Sunday, June 30, 2019

Don't Let Your Past Hold You Back, Focus On Your Future And Rejoice!

“You shall not go out with haste … for the Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.” —Isaiah 52:12

“Our yesterdays hold broken and irreversible things for us. It is true that we have lost opportunities that will never return, but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future. Let the past rest, but let it rest in the sweet embrace of Christ. Leave he broken, irreversible past in His hands, and step out into the invincible future with Him.”  Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest

The remembering our past failures (sins) has two edges.  On the one hand, they remind us that we have a sin nature and that nature has been a powerful influence in our lives.  We have proven the truth of the Word … all have sinned (Romans 3:23) and there is none righteous (Romans 3:10).  Our past failures remind us that we do not deserve God’s favor.  But on the other hand, we also know that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”  (Romans 5:8).  We know that we have been redeemed.  (Galatians 3:13) “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law (from the judgement of God) by becoming a curse for us”.  

The Apostle Paul described the hold that our sinful nature has on us as bondage. Jesus said the He will set us free from that bondage.

"Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed." John 8:34-36

That does not mean ours sins are somehow, “OK”, but it does mean that we are forgiven.  It doesn’t mean that there are no consequences, but it does mean that we have hope.  It does mean that we have help.  It does mean that we have a certain future.  Don’t let your past hold you back.  You are a child of the King.  If you have not done so already, repent. Then focus on your future and rejoice! 

God Bless You


Friday, June 28, 2019

Take Me Back Lord Where I First Believed

This is what the Lord says: ‘I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the wilderness, through a land not sown.’” — Jeremiah 2:2

Andrae Crouch wrote the song “Take Me Back  It is about someone who has let the fire go out in their relationship with Jesus.

Take me back, take me back dear Lord -- To the place where I first received you.

Take me back, take me back dear Lord where I first believed.

I feel that I'm so far from you Lord, But still I hear you calling me.

Those simple things that I once knew, their memories keep drawing me.

I must confess, Lord I've been blessed but yet my soul's not satisfied.

Renew my faith, restore my joy and dry my weeping eyes.”

Is your love for God still fresh, like the day you prayed to receive Christ as your Lord? Or, have you become casual in your relationship with Him. Do you still acknowledge His divine nature and His sacrifice and the unbelievable grace and mercy that God poured out on your life when you had unbridled devotion to Him? Or do you treat your relationship as “no big deal”, you are a Christian .. you love Jesus .. but you are no fanatic.

Maybe it is time to rekindle the fire that once burned so brightly in your life.  To remember just how magnificent your salvation is .. and how great our God is.

"Take me back, take me back dear Lord -- To the place where I first received you. Take me back, take me back dear Lord where I first believed.”

Make that your prayer for today and every day. For His Glory and for your good!

God Bless You

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Keep in Step with God

You shall not go out with haste, . . . for the Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard” —Isaiah 52:12

The year is just about half way done.  For the past few days I have been feeling the weight of what the Lord has us doing in Texas and Haiti.  I suspect it is a similar feeling to how Peter felt when he realized that he was walking on water and was no longer in the boat.  He was instantly in trouble but then he refocused on Jesus. 

So He [Jesus] said, ‘Come.’ And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, ‘Lord, save me!’ And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’  And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.” – Matthew 14:29-32

Have you ever had that problem – trusting and believing?

The message in both Isaiah and Matthew is that God is with you .. you have nothing to fear.  Just keep in step with Him.  Trust Him and not yourself.  Be willing to go where it doesn’t make sense to go and watch God do something great.

Stay in step with God is my encouragement to you.  I pray that in 2019, and beyond, your life will be a living testimony to God’s love, grace, mercy, and sufficiency.

God Bless You

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Losing Your Witness

 “‘Jesus says, in effect, “Don’t worry about whether or not you are being treated justly.” Looking for justice is actually a sign that we have been diverted from our devotion to Him. Never look for justice in this world, but never cease to give it. If we look for justice, we will only begin to complain and to indulge ourselves in the discontent of self-pity, as if to say, “Why should I be treated like this?” If we are devoted to Jesus Christ, we have nothing to do with what we encounter, whether it is just or unjust.’” (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest)

When you read those words, does it seem right to you?  I mean shouldn’t you be shown kindness?  Shouldn’t people that treat you poorly be dealt with – divinely?  Wouldn’t that make you feel better?  What did Jesus have to say about it?

