Friday, February 28, 2020

Making A Sacrifice From The Heart ... Just Like Jesus

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

“The call of God is not a call to serve Him in any particular way. God brings me into the proper relationship with Himself so that I can understand His call, and then I serve Him on my own out of a motivation of absolute love. Service to God is the deliberate love-gift of a nature that has heard the call of God. Service is an expression of my nature, and God’s call is an expression of His nature. […] The Son of God reveals Himself in me, and out of devotion to Him service becomes my everyday way of life.” (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest)

I went to a house yesterday morning to give direction to some volunteers who had come to help with repairs we are making caused by Imelda.  It has been cold in the mornings so I broke out my work coat.  Each time I put that coat on I am reminded that it represents sacrifice and blessing.  Let me explain.

About 12 years ago, I was standing in a parking lot of a church in Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi, doing pretty much what I am doing now. Not typing a devotion, but serving the people affected by a disaster, then, Hurricane Katrina.  

It was cold … colder than I thought it would be on the Gulf Coast.  I had not dressed for the weather … didn’t have a coat.  I wasn’t thinking about being cold, but about getting the volunteers to the work that they had come to do.  That’s when a young man walked up to me.  He asked me if I had a coat, I told him no.  Then he did something that has been with me since that day, he took his coat off, a red, hoodie Carhartt work coat and gave it to me.  He said, “here you can have this one.” 

Well, I am a great giver … but like most givers, I struggle with receiving.  But ….. I did accept the coat.  I recognized the sacrifice he was making … I saw Jesus … I saw something holy that was taking place … an expression of sacrifice …

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

A sacrifice costs the one sacrificing something that is dear to them.  In a flash, I was reminded of Matthew 22 and the parable of the sheep and the goats … “Lord when did we see you …?” It was a coat … not a sacrifice on the cross … but that is not the point … it’s the heart that made the sacrifice that makes the coat significant.  This coat hung in a closet for the four years we served in Haiti.  But even then, each time I saw it there, my heart was rended and I was taken back to that parking lot.  I was reminded of what is important in life.  I am sure that the young man had no idea what his gesture would mean to me years later.  And likewise my friend, you  have no idea what your kindness toward others, your sacrifice from the heart will mean to them.  That is not the motive for our doing and serving … our motive … our motivation … our reason … is the love of God that we bear in our hearts that has found a way to express itself and bring glory to the Father.

Oh, and because I am, who am I am – a granddaughter says the “King of the planet Weird” I thanked the man for the coat then added. “By the way, the Bible says ‘if a man asks for your coat, give him your shirt also’” Actually that was a slight mis-statement of the verse.

And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.” – Matthew 5:40

He laughed (thankfully - Martie tells me my humor is too dry) and gracefully declined to take his shirt off. 

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

Thursday, February 27, 2020

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

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

I am an observer of people, perhaps like you are.  I watch how people interact with each other.  How people respond to life.  How people communicate with each other.  What people say and what they don’t say.  As a consequence of my observing – not judging, just trying to understand, I have noticed how easily we, as Christians compartmentalize our lives.  There are certain aspects of our lives we consider as strictly spiritual and other aspects, we consider to be natural … having nothing to do with that part of us that is Christian.  So very often we respond to the natural events in life with the natural in us.  But, if you are a Christian .. everything in the natural has a spiritual context. 

It is very easy to live like we are lost.  Like putting on an old pair of shoes – slipping on the old nature can seem very comfortable – natural even. When we do that we only prove that we don’t love God with our all.  We slice out pieces of our lives – compartmentalize – and leave God out of them.  We just don’t see what some things in life have to do with God. Like it is none of His business.

What we too easily forget is that we have been bought with a price – the Cross.  We have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus.  We are newly created spiritually and the old things .. the natural … is behind us .. that is unless you stuck some in your pocket in case you needed it some day!  Everything has spiritual context.  And we need to be reminded of that .. because we forget in the heat of the moment or at the point of temptation or the desire to get along.  We don’t see sin as sin, but simple choices that we have a right to make.  Uh ….. no we don’t.  We gave up your rights as sinners when we were born again by faith in Jesus.  If we have a problem with seeing sin as sin .. and preferring to live in the natural it is because we have distanced ourselves from the fundamentals of the faith.  Our hearts have grown cold toward God .. no matter how often we go to church or what we tell other people or try to convince ourselves. 

