Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Your Speech Reflects Your Heart, Your Heart Reflects Your Faith

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

Our old nature does not go away when we are born again, but when we are born again, we no longer have to live in subjection to our old nature.  We have a choice.  But, because it is a choice, we can choose poorly and allow the old nature to dominate us. One of the sure-fire ways that I can tell where a person is spiritually is by listening to what they say and how they say it.

Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” – Luke 6:45 

In other words, your speech will eventually reveal your heart.  We often make excuses for our old nature.  “That is the way our family is.” “I was just kidding.” Actually, we don’t have to make excuses for our old nature.  It is what it is.  It will never get better.  It can only be replaced with our new nature.  If our heart is yielded to the Lord then what comes out of our mouths will reflect the Spirit. (Read Galatians 5:16-25 to understand the contrast). 

We are all vulnerable to spiritual relapses, but traits of our old nature should not be characteristic of who people think we are, what they have come to expect of us and how we behave toward others and the Lord.  Stop making excuses for what you know is wrong and does not honor God.  Our mission in this life is to reflect Jesus, to glorify God, to proclaim the Gospel through the living out of our lives.

The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble. My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body. Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.”  – Proverbs 4:18-27

Before I was born again, using profanity in my conversations was, well, normal for me. Something that my children can’t imagine.  They also can’t believe that I had a problem with alcohol – post Vietnam PTSD self-medicating.  Profanity – in any language – is crass – rude – unnecessary. Often times, it is a common word that is used as an expletive.  It is not really the word that is the problem, but the heart behind the word. What part of your old nature do you struggle with? You can’t overcome it on your own, it is a spiritual quest that you are on and it’s spiritual strength that you need to be successful.  CHARLEY

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Why We Have A Problem With Consistency In Our Christian Lives

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

Sin entered in through the first Adam.  Redemption entered in through the second Adam, Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:45)  Pretty simple.  So why is a truth that seems so simple so hard to live? The fact is that it is not hard to live, so long as you are willing to lay your life down and live by the faith and the power of the Spirit. 

We --- cannot live our new life in Christ through determination and effort.  We can only live that new life through submission and sacrifice.  We must stop trying to “be good” and allow Him “IS” good to live through us.  The word Father means Source.  God is the source of all that is good. 

As Jesus started on His way, a man ran up and knelt before Him. ‘Good Teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ ‘Why do you call Me good?’ Jesus replied. ‘No one is good except God alone.’” – Mark 10:17-18

It is by His grace that we are saved through our faith.  Do not be content with a mediocre Christian existence.  It’s not attending church that makes you a better Christian.  You can sit in a pew with a hard heart just as easily as you can sit on your sofa at home.  Another conference is not the answer.  Yielding your heart to God is the answer.  Picking up your cross daily and following Jesus is the answer.  Offering yourself as a living sacrifice is the answer.  Living by faith.  Walking by the power of the Spirit.  Not leaning on your own understanding but trusting God is the answer. 

Do you need other Christians to help, absolutely.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken!”  (Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12) But you can hang out with someone like Billy Graham with your hard heart to no avail.  And this culture, this fallen world will certainly harden your heart toward the things of God.  Don’t kid yourself.  Don’t pretend.  We all struggle with this malady.  Friend we all need more Jesus.  He is the way, truth, and life. A truth that our culture has rejected, but a truth that we must keep ever before us.

Monday, July 29, 2019

On Who Or What Does Your Faith Depend Upon?

Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’” —John 20:29

We all live our lives trusting in something.  It might be ourselves, someone else, or maybe even God.  If you are a Christian, of course the third choice is the “right” one.  We trust because we believe that whatever or whomever we trust in will meet what ever needs we might have.

In John 20, Thomas could not believe or trust that Jesus was alive unless he could see Him and touch his wounds so Thomas would know it was not a figment of his imagination or a trick of some sort. Not that he did not want it to be true, of course he did, but trusting in God required that Thomas believe the impossible and for that, he needed physical proof. Well, he got it. But Jesus went on to say that for most, they won’t get physical proof of a spiritual truth. Their belief of the truth of His resurrection would require faith.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” – Hebrews 11:1

It is all too easy to trust in people, who we can see, rather than God who we cannot see.  Unfortunately, people are fallible.  They have feet of clay, just like us.  They can start well, but then stray from the path of truth.  The problem is that those who are following and trusting, follow the same path. 

The sermon this past Sunday was from Judges 9.  The story of Abimelech and the people of Shechem.    The people abandoned God and, instead, put their trust in a man.  Before we run to condemnation of those people, we must examine our own hearts.  God includes those stories in the Bible for our benefit – as warning signals – lest we go the way of Shechem which is no more. (I believe the culture of the United States, including some people of faith, is on that path)

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

It is so easy to trust in what you can see.  What seems reasonable. What the majority has accepted as truth. Be careful that you don’t embrace the world thinking that the world is on the right path. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. (John 14:6) The Word of God is a light to your path and a lamp to your feet. (Psalm 119:105)

So what or who are you trusting in? Whose voice are you putting your faith in? Whose truth are you embracing?