"But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.”  Luke 6:27-31 

If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father. But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, 'THEY HATED ME WITHOUT A CAUSE.”  John 15:24-25 

Most of us will agree that concept is good, but when you are being treated poorly how do you feel? What is it that you must control?  I sometimes say, tongue in cheek, ‘I don’t want to lose my witness’. What I am really saying is I don’t want to act on what I am feeling and wanting to do.  You know what?  It’s too late at that point.  I have already missed it (The mark that is. Missing the mark is a euphemism for sin).

Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” – 1 John 3:15 

We love Him because He first loved us.  If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?  And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.” – 1 John 4:19-21 

You see it is the attitude of your heart .. it’s the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).  You don’t have to act on your sin to sin.  Thinking that so long as you didn’t do what you were thinking has stopped short of sin is not right thinking. Don’t confuse that with temptation. When you are tempted but don’t sin, it means that you did not make a decision to follow through on the temptation but rejected it. 

"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 

Remember David on the roof?  He had already sinned before Bathsheba ever entered his house.  Pretty high standard isn’t it.  It cannot be achieved through determination .. will power .. or won’t power … but only by the power of God in us.  Are there things in your life that you have been accommodating?  Pretending that they didn’t matter .. Get your heart right … do not sin … James says that sin begins in our heart when we are tempted (James 1:12-15).. that is where it must end … It is only when we are spending time in the Word and with the Lord will we be able to stand against the temptation, but … that is another devotion for another day …

Shine bright today

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Who Are My People?

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” — Galatians 3:27-29

Something that I have noticed as we have traveled from place to place is the tendency for people to categorize one another. It might be based on geography - native born (big deal in Texas it seems), locals, or Yankees (big deal in Southern states). Then again, it might be based on nationality or the hue of your skin. Whatever it might be, people want to put other people in a “box” and then toss in attributes and expectations they have associated with that category.  Good or bad. We met a couple while I was in Army flight school that were from Georgia.  Lee and I would go fishing early on Saturday mornings.  One day Lee said “Charley, you are the only Yankee I have ever liked.” I didn’t know if I should be happy or irritated. I chose the former.  Don’t get me wrong, Lee is a great Christian and may have said it in jest, but I also know that “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” When I would speak to men’s groups in Alabama, they always wanted to know where I was from – because of my other-than-Alabama accent. 

I have observed that many Christians choose culture and color over Christ and conversion. We have bi-racial grandchildren and I have watched while they embraced faith in Jesus they struggled with racial identity.  Their struggle is part of their old nature.  A “natural” desire to find acceptability from others.  I noticed that when I would go to the store with my granddaughter, when we approached a white person, they would acknowledge me and not her.  When we approached an African American, they would acknowledge her and not me. I wondered, “What lesson are they teaching her?” I will tell you. That what you look like, where you are from, how you talk, where you live is who you are. What does the Bible have to say about it?

For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. 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 5:14-19

We have a ministry of reconciliation. When people are reconciled to God through faith in Jesus, then they will be reconciled to each other and brothers and sisters. It should not matter where you are from or what you look like.  What should matter is who your Father is.  Who your Lord is. The idea that I must first accept your old nature – your natural self before we can embrace each other as children of God is of the devil. Sound harsh? Spiritual truth often does when it confronts our old nature. But wait, there’s more! We cannot do the right thing on our own, it is Spiritual and requires spiritual power to do that.  When we embrace each other on the basis of our faith and new birth, we do it by the power of God. The greatest commandment is to love God and when you do, you will fulfill the second greatest commandment which is to love others – and not just those who are like you. (Matthew 22:37-39)

Monday, June 24, 2019

Bearing Someone’s Burden – A Problem Or A Privilege?

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

I was texting with one of our friends yesterday. She finds herself in a situation that we all have or will face – helping an elderly parent.  During the course of our conversation, I was reminded of Galatians 6:2.  What she is doing is an example of what Paul was exhorting the Galatians to do, and through Paul by the Spirit, what the Lord is exhorting all Christians to do.