Now if the person I have described is not you, but you know someone that the “shoe” fits, then point them, lovingly, back to God. That is your responsibility as their Brother or Sister … as a disciple of Jesus … as a child of God.

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

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Having A Constant Conversation With God

Pray without ceasing…” —1 Thessalonians 5:17

“Our thinking about prayer, whether right or wrong, is based on our own mental conception of it. The correct concept is to think of prayer as the breath in our lungs and the blood from our hearts. Our blood flows and our breathing continues “without ceasing”; we are not even conscious of it, but it never stops. And we are not always conscious of Jesus keeping us in perfect oneness with God, but if we are obeying Him, He always is. Prayer is not an exercise, it is the life of the saint. Beware of anything that stops the offering up of prayer.” Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest

If prayer is conversing with God, then we are supposed to be in constant conversation with Him.  There was a young Haitian woman, Silfice, who helped us around the house.   I would often hear her saying “Jezu” – Jesus as she worked.  I asked her if she was talking to the Lord, she said “Of course”.  I thought she might be thinking, “Of Course! You mean that you don’t?  Doesn’t every Christian talk to the Lord?” The answer is, "yes" if they believe that He is present, approachable, would even want to hear what we have to say.

Prayer is to be as natural as speaking with your friends or your spouse.  But we all know that is not the case.  Our relationship with God is often based upon need .. not love.  I will talk to God when I need something.  Have you ever known someone and the only time they talked to you is when they needed something?  They don’t really need you .. they need what you have.  How do you feel, when they call?  How do you feel when they get past the greeting and get to the point .. I need something … and when you give it to me, I will get back to my life and forget about you until I think you can give me something that I need.

That is very often how we treat God.  We say we love God with our all, but treat Him as if we don’t.  Praying is a discipline that draws you close to the Father … and changes your heart’s desires …

Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart  Psalm 37:4

I believe that means that He will exchange your desires with His.  “Not my will, but Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."  Not in heaven as it is on earth.  When was the last time you really had a conversation with your Father? If you are anything like me, It has probably been too long.

“I come to the garden alone While the dew is still on the roses And the voice I hear, falling on my ear The Son of God discloses And He walks with me And He talks with me And He tells me I am His own And the joy we share as we tarry there none other has ever known”  (C. Austin Miles, In The Garden)

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

Monday, February 24, 2020

The Heart Of A Pharisee

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 2:16-18

I love the sermons I hear on Sunday morning. Each time I am able to find a spiritual nugget or two. Spiritual insight and understanding that helps me in my own life and hopefully proves to be an encouragement to those who read the words that I write. I wrote about the difference between insulation and isolation.  The Pharisees believed that the way to personal holiness was isolation.  Have nothing to do with those who were not of the Jewish faith but more, anyone who was a sinner – unholy. That way, they would not be tainted by the world and sin. With respect to the Pharisees – Jesus had this to say.

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. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” – Matthew 23:24-28

God gave us those words, not so we could read an interesting story, but heed the warning and understand the dangers that lay along the path we trod. There is a temptation to separate ourselves – isolate ourselves from the world as a way to protect our gift of salvation. To follow the way of the Pharisee.  Thinking that if we wash the outside of our cup, keep it clean by not associating with the unclean, then the inside of the cup will be protected.

Jesus embraced the sinners but not their sin.  Holiness starts in the inside to the outside – not the other way around. Associating with people who are not Christians is what we have been called to do. It is what Jesus did. Participating in their sin – their life choices is not what Jesus did and not what we are supposed to do. So how do we do it? How did Jesus do it? He kept His focus on the Father.

But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.’ ….. Then Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel.’” – John 5:17,19-20

When I was in Haiti, I had the opportunity to give a devotion to a group of missionaries from the U.S. Many of them shared about their struggles with being in a country like Haiti – natural and spiritual. I told them that if God had not called them to be in Haiti then they should go home.  Being in a country like Haiti is very difficult – many hardships – things that are difficult to bear unless you have the Spiritual strength to endure them.  The same is true for reaching a lost world. The safe thing would seem to be to isolate yourself to minimize the risk.  The right thing to do is to insulate yourself by the power of the Spirit and fulfill your purpose which is to point a lost and dying world to a loving God and his Son. 

