Thursday, October 31, 2019

Are You Willing To Wait On God?

But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.” – Isaiah 40:31

I am certain that you are familiar with this verse. Great verse with a great promise and a great visual.  But what comes with it is great difficulty. The reason – we don’t want to wait.  There is a great example of not waiting in 1 Samuel 13, about King Saul.

“As for Saul, he was still in Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling. Then he waited seven days, according to the time set by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him. So Saul said, “Bring a burnt offering and peace offerings here to me.” And he offered the burnt offering. Now it happened, as soon as he had finished presenting the burnt offering, that Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might greet him. And Samuel said, “What have you done?” Saul said, “When I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered together at Michmash, then I said, ‘The Philistines will now come down on me at Gilgal, and I have not made supplication to the Lord.’ Therefore I felt compelled, and offered a burnt offering.” And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you. For now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue. – 1 Samuel 13:7-14

So the prophet Samuel told King Saul to wait. He waited and when Samuel didn’t show – he panicked. Since Samuel wasn’t there to do what Samuel was supposed to do, Saul decided he would do it himself. He saw his men getting restless and the enemy getting closer.  It was time to take things into his own hands. He could kill an animal for a sacrifice. He could start a fire. He could pray. He knew what the prophet had told him, but maybe the prophet was misinformed. Not doing what God says to do – not keeping His commandment is a euphemism for sin.  We like to think that doing what God says to do is optional – actually it is.  We can choose to sin – just like King Saul.  We can choose to not trust God but trust ourselves instead.  There are always consequences for that.  I am reminded of my old friend – Proverbs 3:5-8

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, And strength to your bones.” – Proverbs 3:5-8

I have seen so many people – Christians – choose a way other than the way that God has made clear – because they did not want to wait.  They looked around them – what they saw caused fear to set in – and the did what they thought would allay their fears, only to find out that their problems were compounded. Don’t try to be a Lone Ranger Christian.  Thinking that you can live the life on your own. Don’t isolate yourself from the influence of other Christians and the local church.  You are part of a spirit body.  If a finger is separated from the hand – and the body – it cannot do what it was designed to do – work in harmony with the others fingers and thumb.  Refusing to engage with other Christians is really no different than what King Saul did.  Trying to do it on your own. 

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near…” – Hebrews 10:19-25

By Faith Alone By His Grace Alone And For His Glory Alone

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Six Dregrees Of Separation

 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” – Matthew 14:25-27

I have been waiting for the violence in Haiti to settle before I travel to Jacmel.  I was supposed to go with a friend and partner in the Gospel, Pastor Doug Moyer from Comptche, CA. Comptche is 3 hours north of San Francisco.  I had told him that another friend, Pastor Alan Cross had recently moved to Petaluma, CA to pastor a church there.  Both men have served with us in Mississippi and Haiti.  Doug told me that he had taken Disaster Relief training at Alan’s church, before Alan was pastor there. Doug is a pastor and a first responder.  He said that he had noticed that the church had become a shelter for the people fleeing from the fires in Sonoma County.  Alan and I have been texting back and forth as he set the shelter up in his church.  Alan was recounting the time that we set up a shelter together in Ocean Springs after Katrina and reflected on how God has prepared him for this time.  I replied to Doug ….

Just reading your email this morning - I am always amazed at how the Maestro conducts the symphony of believers – BTW, I believe Jesus is in the first chair 😊 Each orchestra member must follow the conductors lead, but is responsible for playing the right notes at the right time in the right way.  I have heard of six degrees of separation in social networks, but I think separation between two people is fewer with God – in fact I am certain it is.”  

“Six degrees of separation is the idea that any two people are six, or fewer, social connections away from each other. As a result, a chain of "a friend of a friend" statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps. It was originally set out by Frigyes Karinthy (was a Hungarian author, playwright, poet, journalist, and translator. He was the first proponent of the six degrees of separation concept, in his short story, Chains) in 1929 and popularized in an eponymous 1990 play written by John Guare. It is sometimes generalized to the average social distance being logarithmic in the size of the population.” (Wikipedia)

Guare’s play was made into a movie in the early 90’s starring Will Smith and Donald Sutherland.  Although popular, I don’t think the theory has been proven scientifically. But even if it was, God is not bound by natural laws. Just like Jesus walking on the water and healing people that had been disabled all of their lives. 

Dr. Henry Blackaby in the study “Experiencing God” said that “God is at work all around us and wants us to join Him.” I can tell you from personal experience that God can and does bring things together in supernatural ways.  Ways that are beyond probability. 

We have been working with churches in close proximity to Houston (close as defined by Texans!) to encourage them to partner together in their communities to respond in unity to the needs of people affected by natural disasters.  Yesterday we visited a single parent who needs help with her home.

Something for you to chew on, I believe the only difference between a widow and a single mom is the manner in which the husband left the home.  The life challenges both women face are virtually identical.

Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. ” – James 1:27

This woman had been referred to us by a case worker.  Through the course of our conversation with her, we discovered that she attends the same church that we have been working with to become part of the local disaster response church coalition. We were looking for a way to encourage the church to engage and now the Lord has led us to one of that church’s members.  We could not have arranged that.  In fact, we were surprised when she told us where she attended church because she is does not live close to the church in question.  

Elisha prayed that his servant’s eyes would be opened.  Paul prayed that for us as well.

Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding [hearts] 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 1:15-19

Look around my friends – God is at work all around you – if you will only open your spiritual eyes you will see some amazing things.

By Faith Alone By His Grace Alone And For His Glory Alone

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Our Problem With Forgiveness And Trust

… The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt.” – Matthew 18:26-30

Don’t you find people curious, maybe even perplexing? I have read the parable of the Unforgiving Servant many times but have seen it played out by people I know many more times.  We want forgiveness for what we do, but we don’t want to extend that same forgiveness to others.  I have written this many times before, but it bears repeating – the Bible is a spiritual book – the Word of God – what He tells us to do must have the power of the Spirit at its root – not the power of our will or won’t.

