

Monday, May 20, 2019

Do You Talk To God, Sometimes Or All The Time?

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Do you know someone who talks to God – out loud?  Do you think they are odd, eccentric or perhaps just a little fanatical?  Maybe, but there may be another possibility and  that is they are merely behaving like children talking to their Father with a sense that He is present and listening all the time. At the high school graduation commencement Saturday, the valedictorian began his speech with “God is good all the time and all the time, God is good.” Words that are not politically or culturally correct, but true nonetheless! When Paul told the Thessalonians to pray all of the time, he was really saying, “Be aware that you are in the presence of God and have the liberty to talk with Him anytime and anywhere, about anything, all the time.”

Talking and praying are the same thing, with the difference that when we pray it is directed to the Creator God, when we talk other times, it can be toward anyone, even ourselves.  Unfortunately, for many of us, we talk or pray to Him only on rare occasions. In times of need where what is happening is beyond us – we need help so THEN we turn to God.  I was talking with our granddaughter, Laura, just the other day about this.  To make my point I stood by a light switch with the light turned off.  I said, “This is how we treat God.”  I flipped the lights on and said, “God I need something.” And then switched the light back off.  The light was my awareness and attentiveness toward God.  I then switched the light back on and said “God did you hear me?” and switched the light back off.

I told Laura that we treat God that way, but that is not what God wants.  I switched the light on and continued to talk with the light on.  “This is how God wants us to live. Always aware of God’s presence.  Always looking to Him, trusting Him. Living our lives with the light on all of the time.” Without ceasing.

It is all too easy to neglect our spiritual nature in favor of our natural one.  Life just seems to get in the way. We just bought a house in Texas.  The back yard has been neglected for years.  Vines have taken over what used to be a beautiful water feature.  You can't even see it. That is how it is with our spiritual nature, beautiful as it is, our spiritual life can become overgrown with our natural life, so much so that others may not even know it is there.  

Perhaps you need to spend more time talking with your Father.  It can and will change your life. Keep that light switch on - let the Light shine.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication [asking or begging for something earnestly or humbly], with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  – Philippians 4:6-7

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Understanding What Is Really Important In Life

“…I am with you to deliver you," says the Lord.” – Jeremiah 1:8

What troubles your life the most, the thought of losing your life or the thought of losing your lifestyle?  I would say that most people don’t worry about their physical death until they are faced with some trauma that threatens their physical life.  Worries about one’s lifestyle are most likely limited to people who live in developed countries.  In undeveloped countries, the people have nothing and no means to ever have something.  Their concerns are more about how they will eat and where they will find water to drink. There is a song by Janis Joplin that describes the attitude of many Christians:

Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz ?  My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends.  Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends, So Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz ?  Oh Lord, won't you buy me a color TV ?  Dialing For Dollars is trying to find me.  I wait for delivery each day until three,  So oh Lord, won't you buy me a color TV?”

Are you thinking, “That’s not me!”  Good.  The point is, examine about what is most important for you to be content?  Is it the possessions and lifestyle that you have or your relationship with the Lord?  Do you see God as the giver of whatever you want or the giver of all that you need? When we talk with people who have lost all of their possessions in a natural disaster, the thing that they want most to preserve or find in the midst of the rubble that was once their home are family pictures.  Dr. James Dobson spoke at a Promise Keepers conference in 1993 about trashing your trophies. He said that when you are lying on your death bed, it will not be your 401K that you will be thinking about, it will be your relationships.

To have your life in proper perspective requires that you have spiritual perspective. To have spiritual perspective requires that you practice spiritual disciplines.  That you seek God first for His sake and not for your sake.  Do not think about what you want and then seek God, seek God with the confidence that He will give you what you need.

Love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. Then love others … ” – Matthew 22:37-38

If you do that, there is no room for the love of things of the world.

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.” – 1 John 2:15

Out of the love for the Father will spring the love for what He loves.   Let me give you a hint,  it won't be a new car or a big screen TV.   

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

God’s Definition Of Adultery – Not Just An Act But An Attitude

“Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, ‘The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously’?” – James 4:4-5

I referenced this verse in the devotion yesterday.  Sometimes we speed right past words in verses thinking that they don’t apply to us.  Adultery is one of them. That is because we think of adultery in the natural context and not the spiritual. I looked up the “current” natural definition of adultery.

Adultery, sexual relations between a married person and someone other than the spouse. Written or customary prohibitions or taboos against adultery constitute part of the marriage code of virtually every society.”

Jesus said that you don’t need to have a physical relationship with another person to be guilty of adultery.

