Thursday, December 31, 2020

You Need Feet Of A Mountain Goat

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

<Journal Entry 25 July 2011> About to land in Port au Prince for the 4th time this year. I thought that all had fallen into place, but things seem to be falling apart instead. Major problems with Haitian coordinator – meeting the realities of a culture that does not value the same things we do – or maybe they do and they are just more transparent – maybe they are just like us. Romans 3:23. <later that day> Arrived in Jacmel – met Joelle – a person of peace and one of the directors of the His Hands and Feet orphanage.  Taking Martie through the Port au Prince airport was an experience they will not soon forget. [inside the airport is much like any airport – but when you step outside you step into chaos] <End of Entry>

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” – James 1:2-3

We were confident that Haiti was the place that the Lord had led us to. So why were we facing challenges as soon as we arrived? If God is with us. If He is sovereign, why does He not make the path He sets our feet on easy?  Instead of walking in bare feet on a sandy beach, we find that we need the feet of a mountain goat to climb what is steep and rocky. I think that many Christians have the vision of smooth sailing in life only to discover that we must face great difficulty in this new life.  We are not spared disappointment, loss, failure, broken hearts.  As James wrote – it is all a test like steel in a forge – building faith through the fire. Galatians spells out what we can expect from the world.

Now the works of the flesh are revealed, which are these: adultery, sexual immorality, impurity, indecency or obscenity; vulgar sexual character or behavior, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strife, jealousy, rage, selfishness, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, carousing, and the like.” – Galatians 5:19-21

That is the world we were saved from and the world in which we are called to be a witness. And what is our response to be?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self-control; against such there is no law. Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” – Galatians 5:22-25

Our testing will result in the fruit of the Spirit being revealed in us. A stark contrast to the world’s response to trouble. Our old nature has been crucified with its passions and lust – but it remains waiting for the time when we will yield to it – take preference to it – seek it out. The point of this new life is not the promise of an easy, care-free life on earth – but the strength to endure whatever life might come our way as we navigate the steep and treacherous path our feet are on.  Trusting in God and not ourselves for wisdom and strength. The only way we can be sure-footed in this life.

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

Shine Bright my friend and glorify God with your life.

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

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Amazing Grace How Sweet The Sound

 “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. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.’” – 2 Corinthians 5:17-21

 <Journal Entry 16 January 2011> While I was at the [new church we were building] in Callitore – the local people were meeting under a make-shift tent [tarps draped ever bushes and supported with poles cut from trees] The people were singing Amazing Grace in Creole.  I thought what a paradox – these people whose heritage is bound to slavery were singing a song written by a man who brought slaves from Africa – perhaps to this very island – before he repented and accepted Christ as Savior. I also heard a cook singing Feliz Navidad by Jose Feliciano.  Sitting here [in Port au Prince (PAP)] at the airport on our way home. I am watching so many people who have come to help – Port au Prince is a mess! I don’t know how it can be restored- but I do see how people outside of PAP can be – one village at a time. <End of Entry>

Hearing the Haitian Christians sing Amazing Grace was something that clarified what I already knew. God is in the business of redeeming that which was lost through His Son. John Newton was a slave ship captain who came to faith. In his words, “How industrious is Satan served. I was formerly one of his active under-temptors and had my influence been equal to my wishes I would have carried all the human race with me. A common drunkard or profligate is a petty sinner to what I was.” John Newton, 1778

It was a reminder of the miracle of salvation and how it changes those who are born again.  When I preached in a Haitian church, on the first occasion, I would share the story of John Newton’s conversion. The people had never heard of it and I wanted them to marvel at the power, grace and mercy of God. People who have done harm to others in one way or another have been redeemed and restored to God’s family. One who was an enemy is now a Brother or Sister. God’s Amazing Grace.

Shine Bright my friend and glorify God with your life.

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

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Godly Compassion Is An Action Not An Attitude

So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading. And Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, ‘This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn nor weep.’ For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, ‘Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’” – Nehemiah 8:8-10

<Journal Entry 14 January 2011> As I spend time here [in Leogane, Haiti] I am reminded that God is – the Source of life, hope, joy, my salvation. Do I understand what that means? Perhaps not – not if I allow pettiness, pride and personal ambition to gain a foothold in my life.  It is possible to have the appearance of spirituality all the while my flesh is on the throne – Lord I want to serve You and You only! I see the unique ministry of New Missions. With the exception of the churches it builds and supports, what is done could be accomplished by the government were it solvent. It is easy to say “Let the government” But we must listen to the Lord and not men. God’s wisdom is foolishness to men. Lord – speak and I will listen!

Taking pictures is a way to capture what I see – but I must be careful that my motivation can be merely tourist curiosity and not compassion – no longer about our hearts going out to the people – but seeing them as something to be marveled at and then perhaps forgotten. Lord that we would not forget! Each person on this trip has their own motivation and understanding. Lord give us eyes to see – understanding and a heart to obey your revelation.  By himself – nothing will last – with the Lord, there is not limit. <End of Journal Entry>

As I watch the goings on in this country and around the world, it can be much like watching a movie. Like a voyeur – I can remain disconnected while I watch what other people do or suffer.  And then, not being personally involved, I move on to the next thing – forgetting what I just saw. The difference is that a movie is a fabrication – an illusion – meant to entertain. What is happening in this world is real – people struggling – suffering – and yet like a movie we may feel a pang of emotion but it does not motivate us to act – or even to care.

Then He [Jesus] will also say to those on the left hand [the Goats], ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’” – Matthew 25:41-45

I am not suggesting that as a Christian you will be cursed into everlasting fire – like the Goats – we are saved by grace through faith and not of works (Ephesians 2) – but faith without works is dead (James 2). If I lack compassion and the actions birthed from that compassion (Galatians 6) for those less fortunate then there is not practical difference between me and someone who is bound for hell.  In Nehemiah 8, the people were told to share with those less fortunate – to care about someone other than themselves. They were brought to tears over the hearing of God’s Word. It pierced their hearts. Lord that Your Word would have the same effect on us!

Shine Bright my friend and glorify God with your life.

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

Monday, December 28, 2020

Surrendering Your Will To God

Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.” – Luke 1:38

And another Christmas has passed us by.  Our focus at Christmas is on the manger – and the arrival of Jesus – the Christ.  But I want back up about 9 months before that event. Taking a moment to consider Mary’s faith and commitment to surrendering to the will of God. Offering herself as a living sacrifice, if you will.   Her decision was life changing for her – when she yielded her will to God’s plan she took a risk of being rejected by those who did not understand why she did what she did. But recall that God intervened in Joseph’s life as well requiring him to exercise faith as well.