Have you ever heard someone say “I just can’t find it in me to forgive them!” Maybe you’ve said it yourself.  Don’t you think that God knows all about our human frailties and tendencies?

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. ” – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Scripture is “God-breathed” or inspired through the Spirit of God. We were given that parable so we would know that we are to forgive in the same way that we have been forgiven by God by the power of God in us.  So let’s talk about trust. We are to forgive but that does not mean that we necessarily trust. The king who forgave would most likely not give the man more money.  Trust is an easy thing to lose and a hard thing to get back. Just because you forgive someone does not mean that you make yourself vulnerable to them. In my thinking, people must demonstrate repentance before they should be trusted.  God does not ask us to enable bad behavior. We can forgive without the offender being repentant. But we should not trust until they prove they are repentant. That failing is at the root of abusive relationships. The abused forgives and the abuser continues to abuse. 

Are you struggling with forgiveness – maybe you are refusing to trust even though the person has repented. If you look closely – you will find a lack of forgiveness at the root and a wanting for the person to be punished as the goal.  Just like the unforgiving servant.  Lord help us all!

By Faith Alone By His Grace Alone And For His Glory Alone

Monday, October 28, 2019

Our Problem With Sin After Salvation

… through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned…..  For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s [Jesus Christ] righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” – Romans 5:12,17-19

There are two types of people in the world.  There are those who are lost, born with the sin nature originating in Adam and those who once were lost and now are saved through faith in Jesus Christ.  Pretty simple when you think about it.  You can set all of our cultural  and ethnic differences aside.  (Difficult as that might be for some, I know.) When we stand before God – those differences won’t matter – only are you a sheep– born again – adopted into the family of God or a goat – lost and separated from God for eternity.

All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world… Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels’…And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. ” – Matthew 25:32-34,41,46

Like I said – pretty simple.  But to the point of this devotion. Our problem with sin after salvation. Everyone reading this struggles with the temptation to sin and the fact that we continue to sin. There is a constant battle between our old sin nature and our new spiritual nature. You know that God has put His Spirit in each son and daughter at the point of adoption – or salvation through faith in Jesus. You know that God knows your heart – and those things that you commit to in your heart and maybe you do or don’t act out. There are aspects of your life that can remain hidden from others – but are plain as day to God. But because of Jesus – we are not condemned or rejected by God – because of our new nature – because Jesus is our righteousness. Because of God’s grace and mercy. Because we are saved by grace through faith and not human effort.  But let me hasten to say that I am not telling you that your day-to-day sins don’t matter – they do.

The guilt we feel when we sin is the conviction of the Holy Spirit.  God sent the Spirit to be a Helper – we cannot live our new life on our own – it is spiritual and requires the power of God through the Spirit by faith and obedience.  I would say that so long as we walk this earth, we will struggle with our sin nature. The sins that we commit may change but it will always be the same sinful root no matter what the sinful fruit.  Sins range from the “not so bad” to the unconscionable – unthinkable.  But at they have the same root – disobedience.  

Don’t trivialize your sin – decide that sin is unavoidable and therefore, somehow, acceptable. 

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?” – Romans 6:1-3

We should have the attitude of King David.  David was guilty of an egregious sin – he had Uriah the Hittite, Bathsheba’s husband, killed to hide the fact that David had an affair with Bathsheba and she was pregnant.  Nathan the prophet confronted David over his sin.  This was David’s response when he was forced to come face to face with what he had done.

Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin…. Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners shall be converted to You. – Psalm 51:1-2,10-13

Even though God forgave David, there was a consequence for his sin, just as it is for us. But when the Spirit of God convicts us of our sin – it should be our response as well. You cannot lose your salvation because of your sins – but you can lose your witness and quench the Spirit and the power of God within you.  What it is that you need to confess to the Lord? (1 John 1:9)

By Faith Alone By His Grace Alone And For His Glory Alone

Friday, October 25, 2019

What Is It That Makes You A Christian

if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” – Romans 10:9

What makes our faith unique from all of the other belief systems in the world? What we believe about Jesus Christ. We believe this.

God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” – John3:16-18

Most Christians know John 3:16 – but most stop there.  I included verses 17 and 18 because they bring context and perspective on the magnitude of God’s grace and mercy.

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),  and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:4-10

So many religions are about working your way to heaven or wherever it is that they believe someone goes after life on this planet.  We are saved by faith.

For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas [Peter], then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.” – 1 Corinthians 15:3-8

That is the Gospel as described by Paul.  It is simple but supernatural. It is rejected by the lost but embraced by the saved. Man cannot figure it out with human wisdom but the Truth is revealed only by God through the Holy Spirit.

When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, ‘Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?’ So they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered and said, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.’” – Matthew 16:13-17

Who Jesus is and our faith in what God has done through Him is what makes us Brothers and Sisters in the family of God.  Not denominational distinctives – not race – not geography – not nationality – not working for the same cause or attending the same church service. It is our faith Jesus alone.

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

By Faith Alone By His Grace Alone And For His Glory Alone

Thursday, October 24, 2019

What It Takes To Know You Are In The Right Place

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” – Genesis 50:20

That, of course, is a quote from Joseph to his brothers.  Joseph found himself in many difficult – uncomfortable places during his life.  The conclusion that many of us come to – me included – when we don’t understand why we are where we are is – it is a mistake that we are there.  Surely this is not of God’s doing.  When we are in the center of God’s will – only good things are supposed to happen – right? Pastor Rick Warren said “God is more interested in our character than our comfort.” Ugh! That means that things may not always be pleasant but that does not mean there is not a godly purpose in those things.  It is so easy to judge the spiritual correctness of our circumstances based upon our emotions, ill-conceived ideas about what it means to serve God, or even our human understanding. When that happens – we will always be drawn to the wrong conclusions.  The Bible is replete with examples.  Here are a few to consider.