I told her that bearing burdens always requires the one picking up the load to sacrifice something or several somethings. Whether you do it or not – bear someone else’s burden can be viewed as a privilege or a problem – an inconvenience. A privilege because we are given an opportunity to show Jesus to someone, by what we do.

“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’” – Matthew 25:37-40

Or we can see it as a problem.  Helping people is always invasive on our lives.  It may require us to not do something that we prefer to do, plan to do, hope to do for the sake of another person.  And what if they don’t appreciate it?  Well, lack of appreciation is not our problem, but it can be a stumbling block for those with the wrong heart attitude.  When we serve others, we are serving the Lord.

Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves? And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”” –  Luke 10:30-37

Both the priest and the Levite, men you would expect to want to express the love of God toward others saw the man in the ditch as a problem – they were too busy to be bothered. The one who helped was one with no obligation to the man in the ditch, but he went out of his way to help him – a significant personal expense. 

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” – John 15:13

Then Jesus said to [us], “Go and do likewise.”

Thursday, June 20, 2019

What Dims Your Light - Defeating The Distractions Of Life

I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision.” — Acts 26:19

Have you noticed how cell phones have captured the attention of almost everyone?  Everywhere you look you can see people staring at their phones.  Texting.  Checking social media.  Apparently oblivious to their surroundings or who they are with.  Sometimes, like when they are driving, it can be hazardous, like the woman that almost collided with me as she attempted to change  lanes while texting.  Other times they are sitting at a table in a restaurant .. not talking to each other … texting .. maybe even to each other.  It’s a problem.  It’s rude.  It’s disruptive.  It’s addictive. But, at the same time, its occurrence is on the rise.  That is how it is when we lose our focus on “the heavenly vision”.  The things of this world captivate our attention.  Our flesh entices us to focus on other things.  Our old nature, like the cell phone, draws our attention away from the true context of our lives – numbing us to our spiritual nature.

If you are born again, you are not like most of the other people in the world.  You should not be living like the rest of the world.  You should not be doing what the rest of the world does. Stop staring at your cell phone! 

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

The distractions of this world will dim the light of Christ in your life. 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, 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

You can’t run the race if you are wrapped up in the things of this world. What is it that is causing your light to dim?  

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

When God's Silence Should Be Enough Of An Answer

When He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. …” — John 11:6

Is it possible for you to sit in a room with your spouse or friend while neither of you say a word and yet there is a closeness that can only come from an intimate relationship with each other.  I am referring to those times when words are not necessary.  The presence of each other’s company is rich and satisfying and sufficient.  When God is silent, when He does not seem to respond to your prayers I think there are three possibilities.  The first two have to do with us, the third with a sovereign God.

First, it is possible that you have approached God with sin on your heart.  Like Jesus told Peter, (John 13:10) we don’t need our whole body washed again, just our feet. You need to “wash your feet” before you attempt to stand in the presence of a holy Second God. (1 John 1:9) It is not that God is not listening, but that you are not speaking – in the spiritual sense.

Second, you have asked God to help you satisfy your lust for something.  Asking with the wrong motive. Like when one of your children comes to you and asks for something that you know is not good for them. What parent who loves their child would say yes? And when they don’t get their way, they might say, “You don’t love me!” In fact, the reason you said “no” was because you do love them.

You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. –  James 4:2-3

Third, God has answered with “no” or “wait”. (John 11:6)  Jesus waited for Lazarus to die before He came.  People knew how much Jesus loved Lazarus, so why did He not come to the rescue? Why didn’t He heal Lazarus like He had healed so many that He did not know personally? It was like Jesus had made a mistake.  But, as you know, there was something bigger going on.  Jesus was going to demonstrate resurrection power. If God can form man from dust – speak the universe into existence, how difficult can it be for Him to raise someone from the dead? In response to the doubts of those who were counting on Jesus to show up at the right time Jesus said …

Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” John 11:40

The question is, “How do we respond to His silence?” When God does not show up when we expect Him to? Are we willing to accept God’s answer or do we resent Him for not giving us what we want?  Is God’s silence enough of an answer? Or do you demand more?  Is your life typified by “Lord give me what I want or else!” Do you shake your fist in God’s face and say “You don’t love me!” or are you like the tax collector?

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’  “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.’” – Luke 18:9-14

As Christians, God has already given us more than we deserve. Answered prayer, no matter how it's answered, is icing on the cake.  