 You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” – Matthew 5:27-28

Sin is birthed by the lust of our flesh and consummated in our hearts. The physical act is merely a reflection of a sinful heart.  So what does adultery between two people who are in a covenant relationship have to do with our relationship with God?  I will tell you what I think.

You know that “You shall not commit adultery” is one of the ten commandments.  So it must be important. We typically think of that commandment in terms our relationship with others.  The first two commandments have to do with our devotion to God.  No other gods in our lives. Nothing that would cause us to be unfaithful in that relationship.  Jesus said the greatest commandment was to love God with every fiber of our being.  (Matthew 22:37) That does not allow for devotions that would be in conflict.

We commit adultery in our heart when we embrace our culture when it is clearly in conflict with the Word of God.  When we answer Satan’s question, “Did God really say?” with “No He didn’t”, when He did.  We very often commit adultery in our relationship with God in our hearts. When we trust something other then God more than God.  When we are devoted to something else.

The temptation to be unfaithful toward God and His precepts is always knocking at the door of our hearts.  Being tempted is not sin.  Yielding to the temptation – even if it is just in your heart is sin.  Does sound extreme to you? It is extreme.  So extreme that God sent His Son to save us from it.  He sent His Spirit and gave us the Word of Truth to help us resist the temptation.  Adultery toward God is a problem among the Saints.  That is why we are cautioned about it in the Bible.  That is why the Spirit prompted me to encourage you to be careful and to be faithful.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Praying To God – What’s Love Got To Do With It?

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” – Philippians 4:6

Prayer is one of those things that everyone knows to do and most have a problem doing.  Some think it is a big deal if they pray in a restaurant before they eat. (I have always found it curious that we typically don’t pray over the appetizer just when the main course comes. It’s like appetizers don’t count.) Some only pray when they are in a church service.  Some pray only when they are in some sort of trouble. Some when they want something, like a house or car or some other worldly possession. Imagine if the only time you heard from your children was when they wanted you to give them something. (For some, that is not too hard to imagine.) How would you feel about your relationship with them?

“… You do not have because you do not ask.  You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” – James 4:2-4

So often we live our lives the way we want, patronizing God on Sunday morning, demanding that He prove Himself to us by bailing us out of jams and satisfying our lust for the things of this world. Sound harsh? It is the cold truth.  How dare we think that we can barge into the presence of God and demand that He do what we want.  We don’t get to make the rules of our relationship nor do we get to decide what is best for us.

We need to wake up! When we come into the presence of the Creator God we must remember that it is only because of Jesus that we can.  It is only because of God’s grace and mercy that we are His children and can ask even for a crumb of bread.  How dare we approach a holy God with unclean hearts and dirty hands. But we do.

 The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters. Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.” – Psalm 24:1-4

Prayer is a holy conversation with the Creator God.  To be able to talk to God and know that He hears you is a gift. Make prayer a habit and not a ritual, but make certain your heart is right first. Approach God understanding your depravity and His holiness.  It is an expression of our love and devotion.  A reflection of our hearts and the quality of our relationship with the Father.

Friday, May 10, 2019

The Heart Remembers What The Mind Forgets

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” – Galatians 6:2

I was doing an assessment for a Harvey home yesterday. Well, three actually.  But it was the third one that was the most memorable.  It took me back a few years to Waveland, MS. The homeowner told me that her son drowned during the storm.  In fact, she looked at me and asked, “Did you know that my son died in the storm?” I did because the case worker had told me. When I saw the tears well up in her eyes I was reminded that the heart remembers what the mind forgets.  I have shared this before, but it bears repeating.

If you break your leg, give birth to a child, recover from an operation, the pain you experience is difficult to bear, but after the pain subsides, the body forgets the feeling – the intensity of the pain. You can certainly remember that it hurt, but you can’t feel that pain again.  Not so with the heart.  Hurricane Harvey made landfall on August 25th 2017.  That is almost 2 years ago.  The heart ache that she felt then is just as real yesterday and today and tomorrow as it was then.  Many of you reading this, know this to be true because of what has happened in your own life.

I think that God created us to feel heart-hurts because He wanted us to know the heart-hurt that He feels for us.  The pain He feels for His creation.  I don’t think that is too far a stretch or I am being too liberal in my thinking and writing. There are times when words are not enough. There was nothing that I could say to the home owner that would be a balm to the pain in her heart. I did tell her that I was sorry for her loss and I knew that it was a heavy burden to bear.  She thanked me and agreed about the heaviness.