Friday, July 26, 2019

We Respond To Life With The Nature That Rules Our Hearts

“Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” —Matthew 12:34

How do you approach life?  I mean .. as you live from one event to another .. from one breath to another breath … what is it that determines how you respond to the events in your life?  What you think .. what you do .. what you say.  As Christians we have a choice, actually.  Because this new life we live, we live in the flesh by faith (Galatians 2:20), we can choose to respond in the natural or in the supernatural.  We can respond as the world does, or we can respond like Jesus did.  How you respond is determined by the true disposition of your heart.  If you see your new life as merely an attribute, like being a citizen of the United States or having red hair, then you are in trouble spiritually.  You can hope to respond to life differently, but it is not going to happen.  Often times, we confuse spiritual response with natural constraint.  Let me explain by example.

Mary is talking to you when she says something that is very offensive. How do you respond?  Naturally, you are thinking an unkind thought, but you restrain yourself so as not to give how you really feel away.  Spiritually, you are not affected by the words, but see Mary’s heart, the source of what comes out of her mouth, and pray for her.  You hold no grudge against her, but have forgiven her for the offense.  You show compassion for Mary.  Like Jesus did for those who crucified Him.  The offense will not be logged away in your heart to be pulled up at some time in the future. 

Let’s say your children are like whirlwinds in your house.  They won’t listen so you yell at them.  You just can’t take it anymore.  You can’t help yourself.  You are right … your old nature is stronger than your will to not yell at your children … but your old nature is not stronger than your new nature, whose source is the Creator God.  You will respond to life from the nature that rules your heart.  Not the one that you want to rule, but the one that sits on the throne.  Living supernaturally does not just happen, it is a deliberate process, yielding your life to God each day, living by faith, meditating on the Word (when was the last time you read the Bible on your own?)  You are a child of God, don’t be satisfied with anything less.

People are good at hiding their true feelings – most of the time.  Something I have noticed is that when a significant life event occurs, such as a death in the family, feelings that are normally hidden are suddenly exposed.  People act in ways, say things, that they typically would not do or say. Those things that they kept hidden in their hearts are exposed. Why? I think that the emotional pressure brought on by a death, for example, takes away self-restraint, and the true nature of people’s hearts are revealed. 

Conversely, when my mom passed a number of years ago – friends from another state showed up at the visitation.  We had no idea they were coming. They came because they cared about Martie and me and showed the compassion of Jesus. The true nature of their hearts were revealed, in a good way.  I have never forgotten that act of kindness and compassion.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Resisting The Pressure And Temptation To Embrace What Does Not Honor God

Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us! For we are exceedingly filled with contempt.” —Psalm 123:3

Most of us struggle with embracing those things that are acceptable in our culture but contrary to the Word.  Without a spiritual perspective, it is so easy to accept what man says is good and what God says is not good or right. We are bombarded, every day, with sometimes subtle and sometimes not so subtle messages declaring an alternate truth, contrary to the Word of God. Without the influence of the Spirit of God and the light of the Word of God, we are bound to accept the lie as truth.

They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised.” – Romans 1:25

There are certain things in everyone’s life that we cling to, even though, in our heart, we know they are not right.  There are things that we teach our children are wrong, yet we will sit in our living rooms and watch those wrong things being played out on the television screen or in a movie theater.  What you allow in your home through music and visual media is a statement by you to your children that those things are acceptable.  Do this.  The next time you watch your favorite television show, count those things (words or relationships) that are contrary to the Word of God.  Each one is a lesson.  There is an old adage “Do as I say, not as I do.”  Well, I would suggest that that opposite of that is in effect in most homes .. “Don’t do as I say, do as I do.”  I can remember when I was a little boy, my dad told me not to smoke because it was bad for me.  All the while he was smoking a cigarette.  What is the “real” message there?  If you want to be like me, then you should smoke.

Guard your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” – Proverbs 4:23

As we observe sin, vicariously, we convince ourselves that it is entertainment and not “really all that bad”.  What we forget is that our flesh is at the root of it.  Sin is attractive to our flesh because our flesh is sinful.  Look, you can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig!  Whether it is language, life style, or sinful behavior … it promotes those things that are supposed to have been crucified in your life.

Bottom line, if you crave those things, you have a sin problem.  Hope you don’t stop reading my devotions because of that!  Our country has a problem with violence and the most popular television shows are about people killing people.  Parents fear their daughters getting pregnant before marriage, yet most movies and television dramas portray and promote extra-marital sex.  The same media that is slamming men for sexual aggression toward women is promoting Victoria Secret in China, the world’s sexiest man, and promoting women as sex objects at every turn.  Think about it Church!  It’s the frog in the pot.  Christians are being boiled alive … and they think the water is just right!  Don’t try to vindicate yourself .. justify you actions .. confess and repent .. honor God in all you do.

