Friday, August 30, 2019

Listening To The Spirit Of God

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” – Isaiah 30:21

Do you think about the Spirit of God much? Certainly, as a Christian, you think about and know about Jesus. As you should.  But do you think about the Spirit of God? Did you know that the Spirit is a gift from God and the assurance from God of your eternal destiny?

I was in a woman’s home yesterday assessing whether or not the home should be – could be rebuilt or should it be torn down. On the face of it, the process is simple.  It is all about the foundation and “bones” of the home. In her case, my conclusion was not good with respect to the viability of the home.  But there was more to it than the home.  The woman is a 95 year-old widow.  She has very little money – virtually no family. But God knows her name and has not forgotten her.  That is why we were there. While I was looking at her home – the Spirit of God was speaking to me. “Cross the road.  Help the woman lying in the ditch.  Ravaged by life. Needing hope and help.” I don’t know what that will look like – but then, that is not up to me, but the Lord. I am not the primary source of help for her – someone and another relief organization is. But I know that I am to do whatever the Lord prompts me to do for her.

When the Spirit speaks – ours is to obey – even if it does not make any “earthly” sense. While we were in Haiti, there was a store that sold food packaged in the U.S.  Martie and I would go there from time to time.  There was a woman – a beggar – who stationed herself across the street. When I would pull up, she would approach the truck, tap on my window and say “Grangou” [meaning “hungry”] rubbing her stomach and making a sad face. That was not the same face she had when I saw her standing across the street. Sometimes I would give her money and sometimes I would not.  Martie would ask me why I did when I did.  I told her that I always ask the Lord if I should help her.  Sometimes He says yes and sometimes no. Not in audible words, else Martie would have heard as well, but through an impression in my mind and on my heart.  Sound mysterious? It is supernatural actually.

God speaks to us by His Spirit through His Word, prayer, circumstances and other Christians.  So what does that sound like?  It is never an audible voice – at least not in my experience.

“Then He said, ‘Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.’ And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. – 1 Kings 19:11-12

Oh, it would be great if we could have a conversation with God like we have with each other – but we cannot which is why the Father sent the Spirit to help us.

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” – John 14:26

The Spirit came on the day of Pentecost. That day is the Jewish festival of Shavuoth (Feast of Weeks) , which is the celebration of the wheat harvest and, some believe, is a commemoration of the day that God gave the Torah to the nation of Israel on Mount Sinai. Pentecost means 50th and is the 50th day after Passover.  The Spirit of God resides in each believer – something mysterious, certainly, but completely necessary to enliven us toward God and empower us to live this new life by faith in Christ.

Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” – 1 Corinthians 3:16

Well – Do you?

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Discerning The Motives Of Others

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I [Paul] urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called.” – Ephesians 4:1-4

I received a phone call from a friend of mine who asked me to pray, but really what he was wanting to know was if he was seeing an issue rightly.  It seems that a small church that he had attended in the past was struggling.  Their pastor had retired and they had no replacement.  The associate pastor was filling in, but apparently the people were not inclined to call him as pastor.  They were struggling, like sheep without a shepherd. There was a spirit of confusion.  Another friend of mine – someone who has since passed – would say “united becomes untied when the ‘I’ gets out of place!” I told my friend that he could use Galatians chapter 5 verses 19-26 as an indicator if the “I” is out of place with the people. Paul wrote a good bit about trouble in the local church. Not surprising I suppose. The local church is comprised of people who are at various places in their faith walk.  Some are submitted to the Spirit and some are not.  Some demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit and some the flesh – the old nature. Often times, many people are oblivious to the dissension.  That dissension often happens with the formal and informal leaders.  Those who were called to leadership and those who want to wield influence over the people and affairs of the church even though they are not – leaders.

So what does this have to do with you? There is principle at work in that little church that shows itself in all relationships.  It is called discord.   That happens when there are competing goals and motivations.  Contention between the spiritual and the natural.

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?” – 2 Corinthians 6:14-15

So what to do when Believers are acting like unbelievers?  Like some of the people in that church or in your family, even?  The Bible is clear – you must go to them – and encourage them to repent and turn back to the Lord. That does not always turn out well.  You might be met with hostility and instead of appreciation.  People who are sinning, typically don’t like to be confronted with their sin.  The Bible is clear about that too, but we struggle with doing what the Bible says to do, especially if we have a strong relationship with the people.

If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” – Matthew 18:15-17

What if it is a relative or a good friend?  The Bible does not make a distinction.  God never asks you to do something – spiritual – that you can do without the Spirit – the Helper.  You won’t walk into the lion’s den without confidence that the Lord is with you – not matter what. If people reject you because of your stand for what is right before God, then receive it as confirmation of Jesus’ words.

If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me 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

Rejection is a hard thing. We want to be liked and thought well of. Loved even.  Have you ever had a family member lash out at you and say “I don’t love you, I hate you!” It hurts your heart. In those times you must remember that you are loved and cherished by the God of heaven. That His Son died for you. Your citizenship is in heaven. The motives of those whose hearts are far from God are selfish – self-centered – contrary to the statutes of God. Apart from God they are living in desperation. I told me friend that it seemed that the people were trusting in their flesh and God was at the center of what they were doing.  They had a form of godliness but were denying the power thereof. They needed to repent. The struggle they wer in is a sad thing to see and can only be overcome by the surrender of the heart. Same for you and me.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

God's Comfort Is Like A Bridge Over Troubled Water

When He was alone…the twelve asked Him about the parable.” – Mark 4:10

Jesus had just spoken to the crowd about the parable of the seed.  He spoke spiritual truth and the disciples, like the crowd, did not understand the meaning.  It is like the Word of God in the Bible.  You read the words that are written – you understand, on a natural, human level, but there is a deep spiritual meaning that only the Spirit of God can revel to your heart – not your mind.  The Bible must be read and can only be understood in the context of who the Father is, who Jesus is, who the Spirit is, and who you are because of your faith and relationship with all three. The life we live on this planet can only, truly, be understood in the context of our new life in Christ.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” – Galatians 2:20

We are saved for eternity, but we continue to live out this life in a fallen – sin-sick world.  What we experience in this life, both good and bad, God uses to shape us into the image of His Son.  We gladly accept the fact that Jesus suffered and died for us, but we often have a problem with accepting pain and suffering in our own lives.  Like God is supposed to prevent that from happening.  Job said (Job 13:15) “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him;  I will surely defend my ways to his face.”  The first half of that verse is quoted often .. the second half … not so much.  There is nothing wrong with asking God for understanding … but don’t lose hope in the asking.  Don’t doubt God .. even though what you are experiencing is difficult to endure. 