My intent here is not to speak to the grief cycle. Instead, I want to encourage you to be sensitive to the heart pain that others feel.  To be a friend and a listening ear.  This was not the first person that I have spoken to about the loss of a loved one caused by a natural disaster. It does not get any easier – and it shouldn’t.  As the Body of Christ, we are called to bear one another’s burdens. If you do, it will cost you something.  You must be willing to enter into the pain that they feel.  That is called empathy and compassion.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble [in our affliction], with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

This is a spiritual act, not just being a nice person.  When the Bible says to do something, it always requires the involvement of the Spirit of God to do it. Every disaster survivor, not just natural disasters,  has a story.  They all deserve the opportunity to tell it and need to be heard. The question is, “Are you willing to listen?”

Let your light shine.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Still Struggling With Sin? Join The Crowd

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

I have known people, and, come to think of it, I am one myself, who look for reasons why they are not responsible for what happens in their lives.  We want to feel good about ourselves.  That we had no part in the problem we are facing.  One motive is that we want people to think well of us, but I think largely it is because we want to think well of ourselves.

What does it mean to be a sinner?  What does it mean to fall short of the glory of God? (Romans 3:23)  I mean what does that look like in the living out life and the struggle with our sin nature, day to day?  How much do we play a part in that sin?  Sin is not something that just happens to me. I must yield to it. If God calls us to live in a different way than our sinful nature demands then there must be a way for us to do it.  And there is.

The first step is accepting the reality that our sin nature has not gone away.  We are prone to wander.  Our sinful nature is not just about what we do and what we say, it is much deeper than that.  It permeates every nook and cranny of our being. To our innermost thoughts.  Many of us, perhaps most of us, over time are able to control the outside so we have the appearance of righteousness, but on the inside, our thought life, is raging.  Jesus addressed this when He spoke of the hate and lust.

You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. […] “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” – Matthew 5:21-22,27-28

Don’t be surprised or dismayed or, worse, think you are a failure when you struggle with your sin nature.  We are not stronger than our sin nature.  We, through our “won’t” power, cannot control sin any more after we become a Christian than we could before.  Paul addressed that problem in Romans chapter 7:15-25.  Nothing frustrates me more than deciding not to do something, only to do it anyway.  But by the power of His Spirit and His Word, we can.   What we must do is choose whether we submit to our sin or to the Spirit.  Don’t let your feelings of guilt keep you from the Father. Sin craves the darkness.  The Spirit brings light. Sin brings separation.  The Spirit brings unity and restoration. Recognize the struggle.  Praise God that there is no longer condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). We live out our lives in these “jars of clay” and in a fallen world.  There is a song that was written by Dale Evans, the wife of Roy Rogers, that I remember from when I was a young boy – way before I was Christian, “Have faith, hope and charity.  That’s the way to live successfully.  How do I know?  The Bible tells me so.  Don’t worry about tomorrow, just be real good today.  The Lord is right beside you.  He’ll lead you all the way.”  Funny what you remember.  My point. God cleans us up from the inside out.

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

Prayer, the Word, and fellowship with other Christians are the key to living the Christian life.  Make it a point to focus on spiritual things during the day or you will be quickly consumed by your old nature. That is a certainty.  Day to day victory over sin does not just happen. And when you do sin, and you will, don’t try to hide it – confess it.  Confession is not a revelation to God, it is agreement with God.  People may not know what you are thinking … what is in your heart, but God does.  He knew what you were like and still sent His Son to restore you. So rejoice!

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Being A Christian Does Not Make You Trouble Proof

Do not fret— it only causes harm.” – Psalm 37:8

Our new life and our capacity to live it is nothing that we have or could have conjured.  Our new life is totally dependent upon the Spirit of God, the exercising of faith and obedience to the will and ways of God the Father through Jesus the Son.  Peace, a fruit of the Spirit, manifests itself in spite of the circumstances we find ourselves in.  We do not find peace in the absence of trouble, but in spite of it.  Where does peace like that come from? It comes from our relationship with Jesus by the Spirit.

Peace I [Jesus] leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” – John 14:27

The peace the world gives is dependent upon the absence conflict.  The peace, the supernatural peace that Jesus offers, is peace in spite of the conflict.

The enemy of peace is worry.  Worry comes on stage when we change our focus from the spiritual to the natural.  Some people look for opportunities to worry.  If a reason is not present they are certain that it is on its way!  And they are right.  Life is full of uncertainties and disappointments.  Sometimes because of what others do, sometimes because of the consequences of our own actions, and sometimes merely because we live on this planet.  Being a Christian does not make you trouble proof.  But no matter the source of the worry, it is possible to find peace in the midst of our trouble.  You must stop depending upon yourself and better circumstances and trust in the Lord.

Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:5-7

“It Is Well With My Soul”

“When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,  When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,  It is well, it is well, with my soul.   Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,  Let this blessed assurance control,  That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,  And hath shed His own blood for my soul.”

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Mastering The Human Heart, Jesus is the Way

He said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’” – Acts 9:5

Saul was really no different than the fanatic followers of Islam of today.  As far as Saul [the Apostle Paul] was concerned, Jewish Christians were an abomination to God.  And so, he helped in their killing and imprisonment. Thinking he was pleasing God in doing so. He would go from city to city to seek them out.  But then, one day, he met Someone on the road Who radically changed the course of his life forever.  He was given a new name - Paul. There is so much trouble in this world today.  People desire peace and harmony trusting the world to do what only Jesus can do, the master of the human heart.

People expect other people to do what does not come naturally to the lost … to show grace, mercy, acceptance, justice, love toward others.  “Jesus is the answer for the world today.  Besides Him there is no other.  Jesus is the way.”  Whether it is social injustice, religious persecution, or racial discord on the world stage, the root cause is the same.  It is a problem of the heart.  

Jesus asked, “Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?” – James 3:11

Don’t let the events in the world today surprise you.  What you see at work is the sinfulness of man.  Why do we need a police force? It is certainly not because everyone loves God and each other.  No, it is because there is evil in the world, and that evil is pervasive. And sometimes evil even shows itself in those who have sworn to protect us from evil. Don’t be surprised by what you see happening in our government.  The men and women who serve there are just like the rest of the world.  Some, perhaps many, want to do good for the people, but they are there to represent the desires of the people who elected them.  Don’t place your trust in men.  Our currency says “In God We Trust”, but as a country, we don’t. Our country has a heart problem.

There is much said in the Bible about the importance of obedience.  Godly obedience is a reflection of a heart submitted to God and a life empowered by the Spirit of God.  The problems you see in this world are not going away until there is a global heart change.  But, there will never be a heart change in everyone.  So the unavoidable conclusion is, that until Jesus returns, this turmoil that we see will continue.  Does that mean we give up? No. It means that we continue preach the Truth, we live in a way that proclaims there is a better Way.  We fulfill our purpose.  This world will not be saved, but some in the world will be.

I had lunch with a friend the other day and he mentioned the story about the boy who was tossing starfish back in the ocean, one at a time.  A passing stranger told him that he could not save all of the starfish that had washed up on the beach.  As the boy tossed a starfish back into the water, he replied, “Perhaps, but I just helped save that one.”

As a Christian, having met Jesus along your way, like Paul, you must go and tell others, one at a time.  Show Jesus to the world through your life. And in the telling and showing, Christ will be lifted up, and somehow, the Spirit will use you, as part of the salvation of some.  There is an old spiritual that goes; “ If we ever needed the Lord before,  We sure do need Him now,  We sure do need Him now,  Oh Lord, we sure do need Him now. If we ever needed the Lord before, We sure do need Him now, We need Him every day and every hour.”

Show the world what Jesus looks like, be a light in this dark place, to the glory of God. 

Monday, May 6, 2019

God Didn’t Ask You To Be Successful – Just To Go

And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’” – Isaiah 6:8

I was listening to a former pastor speaking about his call away from being a pastor to a new work apart from pastoring. Although the details of journey and the focus of his new calling were different from mine, my heart resonated with his words.  Then he said something that really caught my attention. “God said, ‘I didn’t ask you to be successful, I asked you to go.’” 

In my experience, there are two reasons that keep Christians from yielding to God’s call. The first is that they are reluctant to leave what they are doing – the thing they know for something that is uncertain and perhaps less comfortable and materially secure.  It could be a job, a lifestyle, a house, maybe even relationships. The second is that they consider their abilities in light of what God has called them to do and are concerned that they won’t be successful. And they are right in a way.  What God calls you to is beyond your natural ability.  For example, just because you teach in a school does not mean that you can teach spiritual truth.  It is God’s Spirit that teaches spiritual truth through you.  A teacher not called by God to teach can teach facts from the Bible but not covey spiritual truth in that teaching.  That is not to say that God does not call secular teachers to be spiritual teachers, because He has, does and will.