Pray about this … and listen for the Spirit to guide you. I’ll close with a couple of verses that you might consider.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”  – Philippians 4:8

This Book of the Law [the Word of God] shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:8-9

Stop turning your spiritual nature off when you turn your TV on or sit down in a movie theater.  If you think the pressure of the culture and the threat of rejection is too great, remember that our God is greater.

"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me [Jesus] first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” – John 15:18-19

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Things That Hinder Our Hearing God And The Thing That Keep Us From Obeying

Who are You, Lord?” — Acts 26:15

“God speaks in the language you know best— not through your ears, but through your circumstances. God has to destroy our determined confidence in our own convictions. We say, ‘I know that this is what I should do’ — and suddenly the voice of God speaks in a way that overwhelms us by revealing the depths of our ignorance.” Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest, January 29.

Knowing what is right to do … the God-thing … and what you actually choose to do are two often quite different.  Knowing you should not cross the tracks when a train is coming and deciding to wait for the train to pass are two different things.  When you approach the tracks a thought comes to mind … “I think I can beat the train to the crossing.”  Sometimes you are right and other times .. you are dead-wrong.  That is the way it is with believing and obeying God.  God offers His best, and even if you beat the train to the crossing, you have settled for less than God’s best for you.  It may bring satisfaction for a moment, but God deals in the eternal .. not the temporal.  The heavenly not the earthly.  Dr. Henry Blackaby, in Experiencing God, said that God speaks to us in four ways – by His Spirit (the still small voice saying “This is  the way”) – through prayer – by His Word (the sword of Truth, a light and lamp for us to see the way) – through other Believers – and, as Chambers suggested – through circumstances.  Dr. Blackaby went on to say that our problem is not in knowing what God said to us – the problem is obeying what God said.  The Scripture is replete with examples of disobedience.  Hearing God and doing something else because they thought they knew better.

When Paul, then Saul, met Jesus on the road, Saul’s world was shaken. He was convinced that he was doing right in persecuting Christians – convinced that they were wrong.  They had to be! What they believed violated all that he accepted as right. But he was wrong.

For the Christian, hearing God requires two things to be true.  First, our heart must be right … unconfessed sin will hinder your hearing.  Second is the practice of spiritual discipline in our lives .. if you don’t pray .. if you don’t read the Word … if you don’t associate with other Christians who are doing those things … if your focus is on yourself and not God as you live life, then don’t expect anything more than the conviction of the Spirit.  All too often we want to be our own god and decide what is best for us.  

We won’t accept any advice that is not consistent with what we have decided is the best for us.  “I am going to beat that train and you are bad if you don’t agree with me!” We ignore our sins .. having decided they are really not that bad, they are acceptable as far as we are concerned.  We pray asking only for things that support our plan for peace and fulfillment.  We avoid other Christians who will not agree with us.  The fact is that we are practicing vain religion.  We have a form of godliness but deny the power of God in favor of our own devices.  In short we are carnal but are convinced we are spiritual.  

My best and only advice to a Christian who is living like this is repent – you need more Jesus and less you.  You have accepted a life that falls short of God’s plan for you  .. and one day … you won’t beat the train.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Serving God Requires Faith Plus The Power Of God

"Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” —Acts 19:15

When the seven sons of Sceva, the high priest, attempted to drive out unclean spirits in the name of Jesus, they were not able. (Acts 19) They were doing and saying the same things, but without spiritual result. You cannot do anything for God unless it is done by faith in God.  Oh, you can do things in His name, but it really amounts to work accomplished by your own effort.  Ephesians 2:8,9 says we are saved by grace through faith not of works lest any man boast that somehow he had saved himself by his own effort.  And so it is when you step out for God on your own. 

Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13)“

There is nothing I can do that pleases God in terms of effort, what God wants from me is a broken and contrite heart and a willingness to pick up my cross and follow Jesus.  You may think, “But God I am so smart.” Who gave you your intelligence?  When you serve God you must lay a spiritual foundation.  If you say “yes” God will take you places that would crush your spirit and cause you to feint in the intensity of the circumstances. Whether it be a lion’s dens, a fiery furnace, or ministering to a difficult person in a difficult situation, God is sufficient to meet your needs.

“… my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:19

Have you ever wondered what the difference was between a Christian giving someone a drink of water and a non-Christian doing the same thing?  The person receiving the water has their thirst quenched either way.  Sometimes we are guilty of thinking that only Christians can do “good” things.  Not true.  But there is something supernatural going on when a Christian serves others. 