When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. ‘Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?’ the servant asked. ‘Don’t be afraid,’ the prophet answered. ‘Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’  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 6:15-18

The army was very real – but the servant had no spiritual perspective on the situation.  When you find yourself in a difficult situation – it is so easy to turn to your own wit and experience and not look to God. We can acknowledge that God is everywhere and He is sovereign, but in the heat of the moment – in the midst of our circumstances – we forget all about God.

A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’ He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’ – Mark 4:37-40

Jesus was present in the boat. Some of these guys were seasoned fishermen. Being in a boat is what they did. They knew that they were in trouble.  And Jesus was sleeping in the midst of it. Why would they worry about what was happening when they were with Jesus? He is the Master of the sea – billows His will obey! It is so easy to forget. Like to the disciples to imagine that God is not aware of what is happening.

I [Paul] rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 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. I can do all this through him [Jesus] who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4:10-13

When we find ourselves in a situation that we don’t understand – I am not speaking of a consequence of our sin – because although we probably won’t like what is happening as a consequence – it was of our doing – not God’s. We must repent and turn our hearts back toward God. But even then – God is not unaware. When you face trials in life – none of us will be spared from trials – know that you are a child of the King and trust that you are in the palm of His hand. What we need in those times is spiritual understanding and faith in the sovereign God of Heaven. 

When we were in the midst of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina – it was a very difficult place to be and we were in it for nearly 5 years – a volunteer asked me if I liked being in Mississippi.  I thought about it for a moment and then answered, “There is nothing better than being in the center of God’s will for your life. Geography has nothing to do with it. So, yes, in fact, I love being in Mississippi.”  And I would add that physical comfort or conformance with what I might think is right in a situation have nothing to do with being where God wants me either.  Lord that I could see life like Paul – Elisha – even Jesus. So, like Paul, I pray that that God would give you wisdom and revelation. That your eyes would be opened like Elisha’s servant. For His glory and your good.

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms.” – Ephesians 1:17-20

By Faith Alone By His Grace Alone And For His Glory Alone

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Embracing The Grey Side Of Life – It’s Deadly

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.” – Romans 1:21-23

In 1933 something called the “Humanist Manifesto” was written by Raymond Bragg, a Unitarian minister, and published with 34 signers [largely Unitarians]. The manifesto promoted “a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism [belief in the God of the universe] or other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good.  In other words, there is no God only us and it is up to us to bring peace and harmony to the world.” So what does this have to do with anything? As I was pondering what I would write about this morning – asking the Lord to show me – Dr Francis Schaeffer (an American Evangelical Christian theologian, philosopher, and Presbyterian pastor) and his book “A Christian Manifesto” came to mind.  This book presents the Christian perspective of life, particularly in the areas of law, government and ethics, and contrasts it with the humanistic perspective [explicitly, the ideas promoted by the Humanist Manifesto]. A humanist world view that is the dominant one in our country and throughout the world today.  

Stay with me!

That led to me going back to the source of Truth – the Word of God.  [Be careful what you read – it must always point you back to the wisdom of God and not to the mere wisdom of men] Thus the quote from Romans.  What you see happening around you – the moral decay – the rampant sin – is because that is what the world is like when people reject God and trust in themselves as the source of all things and the determiners of what is wright and what is wrong.                        

Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” – Romans 1:28-32

I believe that life begins at conception. So no matter what the reason that life is terminated before birth – it was still a life.  There are some very difficult issues associated with what I just wrote – and I do not intend to address them here – I am not trying to sway your view – just state my own. While we served in Haiti, I had the opportunity to preach in Haitian churches.  The Haitians call the United States – Money Land – and see our country as a “Promise Land” of sorts.  The population of Haiti was about 9 million people  at the time.  I asked the congregations if they knew that since 1973 more than 45 million babies had been aborted in the United States.  That was 5 times the population of Haiti.  When I told them – they always had a look of surprise. Why did I tell them that? Because I wanted them to know that sin knows no boundaries on this earth.  That the land they envied was trod upon by sinners just like the land that they trod.  That all have sinned – and everyone needs a Savior – even Jesus. I would ask them to pray for our country and its people.  Having money and lots of possessions is not proof of God’s blessing – it merely means that you have money and a lot of possessions.

Listen – there are good things about the United States – there are good things about every country.  While embracing the good, you may not be tempted to embrace what is starkly evil – but those things that are “not so bad”, those things in the grey – now that is a problem for all of us.  If you are living in dim light – in the grey, then your eyes will eventually adjust and it will become normal to you. If you are looking to your culture for validation of what is OK – as a Christian you are in spiritual trouble.  What is it that you have embraced in your life that, when laid up against the Word of Truth is sin? Pray about it!

By Faith Alone By His Grace Alone And For His Glory Alone

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Unity On The Outside Requires Unity On The Inside

"I [Jesus] pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me..” – John 17:20-21

So – the Lord woke me up this morning with the word “Unity” on my mind.  At the core of the ministry that I am involved in is the idea that the local church should be ready to engage their community, their Jerusalem if you will,  after disasters strike.  Not in isolation but in harmony or unity with other evangelical churches. That requires that the churches reach across their denominational, racial, national, and demographic distinctives – to push them aside in light of what it is that makes them the same – salvation by faith alone by grace alone in Christ alone.  In my years of “reaching across the aisle” to embrace my Brother, there has often been a natural condition to establish a spiritual connection. First accept my humanity – who I am naturally – and then I can engage you spiritually. It is backwards.  It says I am a natural man before I am a spiritual man. 

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the [a]edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”  – Ephesians 4:11-14

There are a lot of reasons why it is hard for some Christians to embrace other Christians.  It is easy to try to dismiss their angst when their hardship has not fallen on you but on the other person. Years ago I was in a meeting associated with the Promise Keepers ministry.  The focus of the meeting was reconciliation in the body of Christ.  The leader asked the men of color, “How many of you have experienced prejudice and bigotry?” Nearly every hand – maybe every hand – was raised. Then he asked, “How many of white men in the room have shown prejudice or bigotry toward someone?”  A few hands of “honest” men raised their hands.  Then he asked, “Those of you who did not raise your hands – do you care that it even happened to your Brothers?”  That is really the question – “Do you care?” The precondition to unity between people who are not the same on the outside is that they must the same on the inside.

