Thursday, September 26, 2019

Each Of Us Has A Specific Calling In The Body Of Christ

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” – Ephesians 2:10

You have a special place and purpose in the Body of Christ. We all do. Each of us has been called to our purpose. Not everyone has been called to be a missionary to another people, a pastor, a teacher, an evangelist, but we have all been called to our place in the Body. We should not look at callings, such as being a pastor, as meaning that those people are somehow more important in the kingdom than others, like you and me, might be. That, my friend, is worldly thinking. Everyone is the same to the Father. The source of the power to do what He calls us to do is from Him and not ourselves. We can’t, or shouldn’t, take credit for it. Apart from God we are spiritually impotent. We are incapable of doing anything, by our own power, that has eternal significance.

The point that I want you to understand is that you have been called to fulfill your particular place in the Body. It is God’s desire that you be faithful in that calling, whatever it is. Don’t use the world’s standards to judge your value in the kingdom of God. Let your light shine and trust God to use you for His glory.

We each have a God-ordained place and purpose. To fulfill our spiritual destiny on this earth, we must be willing to trust God ― or as a pastor friend of mine says, “To faith God.” God calls whom He wills, for what He wills, and sends where He wills. Our part is to obey.

“God places His saints where they will bring the most glory to Him, and we are totally incapable of judging where that may be.” ― Oswald Chambers

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

It Is Hard To Hit A Moving Target

The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” — Isaiah 40:8

One of the first things you learn when firing weapons – well beside which end is the “business” end – is that it is harder to hit a moving target than a stationary one.  I am sure you are familiar with the saying, “He couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn!” Meaning the person was a very poor shot.  I known a few of them over the years.  So – what does this have to do with anything spiritual? Let me tell you.

Do you remember hearing or reading about the root of the word “sin”. The Hebrew word for sin is "Het" which is the same Hebrew word for what happens in Archery when one does not hit the bullseye – one someone misses the mark.  And if you don’t like that answer, read on. The Greek word hamartia (ἁμαρτία) is usually translated as sin in the New Testament. In Classical Greek, it means "to miss the mark" or "to miss the target" which was also used in Old English archery.  There's more to this, actually: "The English word sin derives from Old English synn. The same root appears in several other Germanic languages, e.g. Old Norse synd, or German Sünde. The word may derive, ultimately, from *es-, one of the Indo-European roots that meant "to be," and is a present participle, "being." Latin, also has an old present participle of esse in the word sons, sont-, which came to mean "guilty" in Latin. (Yahoo Answers)

Tired? Confused? Me too.  Whether the derivation is from Hebrew, Greek or Latin is not really the point.  The point is that the target that the archer or sinner shot at was stationary. “The word of our God endures forever.”  It does not change.  The one great thing about the truth is that it is, well, the truth.  It does not change.  And better yet, if you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember what you said – because what you said will always be true – no matter to whom you are telling it or even when or where you are telling it! So what to do if you can’t hit the broad side of a barn – let alone the bulls eye. Well – you can always move the target to where you are shooting. In the spiritual context – you change what is true to fit what you are doing. That is what our culture does.

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

Our culture has moved the target so it might stake its claim as an expert marksman – the doers of what is true. And each year the target gets moved a little further away from God – the Source of Truth.  Contrary to what our culture might claim, it does not matter where the target is moved to – Truth does not change. As Christians – failing to embrace the lie makes you intolerant. Being called intolerant in this culture is like being branded with a Scarlet Letter “I” as opposed to an “A”.  (that was probably lost on younger generations)

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 [Jesus] have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” – John 15:19

I [Jesus] have given them your [Father God] word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.”  – John 17:14

Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.” – 1 John 3:13

I think you get the idea.  With respect to the target of Holiness and Truth that God has set up for us to shoot at – it is harder to hit than a moving target – in fact it is impossible – you will never be a good enough marksman – it is impossible apart from faith in the “Way, Truth, and Life” – Jesus. The world is doing the best it can – but all it manages to do is dig a deeper hole.  And what can you do about the path the culture is on? Live according to the truth – be salt and light – keep your eyes on the target. And know that if you are labeled as intolerant, that is OK, just don’t be labeled as unloving and uncaring. And that is the truth!

God Bless You My Friend

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Tempted To Dance To The Beat Of The Drum

Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” —1 Corinthians 15:33

Jesus was criticized for meeting and eating with people that the Pharisees considered unclean.  Yet, Jesus was not influenced by their sin. Come to think of it, He was not influenced by the sins of the Pharisees either.  In the same way that it is possible to for a fish to live its life in salt water and yet not be salty, it is possible for a Christian to live in a sinful world around sinful people – unsaved people – and not reflect their way of living. I am not speaking about what they wear – where they live – or what they eat – but their attitude toward God and the condition of their hearts.  To continue the fish analogy a bit further, as a child, we would fish in the river. Some of the fish that were caught had what was called a “mud vein” that had to be cut out because, unlike their salt water cousins, they absorbed the mud into their flesh.  If you did not remove that vein from the fish before you cooked it, the entire fish was spoiled.