Jesus told the woman at the well that He had living water to give her.  He could offer water to her soul … and so can you.  You must have the Spirit of God in you to do that.  There are organizations involved in disaster relief that have the  reputation for being “spiritual” but, in fact merely have a religious veneer. They will not allow Christians to share their faith in their desire to be “ecumenically correct” and not offend people of other beliefs or no belief at all.  Disasters are not an opportunity to take advantage of people’s vulnerability.  But they do give opportunity for the Church to rise up and be ready to give a reason for the hope that is within them. (1 Peter 3:15) 

There should be no spiritual strings attached to our serving others, but there should be spiritual power behind it.  God uses circumstances to speak to the lost.  Sometimes He whispers and sometimes He SHOUTS!  In any case we must be ready to shine the light of Jesus whatever the situation and circumstance. Just make certain you have spiritual batteries in your flashlight!

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Repenting Of Your Sin. There Is More To It Than Being Sorry You Got Caught

Whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” —James 2:10

Understanding sin in the context of a holy God.  Until a person comes to the point of conversion .. coming under conviction by the Holy Spirit and having a sudden awareness of who they are and who God is, they will never experience a sense of guilt before God and their need for salvation.  Many people are more sorry they got caught than the fact that they did something wrong.  They doing something wrong is an attempt to satisfy some need they have.  Physical or emotional. Sin is an act of desperation.  Man trying to be his own god.  It all started in the Garden. 

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

The Law brings an awareness of what is necessary to “be like God”, and it is impossible for sinful man, by himself, to be like God.  Recall that Adam and Eve were already created in God’s image and likeness.  (Genesis 1:26)  But they wanted more than that.  They wanted to be equal to God. They wanted to decide what is right and what is wrong. (Sound a bit like our culture?)

So what about today .. for you and me. Does becoming a Christian make you sin-proof?  No, but it does make you Hell-proof.  As you know, sins are internal, but most manifest themselves by some action on the external.  Jesus taught that.  We tend to focus on the external and try to manage those sins .. to keep them under control.  What goes on inside our hearts and minds, not so much. But, that is not good enough! 

If you compare what you do plus what you think to the holiness of God, you will quickly realize that you are not so “holy” as you hoped.  If most of your sinning goes on – on the inside, you may fool people around you, but not God, who sees the heart.  The Law and our sin is a constant reminder that we need a Savior because we cannot be holy on our own.  We need a little – well more correctly – a lot of help.  God does not want you to live a life of guilt because you struggle with sin and the flesh .. He wants you to confess and repent.  But repentance is more than trying harder .. it is trusting more … it is submitting more … it is “faithing” more. I don’t expect to be perfect in the flesh … but I also know that I cannot ever be satisfied with my sinful nature.  Some people say “That is just the way that I am!” in response to some attitude or action that does not glorify God and is hurtful to other people.  As if they can blame their sin on heredity … well they can, but then again, they can’t.  Adam and Eve may have started it, but we are each responsible for our own sin. So we need to own it, confess it, and repent of it.  Today would be a good day to get started.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Come to Jesus and Live

“The first thing I must be willing to admit when I begin to examine what controls and dominates me is that I am the one responsible for having yielded myself to whatever it may be. There is no power within the human soul itself that is capable of breaking the bondage of the nature created by yielding. For example, yield for one second to anything in the nature of lust, and although you may hate yourself for having yielded, you become enslaved to that thing. No release or escape from it will ever come from any human power, but only through the power of redemption. You must yield yourself in utter humiliation to the only One who can break the dominating power in your life, namely, the Lord Jesus Christ. When you yield to something, you will soon realize the tremendous control it has over you. Even though you say, ‘Oh, I can give up that habit whenever I like,’ you will know you can’t. You will find that the habit absolutely dominates you because you willingly yielded to it. It is easy to sing, “He will break every fetter,” while at the same time living a life of obvious slavery to yourself. But yielding to Jesus will break every kind of slavery in any person’s life.” Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest, March 14

The yoke of the master of lust or self-centeredness is a harsh one.  There is no peace only the demand for more … there is no blessing only a moment of satisfaction before the need to be satisfied rises up again.  There is no love, only the suggestion of affection which is really a tool to entice you to yield your heart to something other than God.  But then there is Jesus …

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30 

 Chris Rice – “Come to Jesus”

“Weak and wounded sinner,  Lost and left to die,  O, raise your head for Love is passing by, Come to Jesus and live

Now your burden's lifted, And carried far away,  And precious blood has washed away the stain... so Sing to Jesus and live,

And like a newborn baby, Don't be afraid to crawl, And remember when you walk sometimes we fall... so Fall on Jesus and live,

Sometimes the way is lonely, And steep and filled with pain, So if your sky is dark and pours the rain... then Cry to Jesus and live,

O, and when the love spills over, And music fills the night, And when you can't contain you joy inside... then Dance for Jesus and live,

And with your final heartbeat, Kiss the world goodbye, Then go in peace, and laugh on Glory's side... and Fly to Jesus and live,”

So, what are you waiting for? An invitation … you’ve got it!