And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.’ Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him.” – Luke 22:41-43

Jesus was facing the Cross, the very reason that He was conceived in Mary’s womb. He had to choose the Father’s will to do what He was to do. Clearly a greater act of faith than Mary’s but still an act of faith in the same God. In the same way, we are called to live by faith.  That means that it should be the will of God that guides us in what we do, how we live.  Adam and Eve challenged the will of God – questioning the wisdom of God. Questioning if God “really” said it or meant it. Matching our reasoning with the revealed will of God. Rather than allowing the Word of God to shape our understanding of the culture and world we live in – we allow the culture and world to shape our understanding of God. I know that I quote these verses often, but they bear repeating.

I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service [of worship]. And 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 12:1-2

So many Christians have compromised their faith and willingness to yield to God because they preferred or feared their culture and its values more. Like I said, it is not a new problem – it started in the Garden. We are faced everyday with faith challenges.  We must be careful to not use the idea of what seems reasonable as a measure for it being right before God – being conformed by the wisdom of this world. It is that very world that the Father sent the Son to save us from. I can tell you but it is the Spirit that must convict you of truth. My hope is that my words will prompt you to think and then to seek the Truth from the Spirit of Truth.

Shine Bright my friend and glorify God with your life.

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

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Obedience To God Will Bring Adversity

When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God.” – Nehemiah 6:16

 <Entry>  13 Jan 2011.  Another day working in the [new] church. It was the 1 year anniversary if the earthquake in Haiti. [Leogane was at the epicenter] The temporary church was using tarps for a roof. It was full of people praising God – for 4 hours or more. They used a generator to run a sound system. As we built – they worshipped – It was a good picture of the provision of God. He sent His Spirit to connect the hearts of the people – in worship and work. It is good for me to be here – it is sharpening my focus  on what it is that God wants me to do.

The men on the team are not well organized for the work. Not many can wield hammers well – so the work is slow – but as I told John the foreman – there is more to it than construction – the experience is changing lives – the work will get done – but more importantly God will be glorified in it.  Nehemiah put Hananiah in charge because “because he was a man of integrity and feared God more than most people do” (Nehemiah 7:2) Lord that I would be counted among the likes of Hananiah – known for my integrity and more love and dedication to You, Lord. After Nehemiah established security, he turned his focus to rebuilding homes – first example of disaster relief work.

There was order and standards. Nehemiah struggled with opposition, opposing agendas, jealousy – but he kept his focus on his calling – I need to do the same – I am not to turn my head to the left or right by keep my eyes fixed on the prize – the goal of my upward calling. (Philippians 3:14)

My Utmost for His Highest – January 11 – “I can disobey God and it might bring relief – but it will grieve God – but if I obey – He will care for those affected by my obedience – so obey and leave the consequences to Him.” < End of Entry>

As I read the words I wrote nearly 10 years ago, I can see how God used that trip to shape my thinking – my understanding – my vision.  I have often said that “ministry would be easy if only people were not involved!” God did not say that we would not face adversity and that what He calls us to do would not be impossible for men. Today we live in difficult – spiritually perilous times – every day there are challenges to our very faith and beliefs.  We must keep our eyes fixed on Him. We must resist taking the easy path because it seems less stressful and does not require much faith, if any. That should be a clue about the rightness of our choices!

Shine Bright my friend and glorify God with your life.

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

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Called To Declare The Word Of Reconciliation

Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” – 2 Corinthians 5:16-19

 <Entry>  12 Jan 2011.  As I listen to everyone [the volunteer team] I wonder – Lord – Do I have a role in this [work]? For most it is a break from their routine – for me? – It is a life commitment. Bill [Pastor Bill Mitchell] said that I had made a decision to go from being successful – to being significant in making a difference that is bigger than me – or my family, I see these people [Haitians] living lives that all previous generations have lived before them. They are no different – they are content – living their simple lives. What is their need? Physical – Spiritual – they were born here. Why? Did God know them before they were formed? Yes! It is not about living conditions or cuisine – it is about relationship – not about the house or the car we own. As we ride through the villages – the volunteers are taking pictures – of the buildings – of the people – like we are on a safari – taking pictures of the surroundings and the wildlife. I know that it is new to them – but it feels invasive and impersonal. John chapter 1, I remember that mom loved that chapter. We are all called to be like John the Baptist – declaring Jesus to the world. Lord help me today – give me eyes to see and ears to listen. No to longer live for myself but for Him who died for me. < End of Entry>

That first trip to Haiti awakened me to spiritual truths that were lying in the shadows of my mind. Like a fog clearing as the sun rises to reveal what had been there all along. God has called us to be engaged in this world – demonstrating the love of God to a lost world.  It is far too easy to “go on safari” and stay in the confines of a safe vehicle.  To see the struggle of others without compassion. Like watching the world through our television set. 

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

Dr. John Maxwell said, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” The truth of our words is proven by what we do. Do people see Jesus in you?

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without [a]your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!  But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? – James 2:14-20

I was told that Martin Luther struggled with the Book of James because of his stand that we are justified – saved by faith and not works – which the Bible plainly teaches. But good works are a natural result of our faith or should be and if not – our faith does not yield the fruit that God intended – it is essentially dead to the world.  Something to consider over this Christmas season, celebrating the time when God gave His Son to a world that did not deserve it. He did it as an act of love- mercy and grace.

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

Monday, December 21, 2020

Going And Doing Without Knowing

The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, and said to him, ‘Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you.’ Then he came out of the land of the Chaldeans and dwelt in Haran. And from there, when his father was dead, He moved him to this land in which you now dwell.” – Acts 7:3-4

 <Entry>  11 Jan 2011.  As I talk with people on the (volunteer) team and recount the story of how we came to be where we are in our walk – I wonder – Lord where are we going? But then I think – does it really matter?  Like Abraham – is the Lord saying – I’ll show you when you get there – I find myself offering advice when it is not asked for – who am I to tell these people anything? Lord that I would keep silent – let the Lord speak to them. I do feel like the odd man out – I am here to observe – that is my purpose – the younger and skilled should be allowed to do what they came here to do. Watching my friend struggling physically – I see myself – we are not young men but we have young hearts – we want to serve – to disciple – there are things we can no longer do – but there are those we can – Lord strengthen us for the journey you have set our feet on. < End of Entry>

I had no idea what the journey God had laid out for Martie and me would be like – but He used nearly every experience, ability and gifting to accomplish it. And we are still not finished.  And neither are you my friend. Be careful that you don’t become satisfied with your past service and consider it to be enough.