We are supposed to be salt and light to a world that has nothing to do with Jesus or God. We are supposed to be ambassadors for Christ, to lift Jesus up. What we are not supposed to do is to participate in their sin.  To embrace their lifestyle, which is absent from the influence of the Spirit of God, and to absorb the very thing that we were saved from. The lie that many believe is that it will not happen to them.  I have watched it happen so many times.  People desperate for relationship and willing to put their faith at risk to have it.

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” – 2 Corinthians 6:14

Listen, the world is not going to encourage you to draw closer to God.  The world is going to encourage you to embrace the world. We don’t have to live in a cave like hermits, but be careful that you become indistinguishable from your lost neighbor or friend. Be like Jesus when it comes to your associations with other people. His relationship with His Father was always primary.  He never tucked His faith in this pocket or left it in the car when He went to be with those who needed a Physician.  We are sealed with the Holy Spirit.  You can’t leave that behind in the car – but you can quench the Spirit in an effort to accommodate your sin – to do what the Spirit would tell you, you should not.

The reason the Bible speaks to this issue is because God knows our very fiber. The Word of God is our guidebook for living our new life and the Spirit is our teacher. But be on your guard, because the world drum beat is constant and the lost who will encourage you to dance to the beat of that drum. Christian - be on your guard.

“These people are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of the flesh, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.” – 2 Peter 2:17-19

God Bless You My Friend

Monday, September 23, 2019

How To Know What To Say And When To Say It

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” —1 Peter 3:15

Where I worked as a “tent maker” while we waited for our next mission orders from the Lord, our work spaces were in cubicles.  Miniature offices with no doors.  So as you meandered through the cubicle maze to go to wherever you were going, you could not help but see what was in the work spaces.  Some things reflected the work each person was responsible for, while others were more personal in nature, pictures of family, cute sayings, memorabilia from previous positions held within the organization or some other.  Some times we would see a Bible laying on the desktop. In one particular cubicle, the person had a row of books about various religions.

I had been in meetings with this person from time to time and judged him to be a very intelligent person.  The nature of the work exposed me to a good number of very intelligent people, but this person stood out as a little bit brighter light bulb.  One day I mentioned the array of books and asked if he was interested in spiritual things. He replied, “Actually I am an atheist, I have the books to better understand those who are not.” Then he waited with a smirk on his face.  The books were really a way to engage people and convince them that there is no God.  He was waiting for all of the arguments about why he and those who followed religions other than Christianity were wrong.  Instead I replied, “I can appreciate that. Everyone is entitled to believe in the way they choose.” (Another way of saying, “God has given men and women free will.”) He looked a little disappointed at first and then smiled.  He was expecting an attack – me defending why I was right and he was wrong. Instead I responded with “gentleness and respect.” As a Christian, I had nothing to prove. I didn’t have to be defensive because he denied the existence of God. The Bible tells me that people without the Spirit of God cannot understand the things of God. I knew that the only convincing that this young man would yield to was the conviction from the Spirit of God. And that particular moment was not the time.  I could see that he was seeking truth. I suspected that he was aware of the “God-shaped void” in his life. He knew who I was, what I did when I was not making tents, and why I did it. He was well aware of Who I claimed as Lord and the salvation that faith in Him brings.  

I [Paul] planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.” – 1 Corinthians 3:6

I think about that young man from time to time.  I most likely will never see him again – that is on this side of heaven should he come to faith.  One thing about those cubicles – they are not sound proof.  I often had conversations with other Christians in my cubicle and in theirs.  Well within earshot of this man’s workspace.  My point to you this morning is that we must be sensitive to the leading of the Spirit as we travel the path that the Lord has set our feet on. I know that I am very often but one of the steps in the faith journey of other people. Had he wanted to talk more about why I believe what I believe I could have and would have. But, at that moment, he didn’t. What he did take way from our encounter was that I cared about him as a person and didn't see him as just another “heathen scalp” I wanted to hang on my wigwam.  Very often people are more interested in whether you are true to what you believe than in the details of why you believe. But there are times, and there have been many times in my life, when they want to know what you believe.  Each and every moment in your life is a God moment.  We are ambassadors.  Our mission is to represent the Lord to the world. Oh that we would be found faithful in that mission.

In some translations in 1 Peter 3:15 the word “reason” is translated “defense”.  The trouble I have with that word choice is that we don’t have to defend God or prove to the world a Spiritual truth that they are incapable of understanding apart from having been sealed by the Spirit by faith in Jesus. But we should be ready to give a reason of our hope when the situation calls of it. To know when that is requires Spiritual discernment.  Oh there is so much more to write about that – but that will be for another time.