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

It's Not Odd, It's God - Living Your New Life With Your Spiritual Eyes Open

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

Some years ago, we met a man to discuss an aspect of the men’s ministry we were involved in.  In response to a description of a particular circumstance he said “That’s not odd, that’s God.”  I love the English language because of its versatility in connecting words in a memorable way.  What he said as obviously stuck with me, not just because odd and God rhyme, but because it communicates a truth that I have experienced over and over in life.  It’s hard to fathom a God who is so big, and yet He is willing to influence circumstances the way he does.  I am amazed when something happens that is beyond probability.  I could not have orchestrated the circumstances, but I know that God did.  If it happens once you might call it a fluke. Perhaps even two or three times, but God-caused events have been happening in our lives since the day that we said “Yes Lord to Your will and to Your way.”  Obedience opens a door of new experiences and possibilities, that sadly,  will remain hidden as long as you choose yourself and not God.

Often I will meet someone and immediately the thought rises, “God has a reason for this .. but it is not yet revealed.” And then sometime later I discover why we met, it was for kingdom purposes. If you think about it, why should we be surprised?  Every believer has the Spirit of God in them.  The same Spirit.  The Father uses the Holy Spirit combined with the faith of His children to accomplish His purposes on this earth.   A simple example.  (I have hundreds that I could share) I received an email from a friend asking if I could connect them to a Doctor I know who lives and serves in Jeremie, Haiti.  I told her I would.  The next Saturday we decided to take a drive to see the fall colors in the trees in a State park.  On the way, we stopped at a restaurant to eat lunch.  In the middle of somewhere.  Well, who should walk into the restaurant with a group of her friends but the friend who asked about the Doctor.  Highly improbable.  Spiritually affirming.  But it was not odd, it was God. 

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.” – Ephesians 1:18-21

Christian, God is at work all around you.  Be on the lookout.  Dr. Henry Blackaby said that God is at work all around us, and when you see Him working, join Him.  But to see Him you must have spiritual vision. I am reminded of Elisha’s servant.

And when the servant of the man of God arose early and went out, there was an army, surrounding the city with horses and chariots. And his servant said to him, ‘Alas, my master! What shall we do?’ So he answered, ‘Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’ And Elisha prayed, and said, ‘Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.’ Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” – 2 Kings 6:15-17

When you allow the Spirit of God to open your eyes, you will be amazed at what you see.


Monday, June 17, 2019

Every Day Is Father’s Day

If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?” — Luke 11:11-12

It was Father’s Day yesterday.  A day to recognize fathers and remind them that they are valued. At least that is the hope.  That they are valued, that is.  God has placed man in a place of responsibility to love his wife and serve her (Ephesians 5:25), and to raise their children in “training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). What a responsibility.  Father’s Day is supposed to be recognition of the fulfillment of those responsibilities.  Many men are drawn to the idea of the authority that comes with the role of father and give little consideration to the responsibility that comes with it. 

I cannot be the father that God intends apart from the power of God in my life. My flesh will always get in the way. There are so, so many broken homes today.  Abandoned families.  And the sins of the fathers ripple through the generations.  By abandoning the responsibilities that come with fathering children, with being a husband, we give our children and wives a stone when they need bread, a snake when they need a fish.

Like Paul, I have a clear understanding that there is nothing inherently good that comes from my flesh, which is sinful.  The only good that is in me is spiritual, which comes from the Father of fathers.  Thank God that He is the Restorer of broken things.  When I have failed as a father, and we all have, He is able to overcome those failures. To restore the years the locusts have eaten. (Joel 2:25)

So do you want to be a better father? Or do you want your husband to be a better father? Or do you want your dad to be a better father?  For that to happen, as God intended and as wives and children hope for, the man must be first devoted to his Father in heaven.  

Don’t intend for my words to be critical of fathers, but merely to remind myself of others of the great responsibility we have a fathers and the source of the power to fulfill that responsibility.  Thank you Jesus.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Your Heart Won't Be Right, Unless God Is All That's Left

Abraham built an altar…; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar…” —Genesis 22:9

Isaac represented God’s promise to Abraham.  Everything that Abraham hoped for.  Now God was testing his heart.  A test to see if Abraham loved someone or something more than God. What is getting in the way of your relationship with God?  God makes it pretty clear that He is a jealous God and He commands us to not have any other gods in our lives (Exodus 20:5).  That is a quote from the ten commandments.  Other gods are other things that you serve. That demand your devotion above your devotion to the God of heaven.  Something that dictates what you do, what you think, what you depend upon.  It might be yourself, it might be some other thing in the world. The Bible makes it pretty clear. 