No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a secret place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, that those who come in may see the light.” – Luke 11:33

Abraham was an old man when God sent Him off. As we grow older, the temptation is for us to withdraw – to yield to the younger Christians to do the work.  There are things that we are not physically able to do – but that does not mean we should put our lamp under a basket. People I serve with tell me about my wisdom – which frankly I don’t see – but apparently they do.  Wisdom is knowledge plus experience. Godly wisdom is meant to be shared. In my journal entry, I expressed concern about giving my opinion to the volunteer team when it was not asked for. There are times when the Spirit of God will prompt us to speak – and we should with the motive of building up the ones we are speaking to and glorifying God with our words, attitudes and actions which is good and then …… there are times when we don’t wait for the Spirit’s prompting – and that is never good – even though we might be convinced that we were justified.

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

Friday, December 18, 2020

Following God – Being Called From Something

The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.” – Isaiah 58:11-12

I have used a number of published devotions over the years – Our Daily Bread – My Utmost For His Highest. Devotions that were supplements to my study of the Word of God – not replacements.  On this particular day, the scripture reference in Our Daily Bread was Isaiah 58:2

I was reminded of something that happened 5 years earlier. Something that would serve to clarify God’s call on our lives -  a call to leave the “normal life” in favor of committing to a life of service. I need to give you some context  or back story – after we left Mississippi, we partnered with another ministry for a year in Alabama that ministered to orphans. We were, even then, drawn to Haiti – but did not understand the context – the specific purpose for being connected. Thinking that working with orphans was part of the call I went to Haiti to scout out the land. As it turned out, the year in Alabama cemented the connection to orphans when we met with Andy and Tanya Birchfield with Children’s Hope who were starting an Orphan ministry in Haiti. As it turned out, I needed the construction skills I acquired in Alabama to accomplish the first task with Children’s Hope – build an orphanage using shipping containers.  There is so much more to the story – but I digress – back to the Journal entry ….

 <Entry>  10 Jan 2011.  I can still remember Arla, a volunteer from Indiana, reading from Isaiah while we were in Waveland, Mississippi and my heart resonating with it. – Lord – show me the way that You would have me to go. I spoke to Charlie, the director at New Missions – it seems they do not engage orphans and adoption. They sponsor children to attend school and build churches. 

“For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God.” – Isaiah 58:2

There is a form of godliness – God, You must show yourself – You can turn this nation (Haiti) into something that flourishes and brings glory  to your name, Lord – It is not that we (people from the United States) have better of the problem – we have no understanding – we see with our eyes but do not understand with our hearts – Lord give me understanding! I hear a calf bawling for its mother – in the same way we must seek the Lord knowing that He is the only source of our satisfaction – verse 10 “ you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.” We (Martie and I) are called to be repairers of the broken walls – restorers of the streets. < End of Entry>

Looking back – I can see God’s hand in the journey that we call our life. We are instruments in the symphony being conducted by the Master.  We have our part to play, but it is God that brings it together in harmony and beauty. I am 70 years old – my body reminds me that it is no longer young – but I still have the heart of a much younger man. God’s call is still resounding in me.  The idea of retirement is not Biblical – it is a product of affluence – and a focus on this natural life. As a child of God, I don’t have the option of saying “Enough” (although I can and so be out of the will of the Father) My life is not my own. And if you are a child of God, my friend – if you have a chair in the orchestra – then your life is not yours either.  We belong to God. Think about that. We are about to celebrate the first coming of the Messiah. Faith in Him is the very reason you have the hope of heaven. Who are you living for?

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

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

Thursday, December 17, 2020

God Has A Plan

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

I am painting the shelves in the room we use as a study – not at trivial thing – I had to build face frames and then paint the shelves.  The shelves wrap around three walls. I am trying to get this done before our son and his wife Nichol, arrive on Saturday – but my point is not to impress you with my determination or skills. As I was about to move the furniture from one side of the room to the other, I noticed an old journal of mine. Martie had reminded me that I used to make a habit of Journaling, but I had been writing these BLOGS and they supplanted my journaling. At any rate, I was curious about when I had written in this journal.  The first entry was January 9th 2011.  Re-reading it, I thought it might be good to share some of the things that the Lord has impressed on me then.  So here goes.

I had just arrived at New Missions, a ministry in Leogane, Haiti with a team from Orlando First Baptist Church.  Our friend and Pathfinder Board Member, Pastor Bill Mitchell had told me about the trip and knowing that we felt called to Haiti after being in Mississippi for 5 years, he invited me to tag along. 

<Entry>  9 Jan 2011. Arrived at New Missions in Haiti.  As I looked out of the windows at the airport in Port au Prince and during the bus ride (to Leogane) – I could not help but wonder – Is this the place where we are to minister next? I see people resolved to their life as it is – scrapping a meager existence from the land, from the debris – even from each other – then I heard the Lord say – ‘I an not calling you to fix Haiti – but to show the people Jesus – by what you say, yes, but also by the way you love –

Be careful not to compare yourself to others – what God calls you to do is between you and God – not others - <end of Entry>

Don't let life simply pass you by Christian.  Be on the lookout for what God has in mind for you. He will take you farther than you ever imagined if you will only say "Yes Lord"

See you tomorrow!

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

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Perfection Is Not Humanly Possible

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” – 1 Peter 4:12

Why is this happening to me?  Why are they treating me this way?  Hidden behind those questions is the underlying assumption that “I don’t deserve it!”  Here is the deal … bad things will happen to “good” people … even to someone as good as you are.  Did you deserve what happened to you? Perhaps or perhaps not.  Whichever the case the issue is how we respond to what happened.  For most of us our natural response is to hunker down in our foxhole and fire back with “righteous indignation” and perhaps sorrow if the offender holds a close place in our heart.

You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” – Matthew 5:38-48

Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.  Wow!  How hard is that?  It’s not humanly possible.  We will never be able to respond the way Jesus told us to if we try to do it on our own.  The response to others in 1 Peter and Matthew 5 are not derived from our human will or determination but by faith in Jesus and the power of the Spirit in us.  Stop trying to live the Christian life in obedience to the Word of God through human determination .. it just does not work.  This is the charge the God gave Joshua and that Jesus has given us.

“…be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:7-9

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

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

What To Do When We Don’t Get What We Want

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” – Matthew 7:7-11

Perhaps one of the most abused or misused verses in the Bible is in Matthew chapter 7.  If I want it than God will give it to me.  If He doesn’t, I will be upset with God because I have decided I need what I asked for.  Actually there are a few reasons that I see that might affect God’s answer to our prayers.