God Bless You My Friend

Friday, September 20, 2019

What To Do When The Storm Comes

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 8:24-25

Martie and I are in Houston – primarily because this is where the Lord sent us – it was not on our bucket lists to live here.  We came here in the wake of Hurricane Harvey and just recently watched the people respond to Tropical Storm Imelda. Yesterday I listened to discussions about the effects of the flooding that has resulted.  Houses that were repaired after Harvey were ravaged again by Imelda.  A number of questions might be raised about the wisdom of building a house on “sandy land”, but that is not the point of this devotion – perhaps another day.

The point is that storms – of one form or another – natural disaster – illness – relational troubles – financial problems will come into our lives.  Storms that we have no control over. Storms that perhaps strike fear in our hearts and strip us of all hope that we will be able to endure. Like watching the weather reports and seeing the green – yellow – and red swirling mass inching closer and closer to the place where we live, we have no control over it’s direction or it’s strength.  

Many of the disciples were fishermen.  They understood the sea and how storm could rise up suddenly and bring havoc to those who were riding her waves. So, they found themselves in a ferocious storm – like we all do from time to time – and feared for their very lives – losing hope that they could endure what was to come – like we all do from time to time. They had lost all positional awareness – Jesus was with them – like we all do from time to time.  So they woke Jesus up to tell Him that they were in trouble. The storm is raging – they are in fear of losing their lives – and Jesus is sleeping – in the same boat – in the same storm.  They had focused on the storm and not the one who created the universe.

In the beginning was the Word [Jesus], and the Word was with God [the Father], and the Word was God [reference to the Trinity]. He was with God in the beginning. Through him [Jesus] all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.” – John 1:1-4

That same Jesus was with them – but they were overwhelmed by the natural - physical circumstance – having lost all hope that they could save themselves and were certain they would perish – like we all do from time to time.  But then they turned to Jesus – like we all should all of the time. Jesus calmed the storm. Am I saying that if we had only looked to Jesus that He would have made Imelda go away? No. I am saying that if we turn to Jesus we will not fear no matter what the outcome.  Trusting in the providence of God.  Doing all we can and trusting Him to do the rest. But like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego – even if we are not spared from the furnace – even in the furnace, God will be with us.

Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished; and he rose in haste and spoke, saying to his counselors, ‘Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?’ They answered and said to the king, ‘True, O king.’ ‘Look!’ he answered, ‘I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.’” – Daniel 3:24-25

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus.  Look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.” (Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus, Helen Howarth Lemmel)

Thursday, September 19, 2019

How We Respond To Life Depends Upon The Nature Ruling Our Hearts

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” —Galatians 5:16

How do you approach life?  I mean .. as you live from moment to moment, one event to another .. from one breath to another breath … what is it that determines how you respond to you and around you?  What you think .. what you do .. what you say.. who you love .. who you don’t love .. what you believe .. what you don’t believe.   As Christians we have a choice, actually.  Because this new life we live, we live in the flesh by faith, 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 to life is determined by your true disposition.  If you see your new life as merely an attribute – one of many facets of your life and personality, 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 the way the Bible says we should and can, but it is not going to happen.  Even when we think we do, often times, we have confused spiritual response with natural restraint.  Let me explain by example.

Mary is talking to you when she says something that is very offensive. How do you respond?  If your heart is ruled by your old nature, you may very well be thinking an unkind thought, but you restrain yourself so as not to give how you really feel away, or not.  But if you are living by the Spirit, your heart submitted to the Spirit and devoted to God, 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 always respond to life from your true nature. The question is, “Which nature is that?”  It is the one that rules your heart.  Not the one that you want to rule.  Not the one that you want everyone at church to think rules,  but the one that actually 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.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Listening To The Spirt And Doing What He Says To Do By Faith

The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ Then Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening’” – 1 Samuel 3:10

As is often the case, I woke this morning with something on my mind. Something, that I believe, the Lord wanted me to share. I feel like Samuel in that regard. I have referred to God speaking to Samuel on a number of occasions.  Before you think that I have gone off of the deep end, I do not hear voices – but I do have a thought, an impression, and I know that it did not come from me.

As born again Believers, each of us have the Spirit of God in us.  You already know that.  The Spirit enlivens us, guides us and teaches us. The Spirit is essential to our connection with the Father through faith in the Son.  That is why Paul encouraged the church at Thessalonica writing:  

Do not quench the Spirit.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:19

We can do that – like throwing water on fire or snuffing a candle.  We can make a decision to ignore the influence of the Spirit and go our own way.  There is a constant tension between our sinful nature and our spiritual nature – fueled by the Holy Spirit. I have often thought that writing these devotions was more trouble than it is worth.  Maybe there is better use of my time – or maybe I could just get more sleep – nothing inherently wrong with that – unless – unless it is the Lord directing me. Then it is disobedience not a simple choice like what I will eat for breakfast – although that is how we often treat choices that we make everyday when, in fact, those choices directly affect our relationship with God and witness to the world.