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

So God is telling us, “if you are going to live this new life, you must sacrifice everything that you treasure .. everything that you depend upon … and serve – trust Me”  I can’t explain it except to say that it is God’s plan and His purpose for His creation.  The original sin in the Garden occurred when Adam and Eve decided that there was another, better way.  We are still doing that.  God has told us there isn’t a better way … that Jesus is the Way.  The Cross is the way.  What is holding you back?  What is it that you have chosen over God?  What is it that you need to lay on the altar?  Don’t delay .. do it today.   

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Looking At What Is On The Inside - Our Spiritual Nature

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” – 2 Corinthians 4:16-17

I am two months away from being 69 years old.  69!!! I cannot hardly believe it.  I have become my grandfather! When I look in the mirror, I see someone who resembles who I was but sometimes I wonder who that is staring back at me.  But why don’t I feel like I am about to be 69?  I have always found it curious, that I don’t feel older on the inside.

Our nature is to look at the outside of a person and make judgements about them.  We all do it.  Jesus spoke to that natural tendency.

You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” – Matthew 23:24-26

He was speaking about the inner man.  The heart of a person that God sees and men don’t.  At least not without the help of the Spirit of God, that is.  I believe that every person is aware of their inner-self because it is God’s way of revealing Himself and our true nature, even to the lost. Inside, I feel, well, ageless.  Think about it.  Like Paul said “Outwardly we are wasting away, but inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” 

The more you are aware of God, the more you are aware of your true nature – the you God created you to be.  People seek to find themselves – but most often, to the exclusion of a Creator God.  That is man’s rebellion.  Our natural tendency is to want to be like God, but without God.  It will never happen.  The God who created you has ordained the conditions of your relationship with Him and has made the way, through Jesus, for you to be who He intended you to be.  No other way.

The next time you look in the mirror, try look past the face and body you see. Look at the inner you.  The eternal you.  And maybe – just maybe you will see a reflection of Jesus – the first born among many. (Romans 8:29)

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Repentance - Our Part In The Process

And he [the prodigal son] arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son’” – Luke 15:20-21

You well know that you cannot change someone’s heart.  Oh, you can love them and want the best for them, but the decision to change, to repent, is all up to them. Many of you reading this have someone in your life that you deeply desire that they would see the error of their ways and have a change of heart. That person might even have been you at some point in your life – or perhaps you are still there.

I believe the father knew where his son was and what he was doing.  But he did not go and get him but waited for the work of repentance in the boy’s heart. The father must have been searching the horizon, perhaps every day, in the hope that his son would return.  Oh, how he wanted to embrace his son and restore him. But, the father waited for repentance. And then, one day, he saw his son crest the hill. Returning home. Not so he could take what he could get and then leave to continue in his sin. But to be restored having a heart change. 

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart—These, O God, You will not despise.” – Psalm 51:17

The son’s heart was changed – humbled – broken in his realization of what he had done and what he had given up.   Convinced he was doing what was right for him, only to realize that what he had chosen was wrong for him.  He returned with the expectation of at best being treated like a slave, but was received as a son – restored.

That is how it is with us and God.  That is how it is supposed to be with us and each other.  But that kind of restoration cannot happen without true repentance.  That is what we should hope for.  That is what we should pray for.  That is what we must wait for – just like God did with us.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Being Sorry Is The First Step Of Repentance, Not The Last

Godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation” – 2 Corinthians 7:10

Being sorry for something I have done is not enough.  Repentance means turning away from my sin, not merely being frustrated and sorry that I continue to sin.  Conviction of sin is a supernatural act of the Spirit of God bringing an awareness of the truth of our sin … all sin separates us from God.  Sin is to the sinner like drugs are to the drug addict.  The Christian who sins knows it’s not good, it’s contrary to his new nature, but something drives him to want to cling to that sin. The Apostle Paul described his struggle with sin this way.