First.  We have failed to examine our hearts.  We have some un-confessed sin tucked away in the corner of your heart.  We have decided that the sin doesn’t matter.  That you can stand before a holy God even though we have quenched the Spirit with the sin that we are embracing.  Yes, we are children of God.  Washed in the blood.  But we need to clear the air … approach God with clean hands and a clean hearts.

 “Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.” – Psalm 24:3-5

Second. In God’s wisdom, there is a better answer to the reason why we are praying than the one that we have decided is the best one.  This is a test of submission to the will of the Father.  Are we really committed to seeking His will or is it only when His will agrees with ours?

Third.  As the King James Version says “You ask amiss”.  Perhaps it is  our flesh, our old nature, that we are seeking to satisfy and not the will of God.

You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” –  James 4:2-3

If everything is for God’s glory, why are His answers not good enough when we don’t get what we asked for? If God’s will for us is for our good and His glory, then the test is, can we trust God even when He is silent.  When we don't get what we asked for.  God is not here to serve us.  It is quite the opposite.  Even grocery stores are delivering what they sell to homes.  In the midst of this pandemic we nearly don’t have to leave the house – or at least our cars.  I was in a local grocery store the other day and told the cashier that I saw more store employees shopping for curb side orders than I saw customers shopping. But God does not take delivery orders.  It is so very important that we have the right view toward God.  Unlike the TV show, God does not want to “friend you” on Facebook!  He is not our heavenly, omnipotent buddy.  He is the creator God who sacrificed His Son that we might be adopted and eternally blessed – for His glory and for our good.  He loves us and has already blessed us. We all should keep that in mind when we approach Him in prayer.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.” – Ephesians 1:3-6

There is a song “Even If” by Mercy Me that speaks to what our attitude should be.

I know You're able and I know You can Save through the fire with Your mighty hand

But even if You don't My hope is You alone

They say it only takes a little faith To move a mountain

Well good thing A little faith is all I have, right now

But God, when You choose To leave mountains unmovable

Oh give me the strength to be able to sing It is well with my soul

Is it well?

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

Monday, December 14, 2020

Keeping Your Eye On The Ball

Look to Me, and be saved…” — Isaiah 45:22

“The greatest difficulty spiritually is to concentrate on God, and His blessings are what make it so difficult. Troubles almost always make us look to God, but His blessings tend to divert our attention elsewhere. The basic lesson of the Sermon on the Mount is to narrow all your interests until your mind, heart, and body are focused on Jesus Christ. “Look to Me….”  […] We will find what we are looking for if we will concentrate on Him. […]  Build your hope on Him. No matter how many things seem to be pressing in on you, be determined to push them aside and look to Him. “Look to Me….”” Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest

There are many things – distractions in this life that would draw our attention, trust and devotion away from God.  It requires a deliberate effort on our part to keep our focus.  I was thinking about a batter in a baseball game.  People are yelling at the batter .. opponents and fans trying to distract him so he will miss the ball and be called out.  They want to keep him from accomplishing his purpose which is – of course – to hit the ball and score a run.  I was just remembering when I tried out for little league.  I played sand-lot baseball but that was slow pitch. Little League was fast pitch.  When it was my turn to bat, the pitcher threw the ball and I closed my eyes and swung. You can guess the outcome.  Fast pitch baseball was not my thing, apparently.  I made the team – but then everyone made the team.  The sponsor was Stone’s Mortuary – perhaps that was a sign with respect to the odds of my future in little league.  I can remember our motto was “You stab ‘em and we slab ‘em”. Thinking about it now, I can see how much I did not understand the gravity of mortuaries but I was only 10.  (sorry for the pun – couldn’t help myself)

Life is a lot like playing fast pitch for a Christian.  The world is constantly vying for our attention.  The world shouts “Stop looking to God and trust yourself .. make your own way .. achieve righteousness through your own effort and not by faith and devotion to God.”  It’s natural for us to be distracted by the things of this world.  To trust ourselves.  To make our own way.  But our new life is not natural …. If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation .. old things are passed away .. all things are becoming new … (2 Corinthians 5:17) We are being shaped into the image of Christ.  (Romans 8:29)  And just like the baseball player, we must fix our eyes on the “ball” – even though we might not be confident in ourselves, we must stand in the batter’s box, our confidence that we can hit the ball not because of our ability, but by our faith in Jesus. 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off every encumbrance and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with endurance the race set out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1-2

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

Friday, December 11, 2020

The Question Is Not WWJD It Is WDJD

We do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” —Hebrews 4:15

Number of years ago many Christians would wear wristbands with the letters “WWJD” on them. If you recall, that was an acronym for “What Would Jesus Do?” A visible reminder to themselves and a witness to others of their personal faith in Jesus as the Messiah. Secondly to help them with perspective on how they should respond to life. I think the more important, perhaps subtly different, question is “What Did Jesus Do?” WDJD. No, I don’t plan to market new wrist bands – What I do want to do is to encourage you to consider that although a wrist band might be a visible reminder – our ability to DO what Jesus DID is supernatural, born of the Spirit, faith and will. 

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

Jesus was tempted as we are tempted.  Vulnerability to temptation has the same root source … our old nature – the natural man.  ( I suppose it goes without saying for those who reads these devotions that when I use the word “man” it is a reference to mankind – including both men and women.) Temptation is the considering of an opportunity to do your own thing and disregard God.  For you to decide what is best for you, what is right.  Jesus was tempted in all ways and yet did not sin.  (Hebrews 4:15) When Jesus was tempted in the desert (Matthew 4:1-14) the first temptation (lust of the flesh) was to satisfy His flesh, “turn stones into bread”.  He had not eaten for 40 days!  Seems reasonable, but then most sin seems reasonable.  It was well with his power to do it.  He had turned water into wine. But that was really not the point of the temptation.  It was to choose something other than God.  “Man does not live by bread alone but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”  Often what seems innocent can be deadly to our spiritual relationship with the Father.  The second temptation was to throw himself off of a pinnacle and the angels would catch him. (Pride of life) “You shall not put the Lord, your God to the test”.  You want God to prove you have value to Him.  He already has. The third temptation, (lust of the eyes), “[Satan] showed Him [Jesus] all the kingdoms of the world and their glory;  and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.” Jesus replied “You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.”  To make it clear – Jesus – the God-man – was tempted but God was not tempted. Satan’s aim was to defeat God’s plan for the salvation of mankind by testing Jesus human side. (James 1:13)

The things of this world are merely enticements for you to place your trust elsewhere.  For many, many people, they don’t own possessions, the possessions own them.  I know many Christians who say no to God because they are shackled by the things of this world.  Satan is called the god of this world.  (2 Corinthians 4:4)  He could offer everything Jesus saw to Jesus because it was his dominion.  We say God owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10) as if to justify our lust for possessing “the cattle”.  We, in fact, are God’s possession.  Bought with a price.  We belong to God and should face temptation to act otherwise with the power of the Word of God, just like Jesus did. Jesus was and is submitted to the will of the Father.  His devotion to His Father was greater than the concerns of His flesh. Do not think that doing what Jesus did is impossible for you. Well, I guess it is if you try to be like Jesus on your own. Living our new life successfully requires faith and obedience which requires humility. And that is what the Father expects of His children.