This devotion will be number 2,000.  2,000 times I have written something and posted it for others to read.  Like John Wayne would say, “That is not brag, just fact.” It is an amazing fact to me. Each time I have thought, “That is enough. Who reads these anyway?”  The Lord reminds me by someone asking, like they did yesterday, “Is everything OK? I didn’t see your devotion today.” Then I am reminded of the lost sheep. What am I willing to do for the one.

And so to the real point of this devotion.  Are you willing to spend yourself – give up your time – your energy – your wealth – for the sake of one lost sheep? I don’t know who needs to be encouraged by what I write – but I know that some have been.  We don’t have to be perfect. There can be and are many typos in my devotions. They are not grammatically correct at times. But that is not the point.  A pastor friend says “God can hit straight with a crooked stick!” God can use us – not because we are not flawed, but because we are submitted to the Spirit and humble before our God.

I [Paul] planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” – 1 Corinthians 3:6-7

A word of caution.  The one who plants may never see the fruit – but then that belongs to God and not the planter.  The seed comes from God. Don’t make “visible results” be the requirement for your serving and doing what the Lord has called and equipped you to do. Listen, I have been tempted to “number the people (or readers)” like David did. (2 Samuel 24) David was trying to take credit for something that God did and it angered God.  And me thinking that somehow I am the source of this work and any fruit that is produced would be the same sin.  

The Westminster Shorter Catechism says the chief end of man is to “Glorify God and enjoy Him forever”.  We need to keep that as our focus and keep our hands to the plow as we labor in the Lord’s field. And let the Lord bring the increase.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

No Matter What The World Thinks - We Are Not All God’s Children

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.” – 1 John 3:1

Over the years, I have heard a number of people refer to humankind as being “all God’s children”.  It’s one of those sayings that sounds good, but is patently false. We are all God’s natural creation but we are not all His spiritual children.  What happened in the Garden changed that and now we must be adopted into His family.  (Ephesians 1:5) “having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will”  I cannot adopt my own children, so it must be that without Jesus, we are not part of God’s family nor are we heirs of eternal life.  Without that adoption I am bound for hell.  Once adopted I have eternal life with God in heaven.  Pretty simple really.  Saying we are all God’s children may sound sweet but it is a bitter falsehood – a deception.  With the great movement toward inclusivity – we are all the same – people are losing the distinction between what men think to be truth and what God has declared is truth.  Only the Spirit of God can convince people of that truth.  We have an obligation to share the Gospel when given the opportunity, even in the real possibility of being castigated and rejected and called a hater, a bigot.  Why? Because you are telling people that what they have chosen to do is sin.  And you will have the opportunity.  Don’t give people who are lost false hope, but always “Speak the truth in love.”

What is true is God is the Source of all creation.  And Jesus is at the center of it. 

 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.” – John 1:1-4

Jesus is the “living” Word.  [It was this truth that the Spirit used to open my mom’s eyes and salvation]  I am not going to address the Trinity this morning. Spiritual reality is so different from our human reality.  We try to cram spiritual understanding into the shoes of our natural understanding and those “feet” are just too big!  They don’t fit.  So the temptation is to reject Spiritual truth because of the limitation of our natural understanding. Those who have not put their faith in Jesus will not receive the truth.   Apart from the presence of the Holy Spirit it is impossible to understand.

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

Monday, September 16, 2019

The Problem With Fitting God Into My Life

Another disciple said to him, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’” – Matthew 8:21

Have you ever worked with someone who was told what to do, but then did what they wanted to do instead with an expectation that the “boss” would accept their work? Maybe it is your children who are asked to clean their room and when you come back to check on their progress, they are watching TV or Snap-chatting with their friends – room still a disaster area. In a similar way, many Christians struggle with the same issue.  When the disciple – meaning one who followed Jesus – wanted to do what he felt was more important – something that compelled him more than following Jesus – Jesus answered – “Let the dead bury the dead.”

My point is that our flesh and its desires are strong.  Our old nature is always in contention with our new nature.  We want the benefits of being a child of God, but we want to define the rules. We have a difficult time fitting God and His desires into our lives and decisions.  We are willing to compromise what we know is right to satisfy what our flesh craves.  We might toss the “scraps” to God – maybe go to church on Sunday morning – or pray before we eat – but we forget what the preacher preached about or what the teacher taught before we get out of the church parking lot. Praying before we eat becomes a ritual rather than an acknowledgement of the Lord’s provision.  You don’t think so?  Why is it that we don’t pray when the waiter brings the chips or bread or appetizer, but only when the main course is served?  Why don’t we thank the Lord for the snack we enjoy while watching TV? There are things that we have relegated to “Christian”, fitting them into our normal life.  I mean, we don’t want to be thought of as fanatics do we?