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. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17-20

Before I can love my Brother in the way that honors God and my Brother, I must first be wholly committed to loving God. It is my devotion to the Father through the Son by the Spirit that changes me and enables me to love others.  We often quote Matthew 22:37-39 as if they reflect actions that are independent to God and fully dependent upon us. Love God and love people. The truth is, because God loved us – we have the capacity to love Him and to love others as an outpouring of our relationship with Him. 

We love Him because He first loved us.” – 1 John 4:19

There is division in the Body of Christ because there is a division of devotion in our hearts. To be reconciled to each other – we must first be reconciled to God. We must stop embracing our differences as a point of pride and, instead, take pride in what makes us the same – our faith in Jesus and our adoption as sons and daughters of the most high God. 

By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:35

So how is that working out for you?

By Faith Alone By His Grace Alone And For His Glory Alone

Monday, October 21, 2019

Loving Others Like Jesus Did

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

I am finding that my attitude toward Sunday morning sermons has changed a bit. While I used to listen to a sermon and think about how it applied to me – and I still do – I listen for nuggets of truth that I can share with others.  Like I am doing now.  Yesterday the pastor spoke on Luke 7:36-50. I am certain you know the story and about the woman and the alabaster jar of perfume.  The point made was that the Pharisee judged the woman from what he saw wrong in her life, (she was a sinner and he was not) but he wanted Jesus to judge him for what was right in his life. Don’t we all do that? We want people to judge us based upon our best qualities. That is what Matthew 7 is about – we don’t want to cut other people any slack -  especially those who offend us, but want grace and mercy for ourselves.  We project our faults out on other people.  

It is much easier to condemn our sin when someone else is wearing it.  Another example is the story about the unforgiving servant. (Matthew 18:21-35) Can you see yourself in those stories – on one side or the other? It is a matter of how we see things – from man’s perspective or from God’s.  The woman in Luke 7 came to Jesus with a broken heart surrendered. The Pharisee’s attitude was – first fix your sin and then I will accept you.

Jesus said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’”  – Luke 7:50

Not judging others is not about excusing sin or condoning sinful behavior.  It is about seeing people like Jesus saw them. Showing people the love of God without embracing their sin. 

God is the God of all comfort who comforts us in our afflictions so that we can comfort others with the same comfort we ourselves have received.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Don’t trust that you will be able to do what Jesus did on your own.  What God expects us to do – the love and compassion He expects us to have toward others is rooted and grounded by faith and the power of the Spirit.  Don’t try to resolve to do better on your own or demand it of others.  Resolve to faith and trust and love better.  God wants to love others through us.  That will only happen if we, ourselves, are living with hearts given over to God and see others with spiritual understanding.

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” – 1 Corinthians 13:1-8

By Faith Alone By His Grace Alone And For His Glory Alone

Friday, October 18, 2019

Navigating This Life

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” – Psalm 119:105

I left early this morning to attend a meeting. I live in La Porte Texas and the meeting was on the West side of Houston.  So I opened Google maps – punched in the address and followed the line.  I almost missed a couple of turns because of the complexity of the intersections between the expressways.  I had given it 2 hours since you never know about traffic.  It took me about an hour and 20 minutes, so I thought “Coffee!”  I clicked on my trusty Starbucks app and there it was -  a Starbucks .3 miles away. I clicked on the icon and followed the line to Starbucks and yes a Grande Pike Place with a double cup! – no room. As I sat in my truck watching the clock tick – well as much as a digital clock can tick, I thought – “I wish life was that easy.”

My life has been a series of nearly missed turns and even some wrong turns as I have navigated the course the Lord has laid out for me. 

“For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.” – Romans 8:13-14

Sometimes I ignore the woman inside my phone, telling me which way to go and just do what I think is best. And I am guilty of not listening to the Spirit of God at times as well. Oh, I hear the Spirit say “This is the way walk in it.” But then, I put the Spirit on mute and go my own way.  It never goes well.  I always seem to end up in a blind alley or on a one way street going the wrong direction.  Hearing God speak, according to Dr. Henry Blackaby, is never the problem.  Obedience – doing what He says – that is the problem. I am in the middle of that right now.  I think I made a wrong turn. I am in the right town, but not on the right road. Have you ever been there?  So what do you do?

When I learned land navigation in the Army – that is using a map and a compass to find your way across the country side – I learned that when you are misoriented – a euphemism for “lost”, you go back to the last known point.  Where were you when you knew where you were.  Go back to that spot – reorient yourself and start again.  Sounds simple – but first you have to admit you are indeed “mis-oriented”, sometimes a tough thing for a guy, and then, humbly, retrace your steps.  What that means for me is that I have to click on the “undo” button.  Even in the face of some telling me – you are not really mis-oriented – just confused.  But – what is the Spirit saying?

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” – 2 Corinthians 5:7

Understanding – is not the criterion for obedience.  Faith and trust are. 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, And strength to your bones.” – Proverbs 3:5-8

Do you know where you are right now? Are you there because of the Lord’s leading or have you put the Spirit on mute?

“… in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:18-19

Maybe it’s time to go back to the last known point and reorient yourself.

By Faith Alone By His Grace Alone And For His Glory Alone

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Silent Witness

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense [or reason] to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” – 1 Peter 3:15

There are some who would say that it is not necessary for a Christian to give voice to their faith.  That right living and right doing is a sufficient witness. And they are important but, in my understanding, they are incomplete, in and of themselves.  There must be a telling.  Jesus lived out that example.  There are those who would say that you don’t need to tell people what God has revealed through His Word by quoting it directly, but instead, you can find ways to reword it so it is not quite so “in your face” to a people bound for hell and eternal separation from their creator.