We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 1 do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” – Romans 7:14-15

The sinner may ask God to forgive him, but really all he wants is relief from the conviction and consequences.  He has not abandoned what it is that draws him to that sin.  This is a spiritual struggle. (Ephesians 6:12)  That spiritual struggle manifests itself in our flesh – through physical actions and our thought life.  So what can we do? We know that sin is stronger than our will to not sin.  The Apostle Paul gave us the answer. It’s Jesus! The Way and Truth and Life.

I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.” – Romans 7:21-25

The danger for us is our tendency to become complacent about the sins we struggle with.  Even accepting.  That is not the life we have been called to. 

So ….. let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1-2

Being sorry that I sin is only the first step to repentance. Repentance is living in a new way and I cannot do that without the power of the Spirit of God and a decision to go another way. 

Lot’s wife left Sodom with her husband but she left her heart in Sodom.  Even though she went through the motions of obeying the Lord, her heart was still devoted to what she had left.  God says don’t look back, but often our heart wants to. We cannot life our new life apart from the power and presence of God and with a heart devoted to Him.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Managing Your Expectations

“Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.” – James 3:10-12

The principle here is that what comes out reflects the nature of the source. It is the same with the affairs of this world.  Our legal system is primarily a reflection of our culture and not the Word of God. The following is an excerpt from Market Faith Ministries, The Christian Worldview Basis for the Rule of Law, 2014.

Over the last century or so, the naturalistic worldview has become increasingly prominent in American culture. In fact, it now dominates all of the major institutions of society. Naturalism is the belief that there is no such thing as a supernatural reality – that is, there is no God to give man any moral guidance. Based on this belief, human beings must create their own morality.

The underlying foundation of a naturalistic understanding of law is relativism. Since there is no absolute authority in existence, every law exists relative to the whims or desires of the humans who make and interpret them. Thus, even a constitutional document is “interpretable” based on the beliefs of those with the power to do interpretation. The idea of a document based on absolute principles or original intent is not part of the equation.”

As Christians our hope is that our government, to include our justice system would have as its foundation the Word of God. That is true in part, but with each passing year the influence of the Word is increasingly diluted.  New cultural norms have taken their place. When we know what is right, but see something else at work, the temptation is to despair. Like the sons of Issachar, who understood the times (1 Chronicles 12:32) we must have a clear understanding of the times we live in.  Might God intervene on our behalf to avert some injustice that is now called justice? Yes, but perhaps not.  The question is, if God does not intervene, will we still trust His sovereignty?  Will we still believe….

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28

Do we still believe….

God “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” – Ephesians 3:20

You can expect to meet disappointments in this life.  Times when you would like for God to show up when we want Him to, but He seems to be somewhere else, or worse, not interested in our trouble. Neither is true, but it may still feel like they are. This was the cry of the Psalmist and it could well be ours today.  The Word of God is eternal and applies to all generations.

Psalm 43

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

For You are the God of my strength; Why do You cast me off?

Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? Oh, send out Your light and Your truth!

Let them lead me; Let them bring me to Your holy hill And to Your tabernacle.

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

Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him,

The help of my countenance and my God.”

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Believing Left Is Right Because God Said It Is

“Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.” – 1 Corinthians 3:18-19

I have talked to many people who had been confronted with the conflict of obedience to God and their personal, earthly ambitions.  The “American Dream”, which is not talked about much anymore, is owning a house and having a new car in the drive.

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

We need to focus on the eternal. But, for many of us, the things of this world dominate us and will demand that we reject God in favor of them. There is a storage industry built around our avarice for accumulating.  We fill up our houses, our attics, our garages (that is why our new car is in the driveway) and so we rent a space to store more things.  Oh, I am guilty too.  There is something peculiar about our drive to have possessions.

And he [Jesus]  told them this parable: ‘The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’” – Luke 12:16-20

God says “Do not put confidence or seek consolation through accumulation, but in Me.” I have known a number of people that are devoted to their possessions.  We see the extreme in people called hoarders, but that is really just an exaggeration of the heart of our culture.  The Lord provides resources and we consume them on ourselves.  As if boxes of “stuff” will somehow bring the peace and assurance we so desperately seek. 