One of them, an expert in the law, tested him [Jesus] with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.’” – Matthew 22:35-39

If we are having a problem with finding room and time for God because we are just so busy – we have a love problem.  A big problem for men is the tension between work and family.  We have obligations for both. The challenge is finding the proper balance and not communicating to the family that you love your work more than them.  Even if the job requires a lot of time – and jobs often do – working hard to support your family is not a bad thing – but it can become a bad thing if it captures your heart.  That is what your wife fears.  The same goes for living our lives in this world and not letting the world “re-capture” our hearts.  To make time for God requires that we be intentional about our devotion to God. You will focus on what you love. It doesn’t matter what you say – what matters is what you do. Like with Peter, Jesus asks us, “Do you love Me? Then show Me don’t just talk about it.”

Friday, September 13, 2019

How To Respond To An Attitude Of Ingratitude

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” – Philippians 4:12

One of the things that I have struggled with in my life of service has been ungrateful people and how I respond to them.    Rarely has my frustration toward ungrateful people been because I thought they did not appreciate God.  No, it was because I thought they did not appreciate me.  Do you see the problem?   1 John 4:19 says “We love because he first loved us.”  Matthew 22:37-39 suggests that because we love God first, we will love others.  Loving others, and the service associated with it, is an expression of our love for God.  When we are confronted by ingratitude, since what we do is for God and not for them, although they are the benefactors, those who are ungrateful are really ungrateful toward God. So … what my struggle with an attitude of ingratitude toward ingratitude causes me to examine my motivation for what I did for them. Did I want them to appreciate me? Was I robbing God of His glory, taking credit for something for which He was the Source and I was merely the messenger? Have you ever thought, “I can’t believe they don’t appreciate what I have done for them!” Are you willing to love and not be loved back?

When he saw them, he said, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.  Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?’ Then he said to him, ‘Rise and go; your faith has made you well.’” –  Luke 17:14-19

That is a gratitude rate of 10%.  Do you think Jesus asked himself "Why did I heal those others guys, they did not appreciate it!" Would you be satisfied with that or would you decide it just wasn’t worth your trouble?  Those people were not worth your effort and “sacrifice”.  If you think that way, your focus is on you and not one the One who sent you.  Don’t you suppose that God already knows what will happen?  And He sent you anyway.  We must not look at those He has sent us to serve, but at the One who did the sending.  And when we do serve others, our motive must be pure and God centered.  We should not be serving to gain the approval of others – that is unhealthy and leads to sorrow and disappointment.  Read Romans 12:1,2.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Your Devotion May Not Be Bad But It May Be Harmful

 “… a man said to Him, "Lord, I will follow You wherever You go." —Luke 9:57

We listen to the words people say and watch what they do, but God sees beyond the external, He sees and judges the heart of man.  Jesus could see the hearts of the three men He responded to. 

Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.’ He said to another man, ‘Follow me.’ But he replied, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ Still another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.’ Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’” – Luke 9:58-62

The first needed assurance that he would have some place to come back to – he did not want to give up his home.  The second had greater commitment to the affairs of this world – he had family commitments.  The third had greater affection for his family.  None of those things are inherently bad. But, if they keep you from Jesus, then they are eternally harmful. So many people want to cling to the natural in their yearning for the supernatural.  Like Lot’s wife. (Genesis 19:26)

It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day no one who is on the housetop, with possessions inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it.” – Luke 17:30-33

I have seen so many Christians turn to look back.  Perhaps some did not have true faith, like the parable of the seed (Matthew 13), I don’t know. But is saddens me to know what they are missing.  We have been faced with the choices of laying down our devotion to family and earthly wealth to follow the call of God.  God has always provided for our needs. I am certain that if you remind Christians of the greatest commandment – to love God with your all – they would nod their heads in agreement.  But mental assent is not obedience, merely acknowledgement of a Truth. When Jesus asked Peter if Peter loved Jesus (John 21) Peter answered "Yes, You know I do." Then Jesus responded by essentially saying “Show Me by your life choices.” I have talked to many people over the years who have said they would really like to do what we do … but …. they had obligations.  I am certain the Spirit of God was working in their hearts, but they chose not to follow. 

The very thing they need, they turn away from to embrace an imitation.  It is interesting that Jesus did not chase after those men, but let them go their own way.  We can’t see the heart of those we meet, but we continue to hope should they not choose to follow that one day, they will yield their hearts to God.    

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

A Day That We Will Never Forget

“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.” — 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

For this generation, 9-11 is a date that is on the minds of many today. That is because of the attack on the twin towers.  For parents generation it was Dec 7, 1941 – the attack on Pearl Harbor. Those are days that, as President Franklin Roosevelt said, “will live in infamy.” For Japan, perhaps August 6 and 9, 1945 when atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  I am focused on the effect on the population and not the reason for the action.   When tragedies on the scale of those events happens entire societies are affected.  But there are those that happen to communities and families that are on a smaller scale but no less impactful. The date and what happened on that date are etched into the minds and hearts of those affected.