“…speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ.” – Ephesians 4:15

And what is the truth? God’s Word is Truth

“Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” – John 17:17

We are to speak the truth in love and trust that the Spirit of God will do His work in the hearts of those who hear it.  We are to share the Word but not use it as a hammer or sword but more as a shepherd’s staff. We should be motivated by the urgings of the Spirit of God and not merely our own avarice to convert people to our way of believing. God uses us as living testimonies of His grace and mercy through faith in Jesus.  Transformed lives. Jesus is our example. His is the Light of the world but also a rock of offense. I am not the reason that people reject the Truth – it is their sin nature that is the source of that enmity towards God and His Truth.

Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, ‘The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone, and A stone of stumbling And a rock of offense.’” – 1 Peter 2:7-8

I was asked if it was not in scripture that we are all created in God’s image – that is recorded in Genesis.

So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” – Genesis 1:27

But the Word also says “There is none righteous, no not one.” (Romans 3:10) And “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

We are all God’s creation, but we are not all His children.  But, it is His heart that all would be saved.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” – John 3:16

My conversations are seasoned with the Word of God.  I make no apologies for that. And I want to encourage you to remember that you, too, were not saved to be merely a silent witness.

And if you tell me that you just can't memorize scripture, I would ask you what your home address is or what your children's birth dates are. You remember what is important to you.  I will let you draw your own conclusion about how important the Word is in your life. Think about it and then do something about it.

By Faith Alone By His Grace Alone And For His Glory Alone

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Faith Is Not About The Knowing – It Is About The Going

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you …. So Abram went.” – Genesis 12:1,4

I was recently asked the question, “Why do you do what you do, where you do it?”  Thinking about it – it is a good question – I was reminded of Abraham. The condition for responding to – obeying the call of God was not knowing where Abraham was going to “land”, but trust – faith – in the One who was sending. It was the same for the disciples.

And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They immediately left their nets and followed Him.” – Matthew 4:18-20

Do you see the pattern? But sometimes we let consideration of the world get in the way.

Then another of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.’” – Matthew 8:21-22

It seemed like a reasonable – responsible request.  But the man had a divided heart.  That is what prevents many Christians from doing what the Lord calls them to do.  He won’t make you.  Your reluctance to obey does not impede the God of heaven.  So why am I in Houston Texas doing what I am doing.  It is not something that I planned.  When I was in the Army I had a five year and ten year plan outlining the things I needed to do to have a successful career.  But God only reveals my next step in His plan for my life.  How He intends to use me for His glory.  If I will only obey His call.  In every case where God has called us to a place, what I thought we would do was never what we ended up doing.  And there is always a temptation to do things my own way.  To decide for myself what it is that I would like to do or prefer to do.  Maybe I don’t care for the people I serve with. Or perhaps I don’t like what the Lord has me doing. We all must be careful that we keep our eyes fixed on the Lord and not start trusting our feelings or our preferences.

So what has God been saying to you? And what have you been saying back to God? The only right answer is “Yes Lord, Yes to Your will and to Your way. Yes Lord, Yes, I will trust you and obey.  When your Spirit speaks to me, with my whole heart I’ll agree and I will answer Yes, Lord, Yes!” (Lynn Keesecker, Yes Lord Yes, 1983)

For we walk by faith, not by sight.” – 2 Corinthians 5:7

By Faith Alone By His Grace Alone And For His Glory Alone

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

And The Church Says “Maranatha”

But of that day and hour [when Jesus returns] no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” – Matthew 24:36-39

People have made predictions about Jesus imminent return for years.  Books have been written about it.  I have read many of them.  But it is all guess-work. The truth is – nobody knows – only the Father. It is His choice and He has not revealed it even to the angels. The term “eschatology” (eska-tology) is a part of theology concerned with the final events of history, or the ultimate destiny of humanity. This concept is commonly referred to as the "end of the world" or "end times". The book of Revelation is about eschatology. Someone asked me if I read Revelation. Of course I have – a number of times – but I told them that I don’t focus on it – I was having enough of a challenge applying the other 65 Books of the Bible and be faithful in right living. Obviously the Book of Revelation, like the other 65 Books, was given for our benefit.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

That is not my point.  My point is that as the days grow darker – and they are darker – that we should not be looking to the East with the hope that Jesus will suddenly appear – and He will one day – and get us out of this mess.  I suspect that darkest days are still ahead.  This is merely the worst that we have seen. I was talking to a friend – someone who has served with us in Mississippi and Haiti about this very issue yesterday.  We were talking about the fact that what is happening in our country – the great falling away and the embracing of things clearly contrary to God and His Word – have spiritual roots.  It is the only explanation of how people can believe and embrace those things – how people who believe them can have such power and influence over the people who do not. 

And the Church says “Maranatha”. Maranatha is a transliteration of Aramaic words that means “the Lord is coming” or “come, O Lord.” Ok, so I find that I should explain my explanation. A transliteration is to write or print (a letter or word) using the closest corresponding letters of a different alphabet or script. Moving on ….. There are a lot of aspects of eschatology that I am not going to address – let me just leap to the BIG fact – Jesus IS coming back. If it is while my generation still walks the earth – Hallelujah! But it may well not be. God, the Father, makes that decision in the context of His grace and mercy. 

So what are we supposed to do in the meantime? Well – we are to be salt and light – to endure with faith in our hope in Christ. We are not to yield to the pressure of our culture and the prince of the power of the air. Even if we find ourselves standing alone.  We are the Ecclesia – the Church – the called out ones. We are to be a light on a hill. Like the sons of Issachar – two of the mighty men of David, who understood the times, we are to live and walk by the Spirit and be found faithful. There is so much pressure to conform and accept what is wrong as what is right.  The Word of God does not change. Truth does not change. Now is not the time to neglect your faith.  Every day we must put on the full armor of God if we are to stand and shine in the midst of this darkness.