God Bless You

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Faith Flourishes In Adversity Not In Affluence

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.”” – Luke 12:16-19

This past Sunday, the pastor at the church we attend, shared some interesting statistics. It seems that affiliation with protestant denominations in the U.S. and in Europe is on the decline. At the same time, in places where hardships flourish, South and Central America, the Caribbean, and Africa, just the opposite is true. It seems that those who have plenty, rather than give God the glory are building bigger barns and turning from God.  Those who have great need are turning toward God.

I thought the parable of the man and his barns was appropriate for those who enjoy prosperity and little hardship. “Take life easy. Eat, drink, and be merry!” There is spiritual danger in having plenty.  It is so easy to lose sight of our dependence on the Creator God.  The God who is the keeper of our souls.  The danger is that we begin thinking that we don’t need God.  That is the siren song of materialism.  It lures us into the rocks of failed faith.

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” – 1 Timothy 6:10

Oh, so you say that is not you?  Good! But be on guard, the temptation to trust in the things of this world has been the undoing of many self-confident Christians. The more we have, the greater the temptation.

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

Don’t’ deceive yourself into thinking there is no spiritual danger should you be devoted to the pursuit of money and God. Don’t put your trust in the things of this world.

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” – Matthew 6:24

I am not making this up.  God thought it was important enough to inspire the writers of the Old and New Testaments to warn us about the dangers. The Haitians call the United States – “Money Land”, not a place where Jehovah God reigns among its people. As for me, I would prefer the latter were true.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” – Psalm 20:7

Where are you placing your trust, really. What worries you more, your bank balance or your spiritual health and relationship with the Lord?  Think about it, then pray about it. Then repent if necessary.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Finding Peace – Maybe You Are Looking For It In All The Wrong Places

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7

What many people would give to have some peace in their lives.  You know the type.  Their lives are in constant confusion and turmoil.  One problem after another. Problems with relationships, finances, health issues, it is a long list. What Paul wrote about and encouraged the Philippian church to do is what I am encouraging you to do. Don’t look to the world, the absence of difficulty, for peace, because you won’t find it.  The world we live in is corrupted – broken – fraught with problems. Becoming a Christian does not exempt us from the problems of this world.

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

When we were serving in Haiti, I was intrigued by the names shop owners gave to their store fronts. Mesi Jezi  (Thank you Jesus) Auto Parts. But one in particular was the building supply store I would use and pass every day – Perseverance. It reminded me of James 1 and helped give me perspective on the difficulties we faced serving in Haiti. And the difficulties have not ended because we no longer live in Haiti.

God has made a way for us to have and know peace in spite of the world we are living in.

Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!’” – Matthew 8:23-25

Let’s look at what happened in that boat for a minute.  In the midst of a furious storm, waves sweeping of the boat – I don’t think it was a very big boat – Jesus was sleeping. He was probably getting wet. The disciples – many of them with years for experience as fishermen, were convinced they were about to die. So what did they do? They woke Jesus up. That’s right – they woke Him up.  Don’t you think they might have had a clue that if Jesus was sleeping that He knew something that they didn’t know? Like the fact that they were not going to die. These guys had Jesus with them and still they were overwhelmed by their circumstances. They lacked the peace that obviously Jesus had.

[Jesus] replied, ‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.” – Matthew 8:26

Jesus laid out the problem for them.  They lacked peace because they lacked faith. And so they were fearful. They lacked spiritual perspective. The storm did not really matter. Jesus did not have to calm the waves. They could have rode it out, following Jesus lead. But they lacked the faith to do that and Jesus knew it.

It is possible that we can ride out any storm in life – have the same peace that Jesus had – but only by faith.  That kind of peace is a fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5) It is not something that you can fake.  You can try to look peaceful on the outside – impress other Christians – and be erupting on the inside.  The peace of God is there for you. You can have peace in spite of the storms that rage in your life.  But it takes faith. If you don’t have that peace – it is a faith problem.  If you are looking for peace – you will find it in Jesus.

No Jesus – No Peace, Know Jesus – Know Peace

Think about it, then pray about it.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Don't Let Sin Take Root

“Walk in the knowledge of the holiness He has given you. Tolerating a wrong attitude toward another person causes you to follow the spirit of the devil, no matter how saintly you are. One carnal judgment of another person only serves the purposes of hell in you. Bring it immediately into the light and confess, ‘Oh, Lord, I have been guilty there.’ If you don’t, your heart will become hardened through and through. One of the penalties of sin is our acceptance of it.” Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest 

We just moved into a house that we are renovating. In the backyard there is a vine -  a weed actually, that has nearly taken over the yard.  It is everywhere.  The roots are huge and very strong.  We are finding it very difficult to remove. It started small some years ago, but was left unattended. It has become intertwined with good plants.  We find that we must sacrifice some of the good plants to rid ourselves of the bad. That is the way it is with sin left unattended in our hearts.  