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’” – Mark 13:32-37

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

Friday, February 21, 2020

Accommodation – The Leaven In The Body Christ

Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?  Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened.”  – 1 Corinthians 5:6-7

Perhaps one of the greatest challenges – since the beginning – is to keep our new lives pure and free from the influence of the culture that we live in. There are certain predator fish in the ocean that accumulate mercury making it harmful for human consumption. And yet, they live their lives swimming in salt water – but they are not, themselves, salty.  It is not the salt water environment that affects them, but what they take in – what they consume – what they absorb in that environment that taints them. When we would fish off the Florida coast and catch certain fish, bigger was not better because of mercury accumulation.

Living in a culture that has, for the most part, rejected God and the moral code revealed through the Word of God, does not in itself “taint” us. We can “swim” in this cultural ocean and not become salty. But, when we embrace as acceptable that which is contrary to God’s revealed will, very often, in an effort to find acceptance or, put another way, to avoid rejection or persecution, our loaf becomes leavened – our spiritual Mercury levels rise.

In the past, much of that leaven, was introduced through the traditions handed down from previous generations.  Very often in the form of subtle variations or alterations of the Word deemed acceptable and right – when they were neither, acceptable or right.  Racial division – prejudice – bigotry justified by a perverse interpretation of “Thus saith the Lord” come immediately to mind.  Although that still happens, to my dismay, for the past 20 years or so, I have seen an accelerating shift in the moral compass of this country and the embracing by many in the Body of Christ of what is clearly contrary to the Word. Failure to agree with the new cultural norms labels you as intolerant and therefore evil – when compared to the culture’s definition of what is right and what is wrong.

If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” – John 15:18-19

Does that make you uncomfortable. The thought of people not liking you because you are a Christian and don’t agree with their life choices and wanting to establish them as right and good?  It is important to understand that it is not really you – but Who you represent that the world is rejecting and hates.  We are light shining in the darkness.  The world does not want light to expose their sin. The world prefers the darkness. Listen, the darker the night, the brighter the light.  The only way to resist the temptation to accommodate a sinful world is to draw closer to Jesus.  To keep your eyes on Him. To accept the fact that you do not hold the majority view on morality and right living. You are in the minority. It is just that it has never been more obvious than it is today.

In the past two days, I have had two conversations with friends in two different states who told me that they believe the Lord is coming soon.  The Word says that only the Father knows. Jesus said this about that ….

But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning— lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!” – Mark 13:32-37

The generation that heard Him speak those words, and all the generations since have come and gone without seeing His return.  Certainly things seem to be their darkest in this generation, but as much as we would like to imagine that the Lord will appear in our generation – we just don’t know. What we do know is that we are to let our light shine so long as we have breath – and we are to leave a spiritual legacy for future generations. Only God knows how many there will be. And, having said all of that, I say – Maranatha – Jesus come quickly!

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

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Going Back To The Day You Believed

And Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’”  – John 20:28-29

Do you remember the day – the moment that you surrendered your life by faith to Jesus? When you realized that Jesus is who He claims to be. Do you? Some people remember the day and the hour – not just the circumstances when they were born again. Do you remember the feeling of release from the burden of sin? Do you remember the hunger, like a new born baby, for the Word of God – manna from heaven – the only thing that could satisfy you? So how is that working for you now?

Our faith walk is not about emotion – although it can be emotional – it is about faithfulness – a steadfast faith – that is not based upon even our present circumstance. If it were a conditional faith, then your spiritual life would be more like a ride on a roller coaster. Is your faith still fresh? Is how you feel about your faith in Jesus the same as it was on the day of your salvation? There is a song by Andrae Crouch that comes to mind …

Take me back, take me back dear Lord. To the place where I first received you.
Take me back, take me back dear Lord where I first believed

I feel that I'm so far from you Lord, But still I hear you calling me
Those simple things that I once knew, Their memories keep drawing me
I must confess, Lord I've been blessed But yet my soul's not satisfied
Renew my faith, restore my joy And dry my weeping eyes