He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?” – Micah 6:8

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

Thursday, December 10, 2020

How Do You Respond To Life With Emotion Or Devotion

“Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, why can I not follow You now?’” — John 13:37

Peter thought that he could do a spiritual thing through the strength of his own will.  You know how that worked for him.  It’s easy to sit in judgement over Peter.  Shaking our knowing heads.  No way Peter! Who do you think you are?  And yet, we are guilty of the same thing.  Trying to be Christians … do the right thing … in the power of our flesh.  Letting our emotions be a poor substitute for the Spirit of God.  Thinking that our own plans are equal with the plans and will of God.  Essentially denying the sovereignty of God .. trying to be our own god.  What! No way you say.  Yes way!  Everything we do .. everything we say .. what we think .. what we want .. should be .. must be … in the context of whose we are by faith in Christ and who God is.  Look … our life after our rebirth is a struggle.  Our old nature wants to rule and guide, but our new nature has another ruler and another guide. 

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

In all fairness to Peter, he had not yet received the Holy Spirit so he lacked the power to be and do in a way that would overcome.  Read this account of Peter being confronted after he received the Spirit of God.

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

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

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

That can be you and me as we face life each day.  You will always be tested to trust in yourself and not God.  To respond to a situation with emotion and not devotion.  If you are wondering where the victory in Jesus is in daily living .. that may be the root of your problem.  You are trying to do what only God can do through you.  Examine your heart.  Draw close to God through the Word and prayer.  Pick up your cross daily and follow Jesus.

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

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Christians Are A Work In Progress

 “In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” — Romans 8:37

 We were living in a travel trailer parked next to a church – on a major highway – on the approach end of an airport.  That highway is under construction and has been for years.  For local residents, it seems like the work has been going on since they can remember, with no end in sight. Not too different from the process of sanctification that happens in a Christian’s life.  That change – that construction – just doesn’t seem to happen fast enough – not in me – other people. We are a work in progress – just like that highway. I am reminded of a song by Rascal Flatts – Life Is A Highway

 Life's like a road that you travel on - When there's one day here and the next day gone - Sometimes you bend and sometimes you stand - Sometimes you turn your back to the wind

There's a world outside every darkened door - Where blues won't haunt you anymore - Where brave are free and lovers soar - Come ride with me to the distant shore ….

 Don’t you wish you had the power to change someone – quickly? It might even be you!  I mean – change their behavior – cause them to do what you want them to do? I have thought that many times for our children and their children.  If I could only get them to see the truth of what I say and the danger and consequences of the choices they are making.  Unfortunately, their understanding only comes after they suffer the consequences of their poor choices. If only I had the power to change them and get them to see so they could avoid the heartache that is sure to come. Of course, as a parent, your heart hurts for them. And sometimes, you may even wonder – “What did I do wrong?” – “I feel like a bad parent because I could not get them to change course.”

 Martie and I had watched a church service – we still are doing that now – holed up in our little missionary cave – and the preacher said “No one has to be taught how to sin, we are all born with that nature.”  It was then that I was reminded that what I wanted to see in my children and theirs was a change in their nature and then a change in their heart and then a change in their life choices. 

 2 Corinthians 5:17 says if we are in Christ – born again – the old nature will decrease and the new nature will increase.  The most important thing you can do for your child is lead them to Jesus – but the choice to yield their hearts to God is theirs, not yours. Oh – and to clarify – our lives are no different than theirs.  My mom felt the very same way about me and the other 6 children in our family.  Our three children have all professed faith in Jesus.  And we all still make poor choices – all of us.  We have a new life that is under construction.

 So, today, I don’t want to change my kids or their kids – I want them to fully yield their hearts to the Lord and let Him do the supernatural work of sanctification.  You may have heard this before – my mom told me that her mom told her “When children are young, they step on your toes, and when they are older, they step on your heart.”  It is the nature of things.  “Nothing new under the sun ..” (King Solomon). 

The take away here – love you kids – you don’t have to like what they do. Pray for your kids. Be an example for your kids of what a Christian is supposed to look like – be like – behave like – love like.  Dr. James Dobson says values are “caught” not “taught”.  When you speak to your children or anyone about something they have done that is harmful to them and they say “Don’t judge me!” What they are really saying is “Your words are convicting and I don’t want to feel bad about what I have done so don’t talk to me about it!” Do you love your children and others enough to confront them in love.  When they make poor choices – you don’t have to pretend they were good choices – you just keep loving the one who made them. (that phrase is what is called a double entendre).

 “ ….. being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in [us] will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ …. ” – Philippians 1:6

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

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Joy In Times Of Trouble - Living On The Supernatural Side

 "In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” — Romans 8:37

In Romans 12 verse 2 Paul wrote that we are transformed.  In 2 Corinthians 5:17 Paul wrote that we are new in Christ, the old has passed away.  Our old nature no longer has claim to our lives.  The example of the metamorphosis of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly best describes what transformation in a Christian means.  Once the process has started, there is no way to reverse it.  A butterfly cannot become a caterpillar again.  The transformation requires patience and struggle.  The cocoon or chrysalis is a like the life that we live, we are enclosed in it, but inside there is something going on that cannot be explained in natural terms.  It is a mystery.  An irreversible process.  Once God has you in His hand, there is no one, not even you, that can change that. 

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” – John 10:28-29

Some interpret “no one” to exclude the one transformed – saved by faith. I think Jesus meant “no one” which includes everyone.

Our temptation is to lose hope that life can be better.  Circumstances may not change but our lives in Christ are greater than the circumstances we find ourselves in.  Loss, hurt, financial problems, broken relationships – Pandemics – political upheaval  .. all of those things come with a fallen world.  We are in that world, but as born again children of God, we are no longer limited by this world.  We have a supernatural side.  We have the capacity to live above our circumstances … not struggle under them.  It all depends upon where you look for your source of strength. 

If God is for us, then who can be against us?” – Romans 8:31

We are being transformed.  The creator God is on our side.  You can have joy in the midst of the struggle. 

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38-39

Can I get a Hallelujah from somebody?!