We must be so very careful.  Our flesh can deceive us. People do or say bad and hurtful things to others .. maybe to you …  and it seems reasonable that they should be criticized or treated in a like manner .. punished even. So we hold on to that attitude towards them and before you know it, it has taken root in us.  We justify it in our minds and perhaps to others, not realizing that it has significantly affected our spiritual condition … and, in turn, the way we relate to other people.  Our heart becomes hard … The Word of God is clear about how we, as Christians, are to respond to people .. irrespective of how they respond to us … love your enemies .. pray for those who despitefully use you  (Matthew 5:44) … if someone strikes you on one cheek .. turn the other (Luke 6:29) These verses – actually commands - are about our attitudes toward people that are not nice to us.

When we don’t do what the Word says to do, then sin will take root in our hearts. Over time we come to the place where we accept that sin as inescapable or think that is just the way we are. If that is you, read 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 to refresh your right thinking.

A word of caution, we cannot do anything that the Lord commands in our own strength, but only by the power of the Spirit in us.  The temptation is to think, “Ok, I must try harder.” Trying harder will not work. It will only result in failure because you are trying to do something that is spiritual by natural means. How you treat others is reflection of the level of love you have in your heart for God.  If you have an obedience problem, it’s because you have a love problem.  The first step to having the right attitudes towards all people is to start with the Lord. 

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Your Speech Reflects Your Heart, Your Heart Reflects Your Faith

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

Our old nature does not go away when we are born again, but when we are born again, we no longer have to live in subjection to our old nature.  We have a choice.  But, because it is a choice, we can choose poorly and allow the old nature to dominate us. One of the sure-fire ways that I can tell where a person is spiritually is by listening to what they say and how they say it.

 Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” –  Luke 6:45

In other words, your speech will eventually reveal your heart.  We often make excuses for our old nature.  “That is the way our family is.” “I was just kidding.” Actually, we don’t need to make excuses for our old nature.  It is what it is.  It will never get better.  It can only be replaced with our new nature.  If our heart is yielded to the Lord then what comes out of our mouths will reflect the Spirit. (Read Galatians 5:16-25 to understand the contrast).  Before I was born again, profanity used to be a big part my vocabulary. But God changed all of that.  I suppose that is why I am particularly sensitive to it when I hear Christian men, in particular, using profanity in their conversation. It does not honor God. We must be careful that we are not a stumbling block for other Christians.  I can remember my dad telling me not to smoke cigarettes because they are bad for you as he puffed on his Camel cigarette.  What message was he modeling for me? Guess what. I smoked cigarettes – but God took that away too.

We are all vulnerable to spiritual relapses, but traits of our old nature should not be characteristic of who people think we are, what they have come to expect of us and how we behave toward others and the Lord.  Stop making excuses for what you know is wrong and does not honor God.  Our mission in this life is to reflect Jesus, to glorify God, to proclaim the Gospel by how we, sincerely live out of our lives.

The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble. My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body. Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil”. –  Proverbs 4:18-27

You can’t do that on your own, it is a spiritual quest that you are on and it’s spiritual strength that you need to be successful in that quest.  That is my hope and prayer for you today.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Something to Shout About

 God requires an account of what is past” — Ecclesiastes 3:15

“Our present enjoyment of God’s grace tends to be lessened by the memory of yesterday’s sins and blunders. But God is the God of our yesterdays, and He allows the memory of them to turn the past into a ministry of spiritual growth for our future. God reminds us of the past to protect us from a very shallow security in the present. […] 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 the broken, irreversible past in His hands, and step out into the invincible future with Him.” Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest

We must be careful that we don’t let our past sins and the regret that comes with them to become the reason we say “no” to God today.  The Bible is full of examples of people that God used in a mighty way who had done terrible things .. committed great sins … and yet, they repented, found forgiveness and were given a new start as they walked with God.  There were some things that they could not do because sins do have consequences.  To imagine that we can do anything and it not affect others is an attempt to justify our sins .. to make an excuse for what we have done.

Confession – means to agree with God.  All of our sins are laid bare before God, even our secret sins and thought life.  To overcome our past, we must lay all of our excuses aside and understand that we are no different from anyone else.  All have sinned .. there is none righteous .. only Jesus … and in Him we can be assured of forgiveness.  Forgiveness means that we are no longer facing the penalty for those sins. But, very often we must endure the consequences.

"The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children— with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.” – Psalm 103:8-18 

We don’t have to be enslaved by what sins we have committed in the past, but can be free to live for God by His grace and mercy for eternity.  Now that is something to shout about. Consider this verse to give you perspective for today and all of your tomorrows.