Take me back, take me back dear Lord. To the place where I first received you
Take me back, take me back dear Lord where I first believed

I tried so hard To make it all alone
I need your help Just to make it home

Take me back, take me back dear Lord. To the place where I first received you
Take me back, take me back dear Lord where I first believed”  – Andrae Crouch, Take Me Back

Going back to the place, just like Thomas when he realized that Jesus was the Messiah – that He had, indeed risen from the dead.  Jesus the Redeemer – Emanuel. Just like the day that you realized the same thing – and you were blessed having not seen – but having believed by faith. Oh that our faith would be that fresh. The reason our faith becomes stale like the bread on your kitchen counter is because of neglect – disuse.  Oh friend, I want to encourage you to draw close to Jesus. To spiritually touch His hands and His side and recall Who Jesus is just like on the day of your salvation .. and not just today, but every day until He calls you home.

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

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Abandoning The Things Of This World Requires A Heart Change

You did not choose Me, but I chose you’”  – John 15:16

As men and women who have been called by God, we are called to service beyond what most of us imagined after our conversion.  Even the person with only one spiritual gift,  that they might consider to be almost non-essential (God does not agree with them by the way) faces the same challenges that every other saint faces who have what some might imagine are greater gifts when living their new life.  No matter what our role in the Body of Christ, we are all called to abandon the same things, for most it will be an abandonment that takes place in the heart, while with others, it will require physical abandonment.  It is one thing to say that you love God more than your family, it is quite another to leave your family and go on Mission for God.  It is one thing to say that you do not love the things of this world, it is quite another to sell your house and put your retirement at risk in order to go where God has said “Go!”.

Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, ‘Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ …  And he said, ‘All these things I have kept from my youth.’ So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, ‘You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’ But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich.” – Luke 18: 18, 21-23

I would find it very difficult to write these things to you if I had no intention of doing them myself.  When I was on staff with Promise Keepers in the ‘90s, there was a saying that was popular among us.  “You can’t teach what you don’t know, you can’t lead where you won’t go, and you can only recreate what you are.”  The secret to going is obedience and faith.  Faith comes from God and obedience comes from a “broken and contrite heart”, wholly submitted to the will of God.  Every step you take for God requires the power of God.  It is a glorious life .. living by faith and not by sight.  The person who abandons in the heart is no less faithful than the one who abandons physically in response to the call of God.  The point is being obedient to God no matter what He calls you to do. So when the Spirit whispers in your ear, “This is the way walk in it.”  (Isaiah 30:21) Walk on! … to the glory of God and as a living testimony to a world that needs to see Jesus.

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

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

What A Difference The Spirit Makes

I [Paul] say then: ‘Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.’”  – Galatians 5:16

It is so important to be aware of the importance of living your life submitted to the leading of the Spirit of God who has sealed you until the day of your redemption.  Living your life fully aware that you are no longer bound to the way that you once lived.  Not trying to be good and do rightly, but yielded through the Spirit to the One who IS Good.  Let me use a story that you are familiar with  - Peter and his transformation.

Peter said to Him [Jesus], ‘Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!’” –  Matthew 26:35

Peter was apparently convinced that he could do more than he was capable of on his own. Fiercely adamant even. He was expressing what he wanted to be true and was depending upon himself to make it happen.

And a certain servant girl, seeing him as he sat by the fire, looked intently at him and said, ‘This man was also with Him.’ But he denied Him, saying, ‘Woman, I do not know Him.’ And after a little while another saw him and said, ‘You also are of them.’ But Peter said, ‘Man, I am not!’” – Luke 22:56-58

So much for “I will not deny you.” We very often have the right intention but fail to understand that our new life is Spirit-dependent.  That it is impossible to live the Christian life in the power of our flesh and self-will. But we try anyway, don’t we? Like Peter – facing the truth brings a feeling of shame and guilt – knowing that we have failed the One we pledged our hearts to.