I wrote yesterday about Heart Pain and how it is different from physical pain.  You may not be able to re-feel the pain of a physical injury, but it only takes a word or a thought to bring back the pain of the moment when your heart was broken. 

“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted  and saves those who are crushed in spirit. – Psalm 34:17-28

Most people who hear about 9-11 or read about it, may be troubled by it, but only those directly affected will be reminded of the personal loss and the emotional pain that came with it.  Many reading this have experienced the death of a loved one.  If you haven’t – you will. For those without hope of the resurrection – of eternal life in Jesus – it is doubly sad.  They must endure the loss with no hope for the future.  Oh, but for those who placed their faith in the Savior – even Jesus Christ.  

But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

My words may not bring relief for the pain you feel in your heart at the remembrance of your loss, but the “Balm of Gilead” can.  Take your sorrow to the Lord – the heart healer.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Letting Your Faith Not Your Past Define You

“….. 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

None of us are free from heartaches, disappointments, or regrets. Some of them are the result of our doing, some not.  If you are born again, new in Christ, you do not have to let your past define you. Oh that we could embrace that truth.  Well … actually … we can, but not by merely willing or wishing it.  Putting our past and its dominance in how we relate to others is a product of a deep and abiding relationship with Christ.  I was speaking with someone the other day about the nature of heartache.  If you were to break a bone, it would be painful of course, but the pain would eventually subside.  You can remember the event.  You can remember that you broke that particular bone.  It might even remind you when a storm is approaching.  But one thing you cannot do is feel the sharp, stabbing pain that you felt when the bone was broken.  You know it hurt, but you cannot conjure up the same feeling that you had in the past.

Not so with a broken heart or a wounded spirit.  It only takes a word or a thought to bring back the pain of the moment when your heart was broken. 

 “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted  and saves those who are crushed in spirit. – Psalm 34:17-28

What a promise.  He delivers us out of all of our troubles.  He gives us strength.  He gives us comfort.  He gives us hope.  He gives us life.  My friend, you have so much to look forward to in the days ahead.  Don’t let the pain of the past define you.  Instead let the Lord renew you. 

“but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. – Isaiah 40:31

Are you thinking that putting those broken things behind is impossible? You have tried and failed? It will only be accomplished by faith – not human determination. This is what Jesus had to say about it.

“Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’”

I don’t know who needed to hear this today – but I am confident the Spirit prompted me to write it as an encouragement to someone – perhaps for you.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Hearing When The Lord Speaks

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed” –  Luke 4:18

Those are the verses that Jesus read in the Temple in Nazareth. I have read them many times before – both in Luke 4 and in Isaiah 61. But yesterday, when I heard them during the church service – the Spirit impressed them upon me. I don’t hear voices, but I do hear the Spirit speak to me. Not in audible words, but in sudden realization. Martie and I have decided to join the church – formally – and as I filled the card out – one of the questions was – “What ministries have you participated in" – well, I ran out of room – that cemented the impression the Spirit made on me during the service. Frankly, when I heard the verses I thought – “I need to share this in my devotional BLOG tomorrow.” But, as I stood there, staring at the card, I thought this is not just for others, it is for me.

You see, it is easy to lose sight of what the Lord has equipped and called us to do. Even in the midst of serving - doing good things. From time to time, we need to have our memories and hearts refreshed. We need to have the awareness of our calling refreshed. The daily grind of life can dull our spiritual senses and our calling can lose its clarity. So – to my point this morning. When you attend church – don’t let it become the something that you do on Sunday morning. Go to church expecting to hear from God. It is not about the music – it is not about the preaching – it is not about the fellowship – it IS about worshipping the Creator God and focusing your mind, your entire self, on Him. Expecting to hear from Him. Sometimes we hear from God, but are not certain it is God.  That is where the help of other Christians is needed. We should be like Samuel.

Then Eli perceived that the Lord had called the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and it shall be, if He calls you, that you must say, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears.’ ” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. Now the Lord came and stood and called as at other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel answered, ‘Speak, for Your servant is hears.’” – 1 Samuel 3:8-10

Yesterday I was reminded that we were created in His image and by faith, rebirth, and sanctification by the Spirit, we are being restored – conformed into the image of Christ.

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

So you see – what is true of Jesus is true for me and true for you. And in the context of that truth we might say –

The Spirit of the Lord is upon [us], because He has anointed [us] to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent [us] to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed. To the glory of God and the good of others.

Speak Lord, for your servant hears.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Temptation – What It Is And What You Can Do About It

For we do not have a high priest [Jesus] who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-yet he did not sin” –  Hebrews 4:15

Jesus knows all about our struggles – He will guide till the day is done.  (No, Not One! | Johnson Oatman, Jr., Public Domain) We all face temptation.  It is all part of living on this planet.  Born into sin and bound to face the struggle till the day we die. Sounds a bit dismal doesn’t it? But perhaps we should be looking at temptation differently than we do.  No one likes to be tempted to sin – it is a struggle of our will or perhaps I should say, our will not. Let’s take a quick look at how Jesus was tempted.