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:13-14

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Living Like Your Lost - It's Easier Than You Think

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” — 2 Corinthians 5:17

We have been bought with a price – the Cross.  We have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus.  We are newly created spiritually and the old things .. the natural … is behind us .. that is unless you stuck some natural in your pocket in case you needed it some day!  Everything in life has a spiritual context, everything.  And we need to be reminded of that .. because we tend to forget in the heat of the moment or at the point of temptation. 

Very often, we don’t see sin as sin, but as simple, every day, inconsequential choices that we have a right to make.  Uh actually ….. no we don’t.  You gave up your rights as a sinner when you were born again by faith in Jesus.  If you have a problem with seeing sin as sin .. and preferring to live in the natural it is because you have distanced yourself from the fundamentals of the faith.  Your heart has grown cold toward God .. no matter how often you go to church or what you tell other people.  Now if what I have described is not you, but you know someone that the “shoe” fits, then point them, lovingly, back to God. That is your responsibility as their Brother or Sister … as a disciple of Jesus … as a child of God.

I am an observer of people.  I watch how people interact with each other.  How they respond to life.  How they communicate with each other.  What they say and what they don’t say.  One interesting thing I have noticed is how easily people compartmentalize their lives.  We all do it – Christian or not. As Christians, there are aspects of our lives that we consider to be strictly spiritual and others that are natural … old nature things … common, everyday things.  How people respond to what they consider to be the natural part of life is with their natural self – the nature we were born with.  Here is the thing. If you are a Christian .. everything has a spiritual context.  There is no longer any natural for us.

Yet, we like to slice out pieces of our lives and leave God out of them.  We just don’t see what that has to do with God. A common problem for many Christians is that they live like they are lost for most of the week.  They don’t love God with their all or they would do what His Word says to do, by the power of His Spirit and faith.  We typically don’t address wrong choices from a spiritual point of view.  We want to correct and redirect using all of our natural methods.  Rather, we should lovingly remind others of who they are in Christ and what they are doing or saying does not honor God or bring Him glory .. which should be our and their primary objective in life. 

Monday, July 8, 2019

Love Is More Than An Emotion, It Is A Devotion

Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’ He said to him, ‘Feed My lambs.’”—John 21:15

When Jesus asked Peter that question, it was after Peter had denied Jesus, after Judas had betrayed Jesus, after the same people who had praised Jesus, crucified Him.  Love is more than an attitude.  It is more than a hope or a desire. It is certainly more than words. Jesus asked Peter if Peter loved Him three times.  Some have said it was three times because Peter had denied Jesus three times. While others have said that Peter answered in two ways. First, “I love you like a friend, Jesus.” Second, “I love you like You love me, Jesus – like a brother”  Third, “I love you like You love me, Jesus – sacrificially, without limit.”But Jesus told Peter it is not enough to love God, Peter must love others in the same way that Jesus loved.  What does that kind of love look like?

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

I recall telling one of my children that if they lied to me, they were showing that they did not love me.  They said that was not true. I was talking about the love that comes from the Father through the Spirit.  Like Jesus talking to Peter.  They, on the other hand, were talking about natural love.  Conditional love. Situational love. Circumstantial love. Love as they defined it and justified it.

The two greatest commandments are found in Matthew 22.  Jesus said that they sum up the whole Law.  They are the essence of the Bible.  If you boil down all of the words God has given us, what would be left are these two admonitions.

Jesus said to him [a lawyer asking about the greatest commandment], ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.’”– Matthew 22:37-40

You can’t love like that without the power of God and broken and contrite heart. If you are living in the power of your will and your frailties you will never love others the way God intended. To love that way, requires that you trust God for the outcome and not the ones you are loving. We love others because God said to, not because they will love us back.

We love others because we first love God.  The natural product of our love and devotion to God is love for others. Love for others without God is natural and flawed.  Love is more than an emotion, it is a devotion. Love is more than words.

Friday, July 5, 2019

The Consequence Of Not Keeping My Flesh In Check - An Unfulfilled Life

"He will glorify Me… "—John 16:14

A person that is born again and committed to following Jesus has a devotion to Jesus and therefore to the Father, that is evidenced in how they live and how they treat others.  But there is one aspect that is invisible to the people around them and only visible to God.  That is the condition of their heart.  A heart wholly devoted to the Father.  It is possible to attend church, put on your happy face, listen to sermons, and sing worship songs and not be devoted to following Jesus. 