My point is that when we say “yes” to God, we are saying “yes” to God’s plan, His purpose, His will.  That God can use us any way that He chooses.  Our part may not even be noticed by others.  That is not the point of service.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” – Romans 12:1-2

Laying our lives down in light of what Jesus did for us.  Letting God use us for His purposes.  The outcome does not matter.  The hardship does not matter.  What you must leave behind does not matter.  All that matters is yielding to the will of God for your life.  God’s definition of success is obedience to His will.  The world is interested on return on investment. Measures of effectiveness.  How many people were converted. Numbers.

My brother, Don, gave me some excellent advice some years back.  I have never been comfortable asking people for money to support our work in ministry.  He said what I needed to do was “ask God and tell people.”  Trust that God will move in the hearts of the people when I tell them what God has called us to do and what we are doing as we live out that calling. Is our life difficult? Of course it is.  But where God guides, God provides.

You may think, “Maybe for you, but not for me.” A song verse just floated across my mind. “It is no secret what God can do.  What He’s done for others, He’ll do for you.”  It is a mistake to measure your value to God’s purpose by considering the increase – the visible result of your service to God or the significance of the service that He calls you to.  That is God’s choice.  And your choice is to obey or not to obey.

One more song – “When we walk with the Lord In the light of His word What a glory He sheds on our way While we do His good will He abides with us still And with all who will trust and obey. Trust and obey For there's no other way To be happy in Jesus But to trust and obey. ”   

Friday, May 3, 2019

Is Your Jesus on the Dashboard?

Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” – Revelation 2:4

You don’t see them much anymore, but in times past it was common to see a bobble head or a figure – like Jesus or Mary or maybe a Hawaiian dancing girl on the dashboards of cars and trucks.

We all must be careful that we don’t put Jesus on our “dashboard”. The danger is that the reality of who He is can fade over time and He will become a mere symbol, like the Jesus on the dashboard. I pray that your relationship with Jesus and your awareness of who Jesus is will remain fresh in your mind and your heart.  That every day you will be in awe of who Jesus is and what He has done for you through His work on the cross and His resurrection.

There is a praise song …… "More like you, Jesus more like you. Fill my heart with Your desire to make me more like You. More like You, Jesus, more like You, Touch my lips with holy fire And make me more like You. Lord You are my mercy. Lord You are my grace and all my deepest sins have forever been erased” (Scott Wesley Brown, More Like You Jesus)

Or how about this one.

“Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus, Vast unmeasured, boundless, free! Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me! Underneath me, all around me, is the current Of Thy love. Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above! “ (Samuel Trevor Francis, Oh The Deep, Deep Love Of Jesus)

Don’t just set Jesus on the dashboard of your life to be reminded of Him occasionally.  Let the reality of His love and who you are in Christ roll over you like a mighty wave in the ocean.  And let your light shine.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

With The Thrill Of Temptation Comes The Agony Of Sin

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man… – 1 Corinthians 5:17

Temptation is something that I really don’t want to think about, but something that I deal with every day.  It is like a seed that is planted.  If I choose to water it, to cultivate it, to let it become the focus of my attention, then it will bear fruit which is sin. Temptation is the beginning of a process that leads to sin. Pastor Greg Laurie said “Temptation is like a bird that flies over your head.  You can’t stop it from flying over you, but you can keep it from making a nest in your hair.” (Promise Keepers Conference, Boulder Colorado, 1993) Temptation is the opportunity to choose a way other than the way the God has provided.

But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived ... “ – James 1:14-16

There is a thrill that comes with it.  That thrill is a stirring of our flesh that delights in disobedience.  There are some things, when offered to me, I am not the least bit interested in.  I am not tempted in the least bit to eat tofu.  Like the taco chips they set in front of you at a Mexican restaurant.  I can decide that I won’t eat any, but before I know it, I am munching on taco chips with salsa.  We have found that the best way to resist is to not let the taco chips make a nest on our table.  We refuse the offer.  In one restaurant we had no less than five different servers ask us if we needed chips.  Everybody eats chips so it was odd that we were not.  God has called us to be a peculiar people, not indulging in what everyone else does.

Why is temptation thrilling? Because temptation is directed at what our flesh wants. There are three ways that we are tempted – just like Jesus in the desert.

“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

Yielding to temptation brings a momentary inner relief from the battle.  You give in to what you know is wrong because you don’t have the spiritual strength to do what you know is right.  God provided a way to escape temptation, if you choose to take it.  All too often what people want is a promise they won’t go to hell, not a provision to live a new life in victory over temptation and sin.  Do you say, "I have tried but I can’t?"  That is the problem.  You don’t have the natural ability to prevail against a supernatural struggle.  But you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength. (Philippians 4:13)