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

I just had a conversation with a friend about this verse in the light of what he and his wife are experiencing. The fact that God can use them to minister to others, and He will if we allow it.  Do you believe that? Well, you may doubt it in the midst of your trouble, but it is no less true.  If you seek God and put your hope in Him, you will find comfort.  If you blame God and turn away in your heart, you will not. . Pastor Rick Warren said it this way, “God never wastes a hurt”.  James wrote that we should consider our trouble with joy – not be happy it happened but be joyful – a fruit of the Spirit – in spite of the trouble

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” – James 1:2-4

As I was thinking up a title for this post .. a song by Simon and Garfunkel came to my mind.  Bridge Over Troubled Waters.  "When you're down and out. When you're on the street. When evening falls so hard I will comfort you. I'll take your part, oh, when darkness comes. And pain is all, is all around. Just like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down. Just like a bridge over troubled water I will lay me down"  That's what God is like! And that my friend is the Truth! Jesus is our bridge over the troubled waters of this life.

 I [Jesus] have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  – John 16:33

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Men Are DOS and Women are Windows

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” – Genesis 1:31

I thought about the title of this devotion and wondered how many people would actually know what DOS – Disk Operating System is/was.  The first version of MS-DOS was for IBM PCs and came out in 1981.  DOS was a very simple operating system – back to the man analogy, capable of handling one thing at a time.  Then came Windows.  First in 1985, but the version that really caught on was Windows 3.0 which came out in 1990.  Windows allowed for more than one thing to be happening at once – called multi-tasking – and thus the woman analogy.  So what brought this up? It certainly was not my desire to give you a look back at operating system development.

A friend recently referred to the fact that men compartmentalize – stick life events in boxes in their brains – and so they can deal with one thing at a time.  Vice how women handle life events – like the planets revolving around the Sun – with their own moons. Lots of activity happening simultaneously. I agreed with what she said – but I think there is an important clarification to be made. Well maybe more than one.

First – God has wired men and women differently. Men are the way they are and women are the way they are by God’s design.  Certainly there are extremes – exaggerations of those differences – but the differences are God’s intent.  Of course there is a spectrum of difference and maybe even some overlap between the two – but even then there is a difference – a God-intended difference. We were created to complement each other, not compete with each other. Together men and women make a whole and, in my opinion, combined we reflect God and His nature more completely. The differences blended together making something better when the two parts are separate.  That is called synergy where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” – Genesis 1:27

Second – men may compartmentalize life events – but when something hurtful – heart breaking – tragic happens, and men put that something in a “brain box”, that does not mean that they don’t feel the pain – that they don’t feel the weight of the problem – that their hearts do not hurt.  Men may express emotions differently, but are not in denial because of a different expression.  But, that does not mean they are not ever in denial – and the same could be said about women.

I realize that there is a movement in our culture and really around the world to try to find neutral ground for both sexes.  It seems almost a desire that people be a-sexual in their behavior. That is man’s idea, not God’s.

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

So what is the point? Rather than point to our differences and see them as weakness (that is NOT what my friend was doing BTW) – consider why God might have thought it good that He should make us the way we are. And then rejoice in and be thankful for the difference.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Who You Gonna Trust

Trust in the Lord and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones." —Proverbs 3:5-8

Trust – it is an easy thing to lose and a hard thing to gain. (Elgin axiom) I would venture to say that everyone reading this has had trust in someone or something compromised at some point in their life. For some it has happened more than once, sadly for some, much more than once.  When that happens, there is something in your heart that feels violated – broken even.  My guess is that if I could listen to the stories of misplaced trust, they would be legion and they would be heart breaking.

The other day, I had someone say to me, “I trust you.” Wow! That means, they believe that I have their best interest in mind and would do nothing to harm them. What a gift and what a responsibility.  Someone who trusts you – their heart is like a fragile flower.  You must be careful how you handle it. I just signed one of my books, and no, in case you are wondering,  I have not been contacted by the New York Times about my book. But then personal fame was not my motivation for writing it – saying yes to the Spirit of God and desiring that God would be glorified and someone would turn their life toward God – that was my motive. But I digress. When I signed the book I added a reference to Jeremiah 29:11.

’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” – Jeremiah 29:11

Plans to prosper you and not to harm you …. That is why we trust God and others, isn’t it?  We believe that God and others have our best in mind and do not intend to hurt even one petal of our hearts.  When you read Proverbs 3, that truth is the undercurrent behind the plea from God through Solomon, the writer of the Proverb. Sadly, Solomon did not follow his own advice.  God is faithful and will never violate your trust.  That cannot be said of mortal men and women.  Placing your trust in someone means that you make yourself vulnerable to them.  People can harm you and often do, but the promise that they would not harm is always there, either spoken, implied or perhaps hoped for. 

I have heard many times that women have a hard time trusting God because they have been hurt – their trust misplaced and violated – by men – friend – husband – father. Curious isn’t it, that we consider God in light of what men do and not in light of what Jesus did when it comes to trust.