 These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.” – Matthew 15:8-9

 “ …having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.” – 2 Timothy 3:5-7

Many people are convinced that “doing” is the same as “being”.  They practice the Christian religion, embrace the teachings but lack the devotion to the Cornerstone of the Church.  They may go to the altar every Sunday morning and still be spiritually ignorant and far from God.  They lack understanding and they lack commitment to their faith … that is , if they have saving faith.  The demons know who Jesus is, but they don’t serve Him.  They have another master. For many Christians, their hearts that were once alive toward God have become hardened toward spiritual things in favor of those things that satisfy the flesh.  They go through the motions .. say the right things .. but serve themselves and not the risen Lord.  Sound harsh?  The truth often does because truth brings conviction and conviction brings discomfort and causes us to make a decision.  Will I respond to the Truth or will I ignore it and choose to continue on the vain journey I am pursuing.

What am I saying?  Friends, we need to be on our guard or before we know it .. those people .. will become “we the people”.  I must examine myself and my devotion every day.  I have to keep my flesh in check.  The only way that we can glorify the Father is by being spiritually “right” and devoted to His will in every aspect of our lives.  You must be careful that you do not relegate your spirituality to Sunday morning.  We are Christians 24x7 into eternity.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

You Are Free – Time For Celebration

…. if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” – John 8:36

As often happens when I sit down in front of my computer to craft another devotion, the Spirit of God will prompt a thought.  Today it is freedom. Not much of a stretch on the 4th of July. This is my 68th Independence Day celebration, the day marked when the 13 colonies declared their independence from British rule.  But I have another day to celebrate my independence, the 12th of September, 1976.  My 43rd Independence Day.  That is the day that I was set free from the bondage of Sin – forever.

January 1, 1804 is the day that Haitians celebrate their independence for France. I received a message from a pastor friend in Haiti yesterday.  Just a short note “Hey brother, Koman ou ye.” (How are you?) His short message brought back a flood of memories. I have stood next to this man, Him translating while I preached to the people of the church he pastors. Before hundreds of people as we both preached at crusades in the mountains. Unlike the United States celebration, there won’t be barbeques in the back yard – family and friends gathering. The people of Haiti are still in a daily struggle of survival.  They do not enjoy the financial prosperity that is taken for granted in this country.  But then, even though we in this country celebrate freedom from British rule, most people still struggle under that the rule of our sin nature and the god of this world. The same is true for Haiti and every other country on this planet.

whose minds the god of this age [Satan] 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.” – 2 Corinthians 4:4

Those people live their lives independent from God’s rule, thinking that they are free.  The great deception is that that when they ignore God, they are free. But they are not.  They are under bondage to Sin. 

God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.” – Romans 1:24-25

If you are a Christian – no matter where you live – what your nationality is – what the color of your skin is – what the traditions of your fathers are – you are free in and through Christ.  The world is getting darker with each day passing. ( I encourage you to read Romans 1:16-32 to see a reflection of what is happening all around us and gain spiritual understanding as to why it is happening.) But as troubling as things may be, the darker the night – the brighter the light!

The day you were born again by the Spirit is also the day that you were set free from spiritual bondage – a slave to sin no more. Now that is something to celebrate.

Tonight the skies will be filled with fireworks. But every day you are filled with a holy fire – the Holy Spirit.  So let the light of that fire shine before all men so they might see Jesus and set free.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Have You Ever Told The Lord "Now Is Not A Good Time"?

When you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”  —John 1:48

The providence of God. I just got off of the phone with a friend and partner in the Gospel discussing this very thing.  Most Christians have a notion of what they would do “if” they heard the call of God to do something beyond themselves. But, when they do, they respond in a different way than they imagined. 

 Then a scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Another of the disciples said to Him, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead.” – Matthew 8:19-22

When Jesus called them, the affairs of the world rushed in presenting reasons why “now” is not a good time.  Can you imagine?  Telling God that now is not a good time … questioning God’s wisdom.  Oh, wait, that is not something new is it?  Remember the question “Did God really say?”  (Genesis 3:1) When the Spirit speaks, you must expect Satan to make a counter offer.  The next best thing to not being a Christian, from Satan’s perspective, is a Christian who is disobedient to the voice of God.

My friend has been called to serve in a very difficult place, in the U.S.  He has been serving there for a number of years with little fruit.  But, spiritual fruit is beginning to emerge.  He has asked several organizations and individuals to join him.  Initially they were interested, but, I have surmised, after they counted the personal cost, they said “now is not a good time.”  Not everyone my friend has talked to was motivated by the Spirit, but I am certain some were.  Most of us struggle with living the “normal -natural” life in the context of our faith.  When God wants to stretch us, we are not prepared.  And so we resist the call. 

Have you said “no” to God because it was not convenient.  Because it would disrupt your financial plans, your idea of what living the “blessed” life would be turned up on its head.  What you had been planning and working for and “sacrificing” for was now at risk because God was speaking.  And so, to the one you thank for salvation, for your life in Christ, you say “now is not a good time, call me back later.”

 And He [Jesus] was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” –  Luke 9:23

Are you ready? Really ready?