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.’ Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.” – Acts 4:8-13

Same guy, different focus.  You may not have to stand before a court defending your faith, but you stand before the world as a witness to your faith every day. Peter shrank away from a woman by the fire but stood boldly before the religious leaders.  The difference was the Spirit of God.  As we live out our new lives, we must live fully submitted to the Spirit of God.  You won’t do that if you ignore your faith except on Sunday or at the dinner table. Stop trying to live a “normal” life where you make all the choices and look to good only when you fail.  Oh – one other thing – we are all like Peter – it’s not just you. You are a child of the King. You don’t have a signet ring and your finger, you have the Spirit of God in your heart.

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

Monday, February 17, 2020

It Is Easier To Judge Than To Love

When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, ‘Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.’ Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.’” –  John 8:10-12

The crowd was ready to condemn the woman to death – by stoning – thinking that they would somehow be honoring God – but Jesus showed them that they were all worthy of judgement and death – all had sinned – none could stand the test – “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” God’s desire is that we would admit our sin and repent.  God would that none should perish – that none would be condemned for their sin, but would find forgiveness through faith in His Son, Jesus. 

The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” – 2 Peter 3:9

When we are confronted with blatant sin, it is all too easy for us to stand where the crowd stood when they wanted to punish the woman.  We know what is right and what is wrong from God’s Word. We are all to quick, when we see the sin, to condemn the sinner – as if, somehow, we had the power to judge – but we don’t. That somehow our condemnation was pleasing to God, but it is not. Sin is so blatant in our culture.  It seems that in our culture sin is encouraged – repentance is discouraged.  Paul addressed that problem in Romans 1.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them….. knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.” – Romans 1:18-19,32

Rather than condemn the sinner, we should, instead, point them to the One in whom they might find salvation.  Our purpose is not to be judges, but witnesses. Salt and light in a dark world. We are not to condone the sin, but we are love the sinner and encourage them to repent.  Just like Jesus. Judgement will come in time.  Jesus associated with sinners, but did not ever approve of their sin.  He came to save them from it.  The laws of the land are in place to encourage peace, order, and respect for life and property, but today it does little about immorality.  Those laws that attempted to constrain immoral behavior, for the most part have been rescinded.  That does not change what the Lord has said about immoral behavior. It is still sin – but our focus is to be on the Gospel and salvation through faith in Jesus. The Spirit brings conviction to the sinner – if that leads to saving faith then that person is sealed and adopted into the family of God. The thing is, man’s laws do not change the desire to sin only the impulse to carry the sin out. The only way that the desire can change is with a heart change. The only way a heart can change is by faith in Jesus.

Jesus answered and said to him [Nicodemus], ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’” – John 3:3

Can you see the difference between discerning behavior that is sinful versus judging, condemning, the one who is sinning?  Pastor Greg Laurie said, “Don’t think of me as a judge, but as a fruit inspector.” It is one thing to say that the woman committed adultery – discernment, and quite another to condemn her to death – then physical death – today, spiritual death. Only God can do that, and you, my friend, are not God.  So when you see the lost reveling in their immorality, don’t judge them.  Pray for them. And if you should have the opportunity – share the Gospel with them.  Don’t conclude that there is no hope for them.  I suspect that someone or more than one someone may have thought that about you and I before the day we were born again.

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

Friday, February 14, 2020

Love Is All About The Heart

Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?’ Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” –  Matthew 22:35-39

February 14th is a traditional holiday in this country. It is a day when people express their love for each other by going to dinner, buying chocolates, and cards.  It is like a culmination of the expression of love.  A lawyer was trying to trick Jesus with his question, but Jesus told him that the whole of God’s revelation to man through the Scriptures was “Love”. Loving God and loving others. Not natural affection – but a sacrificial love that puts the one who loves after the one being loved.

My brother and his family recently moved from Arizona back to our home state, Illinois.  I tell people that is a good state to be “from”. Emphasis on the “from”. Martie and I have not lived there since 1974.  He sent me a picture of him shoveling snow with the caption, “Tell me again why I moved from Arizona?” My response was, because you love your wife and then referenced Ephesians 5:25. He responded, “Oh yeah, that’s the reason.”

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

That is the picture of love. Expressing love on February 14th is noble, but the proof of that love is what happens the other 364 days of the year. Jesus tested Peter’s heart when Jesus asked Peter if he loved Jesus.