This is the thing – if you  don’t trust then you won’t obey.  For God – obedience is better than sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22). Why? Because at the root of obedience is trust and at the root of trust is faith and at the root of faith is love.  It is by faith that we are justified and we are saved.  Why is it that we can trust God for salvation but cannot trust Him for the issues of our mortal lives?

Jesus said if we are to follow Him we must deny ourselves, pick up our crosses and follow Him. (Matthew 16:24)  Trusting Him to lead.  Trust precedes obedience.  Obedience is a demonstration of our trust and faith. If you don’t fully trust God then you will not obey Him. Struggling with obedience?  With sin?  You are having a trust problem. If you have a trust problem then you have a faith problem.  If you have a faith problem then you have a love problem. Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love Me? Then show Me by the way you live your life by faith and the power of the Spirit.” (My paraphrase of John 21:15-19) He is asking us the same question.

Friday, August 23, 2019

How Do You Respond To Life With Emotion Or Devotion

Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for Your sake.  Jesus answered him, ‘Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times.’" —John 13:37-38

Peter thought that he could do a spiritual thing through the strength of his own will.  You know how that worked for him.  It’s easy to sit in judgement over Peter.  Shaking our knowing heads.  No way Peter! Who did you think you were?  And yet, we are guilty of the same thing.  Trying to be Christians … doing the right thing … in the power of our flesh.  Letting our emotions be a poor substitute for the Spirit of God.  Thinking that our own plans are equal with the plans and will of God.  Essentially denying the sovereignty of God .. trying to be our own god.  What! No way you say.  Yes way!  Everything we do .. everything we say .. what we think .. what we want .. should be .. must be … in the context of Whose we are and who God is.  Look … our life after our rebirth is a struggle.  Our old nature wants to rule and guide, but our new nature has another ruler and another guide.  In all fairness to Peter, he had not received the Holy Spirit so he lacked the power to be and do in a way that would overcome. 

Read this account of Peter being confronted after he received the Spirit of God.

The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family. They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.  Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’” – Acts 4:5-11

Is that the same guy that denied Jesus before people around a fire?  Yes and no.  It was Peter, but the new Peter not the old one.  Now Peter could have stood before those religious leaders, even with the Spirit in him and responded with his flesh.  If he had, he would have failed just like before.  The first time, Peter did not glorify God, he protected himself.  He faced the reality of following Jesus in a world that hated Jesus and His followers and withered under fire. The second time, he boldly glorified God at the peril of prison or worse.  The difference was who he was trusting in. 

Now this I know: The Lord gives victory to his anointed. He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.” – Psalm 20:6-8

Standing firm, being bold, in the face of adversity can be you as you face life each day.  Every day you will be tested and tempted to trust in yourself and not God.  To respond to a situation with emotion and not devotion.  In your own strength and not in the power of the Spirit. If you are wondering where the victory in Jesus is in daily living .. that may be the root of your problem.  You are trying to do what only God can do through you.  Examine your heart.  Draw close to God through the Word and prayer.  Pick up your cross daily and follow Jesus.

“‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.” – Zechariah 4:6

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Living Your Life With A Spiritual Perspective

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness;  come before him with joyful songs.” – Psalm 100:1-2

I was visiting one of the rebuild coalitions in the South side of Houston – on the way to Galveston yesterday.  They start each day off with a devotion. It reminded me of our work in Mississippi. It is so important for those who have been called by God to serve others to keep their eye on the prize. Focused on the One who called, gives strength, and provision for whatever it is that He has ordained. And so it is with us, but we need to be reminded from time to time.  

Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his;  we are his people, the sheep of his pasture,” – Psalm 100:3

We need to be reminded that He is the Lord – the Creator God.  He made us – all of us. As Christians – we are His people. Not everyone that is the creation of God is a child of God. That requires a new, spiritual, birth. Not even all of Israel is “Israel”. That is why Jesu told Nicodemus, a teacher of the Law (the scripture) that Nicodemus “must be born again.”

For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.  Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”– Romans 9:6-7

We are His people and He is our God. You and I are spiritual descendants of Abraham – spiritual offspring – a promise made through Isaac by faith in Jesus, the Messiah. That should mean something more than the fact that we are going to heaven – that we have eternal life – it should be the motivation for how we live and what we love.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” – Psalm 100:4

In light of the great salvation that we embrace – every day we should be thankful and give praise to God for He is good. Instead, so often, the concerns of this world overwhelm us. Consume us, stealing our joy and causing us to lose focus on whose we are. 

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

Jesus contrasted the lives of the those who allow “the natural life” to cloud their vision and the joy for those who keep their focus and place their trust in the Lord.

For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” – Psalm 100:5

Do you really believe that? The proof will be shown in how you respond to your natural life and what it brings your way.

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

The only way you can do what James said is by the power of God and faith in God.  Otherwise life will be a continual struggle – without joy – without hope.  The fruit of the Spirit will neve be yours if you try to live your new life using the old nature. You are doomed to failure.  Think about it.  Pray about. And then praise God!

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

The Bible Is Written In A Foreign Language – Who Can Understand It?

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

I was involved in a discussion the other day concerning someone’s frustration with a person in their work place who was misinterpreting the Word of God.  People do that all of the time.  She said that try as she might she could not get that person to understand the truth.  As of October 2017 the full Bible has been translated into 670 languages, the New Testament has been translated into 1,521 languages and Bible portions or stories into 1,121 other languages. (Wikipedia, Bible Translations). Amazing isn’t it? But the fact that many people misuse or misunderstand the Bible should not be surprising. If you can read and understand any of those languages, that means that you can read and understand the words in the Bible. But … not the meaning of those words. Instead of being frustrated about someone’s mis-interpretation of the Bible, receive it as confirmation of this truth. 