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

Monday, December 7, 2020

Hey Christian - Got A Light?

“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

God calls, God prepares and God sends.  That pattern is clear in the Bible.  But it is not something just for the famous Bible characters. God has called us all to some purpose in the kingdom.  We all have a place and purpose.  He calls us to it, He prepares us for it, and then He sends us to fulfill it.  It may not be leading thousands of people from the bondage of sin, but perhaps one or two by sharing the Gospel with a friend.  It may not be traveling a great distance to preach to those who have never heard about Jesus, but perhaps gently preaching to your children through the Christ-like example that you are living each day.  Dr. James Dobson (Focus on the Family) said “Values are caught they are not taught.”  It is not the Bible story that you read at night as much as it is how you conduct yourself during the day.  When I was with Promise Keepers we had a saying .. “you can’t lead where you won’t go.  You can’t teach what you don’t know. And you can only recreate what you are.” God must prepare you for His purpose for you.  The starting point of preparation, of course, is salvation.  But the journey is sanctification and walking by faith.  He may very well take you through the fiery furnace … or through a raging storm at sea … but it will always be for a spiritual purpose.  A.W. Tozer said “God does not use a man (person) greatly, until they have been hurt deeply.”  Part of our preparation will undoubtedly be personal trials.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.” – James 1:2-8

Often times we think of calling only in terms of missionaries – pastors – teachers – evangelists.  And some are called to fulfill those roles in the Church – the Body of Christ.  But we all have purpose in the Body.  An Elgin axiom – “The darker the night – the brighter the light.” A little light can be seen from a long distance.  I can remember flying in the desert on a moonless night.  You could barely tell the difference from the sky and the ground.  Then someone on the ground would break a “chem-stick” and I could see that tiny light from a great distance.  Your light may only be bright enough to fill a room, while others can illuminate a stadium … it doesn’t matter … the source of the light is all the same .. and God will give you sufficient light to accomplish the purpose He has for you.  Your job – let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!

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

Thursday, December 3, 2020

We Don't Go To Church - We Are The Church

“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

“We must continually focus and firmly place our faith in Jesus Christ— not a “prayer meeting” Jesus Christ, or a “book” Jesus Christ, but the New Testament Jesus Christ, who is God Incarnate, and who ought to strike us dead at His feet. Our faith must be in the One from whom our salvation springs. Jesus Christ wants our absolute, unrestrained devotion to Himself. We can never experience Jesus Christ, or selfishly bind Him in the confines of our own hearts. Our faith must be built on strong determined confidence in Him.” – Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest

Martie and I heard a great sermon by a preacher from Indonesia.  Christians from other countries, particularly Third World countries, have a different perspective on the brand of Christianity that is prevalent in the United States.  He said that Christians in the United States define attending a church service in one of three ways.  1. As a Gas station.  That is where we go each Sunday to “fill up” spiritually so we can get through another week. 2. As a Cinema.  We go each Sunday to watch a show, maybe have an emotional response to what we see or hear, but take away nothing that might influence how we live. And 3. As a super-market.  A one stop shop.  We have a need that must be met … we go have that need met. The bottom line in all three, it is all about us and what we get out of it .. for us. And we are never satisfied.

Attending the church service is a celebration, not the be all end all.  It is a gathering of His Church. The purpose of the Church assembling is not simply to make me comfortable and feel good. Corporate worship is certainly important for our spiritual health. To be encouraged, to be taught and reminded of spiritual truth. For some people it is the only time they feel free to express their faith.  Jesus said “Where two or three are gathered”.  (Matthew 18:20) There is an undeniable spiritual dynamic when Christians gather. This COVID pandemic as turned the practice of assembling on its ear. Christians in the Untied States have spent millions perhaps billions of dollars on buildings. And we find ourselves watching the pastor preach in an empty building or perhaps to a small sampling of the regular attenders.  Yet I find my faith strong. A reminder that the Church is not a building, it is not physical but spiritual.  People united by faith and the Spirit of God.  In a way, the Church has been scattered, but technology has made it possible to assemble in a different way. 

Jesus wants us to be disciples so we can be a fishers of men (people) like Jesus, not merely to make us better people, better than our neighbor.  Jesus said “Go!”  Jesus said “Pick up your cross and follow Me.”  Do what Jesus did.  Jesus said “Lay down your life for others.”  Jesus said “Love God with everything you have.”  Jesus said “If you love Me, then do what I say.”  When God told Joshua, to obey His Word, and then Joshua would be prosperous and successful, does your mind go to material wealth and personal success? That is your flesh speaking.  The Word says do not love the world or the things of this world.  Love God.  So how does that fit your idea of Christianity and the Church?  The proof of your belief is not in what you say you believe, but in how you live that belief out day by day not just on Sunday. 

Don’t waste this season, difficult as it might be.  Use it as a time to draw closer to God. To consider your reason for being. You may feel like Elijah in the cave – alone and perhaps afraid. Listen for God’s voice. Just like with Elijah – it is a still small voice. (I was struggling with including a story in this devotion . The thought won’t leave me so I will)  In 1995 I was on staff with Promise Keepers, a national men’s ministry. I was attending a Pastor’s conference in Atlanta, where over 40,000 pastors and ministry leaders assembled.  It was amazing.  There was a time of prayer when we are called to absolute silence in the building.  As I stood in the Georgia Dome looking at the mass of Christian men assembled, I wondered “God how are you going to show yourself? Are you going to open the roof reveal your Shekinah glory? We were asked to close our eyes. But I must confess I peaked. What I saw was a dove flying around in the dome -  a single dove. I closed my eyes again thinking I was imagining the dove. After the prayer, the guy standing next to me asked, “Did you see that dove flying around?” So it was not my imagination.  What proof that God is present in the midst of all of this turmoil are you looking for? It may not be what you hope for.  I love the English language and what you can do with it.  I saw this some time back. GODISNOWHERE.   Some people see – God is no where.  Others see – God is now here.  What do you see? What do you believe? Something to think about …

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

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Unconfessed Sin Is Like Refusing To Remove Our Sandals

"What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? 3 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

The danger for many Christians is the temptation to trivialize the sin the commit – after salvation.  We often quick to condemn the sins of others – Christian and the Lost alike. There are two camps in the thinking about the consequences of post-salvation sin.  One is “once saved always saved” (for which I am a proponent).  As a child of God, a new creation, I have been born again, saved once – for eternity.  What I am calling post-salvation sins have the effect of building a relational wall between me and the Father, but He is still my Father.  For Him to hear me, to bless me, my heart must be clean – free of unconfessed sin (1 John 1:9) and I must be walking in obedience to His word.  The second camp is that you can lose the salvation you gained by faith if you sin.  Once saved, you might have to be saved again, and again.  The first camp engenders a sense of freedom .. the second a sense of fear.  The danger of the first camp can be that we no longer consider post-salvation sin as a big deal.  I mean, after all, “we are in!”  We made the cut.  No worries about our eternal future.  Well, Paul addressed this issue. (You can always count on Paul!)  Let me help you get your Bible reading in for the day.