Do my words sound a little extreme?  Or perhaps, the Spirit is convicting you about your affection for the things of this world.  Listen, at the core is an eternal struggle between the natural and the supernatural.  If you have boxes and boxes of stuff that you can’t get rid of, not that you need whatever is in the box, but when you see what is inside the box fascinates you – draws you and you just cannot get rid of it.  Friend, you have a lust problem.  Hey, we all do.  But God has given us a new life free from the bondage of our old one. 

God does not ask everyone to sell their house, quit their job, or move to a third world country. But He commands everyone to keep Him first in their heart, to reflect His Son in the way they live and relate to the world, to not care if He does ask those things of them, to be willing to walk by faith and not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7) We either do or we don’t. In the military, when you march you step out with your left foot, which makes it the right or correct foot.  God’s ways are not the world’s ways.  God defines what is right, which may look left to the world. We must resist the flesh and obey God by the power of His Spirit and Word to keep in step with God.   

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

What It Means To Be A Living Sacrifice

“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.” – Romans 12:1

I am certain that you have seen that verse before.  If you read my devotions, then I know you have. What sparked this particular devotion on sacrifice was actually something far different than you might imagine.  My grandson, my one and only grandson, is being inducted in the Alabama Air National Guard this week.  His decision is partly because he needs  help pay for college.  His soccer scholarship is not nearly enough. But mostly because he has always wanted to be a military aviator one day.  A noble aspiration if you ask me. His induction got time thinking about service and that got me thinking about sacrifice.

Sacrifice is giving up something that you care about, for a greater good.  In the military, it might be as small as being away from home for a few years or as big as giving your life on the battlefield.  Military who have “fallen in battle” are highly esteemed in most cultures.  There is a recognition that the person gave up that which they valued most – their very life for the greater good – their countrymen.

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”  – John 15:12-13

Jesus was referring to His sacrifice for the disciples and the world. As Christians, our charge is to live our lives for others and not for ourselves.  The idea is that we should be willing to set our own goals aside, first for God and second for others. That demonstration of love was summarized by Jesus in Matthew 22.

Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’” – Matthew 22:37-40

Lay your life down for others.  Being a living sacrifice means that what the world values – what our old nature values – is crucified – sacrificed in deference to obeying God and loving others.  For those men that are married, it means this.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” – Ephesians 5:25-27

Think about the implications of that in terms of what you do every day – men. But wives, think about the general command to lay your life down for others – that includes your husband.  The welfare of others is more important that your own welfare.   Does that strike a nerve?  What do you hesitate to surrender.  It is that thing that you love more than God and others.  Perhaps there is more than one thing that you hesitate to surrender.  But wait, there’s cause for hope and not despair! The power to love like this is not based upon your own determination alone. This is a spiritual act requiring the power of the Spirit in you.  The kind of love that Jesus was talking about is a fruit of the Spirit.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” – Galatians 5:22-23

And that fruit begins to grow with the decision to offer yourself as a living sacrifice to God.  There is so much more to say – but it must wait for another day.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Why Do We Worry About How We Look To Other People?

“Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” – John 12:42-43

How important is it for people to be impressed with your appearance? I have to catch myself when I am picking out a shirt to wear.  I have a couple that are actually nice shirts – they have buttons and everything! But I find myself thinking, “What will people think of me if I wear it?” Sounds ridiculous when I type the words. Why would I be concerned with the opinion of someone I don’t even know?  Why would I think that those I do know would think poorly of me for wearing my Hawaiian shirt? The answer is – pride and fear of rejection.  It is my old nemesis, my natural self – my flesh.

Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.”  – Matthew 23:24-26

We worry about things that have no eternal consequence, and miss those that do.  We are worried about how we look and what others think of us.  So much so that we will even sin against God to gain the favor of others.  Why? Because we lack spiritual perspective.  Our lives are supposed to reflect Jesus not the world.  Our concern is supposed to be obedience to the will of the Father and not the praise of men (and women) for how we look and our position in the world. 

Deciding which shirt I wear may seem inconsequential, but it points to something of greater consequence.  It reveals where my focus and devotion lies. If I do what honors God, then I do not have to worry about pleasing others.  I do not have to worry about being rejected because I am not good enough in the eyes of men.  I am a child of God.

It is not the outside that matters, it is the inside that is important.  What are you worried about?

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