“1. Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.

The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

2. Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple.

“If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

3. Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.

“All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” – Matthew 4:1-10

Each time Jesus was tempted – that is each time His flesh was tempted – because God cannot be tempted (James 1:13). Each time, Jesus responded with Spiritual truth – the Word of God. We are tempted in the same ways. John wrote this –

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.” – 1 John 2:15-16

Like Jesus we are tempted to yield to our human nature – old nature – and to reject the Father’s will for our own.  Temptation is not sin, yielding to it is.  Choosing to embrace whatever it is that is drawing us.  Pastor Greg Laurie said that temptation is like a bird flying overhead.  We cannot keep it from flying over you but you can keep it from making a nest in your hair.

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

Whether you believe it or not, you don’t have to yield to the temptation.  You may be very frustrated because you can’t seem to escape certain sins – the temptation springs on you like a lion laying in waiting for its prey.  And once again – you fall victim and are devoured. 

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” –  1 Peter 5:8

Just like Jesus, the way that we can resist temptation is by the Word of God.  The sword of the Spirit.  The Way to escape.

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

Sound too simple – God’s ways our not our ways.  We would have come up with something much more difficult – but then – if it was so easy we would already be doing it wouldn’t we? It is impossible to do in our own strength – but very possible by faith. 

Thursday, September 5, 2019

When You Think You Can't Go Any Further - God will Be Your Second Wind

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” –  2 Timothy 4:7

Paul said that in the face of great personal trials.  He had gone beyond himself many times, running on faith – Spirit power, and not his own determination and wisdom. When I was in the Army, we would do a lot of physical exercise as a unit.  I can remember with one particular unit in the Aviation Squadron of 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in El Paso, Texas,  I had a squadron commander that trained us for war.  Not just physically, but mentally.  We had a saying “you fight the way you train”.  Well, in one case he used our physical training to help us with mental toughness.  We were used to running a particular route.  Early in the morning – 5:30 early – we call it O-dark thirty. We knew the land marks for our 3 to 4 mile run.  We knew when we were half way and we knew when we were at the finish.  By then, we were ready to hear “Quick time – march”, which means – stop running and walk in civilian vernacular.  Well, one day we got to the “finish line”, but we kept running.  We were always exhausted by the time we got to that point, but he kept running.  You are already thinking I can’t go on, and I am thrilled we are at the finish line – but the squadron commander kept us running right past the point where we could not go on!  We ran for another half mile or so.  What was the lesson?  We can do more than we think we can.  War is very demanding on the body and the mind.  You

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.” – 1 Corinthians 9:24-25

Not falling out of the run requires discipline and faith.  In our runs in the Army, there were always people who would fall out, who could not go on, who lost heart and confidence.  They fell by the wayside.  The same way with our faith.  I am not talking about loss of salvation.  The people I mentioned were still in the Army, they needed more physical training so they could serve in the manner that was expected of them.  And so it is with us as Christians.  There are many who don’t have the faith to keep up with where God wants to take them.  They need more training .. more confidence .. more encouragement.

I remember taking a PT test in the Armor Officer Basic Course.  That test is something you must pass.  Well, a friend of mine stopped running during the two mile run.  He had a look of pain and exhaustion on his face.  I stopped too so I could encourage him to finish.  The evaluators called out to me and told me to keep going and leave him behind.  I could not and would not.  He finished .. passed, barely.  But he passed.  So did I, but helping him cost me something.

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

I am not bragging, I am making a point.  We are supposed to encourage one another to love and good works.

 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” –  Hebrews 10:24-25

Some need more encouragement than others . .who do you know that needs to be encouraged in their faith .. to continue to run and not fall out .. even when they think they can’t go on?  Perhaps you are the one God leads to encourage them to stay in the run. But know this .... helping them will cost you something.  You must be willing to pay the price and through your service and sacrifice bring glory to God.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Our Struggle With Sin And Our Hope Within

“For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” – Romans 7:18-20

That was the Apostle Paul – the great encourager of the Faith sharing about his struggle with sin. I am certain that you don’t have that problem, but know other Christians who do. Yeh, right!  The reason that God inspired the writing of those words is because He knows our struggle. The same struggle Paul had and every other Christian has had or will have.  I can remember my step-dad and spiritual father, Don told me after I was born again, “Your trouble has just started.” What did he mean by that? Before I was born again, all I knew was the sinful nature. Now that I am born again, having the Spirit of God in me and the truth of God in His Word before me, I know sin for what it is. I also know that my sinful nature, my flesh, wants to rise up and dominate me.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” –  2 Corinthians 5:17-19

That sounds like sin should be behind us doesn’t it.  Well the temptation to sin is not but the penalty of sin is. The power to not give in to the temptation is no longer a function of our moral will – but the power of God through the presence of the Spirit and our willingness to submit to the Spirit and not our flesh. Because you struggle with sin and perhaps think the same thoughts that Paul had does not mean that you are not saved or have somehow lost your salvation. What it means is that there is a struggle going on in you, the one my step-dad referred to, that can only be there is the Spirit of God is in you and the Spirit of God can only be in you if you are born again.