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

Do you love me more than these? Is there anything to which you are more devoted than Me? Do you really love God with all or just some.  Do you really love your wife, or wives, your husbands, above all others and other things?  Love like that is a result of our love for God. It is not merely affection, compatibility, or attraction, it is sacrificial – unconditional.

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

God is the source of Agape love – the kind of love that the world can never conjure. And how is that love expressed? Through sacrificial devotion and action. It is not with gifts, not with cards, not with words – but with a life lived devoted to the one loved – putting the one who is loved before yourself. So God might ask you what Jesus asked Peter – and He is. Do you love Me, then obey My commands. And the most important command? Love Him and others like He loves us.

How deep the Father's love for us. How vast beyond all measure. That He should give His only Son. To make a wretch His treasure
How great the pain of searing loss. The Father turns His face away. As wounds which mar the Chosen One. Bring many sons to glory
Behold the man upon a cross. My sin upon His shoulders. Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice. Call out among the scoffers
It was my sin that held Him there. Until it was accomplished. His dying breath has brought me life. I know that it is finished
I will not boast in anything. No gifts, no power, no wisdom. But I will boast in Jesus Christ. His death and resurrection.” (How Deep The Father’s Love, Stuart Townend)

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

Thursday, February 13, 2020

The Difference Between Being Good And Being GOOD

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” –  Galatians 6:2

After we visit families that need help with their homes, we have a meeting to discuss the repair needs and whether or not we should offer them assistance.  I was in one of those meetings yesterday and we were talking about the burden we feel while we are meeting with most of the families we visit.  Galatians 6:2 came to my mind.  It is so easy to read Bible verses and nod our heads or hearts in agreement to the Truth. It is another thing altogether to yield ourselves to that Truth. The burden that we feel when we meet with those who are struggling in life is the reality of Galatians 6:2.

Listen, this is not about social justice or doing good things for people.  That is what the world might see and think. Bearing each other’s burdens is a spiritual act of worship.  It is what Romans 12:1 is referring to.

I beseech 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.” – Romans 12:1

There is a term, compassion fatigue, that I didn’t know anything about until we went on the mission field and engaged in Disaster Recovery ministry. If you try to do anything spiritual in the power of your flesh you will become weary, quickly.  It is like Samson’s strength.  He was invulnerable while he was empowered by the Spirit of God, but once the Spirit left him, so did his supernatural strength.  Same for us.  When you consider the opportunities for ministry that the Lord presents as you walk in the Way, they will always require supernatural ability – Holy Spirit power. You might do good but you won’t do GOOD.

So He [Jesus] said to him [the rich young ruler], “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God [the Father].” – Matthew 19:17

Get it? Got it? Good! When the Bible says “Do not become weary of well doing.” (2 Thessalonians 3:13) it is because you will become weary if you are not careful. If you forget that it is not you – you have offered “you” to God to be used by Him for His eternal purposes. Which is to do GOOD for His glory and the good of others. Just don’t forget where the source of your strength comes from.

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

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Prepared For Spiritual Battle - Leaning Forward In The Foxhole

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.” –  Ephesians 6:11-13 

“Anything that does not strengthen me morally is the enemy of virtue within me. Whether I overcome, thereby producing virtue, depends on the level of moral excellence in my life. But we must fight to be moral. Morality does not happen by accident; moral virtue is acquired. And spiritually it is also the same. Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation . . .” (John 16:33). This means that anything which is not spiritual leads to my downfall. Jesus went on to say, “. . . but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” I must learn to fight against and overcome the things that come against me, and in that way produce the balance of holiness. Then it becomes a delight to meet opposition. Holiness is the balance between my nature and the law of God as expressed in Jesus Christ.” (Oswald Chambers,  My Utmost For His Highest)

Have you thought about living the Christian life as a battle?  It is you know. We must be disciplined like a soldier to live this new life in Christ …

 You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.  No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.  And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.” –  2 Timothy 2:3-5 

Holiness does not just happen.  Walking after the Spirit and not the flesh is intentional.  In the Army they say that “you fight the way you train” meaning that if you don’t prepare yourself for battle, you will not do well when the battle comes. In Ephesians the Apostle Paul describes the weapons of spiritual warfare that the Lord has provided …

"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 6:14-18 

Don’t be caught sleeping on duty.  A term we used in the Army was that we should be “leaning forward in the foxhole”.  That means be ready every day, every hour, every minute.  That just reminded me of a song .. “If we ever needed the Lord before .. we sure do need Him now and we need Him every day and every hour.” So Christian, my encouragement to you today  is this … suit up soldier! Get ready for the battle that you are sure to face.

Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.  Let all that you do be done with love.” –  1 Corinthians 16:13-14

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

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

You Are A Promise . .You Are a Possibility .. With A Capital "P"

“…so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus…” —Acts 20:24

 “Joy comes from seeing the complete fulfillment of the specific purpose for which I was created and born again, not from successfully doing something of my own choosing. The joy our Lord experienced came from doing what the Father sent Him to do. And He says to us, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (John 20:21). […] “Do you love Me?” Then, “Feed My sheep” (John 21:17). He is not offering us a choice of how we can serve Him; He is asking for absolute loyalty to His commission, a faithfulness to what we discern when we are in the closest possible fellowship with God.”  Oswald Chambers,  My Utmost For His Highest

Martie and I recently attended a concert put on by the Gaither Vocal Band, led by Bill Gaither.  I was reminded how our children “cut their teeth” on Bill and Gloria Gaither songs when they were in grade school.  We still love their music. As many of you know Bill and Gloria Gaither are prolific song writers having written more than 600 Gospel songs. Gloria contributed the lyrics to classics like "Because He Lives," "Something About That Name," and "The King Is Coming." Twenty of their songs have received Dove Awards. So my point is not to promote their music but to make this point. I can remember our kids singing “I am a promise along with the cassette tape” Some of you might have to Google “cassette tape”

I am a promise, I am a possibility.  I am a promise with a capital “P”.  I am a great big bunch of potentiality.  And if I listen, I can hear God’s voice, And if I listen, He will help me make the right choice.  I am a promise to be, anything God wants me to be! “I Am A  Promise”  Gaithers, 1973

We all are a Promise and a Possibility because of our faith in Jesus. All of us have a place and purpose in the Body of Christ.  We each have a part in the playing out of God’s purpose for His creation.  To fulfill that purpose, our potential, we must be faithful and obedient.  We must be willing to serve where He plants our feet and go when He says go and do what He says do.  In whatever capacity that God has shaped us for.  You don’t have to be a preacher, missionary or evangelist to serve God.  But you may be.  The point is that you are proclaimer of God’s message to the world.  John 3:16.   John 14:6 (look those up if you don’t have them memorized already).  Housewife, husband, student, son, daughter, brother, sister, dad, mom … butcher .. baker .. candlestick maker … it doesn’t matter … you are part of the Body of Christ.  Live faithfully and let your life shout out to the world … “JESUS SAVES”!

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

Monday, February 10, 2020

Is It Time To Pick Up Your Pace In Your Pursuit Of God?

So Samuel said: ‘Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams.’”  – 1 Samuel 15:22


This is the last reality in Experiencing God. Oh there is a lot more to the study, but these realities are at its core.  Do you want to know God more?  Do you want Him to be “real” in your life? This new life we live could be so much more if we would only stop choosing our old nature over our new.  Spiritual maturity happens by the power of the Spirit at work in a surrendered heart.  Martie and I watch a lot of programs on Amazon Prime and Netflix.  Recently we watched a program called “Grimm” based loosely off of the Brothers Grimm fairy-tales.  Anyway there are people roaming about that have another nature –  a beastly nature – one that only they and the Grimms can see.  Watching that program reminded me of the fact that, as a Christian, I have two natures.  One is bound to Earth – the flesh, the natural man, and one is bound to Heaven – the spiritual man.  How much of my spiritual nature is evident depends upon how much of my heart is yielded to God. The strength of the spiritual man within me happens by being obedient to His commands which I can only do by faith, with a surrendered heart and life and the power of the Spirit in me. 

Principle 2 (Where Faith Is Waiting). God acts on Faith shown NOT on Promises made.