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man [includes both men and women in case there is some confusion over the use of the word “man”] of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” – 2 Timothy 3:16

No matter how hard you try, you cannot explain the Truth to someone who does not have the Spirit of God in them.  You can certainly plant a seed, but they must be born again.  The Bible is not for the world – it’s for those who are called the children of God.  And no, we are not all God’s children, but we are all God’s creation.

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” – Romans 8:14-16

Not every Christian has access to the Bible – in any form or tongue.  Not every Christian can read, for that matter. But they can listen.  I had to catch myself about making references to the reading the Bible  when I would speak in churches and at crusades to people in Haiti because they either couldn’t afford to own a Bible or could not read it if they did.  For their sake it is so important that I spoke the Word rightly and let the Spirit of God do the teaching of the spiritual truth.

There has been a big stir in this country about the public display of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20).  It is not because the people understand what they say and are convicted of their sin that they want them gone. It is because they are a reminder that there is a God in Heaven and it is Him that they reject and want removed. 

No amount of arguing or debating will be the means of convincing someone of the Truth of God. Without the Spirit of God, they cannot understand the things of God. And when the Spirit does strive with them, it is the Spirit that they reject – not the one speaking the Truth.  I am certain you are familiar with the word “Apologetics”. In general, apologetics is the reasoned arguments or writings in justification of something, typically a theory or religious doctrine. With respect to our faith – there are those who believe that debating people of other faiths or beliefs in the public forum is profitable.  Perhaps – but we must be careful not to think that we can debate someone into heaven. That is a spiritual transaction between each individual and the Lord.  It is by faith that we are saved – not by debate. I am certain that some reading this will disagree on some point, and that is fine. The point for today is that the Word is spiritual at its root. Understanding the Word is totally dependent upon the Spirit of God and not eloquence of speech. It is the Spirit of God that brings conviction of sin.  Paul did not trust in himself, his religious training, even his intelligence and nor should we.

And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling.” – 1 Corinthians 2:1-3

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Living In The Comfort Of My Sin

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” – James 2:10

I was sitting here, asking the Lord to show me what I should write this morning. When He brought James 2:10 to mind, I thought, “Lord, that is not going to be easy. I will be stepping on someone’s toes.” That is about when my toes started to hurt.  There are some things in my life that are not right – not acceptable in the sight of God – and yet, for some things – persistent things, it would seem I have no real compulsion to do anything about them. Oh – they are not what we would classify as BIG sins – but then God does not regard sins on a scale, say 1 to 100.  But they are things that have their root in the Garden, part of my old nature, and try as I might – they seem to keep popping up in the garden that is my life. 

We recently bought a house in Texas – that is where the Lord has us serving currently.  There is a particular weed that is growing in the back yard.  It has root-ball somewhere in the yard, but has sent out runners all over the yard. The fragile looking plant is connected to some very large roots. Have you ever wonder why weeds grow so easily while plants you want to grow, don’t? For the time being we are just mowing them down when we cut the grass.  We don’t see them for a few days, but they are still there.  The simple solution is to tolerate them – to manage the problem.  To not let it get any worse. The right and more challenging solution is to eliminate them.  That is the way it is with sin. There are things about each of us that we know must be rooted out.  We don’t yield them to the Lord but try to eliminate them through our own determination.  In failing that, we resolve to just put up with them – like the weeds. Cut them down when they pop up.  We try to manage the unmanageable. Believing that the plant is the problem, when it is the root that produces the plant that is the problem. The Apostle Paul had the same problem.

We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. ……. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” – Romans 7:14-15, 21-25

We act as though we think that we are the only ones in the struggle with sin. The truth is that all of us are to some degree.  That struggle won’t stop until we see Jesus face to face. But – in the meantime, we don’t have to be content with the invasive nature of sin in our lives.  The answer is Jesus, the master gardener.  I have a good friend who volunteered with us some years back.  As we worked together in a house I would come across a problem and ask, “What do you think George?” He would look at me and with a smile would say, “Jesus saves!” And so ….

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.” – Hebrews 12:1-2

Our sin problem is a faith problem. The truth is that Jesus is the answer and that will do …. don’t you think?

Monday, August 19, 2019

So What Do You And Samson Have In Common?

“ … the boy is to be a Nazirite, dedicated to God from the womb” – Judges 13:5

Listening to the sermon yesterday, the Spirit of God brought something to mind that I want to share with you this morning.  The sermon was from Judges 14-16, Samson’s life. There were three vows of the Nazarite – not to cut their hair – not to drink strong drink – and not to touch anything that was unclean.  Samson managed to break all three of those vows.  While reading Judges, it is easy to sit in judgement (pun intended).  We are tempted to think, “They really messed up.  That would never be me!” But most likely it is, or was or will be. 

Let’s think about the parallels between Samson and me and you.

Samson was set apart from birth – actually while in his mother’s womb – actually before that – in the mind of God. Hard to imagine isn’t it. This is what the Apostle Paul said of himself.

But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles” – Galatians 1:15-16

The same can be said of us.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” – 1 Peter 2:9

Being set apart – there is an expectation that we would be separate from the secular culture that lives all around us.  We are a chosen people –  a holy nation – children of the Light.  But, like Samson, although empowered by the Spirit of God, we lose our awareness of the presence of God.  We find ourselves living like the culture we have been called out of and not in the manner that we have been called to. Samson was so self-aware.  Focused on using what God had given him for himself – for his benefit – to satisfy his lusts. The Lord has cautioned us about the temptation to go the same way in the parable of the seed. These are not just interesting stories, they were inspired for our benefit so we might know the way that is right and the perils of our temptation to follow after our old nature. Just like Samson.

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

Samson was self-focused and did what was right in his own sight and missed God! We are faced with that danger ever day.  Not trusting in God but in ourselves.  How do we avoid it? You need the strength of Samson.  How do you get it? Not by letting your hair grow long. The Philistines wanted to know the secret to Samson’s strength. It was actually the same as the secret to the strength you need to live your new life.