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.” – Ephesians 6:10-18


Monday, October 14, 2019

Normal Is Just A Setting On A Dryer

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

A Christian author, Patsy Clairmont, wrote a book some years ago with that title.  Another author who wrote about the idea of “Normal” was Watchman Nee, “The Normal Christian Life”. You don’t hear much about him anymore or his books.  Watchman Nee established churches throughout China and held many conferences to train Bible students and church workers. Following the Communist Revolution, Nee was persecuted and imprisoned for his faith and spent the last twenty years of his life in prison. Does that sound “normal” to you?

When you think about Christians and what they should look like and how they should behave – what a “normal Christian” looks like, what do you see in your mind’s eye?  Is it someone who looks like you? They like the same worship style, the same clothes, well … the same.  When you are in church – what do you think when someone is not dressed the same as you? I am not talking about indecent clothes, but maybe not what you would consider appropriate for church.  The pastor of the church we are attending showed up in a t-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops to preach, to make that point in his sermon yesterday.  Were people offended by his choice of clothes? Would you be?

I suppose living and serving in Haiti is what helped me gain some perspective on this question. I have seen people come to worship under tarps and lean-to’s.  They sit on logs or stand for the service.  They wear the clothes they have. They come before the Throne of Grace with humble and contrite hearts. It is one thing to dress a certain way  in defiance toward other people (like parents or for the shock value)  – that in itself is sin – there is nothing humble or contrite about that. But clothes are not the defining factor of someone’s spiritual condition or their acceptability to God.

People used to call the clothes they wore to church their “Sunday-best” or “Sunday-go-to-meetin’” clothes.  They wanted to present their best to God – which was supposed to be a reflection of presenting their lives and hearts to Him – but that part was eventually lost and it became an issue of the “outside of the cup” and what we look like to other people – and God? Not so much. That is our inclination – wanting to impress others and wanting to judge people who are not like us. The odd thing is that those same people may very well be judging us because we are not like them.  Crazy isn’t it?

I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.” – Psalm 63:4

And it is not just about clothing.  Have you ever been in a church where they did not lift their hands up? I think for fear they might be judged as charismatic or Pentecostal.  The only one allowed to lift a hand might be the pastor when he prays – but maybe not even then.  I remember being in a service and a guest was saying “Speak – speak so” during the pastor’s sermon. He was agreeing with the truth being spoken.  Apparently the guest did not know that you are not supposed to speak during the sermon (but today it is OK if you surf the web or answer texts on your cell phone!) Well maybe an Amen now and again is suitable, just no shouting or pew jumping!

For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners’.” – Luke 7:33-34

Something the pastor pointed out, the Pharisees and religious leaders rejected John the Baptist for not doing one thing and rejected Jesus for doing the things that John did not do.  In order to be acceptable, John and Jesus  had to be like the Pharisees.  If you do not abide by the traditions established by men – then you must be wrong. Listen – people don’t like it when you don’t embrace their definition of “right”. I did not say God’s definition – but man’s slightly or greatly modified version.  Don’t be so quick to judge. 

Man’s traditions and rules of behavior are like a heavy burden placed on your shoulders that you must bear in your own strength. Rather than using traditions as a measure of what is right – use your spiritual discernment by the Spirit in you and the light of the Word of God and then demonstrate the same grace and mercy that God showed to you toward others. God’s laws are fulfilled in Jesus and the Spirit gives us the ability to live our new life. 

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

Think about it!

Friday, October 11, 2019

The Problem With Jumping To Conclusions About Others

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

Our initial impression of others is most often determined by what we see.  We then put them into a “pigeon hole”, label them, and draw conclusions about their character and heart and we don’t even know them.  The Pharisees looked good – commanded the respect of the people – but Jesus, who saw their hearts – their true nature – told them that they needed a clean heart and then the outside would be clean as well. 

I met a man yesterday – his name is Deacon. (What a great name! – Servant of others.) Had I met him on the street, I may very well have passed him by. He was small in stature and was missing most of his teeth.  A vehicle mechanic by trade.  But when he spoke – the Spirit of God revealed Himself.  Deacon and a tender spirit and there was a warmth in his eyes that drew you close.  As we talked – my spirit resonated with his. He is a man of the Word and his conversation is seasoned with scripture. Not in a “Thus sayeth the Lord” in your face way – like someone putting too much salt in their cooking – but in a natural – flowing way that revealed his love for God. Like the Maranatha song, “A Man of the Spirit – A Man of the Word.”

Jesus make a man of me, with Your integrity Man of the Spirit, Man of the Word
A servant of the LORD, an offering outpoured. Man of the Spirit, Man of the Word
A man of mercy, fire and light. A man who loves the truth
Who runs to win the crown of life. And lives to honor You.

That describes Deacon. So often I meet people who want to first present their natural – the outside of the cup – occupation – ethnicity – socio-economic status – nationality and then they will get to the spiritual.  They don’t realize that they have revealed their hearts – the inside of the cup – in the process.

When I would preach in a Haitian church the first time -  I would always begin by saying “Mwen pa blan – mwen se fre nou.” (I am not white – I am your Brother) I would then explain the Biblical truth of our Spiritual relationship referencing scripture.

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. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17-20

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

Even in the face of that Biblical truth, I suspected that many of those in the congregation struggled with getting past the fact that I was not like them with respect to the outside of the cup  – my ethnicity – socio-economic status or nationality. Not so with Deacon.  We had “church” in a church building ravaged by Tropical Strom Imelda.  I was blessed in our meeting – encouraged in my faith – and connected to a Brother in Christ – I am a better man for it. I wonder how many other opportunities I have missed. And so I pray for that I might not miss any more -  and I encourage you to do the same. And so …. As Paul encouraged for the Ephesians, I encourage you with this.

“…. I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, [I] do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may 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” – Ephesians 1:15-19

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Do The Words I Say Really Matter?