“For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.  Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.  For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him.  The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.” – Romans 6:5-14

In the Catholic faith, they acknowledge that they sin and go to confession – well some do – the priests provide structure for the confession of sin.  So many Protestants prefer to just ignore their sin.  So grace may abound. The Bible says to confess to one another and confess to God. (James 5:16, 1 John 1:9) Every day we are faced with a choice .. give in to sin or give in to God.  In either case you are offering yourself in submission to one or the other.  How can we think it is of no consequence when we sin, even in what we might think is a trivial thing … all the while knowing that Jesus went to the cross for even that trivial sin.  Don’t quench the Spirit when He brings conviction .. but yield, confess, and follow Jesus.  Don’t be satisfied with anything less in your new life.  Fulfill your purpose by being light and salt … bringing glory to God … just like Jesus. Not confessing our sin is like Moses refusing to remove his sandals because he was standing on holy ground. 

The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein. For He has founded it upon the seas, And established it upon the waters. Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, Nor sworn deceitfully.” – Psalm 24:1-4

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

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Who Decides What Is Good? - God Does Not You

To him who overcomes… —Revelation 2:7

Most Christians don’t struggle with those things that are blatantly “evil”, but with those things that seem, on the surface, to be “good”.  Good as defined by our culture and our traditions.  In this generation there is an aggressive movement in our culture, in particular, to redefine the definition of “good” or what is not sin. Isaiah wrote …  (Isaiah 5:20) “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”  There is a consequence for that which will be paid in full.

Centuries later, during the Apostle Paul’s lifetime, men continued to strive to be like God and define what is good and acceptable.  Paul wrote in the beginning of his letter to the Romans .. (Romans 1:18,20-22,28-32)  “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. … they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools… And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”

And today .. the beat goes on!  When the young man called Jesus “good teacher”, Jesus responded (Matthew 19:17)  “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”  In other words,  “Only my Father in heaven is good”  God is the source of goodness.  God is the very definition of Good. If you are interested in good, look to the Father. Jesus also said if you have seen him you have seen the father.  So the young man saw the reflection of the Father. Jesus was merely pointing that out to him.  And so we should be reflecting Jesus who is reflecting the Father. People should see Jesus and so the Father in us. How we live. What we say. What we take a stand for. What we reject as contrary to God’s definition of “good” – in other words, sin.

Most, if not all, cultures choose to define their own morality and their own definition of what is good.  Jesus accused the Church of Ephesus  of being lukewarm in Revelation 2.  They wanted to do both.  Embrace God and embrace the world.  Accept what the culture offered as good to be good and not sin. When there is a clash of definitions, God is abandoned in favor of the culture.  God is rejected and the culture is embraced.  Those Christians who do it feel justified. It is the temptation of “Everyone is doing it”  Before Jesus, everyone was going to hell … today without Jesus .. they are still going to hell … their devotion to their determination of what is right does not make it good.  God is the source of what is good .. His Word tells us what is sin and what it is not.  His Spirit convicts us of sin unless we quench the Spirit.  (There is so much running through my head right now, but I will not share it … else this might be a book and not a devotion)

Listen, the consequence of standing on Truth and the Word, even though it is contrary to the culture and the threat of rejection and criticism looms on the horizon .. why should you be any different than Jesus … don’t you want to be like Him?  Or do you crave for only with respect to the “good” parts of being like Jesus. The parts that the culture has deemed tolerable.

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also.” – John 15:18-27

We are in a spiritual battle that manifests itself in the way people live and believe.  My encouragement to you .. (Joshua 24:15)  “Choose this day whom you will serve .. but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”  Make it more than a catch phrase or a plaque on your living room wall.  Make it a commitment … everyday … and more than that … do it! The day to make that choice has arrived. Choose Jesus.

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

Monday, November 30, 2020

To Be Great In God’s Kingdom, You Must Be A Servant

If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” —John 13:14

Having a conversation with our, then, 16 year old granddaughter about our leaving Alabama to go to Texas to serve God and others, she asked why we decided to go to Texas.  It made me realize that people looking in from the outside, the appearance is that we have decided to do something different with our lives.   Actually, it was not our decision.  I explained to her about how God speaks to His children and the responsibility we have to obey His voice. (John 14:15) “If you love me [Jesus], you will obey my commandments.”  Seems simple doesn’t it?   But when faced with the resistance of the flesh, it may seem simple but it is not necessarily easy.  The natural battling against the supernatural. That is why there is such an emphasis in the New Testament to crucify the flesh and submit to the Spirit.  The life Jesus showed us is polar opposite to the world’s convention.  The first will be last.  If you want to be great, be a servant.  Love yourself last. There is no greater demonstration of love than to lay your own life down.  I recall a friend talking to me about what Martie and I would do have leaving Mississippi following 5 years of disaster relief work.  I told him that we were going to Haiti.  He got close to me, looked in my eyes and asked, “Are you crazy?!?”  To which I replied, “It is not my idea, it is God’s calling.”

We just celebrated Thanksgiving with our daughters. As we sat around the table, I was reminded of how many Thanksgivings we had not been able to do that. Something so simple and so common in this country. It reminded me of what it means to lay your life down. I am not wanting you to marvel at Martie and me – I just want to let you know that serving comes with a cost. King David said that he would not offer something to God that did not cost him something. A sacrifice is not a sacrifice if there is no personal cost. We do not regret our decision to follow God, but it does not mean that we loved or missed our family any less.