Not by strength [our own] not by power [our own], but by My Spirit. Says the Lord God of Hosts.” – Zechariah 4:6

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4:13

Friday, August 16, 2019

What To Do When Another Christian Sins Against You!

“ … and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.’” – Luke 17:4

It is a common thing for many Christians, I think, to sit in judgement of others .. especially when their sinful ways are obvious to everyone.  When that sin is directed at us or someone we care about, it is doubly easy to judge them.  But what do you do especially when it is another Christian that sins against you?  Jesus told a parable about a common man and a religious man who came to pray ….

And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt:  “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”” – Luke 18:9-14

The first man, the Pharisee trusted in his “good works” to make him righteous … the second had no confidence in himself at all, and knew that he was incapable of being righteous on his own.  So what does that have to do with judgement? When you see people around you are sinning, understand that they are merely revealing their nature. When we see others sin, our place is not to judge, which is to condemn, God is the judge.  That is especially hard when the sin is against us.  So what do we do then?  As Christians – we should understand the world from a spiritual context.  And, we should understand sinful acts from a spiritual perspective.  The government has courts and laws to deal with violators of the law.  (In fact the jails and prisons are overflowing.  The problem with jails and prisons is that they don’t address the heart of the problem which is the heart.) So how do you respond to the offender? This is what Jesus said to do if another Christian sins against you ….

If your brother [a person is not your brother or sister if they are not in the same spiritual family - my words] sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church [congregation]. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” – Matthew 18:15-20

Many times though we never get even before the first step .. we stop at the sinful act and harbor a grudge against the offender.  Someone once said “the only part of the Bible that you believe is truth is the part you obey.”  You must address the sin, but if the person will not repent then have nothing to do with them.  But what if they are a blood relative?  That does not matter .. although it does make it more difficult .. but that does not change what the Word says, only possibly what we are willing to do.

What if they do it again? There are two possibilities.  First they may not have repented .. and two, their struggle with sin is overpowering their desire to not sin .. like Paul ... like all of us at times ... and they need to confess and repent again and perhaps again.

Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.’” – Luke 17:3-4

The key to forgiveness is repentance.  Forgiving before repentance is enabling the sin.  Saying what they did is OK.  Repentance means they know that what they did is NOT OK and they are sincerely sorrowful because of it. So how many times should you forgive someone that has a repentant heart? 

Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? seven times? Jesus said to him, I say not seven times: but, seventy times seven.” – Matthew 18:21-22

Forgiveness is granted in the context of a broken and contrite heart – a repentant heart, not just saying the words, “I am sorry” with no intent to humbly return to the Father.  In other words, there is no limit to forgiveness.  And that is how it is with you and God.  Aren’t you thankful?  1 John 1:9 makes that promise .. but listen .. it is only because of the blood of Jesus … not because you deserve it … and the same goes for the one who sins against you!  Think about it!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

How Survive When You Are Ambushed By Anger

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” – James 1:19-20

Many books have been written on the subject of anger.  There are lot of people in therapy for anger – trying to manage it.  To get a grip on it. Even Christian people.  Anger is a secondary emotion, meaning why we get angry is because there is something at the root – working behind the scenes – and a life situation serves as a catalyst for our anger to rise up.  I also realize that people can find verses in the Bible that would suggest that anger is “OK”, wanting it not to be a sin. But anger is like a loaded pistol.  The gun can go off by accident or can be used for harm intentionally.  It can be indiscriminate, hurting the innocent as well as the guilty.  Anger can be so dominant in the moment that the easiest thing to do is to yield to it and not resist.  My point is that accepting anger – or its big brother, rage, is not consistent with your new life in Christ.

You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices.” – Colossians 3:7-9

Most people are not looking for opportunities to be angry … Those opportunities come suddenly upon us, like an ambush, with ferocity.  Then it is over – the smoke clears – the causalities lie wounded, or worse, all around.  And we say to ourselves “It’s not a sin to be angry.” We say that or think that in an effort to justify the harm we have done.  So what to do?

First – understand, and accept, that Anger is not a fruit of the Spirit.  It is your old nature – your flesh at work.

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” – Galatians 5: 19-21

In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is quite the opposite.

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

Do you see the differences between your life in the flesh and your life submitted to the Spirit of God – the Spirit that is in you?  

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own” – 1 Corinthians 6:19

How can we reconcile anger and the damage it does with our new nature and the fruit that it bears? I’ll answer that.  We can’t!

Second – Have you ever heard or said “You make me so angry!”?  No one can “make” you angry.  But they can provide the opportunity for you to express anger.  Everything is going fine then the ambush is sprung and you find yourself in the “kill zone”.  In ambush-eze, the kill zone is the place where most all of the fire power is directed.  Anyone in that area when the ambush starts is a gonner.  The only way to not be a gonner is to do what makes no sense at the time, face the firing and charge it – fighting your way through it.  It is your only hope of survival. In this case, the best defense is a good offense! When you are getting angry, you need to recognize it immediately and deal with it spiritually.  Like salvation – you can’t succeed by trying harder.  You need to attack with the sword of the Lord.  The ambush is within – it’s not the circumstance that gave rise to the anger.

Third – The best thing to do is to avoid the ambush altogether.  To see the signs of danger and go another way.  That requires discernment which comes from the Spirit which requires the discipline of seeking God and hiding the Word in your heart (Psalm 119:11)  I recall an a time at ROTC advance camp at Fort Bragg, N.C.  It was my turn to lead the platoon during a training exercise in the woods.  I was leading the platoon on the most secure route and not necessarily on the fastest route to our objective.  That meant that we cut across difficult terrain.  I reached our objective without incident.  Afterwards, I was told that there had been an ambush set up at an intersection along the road that I had bypassed waiting for us.  Thing is we never showed up.