“God is not an enabler. He does not act based upon promises made, but only upon the demonstration of faith and obedience. He doesn’t act until we take the step of faith. This should not be confused with God’s grace and mercy that He shows to all people so they might come to repentance, (Romans 2:4) or the fact that He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:25)

When you are confronted with the Truth of God, you know it. The troubling question is always, “What are you going to do about it?” The Truth always confronts what is not true. If there is something in your life that is contrary to the nature of God, the Word and the Spirit of Truth will expose it. Once exposed, you are faced with a choice. Do you act in obedience to the Truth or disregard it? Disregarding truth is a kinder way of describing disobedience. Most often we prefer to not consider our disregard of Truth as disobedience, but rather merely a choice that is available to us.” (Where Faith Is Waiting – Leader’s Guide, Charley Elgin)

To demonstrate our faith we must first trust God and choose His way and not some way that we have engineered on our own, perhaps encouraged by our culture.  If you want to experience God to the full, you must stop making promises about what you will do if He only will act first.  If He would only prove Himself then, of course, you would be happy to do this or that. Well, my friend, God has already proven Himself, one time for eternity, – He did that through Jesus. When you yielded your life in faith on the day that you were born again – you committed your heart – your very life to the Lord. It is so easy to let that commitment slip away to the back of your mind, condemned to that desolate region where lies all of your broken promises and rationalizations about why you were justified in breaking them.  Why are we so easily satisfied with something far less than God desires and intends for us?  This was the Apostle Paul’s hope for us and mine as well ….

that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height — to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” – Ephesians 3:17-19

I suspect that some if not many who read this will agree with the idea but will not be even remotely interested in picking up their pace in the pursuit of God and His purposes, of changing the way they live. For them I hope this is a seed planted. But, I am really writing this for the few. Those whose hearts hunger to know God more. To fulfill their purpose as His children – as those called according to His purpose. So to you – let’s pick up the pace and finish the race. You can do it!  

…. since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross.” – Hebrews 12:1-2

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

Friday, February 7, 2020

Following God Will Always Cost You Something

Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, ‘Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?’ So Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’ And he answered and said to Him, ‘Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.’ Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.’ But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”  – Mark 10:17-22


There are things in our lives, natural things, things of this world, that we learn to depend upon – trust – for our sense of who we are and what we should depend upon.  The young man speaking to Jesus trusted in his wealth – it was his god.  Oh, he was a good person.  He did nice things for others – was respectful, but when you want to join God, He demands your whole heart – no other gods (sound familiar?). The thing is that we, most often, don’t see the things that everyone tells us are right and reasonable to put first, as something we should have to lay down to follow Jesus.  Like the young man talking to Jesus, perhaps proud of his good works, there might be something missing that is essential to what we do having eternal value.

having a form of godliness but denying its power.” – 2 Timothy 3:5

I think that so many Christians fall short of fully experiencing God and His presence because they are unwilling to “sell all they have.” It might be money, family, lifestyle, possessions, perhaps ethnic or national heritage.  The big thing now is tracing your ancestry.  My dad did that before was a spark in someone’s brain. He discovered that our roots went back to 1650 in the United States.  Interesting stuff – but, as a Christian, my roots go back to the Creator God.

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

Regarding no one according to the flesh.  Would that be a major adjustment for you? A major adjustment for most Christians is to consider their natural life and others in the context of who they are in Christ and not consider who they are in Christ in the context of their natural life.  What adjustments do you need to make if you are indeed wanting to join God in what He is doing on this planet of ours? It will require sacrifice – denying your self and what your old nature – your flesh – tells you is important – more important that obeying the Word even. You can’t make these kind of adjustments by willing it – becoming more determined – it is a spiritual act that requires faith and the Spirit of God.

So, I repeat myself again and again. Has God ever spoken to you? Perhaps you think not, but perhaps He has but you were not listening or not believing it was God. Or maybe it required that you lay down more than you were willing to lay down. (to make adjustments in your devotions and dependencies) God speaks to us through prayer, other Believers and circumstances.  Dr. Blackaby said that the problem is not really in knowing it is God, the problem is obeying what He says to you.  God will never ask you to do something that you can do on your own. His call to you will always bring you to a crisis of belief.  Of trust. It will test the “true” devotion of your heart. You may not have to quit your job or live in a trailer or leave your family and friends behind. But, matter what it is – how small it may seem – it will require faith in the One who is calling.

Tomorrow - Reality Seven.

To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.” – Jude 24-25

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