I [Paul] say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.” – Galatians 5:16-17

So that is our lot in this earthly life my friends.  Do not think it strange that you struggle. But rejoice – the struggle is evidence of the Hope that is in you.  Embrace the truth that Paul concluded with and give praise to God .

O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” – Romans 7:24-25


Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Love One Another Just Like Jesus Did

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34-35

Someone made a comment to me the other day complimenting me on how I show my love to my wife. My response was “I am supposed to love my wife in an understanding way.  The Word says I am to study my wife.” (1 Peter 3:7) I said that because I wanted to redirect the credit to the Lord. I thought about that conversation later. Loving others, in particular our spouses, is a spiritual mandate.  Loving them like Jesus loved requires that we be submitted to the will of God.  It is God’s design that men and women form an intimate relationship.  That relationship is supposed to reflect our relationship with God. Dedicated to one. Sacrificial – placing ourselves second – the other first. Founded on faith and our relationship with the Father through the Son.  Not unevenly yoked.  I have seen so many people of faith choose an unbelieving partner because they desperately wanted a relationship and were not willing to wait on God to lead them to it. There is a dynamic between a man and a woman that cannot be experienced  apart from a proper relationship with God.  Submitted to the Father and submitted to one another.

The idea of mutual submission stretches beyond the marriage relationship to all relationships with other Believers, but it should start with your marriage. 

Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” – Ephesians 5:25

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

“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.” – Ephesians 5:22

There is something called the Dupuy fighting position. These were modified foxholes with overhead cover and a berm in front permitting weapon's fire from the sides. The fighting positions were configured in what was called a "lazy W" where each hole support the ones on each side to cover the blind spot in the front. The idea was that the two people in each foxhole would protect the people in the foxhole next to them.  It works so long as each one is faithful to their responsibility and don’t panic in the heat of battle and choose to look to their own safety and survival.  In a similar way, we are to look out for each other.  I look to your needs and you look to mine. Mutual submission in the context of spiritual submission to the Lord. It works so long as each one is faithful to their responsibility and don’t panic in the heat of battle and choose to look to their own safety and survival.

I wrote about Spiritual paradoxes yesterday. Living the life that God calls us to and having relationships that reflect God’s intent and design requires faith and trust and obedience to the Father. Simply getting married in a church is not what makes a marriage.  The point is not to legitimize living together.  The point is to reflect our relationship with the Father and point people to Jesus by the way we love one another.

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Monday, September 2, 2019

Understanding And Accepting Biblical Truth

Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’” – Matthew 20:25-28

The sermon yesterday was about Biblical paradoxes. Those things that the world considers contradictory – things that just do not make any sense.  Actually in the context of our culture and human thinking – they don’t.  They don’t make sense because truth of those things that seem to be contradictory – mutually exclusive -  must be spiritually discerned.  They cannot be understood apart from the Spirit of God.

Many Christians have the notion that they are entitled to a good – financially secure – sickness free – long life. All of those things are nice, but not necessary, from a heavenly perspective.  God is not patiently waiting in heaven to “take our order”.  “Uh, I would like a good job – a nice house – no problems with my children – oh, could you super-size that?” That is really not the way it works.  The life that we have been called to – saved to – is one of sacrifice and faith.  A life that runs contrary to the wisdom of the world. Like considering others to be more important than ourselves. 

Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” – John 12:25

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.” – 1 John 2:15-16

How are you doing with that?  It is a constant struggle isn’t it?  Our flesh craves what our spirit detests.  The world’s measure of success is contrary to God’s definition of a successful life.  Along those lines, there are two verses that I would like to clarify in your thinking.

“Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” – Psalm 37:4

That does not mean that if you seek God, He will give you what you want. It means that if you seek God, He will cause you to be passionate about what He is passionate about.  He will conform you into the image of His Son – Jesus.  That you will value what He values – not what the world values. I am not saying it is wrong to have things – what is wrong is when things have you.

Keep this Book of the Law 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 Bible is a spiritual book that reveals the Creator God – His Son, Jesus and His plan for mankind.  It is common for people – Christians – to impose the world’s values in their interpretation of the Bible.  Last verse.

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 3:16-17

Did you catch the purpose for the scripture? To equip us for good works – not financial success or problem avoidance. Scripture, primarily, has a spiritual purpose and a spiritual application. Maybe not what you want to hear or even believe, but it is the truth.  If you struggle with accepting Biblical paradoxes (or is it paradae?) it is because you are struggling with your flesh – like most of us do from time to time.  Think about it and then pray about it and then you might need to repent. Just sayin’