You must be sensitive to the signs of an anger ambush and avoid them.  We choose how we respond to life – in the power of our flesh or in the power of the Spirit of God.  Your success will depend upon your training and preparation.  Most Christians lack an enthusiasm for spiritual growth and maturity.  They are content with keeping a firm grasp on their ticket to heaven and talking about how much they love the Lord – around other Christians.  But when faced with the withering fire of a deadly ambush – they falter and fail.

Perhaps you are thinking that avoiding anger is impossible.  It is not any more impossible that the Son of God dying for your sin and you receiving eternal life.  If God can do that, why would you think that your problem with anger is bigger than that? You need to deal with the root of the problem.  Paul talks about this in Romans 7:21-25 (read it) You don’t need to try harder – you need to Faith harder.  CHARLEY

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Being Faithful When You Say You Won’t But You Do

A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” – Matthew 21:28-31

The Lord brought this story to mind this morning. The story is about obedience, faithfulness, and the struggle we often have with the two.  It also reminds me that when I plant the seed of faith with someone – particularly a family member – I should not worry if there is not an immediate, positive response.  Our responsibility is to be a witness – by what we say and by what we do. People watch to see if “our walk matches our talk”.

I [Paul] planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.” – 1 Corinthians 3:6-7

Leading people to Jesus and sharing the Gospel are not necessarily coincident events, but they can be.  There might be times when you share your faith and the Spirit has been before you preparing the heart of the hearer. The point is that salvation is a spiritual – faith – transaction between one person and the Lord, by the working of the Spirit.  God uses us as He wills. But, it is always God that brings the increase – the Source of all things eternal.  When you share your faith – do you fear rejection? Does that prevent you from speaking? If you are depending upon your mastery of scripture and eloquence in communicating the Gospel to save people, then you should be concerned.  If you approach sharing you faith like selling a car or insurance, then you should be concerned.  Paul understood the spiritual significance of sharing the Gospel and, more, his inability to save someone by convincing them with his words.

I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling.  And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” – 1 Corinthians 2:3-5

I don’t know who this is for today.  Why the Spirit prompted me write these words.  But those who have ears (spiritual understanding) let them hear and who have eyes (spiritual vision) let them see. Perhaps you are like the son who said I will not share my faith because I am afraid, but you will.  Or are you like the son who said I will share my faith but then do not. Which one is doing the will of the Father? Trust God and not yourself. And the Lord will bring the increase to His glory and for the good of those who place their faith in Jesus.

Soli Deo Gloria

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Rightly Redeeming The Time We Are Given

… it is appointed for men to die once....” – Hebrews 9:27

A good friend and co-laborer in the Gospel passed away recently. His passing was sudden and untimely, as it is it seems for all whom we love. His passing has given me pause to think about my life and really how brief it is. The fact is that when we are born, we are all bound for the grave.  We don’t know when and we don’t know what will be the cause of our death. God did not create these mortal bodies to last forever – but for a season, the length of which only God knows.

As born again – bound for heaven – Believers – we each have an eternal purpose declared by God while we live out our natural lives.  None of us know when our next breath will be our last.  We should not live like there will be a tomorrow, because there may not be.

And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” ’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’” – Luke 12:17-20

The story of that man has to do with living life fully focused on the natural. I just celebrated my 69th birthday. In practical terms that means that I have lived most of the average life span for a man living in the United States (80 yrs). I may have 10 or 11 years left in this life if I am average. It is something none of us like to think about. But the question that comes to my mind is what am I going to do with those years? It is like taking an exam in school. You have 20 questions to answer and realize you only have 10 minutes left.  Choose which questions you answer wisely – probably the ones with the most points assigned.

For us – for me – the most important question should be what will we, will I, do for God that has eternal benefit.

The voice said, ‘Cry out!’ And he said, ‘What shall I cry?’ ‘All flesh is grass, And all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, Because the breath of the Lord blows upon it; Surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.’” – Isaiah 40:6-8

My friend lived for God’s glory and the good of others, until the day that he breathed his last.  I’m thinking that is a pretty good example to follow. 

Soli Deo Gloria

Monday, August 12, 2019

We Remember And Do What Is Important To Us

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.” – James 1:22-25

Martie and I were leaving the church parking lot yesterday and had to merge into the cars trying to get on the main road.  We watched the cars stream by, the drivers careful not to make eye contact so they might feel guilty and let us merge into the line.  Now these are the same people who had just listened to the reading in James chapter 1.  Perhaps thinking – “That is someone else who forgets, not me.” I have said, for years, “The most dangerous place to be on Sunday morning  is the church parking lot after the service.” People seem almost frantic to leave. Well, frantic might be a little strong, but you get the idea.

The reason God inspired James to write those words is because God knows our hearts and our leanings. The Word is not written in parts – some parts being for you – and other parts being for others who are not living their new lives rightly. All of the Word is for all of us.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” – 2 Timothy 3:16

Not just some servants – but all servants of God.  That is you and me. We should be doers of the Word and not hearers only. Jesus made a similar point while standing before a multitude but looking at his disciples.

Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.” – Luke 6:46-49

 How firm is your foundation? Ok, one more verse to hammer this point home.

Keep this Book of the Law [the Word of God] always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” – Joshua 1:8

The Word of God is critical to living your new life. Not just hearing it – reading it – but meditating on it – and then obeying it.  You can’t or won't do that on your own – but only by the power of God’s Spirit in you. We are not to be like babies in a high chair being spoon fed from a jar of baby food – but we should be feeding ourselves. Do we need teaching – yes?  Do we need preaching – yes? But at some point, we also need to feed ourselves and then be faithful to obey.

Soli Deo Gloria

Friday, August 9, 2019

Do You Really Want To Be Like Jesus?