A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” – Luke 6:45

The words that a person uses reveals their heart.  I listen to people very carefully for that reason.  God knows our hearts, but we are limited and can only gain insight into the heart of man in a couple of ways – by what the person says – over time – and by the gift of spiritual discernment that the Spirit grants to some but not all. 

Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.” – James 3:10-12

Something that I have noticed in television programming – even in the news – is the use of profanity. It started out with a one or two little words – words that you can find in the Bible – but words that were perverted in their meaning and used as profanity.  And when there was no outcry – from the television censors – not even sure those still exist – they didn’t keep it from airing or bleep it out – the media moved on to the next level of profanity. Until today, anything goes.  Martie and I change the channel – stop watching. When you see something or hear something that is contrary to our new life in Christ and do nothing in response, you send a message that what you saw or heard is “OK”. In the Army we said that when you ignore a violation of a standard, you establish a new standard.

Before I was born again, profanity was a normal part of my conversation. It flowed out of me like water from a spring, the water was bitter, but I thought it was what water was supposed to taste like.  But then I met Jesus and He changed all of that.  The water had to be treated at its source – my heart – for it to be sweet and not bitter.  All of the profane words I used to say are still stored in my brain.  I still hear them every day.  But I don’t use them.  Before they flowed from my mouth as naturally as the breath flowing from my lungs, today they are absent from my conversations.  They don’t even come to mind.

Something I have noticed when I have been around other Christian men. I will be talking to someone and they will form a profane word with their mouth, catch themselves and use another word instead. I suppose in deference to me and who they think I am. The thing is, they have revealed their heart even without saying the word.  You don’t have to say it for it to be sin – you only have to think it and then embrace it – decide to say it – even if you catch yourself and use another word. Out of the abundance of the heart.

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

Do you see Jesus’ point? When we sin – sin happens in our hearts and then the sin is sometimes revealed by what we do or say.  In God’s economy, you don’t have to do it to be guilty of it.  The reason I am writing about this is because I know many Christians struggle with profanity – and if they don’t see it as a problem – then that is a problem. I hasten to add that I am not standing in judgement over any of you that are in this struggle.  We all have sinned and, sadly, we all continue in our struggle with sin.  One of your struggles might be profanity – while my struggle is with something else.

I want to encourage you in this ….

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

Don’t let endearment to our culture dim your light – Let it shine before all men to the Glory of God.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Does My Sin Really Matter?

{Note: I have been told that my devotions are too long – that people want to read something short so they can move on to something else.  Making no apologies, I write what I feel the Spirit is prompting me to write – trusting that the ones who need a Word from God will hear the Spirit speak to them. Charley}

The short answer to the question is “Yes”!

For I [Jesus] tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 5:20

The Pharisees and teachers of the law were considered the religious elite.  People that were living right and right with God.  Jesus said they were but white-washed tombs filled with dead men’s bones. (Matt 23:27) They looked good on the outside.  They held a position among the common people that commanded respect from the common people. But the Pharisees and teachers positions and their practices were not enough to save them. What the people thought was the ultimate in religion fell short of the kingdom of God.

There is none righteous, no, not one.” – Romans 3:10

There is no amount of effort that can make us right enough for heaven.  Are you thinking that you know that already?  Then why do we insist on trying to be good enough?  Very often settling to be like the Pharisees – if we can’t stop sinning then at least we can look good to other people! It is really crazy thinking. Thinking that other people don’t know about our struggle.  All of us struggle.  All of us are tempted. We are made to be righteous not through personal effort – but by faith in Jesus.

For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.” – Romans 5:17

The righteousness necessary to “enter the kingdom of heaven” is found in and through Jesus. So what does that mean for our day to day living. 

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:8-10

There is that word “gift” again.  Righteous is something that is given by God through Jesus – because we can never be good enough.  We cannot overcome sin or the temptation to sin on our own.  Living a righteous life is a spiritual notion, not something derived from an intense desire to do the right thing.  When I consider my own life.  When I look around and see other Christians and how they live. I am reminded of my need for Jesus.  I am right before the Father because of my faith in the Son by the grace and mercy of the Father.  We are transformed into the image of the Son by the power of the Spirit and the renewing of our minds. (Romans 12:2)

Listen – there are some who would tell you that your sins do not really matter – that living like the world – those who are lost – well it’s OK. That is a lie.  What is true is that God knows we have feet of clay.  He has given us the Spirit as a promise, a teacher and a help to live our new life. As the world gets darker – day by day – the pressure to put our light under a basket – to take it off of the lampstand is greater and greater. Our light – whose source is from the Spirit and faith in Jesus – the Light of the world – hurts the eyes of the lost and they want it to go away.

You don’t have to be sinless to be useful in the kingdom. But at the same time – you should not be content - satisfied with your sin.

Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?” – Romans 6:1-3

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” – Galatians 2:20

Pray about this and let the light of Jesus shine through you.

Monday, October 7, 2019

What Did God Really Say?

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” – Ephesians 2:1-4

Do you remember what your life was like before you were born again? I do. My life was full of insecurities and self-centeredness. I was living for today. Trying to survive. Interested in seeing that I took care of myself, because no matter what anyone said to the contrary, I believed that I was on my own.  Even my relationships were all about what I could get out of them. I was living a life just like Paul described. A life just like everyone else – at least everyone else that I associated with was living. 

But then I met Jesus and my life was changed.  Not all at once, but bit by bit. The thing is, that the change in my life has not been a steady climb, but erratic, with pauses along the way.  Those pauses were a result of the struggle that persists inside of me, to this day – the struggle between my flesh and the Spirit of God.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” – Romans 12:1-2

The reason that the Bible says what it says is because God understands our nature – our tendency to go our own way – the way of the world. The temptation is for us to pause in our transformation and embrace the pattern of this world.  It can be a comfortable place – living like the unsaved world – preferring what the world has to offer – having our lustful selves fed and satisfied with those things that we were saved from. As comfortable and familiar as slipping on a old pair of shoes.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”” – Genesis 3:1

That was the “ruler of the kingdom of the air” speaking to Eve and he asks us the same question.  Wanting to convince us that God is OK with the way you live and with your self-promoting priorities. They are not self-indulgent – they are actually blessings.  You don’t have to be poor to be holy. It is not a sin to look out for number one – to make certain my future is secure. It is really Ok to build bigger barns.