Following the leading of God very often makes no sense to the natural man.  Even to many Christians.  And with respect to Christians, reading about faith and exercising faith are two, totally different things.  Many are content to leave faith in the theoretical.  Sure we can pray when we or someone else is sick or has a great need.  But c’mon! God would not ask us to do something contrary to what we know is wise in the eyes of the world, would He?  I mean that can’t be God can it? What about retirement?  What about a place to live when you are old?  What about …. What about ????  (Luke 9:23) “And he [Jesus] said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”  (1 John 2:15) “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”  What do you trust in?  You will love –be devoted to – allow to control your choices – the things you trust in.    (Romans 12:1,2)  “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

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

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Yet I Will Rejoice

Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls— Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills.” – Habakkuk 3:17-19

This was written when the Babylonians were about to take Israel captive. Not good.  God did not save them from it. Instead they had to live through it.  A little reminiscent of Job’s attitude of “though He slay me yet will I serve Him.”  A great deal is being written about not fearing because of COVID and politics and the economy and … well you get the idea. Reading scripture gives you spiritual perspective. An understanding the spans beyond the physical of this life on earth.  Some conclusions that I came to – personal epiphanies if you will.  The history of mankind does not revolve round me or my generation.  My generation is not the culmination nor the swan song of God’s creation. What is happening today is not the worst that has ever happened in the history of mankind – perhaps not the worst that will happen in the future, but it is the worst that most people have experienced in their lifetime. We want God to intervene so we do not have to endure hardships. So life will be easy – worry free.  But what if He does not intervene? What if COVID does not go away soon?  What if the political party we don’t like comes to power? What if ……..?

"Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  – Philippians 4:5-7

The Lord is at hand. His message to us – “Trust Him … Live by faith” Seems simple enough.  But how can something so simple to understand be so difficult to do? I think the next admonition gives us some insight.

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

Right – because we trust ourselves more than we trust God – even when we are in the midst of a trial.  We want God to pull us out of the difficulty when most likely He will see us through it and not pull us out.  Do you find that discouraging? I hope not.  Living by faith does not mean that you won’t get sick, won’t suffer loss, won’t be disappointed.  My guess is that everyone reading this has already experienced all three. Perhaps many times. We need spiritual perspective to live in the way that the Bible tells us to live.  That perspective is something that is matured by the exercising of faith.  The more we trust – the more we trust.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Do You Ever Wonder Who Wrote The Book On Love

tell me … Oh, who wrote the Book Of Love I've got to know the answer Was it someone from above” – The Monotones

Seem like an odd way to start a devotion? Perhaps – I guess you have to consider the source!  I heard that song and thought about the significance of the question.  Who defines love. The answer – the One who gave definition to the universe. Paul expressed what it does and doesn’t do in his letter to the Corinthians.

“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 13:3-8

God expressed that love to mankind when He sent Jesus as the Messiah – Redeemer – Emmanuel.

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. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” – John 3:16-17

Jesus confronted Peter because Peter was struggling with love.

So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’ He said to him, ‘Feed My lambs.’ He said to him again a second time, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’ He said to him, ‘Tend My sheep.’ He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?’ Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, ‘Do you love Me?’ And he said to Him, ‘Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed My sheep..’” – John 21:15-17

I am not a Greek scholar, but I have been told that each time Jesus used a different word for love – love Me like a friend – love Me like a Brother – love me the way the Father and I love you? God’s love is without condition. Apart from faith and the Spirit, we do not have the capacity to love God or others the way God defined love. I use the past tense “defined” because His definition of love is not one of the options. Oh – the world would beg to differ. But the world wants to redefined everything to suit its natural understanding.  The world lacks spiritual wisdom and insight because it lacks the Spirit.  Why should we expect sweet water to come from a bitter well?  But we do don’t we? All the time.

So when you think about the two greatest commandments expressed by Jesus in Matthew 22:37-39 (I will ask you to look them up) you see that our capacity to love according to God’s definition of love begins with our loving God and then it is expressed to others.  And how do we do that? I think Romans 12:1-2 gives us some insight into that.

I [Paul] beseech [urge] you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service [of worship]. And 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 12:1-2

And what is His good – acceptable – perfect will? Re-read Matthew 22:37-39.

Are you, like Peter, struggling with love? The solution starts in the heart and devotion to the Father.

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

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Waiting On God

For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hurries toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it delays, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay long.” – Habakkuk 2:3

Have you ever waited for something promised or hoped for and it never happened. My mom’s brother, Jerry, served in Vietnam in the Marines in the mid-sixties.  When he returned my brother’s and I were intrigued by the “war” stories he would tell. (it was not until I was a war veteran myself did I understand that men who have seen battle typically don’t talk about it much – especially with “civilians”. Those who do – well they most likely never did what they say they did) Uncle Jerry told us that he had shipped a crate from Vietnam with gifts for us. We were so excited! Every time we saw Uncle Jerry we would ask, “Did the crate arrive?” “Not yet” was always his reply.  The truth was there was no crate. It was an empty promise, a false hope.

Not so with God’s promises. They are not empty and we are right to hope in them.  The thing is that God’s promises are not like men’s. God spans eternity – not just the 70 or 80 years of our mortal existence. Generations have passed without the Hope of God – Jesus returning.  So many people are watching – hoping – like we did for that crate – wondering if it will be today. They pour over the Book of Revelation and other prophetic books searching for a clue. This is what Jesus said.

But about that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. At that time there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left. Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.”  – Matthew 24:36-41

God does intervene in the affairs of men in all generations.  He has left His Spirit as a “down payment” on His promise.  Our task is to live in a manner that is consistent with who we are in Christ and wait. It may be and perhaps will be that His return will be after our passing from life on this earth.  But I am not suggesting that our faith has not value for today. I can give testimony to His faithfulness in my life and in the lives of other. I am just encouraging you to not lose hope because the Lord tarries. We don’t always get what we want in this life.  God does not always heal – save – restore when we want Him to. We live our lives on this planet in jars of clay that are subject to natural laws and plagues and injustice and disappointments.  But praise God, our lives in Christ are more than the sum of the natural experiences that make up our lives. As Christians we have an eternal nature that endures beyond the grave.  We have an eternal nature that is greater than any hardship that we might endure as we travel on our earthly journey. Paul wrote -   

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the boundless greatness of His power toward us who believe.” – Ephesians 1:18-19

Having an eternal perspective on life is critical to not losing hope. Paul encourages us to see the world and this life in its spiritual context. As born again children of God, we have the capacity to do that. That ability comes from the Spirit of God and not from our natural determination to understand the things of God – the eternal. Our heart will still hurt over what happens to us and to the ones that we love. Our bodies will still hurt in illness and accidents. But our hope should not be dampened by the difficulties in this life. Unlike that crate from Vietnam – Jesus is returning – He is on His way. God has not abandoned us. Set us adrift with no life line.  Be encouraged my friend. God is on the throne and Jesus is at His right hand.  Jesus is waiting for the Father to say “Go”. Until then. Press on. Commit to this …. 

I will raise my eyes to the mountains; From where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; He who watches over you will not slumber. Behold, He who watches over Israel Will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your protector; The Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun will not beat down on you by day, Nor the moon by night.  The Lord will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul. The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in From this time and forever.” – Psalm 121  (My grandmother’s favorite Psalm) 

You won’t regret it if you do, but you will if you don’t!

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