For those whom he [God the Father] foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” – Romans 8:29

Have you ever given any thought to what being conformed … molded .. changed … means?  Well, first you know it is a spiritual change, right?  Second … you know that the process is going to be contrary to your flesh.  God will show you things through the Spirit that you may not want to see or admit, even to yourself.  (One of the Spirit’s missions is to convict the world of sin.  The Spirit plus the Word of God are the “one-two” punch in the sanctification process.  The knock-out punch is my surrendering my will)

You know that there are certain aspects of your old nature that you want to hide or cling to.  Adam and Eve tried to hide themselves in the Garden … recall how that worked out for them.  You might be able to hide your sin from man, for a season, but from God? Not happening!

The Word says “Your sin will find you out.” (Numbers 32:23)  God already knows everything .. that is why when we confess our sins (1 John 1:9) .. we are merely “agreeing with God” not revealing an unknown to Him.  The goal of our transformation – of our being conformed is not to make you miserable, but to bless you .. to make you better.  The pain or difficulty you experience is from the battle between your flesh, your old nature, and Spirit, your new nature.  My encouragement to you is the same as Paul’s to the Romans. 

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:1-2

God won’t make you do that.  You must surrender your will.  Will you?

Soli Deo Gloria

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Everything is Spiritual

 When you were born again … your reality changed ….

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17-18  

Every day is a spiritual day.  It is not a natural life that you have that is sprinkled with spiritual moments. 

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.” – John 15:19

You should not live like you are an unbeliever … you deny the truth of God when you do.  As Christians we must see everything with a spiritual understanding … see things the way our Father does.  The way Jesus does. When you do see life with spiritual understanding, you will react to what happens in life in a much different way. This was Paul’s prayer for the Church at Ephesus and my prayer for you.

May [God] give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power” – Ephesians 1:17-19

Thinking of this passage, I was reminded of the story of Elisha and his servant in 2 Kings chapter 6.

And Elisha prayed, ‘Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.’ Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” – 2 Kings 6:17

There is a spiritual reality of which many, if not most, Christians live their lives unaware that is surrounds them.  You will never experience it until you yield your heart fully to God. When you do, it will change the way you see and respond to life’s circumstances and the people around you. Spiritual awareness and understanding is not something for a select few, but for all in whom the Spirit of God dwells.

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” – 1 Corinthians 6:19

Soli Deo Gloria

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Something’s Happening Here, What It Is Ain’t Exactly Clear

All our enemies Have opened their mouths against us. Fear and a snare have come upon us, Desolation and destruction. My eyes overflow with rivers of water For the destruction of the daughter of my people. My eyes flow and do not cease, Without interruption, Till the Lord from heaven looks down and sees. My eyes bring suffering to my soul Because of all the daughters of my city. — Lamentations 3:46-51

The title to this devotion is actually part of a line from a song by Buffalo Springfield, For What It’s Worth. It goes on with .. “there’s a man with a gun over there, telling me I’ve got to beware. It’s time we stop children, what’s that sound? Everybody looks what’s going down.”

I don’t often make commentary on current events.  A pastor in the church we attend read from Lamentations Sunday, in light of the shootings in Texas and Ohio. As a culture, our country has turned its back on God. In the name of “freedom to choose” people are turning away from the Truth to what is right in their own eyes.

There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” – Proverbs 14:12

We are a violent culture – just look at what we call entertainment – nearly all of it has an element of violence and death.  Nearly all of it promotes the very things that the Bible speaks against. If you speak against what is happening you are labeled intolerant, yet those condemning you are showing the very intolerance you are accused of.  The media fuels the country’s penchant for violence in its glamorization of heartache and death.

So, what to do? Will God bring an awakening? Only He knows.  We would like to think that God would not give this country over to its immorality.  Christians are coming under persecution. How could that happen. It is quite simple, actually. Our culture is going the way of Europe.  Rejecting God and turning to its own designs and definition of what is right and acceptable. Then wondering why people are acting so badly toward each other. They will not accept that the problem lies in their life choices and rejection of the Creator God.

And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, [n]maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.” – Romans 1:28-32

Sounds bleak doesn’t it. So what are we Christians to do? Well, that is also simple actually. Let your light shine in the darkness.  Will the culture like it? No! But Does the culture need it? Yes! Don’t expect to be praised by the culture for taking a stand for Jesus and the Gospel.

If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me [Jesus] before it hated you.” – John 15:18

Listen, I believe we are at the beginning of what will become worse.  Sin loves the darkness and shuns the light. To quote an Elgin-axiom, if it is possible to quote myself, “The darker the night, the brighter the light.”

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

Soli Deo Gloria

Monday, August 5, 2019

Did God Really Say “Let’s Make A Deal?”

Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Jephthah. He crossed Gilead and Manasseh, passed through Mizpah of Gilead, and from there he advanced against the Ammonites. And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord: ‘If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the Lord’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.’” — Judges 11:29-31

The sermon this Sunday was on Judges 11 – The story of Jephthah (Jeff – tha). The chapter does not end well.  “Whatever” that came our of the house was his only child – a daughter – whom Jephthah killed and burned as a sacrifice to fulfill his vow. A couple points I want to make here.

First – It got me to thinking about the similarities between Abraham and Jephthah. With Abraham – God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac as a test of Abraham’s faith – a test to see if God was indeed first in Abraham’s heart. Abraham had made the decision to obey God, even if he did not understand how God would fulfill his promise in Isaac. God’s command was fulfilled in Abraham’s heart in that he sacrificed his love for his son in favor of his love for God. God’s greatest commandment. The physical sacrifice was not necessary. 

God did not ask that of Jephthah. In fact, it was Jephthah that brought it up after “the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah”.  Jephthah made a deal with God that God never agreed to. God was not testing his faith – but Jephthah revealed his lack of faith.  And he suffered great personal loss even though he was victorious in battle.