Did God really say …..

“‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’” – Matthew 25:41-45

Yes He did! That describes the way of the natural world.

I included the following verses in my post on the 4th then the pastor preached on them Sunday.  I always see that as the Spirit emphasizing the point.  This is what the Spirit is saying counter to what the god of this world would have us believe.

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:13-17

The darker the night – the brighter our light!

Friday, October 4, 2019

Our Trouble With Rejecting Both The Sin And The Sinner

As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him. Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi’s house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him. And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners? When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”” – Mark 2:14-17

I am certain that you are familiar with this story.  The day that Matthew met Jesus. The response of the religiously correct – the scribes and Pharisees to Jesus association with tax collectors and other sinners. And Jesus response them. “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” This world is getting darker – sin is becoming more blatant. People no longer hide their sin but wear it proudly.  As the Church, our charge is to be a light in a dark world.  Just like Jesus. To see sinners as needing Jesus, not condoning the sin, but recognizing that Jesus came to call sinners to repentance.

Salvation and  the realization that I needed to repent of my sin was spiritual not natural.  I didn’t think my way into eternal life.  The preacher who preached the sermon did not save me. I was saved by grace through faith – not the preacher’s words.  Did God use Dr. Dunn in my salvation – yes.  Just as He used my parents and others to plant seeds and water.  But – when the time was right – I came under conviction by the Spirit of God and received salvation by faith in the Son of God. Jesus was not condoning Matthew’s sin and the sins of those who came to eat with them.  He acknowledged their sins and called them to repentance.  It is difficult for us to not reject the sinner – not to condemn them for their sin – not to consider them unsavable – not to act as if we were God – not act as though we are somehow better and more deserving of salvation than they are.

Also He [Jesus] spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:  “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” – Luke 18:9-14

If you have a problem with seeing sinners as in need of a savior and can’t get past the sin, you don’t understand your calling as an ambassador of Christ.  When people wore the WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) wrist bands some years ago, it was often an attempt to remind them to curb their own behavior – to manage their sin.  Listen.  The closer Jesus got to the Cross, the fewer people were willing to follow Him. Many could follow in the power of their flesh – they agreed with the good things He spoke about – the healings – which were allegories – reflections of the spiritual healing that could be found in Jesus. But as He drew closer to the Cross – the natural agreement was not enough – their natural minds could not accommodate the spiritual truth – what it meant to follow Jesus.

Then He [Jesus] said to them all, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.’” – Luke 9:23

So, as Christians, are we supposed to call evil – good? No! We are supposed to bring the Good News to a world that is in tail spin.  We are to love the sinner and hate the sin. That is not a verse in the Bible, by the way. But, it is a principle in the Bible, clearly. Actually that phrase was written in a letter from Saint Augustine to some nuns in A.D. 423. 

We should follow his advice, but more, Jesus admonition to be faithful to our primary mission.

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:13-17

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Struggling With A Divided Heart

Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” …. Jesus said, “‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’  ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions..” – Matthew 19:16, 18-22

The young man was certain that what he was doing good things … things pleasing to God. He was doing enough to be welcomed by God into heaven. But Jesus pointed out that the greatest commandment is to love God with everything.  The man didn’t – even though he did good things, he loved, trusted, desired  money and possessions more than God.  He was not willing to give them up – even for eternal life.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” – Ephesians 2:8-9

Before we shake our heads in dismay, I want to caution you that all of us struggle with divided hearts from time to time. When we allow other devotions to captivate us, we are drawn away from the One who deserves all of our devotion.  Perhaps it is something that your culture or your common sense – says is admirable – responsible – praise worthy. But God says, “Let it go and obey my call, my leading.”  Perhaps obeying God will take you to a place where you have less than you think you need to be happy – content – satisfied. Your desire for those things might cause you to say “no” to God and go away sad.  It is not because we don’t know what is the right to do, it is that we choose what is not right to do, even if what we choose is not bad it itself. Choosing anything that is contrary to the will of God is sin.

I think we have all been there. When, like the young man, we are faced with the dilemma or is it a tri-lemma – trust God or trust ourselves or the things of this world – we are faced with a crisis of belief.  The choice we make will expose where our trust is.

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

It is a very real struggle.  We know in our hearts what we should do. Most, if not all, of us have faced the choice and have chosen poorly. It is not that our choosing somehow limits God. No, but it does mean that we missed the best that God has for us.  Are you faced with a choice – a decision – something that might threaten your comfort – financial stability or future? Are you willing to trust God and obey Him?  Dr. Henry Blackaby, in Experiencing God, said that our problem is not in knowing if God has spoken to us.  The problem is in obeying what He “has” said.

Are you struggling with a decision.  Perhaps you know what God has said – but right at this moment you lack the faith to obey.  Been there – done that. This faith life is a day by day – moment by moment existence.  Seek godly counsel. Talk to someone you trust – someone who is a Paul, a mentor, to you. Of course pray and read the Word of God. As you read, listen for the Spirit’s voice. If you are married – speak to your spouse. Assuming they are a Christian as well, that you are evenly yoked – I believe that the Spirit of God will speak to both the husband and the wife about matters of the Spirit.

How can two walk together unless they be agreed.” – Amos 3:3

God asks you to go places and do things that will stretch your faith. I am reminded of a quote from the Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.

“Aslan is a lion - the Lion, the great Lion." "Ooh" said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion"..."Safe?" said Mr. Beaver ..."Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.”  ― C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

What are you waiting for?