Have you ever made a deal with God? Most if not all of us have at one time or another. If you are a Christian, the Spirit of the Lord has already come upon you – the Spirit dwells in you. The Spirit enables you to live your new life. But have you wanted something so badly that you made promises to God in the hopes that things will go your way.

Well, my second point is this – God does not make deals to encourage us to trust or obey or love Him.  Deals we try to make with God are made in the natural – out of fear and doubt.  They are one-sided. Faith is based upon what we hope for and do not see. (Hebrews 11:1) It is not faith if our actions are based upon a deal we try to make with God.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us[a] from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.’” – Daniel 3:17-18

Facing certain death (I would say that is pretty extreme) Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had the opportunity to try to make a deal with God, but their faith in God was enough for them – even if things didn’t go their way.  The world is constantly asking us to compromise our faith for a natural benefit – maybe acceptance or tolerance – but it is really a challenge for us to put God second and the world first.  It is a temptation that we must stand against.  The thing is, if our faith is weak, we will likely cave in and submit to what the world wants.  To our shame and the delight of the world.

As a final encouragement, I will close with an old friend – Proverbs 3:5-7

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.” – Proverbs 3:5-7

Soli Deo Gloria

Friday, August 2, 2019

Facing The Temptation To Compromise Truth For Acceptance

So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, ‘Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?’ He [Jesus] replied, ‘Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: ‘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.’  You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.’ And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!’” — Mark 7:5-9

Have you ever sat on a bench at the mall and just watched people go by? Each one unique in their own way, physical form and the clothes they wear. But, at the same time, there is a common thread that connects many of them.  When people are young, they try hard to be their own person, but try as they might, their individuality, it turns out, is much like a lot of others’ individuality.  So they are unique but not.

People have a need to identify with others.  It might be social status, ethnicity, geography, politics, vocation, avocation, or perhaps faith – or lack of it.  We love to put people in pigeon holes – to classify people – to say they are a this or that. The Pharisees were focused on tradition. Rules of behavior and norms that had evolved over the centuries.  The measure for someone living and doing right, in their minds was the extent to which a person conformed to men’s traditions. What men had determined was right living and thinking.

Jesus, on the other hand, told them that the root – the source – for right living and thinking was not men, but God. He chastised them for choosing men over God.  That has not changed much.  The nature of man does not change. Dwellings, technology, clothes, vocabulary – all of those things evolve – generation to generation.  But at the core, nothing has changed. We still struggle with the same thinking that brought sin into the world – when Adam and Eve were convinced that they knew better that God. It was a problem for the Pharisees. It was a problem in the Garden. It was a problem when Joshua led the nation of Israel.

But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” –  Joshua 24:15

And it is a problem today.  Our flesh is drawn to the natural – what man imagines is right and follows. Every day we are challenged to yield to traditions of men over God.  We want to be accepted by others. So, if we must compromise our faith and allegiance to God to find that acceptance – we will.

I have shared this before, but I will share it again.  When we lived in Haiti and I would preach in a Haitian church, I would often begin with “Mwen pa blan, mwen fre nou.” Translation – I am not white I am your brother.  Every time, I could see that few understood the spiritual truth in what I said.  All they saw was a white guy speaking who was obviously not like them – ethnically, culturally, socio-economically. That was my point. 

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” – Galatians 3:28

That is what the Word says.  That is how God sees us.  That is how we should see others. But we don’t do we.  We see each other, largely, in the context of the natural and respond accordingly.  And wrongly.  Stop embracing the world thinking that by doing so you will find what you are looking for – you won’t. Think about it.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Do You Know Who It Is That Is Asking?

Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.’” —John 4:10

I am not a mystical guy – touchy feely- wearing my emotions on my sleeve.  That is not how most people I know would describe me.  So take what I am about to write in that context. The Lord woke me up this morning with John 4:10 on my mind.  Very often I have no idea what I am going to write on any particular day – then the Holy Spirit shows up and says “Write this!” Now I am not suggesting that I am writing “ex cathedra”. (“Ex cathedra” is a Latin term which means from the chair or authoritative. Ex cathedra authority is derived from one's office or position. Normally used in association with the Catholic church and the Pope.) The prompting I receive from the Spirit of God is no different than it is for any other Christian.  So on to the point.

Most all of us live in a world of in between.  One foot in heaven and one foot firmly planted in the world (I almost wrote Hell, but thought it might be too extreme) Jesus was talking to a woman who had both feet on the world side of the line.  She and Jesus were talking at cross-purposes. (If two or more people are at cross purposes, they do not understand each other because they are talking about different subjects without realizing this: I think we've been talking at cross purposes – “I meant next year, not this year.”)

She was talking about mortal things and Jesus was talking about eternal things.  But both were talking about the “here and now”. I am about the crest the hill of another decade in my life. In 8 days I will be 69 years old. The last year of the sixth decade of my life.  I am thinking about Jesus words, “If you knew the gift and Who it is that is asking”. I watch so many people stumble through life.  Trying desperately to cling to the world and what it offers, ignoring the reality of the eternal. 

I may have 10 – 20 or maybe even 30 years of life left on this planet, but I am living in eternity at the same time. How ever much time the Lord has granted me, I must live it to the full for Him. Planting spiritual seeds wherever I go – blessing others in whatever I do – bring glory to God in all of it.  I would hope that the same could be said for you. 

I don’t have any idea who all reads what I write.  I am surprised every week by someone making comment and I had no idea they were reading my posts.  I suppose, in truth, it doesn’t matter that I know.  (My flesh wants to know so it can take some credit, robbing God of His due.) What matters most is that I do what God says to do and let Him bring the increase for His glory. Think about the amazing truth of your salvation and then commit to living like you are saved by grace and not works through faith in Jesus – the One who spoke to you by the well.

Soli Deo Gloria