Thursday, April 30, 2020

Do The Words We Say Really Matter?

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.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17-18

There are very few people, apart from family that new me before I was born again.  I was pretty normal in the natural man sense of the word.  Living life just like everyone else was – at least who lived life like me. But there was a day in September 1976 that turned my life upside down. The things that seemed to control me – one by one fell away. I was not transfigured – but I was and am still being to this day, transformed. I was not the old Charley. I used alcohol excessively like so many other vets I knew to compensate. PTSD was not the “buzz word” it is today. I could barely speak without using expletives – profanity. But almost it seems in an instant – those things were no longer part of my life.  The things I stopped doing, the Word says not to do.  The Spirit in me and the Word of God was, and still is, having its affect. 

I was having a conversation with some other Christians the other day when one of the guys blurted out some profanity.  That always gets my attention.  I suppose because it was so much a part of the “old” me.  I hear it everyday as I live in this world, but I don’t expect to hear it come our of the mouths of Christians. There are certain words that seem to fall in the category of “that is the way men speak” or perhaps – “There is nothing really wrong with those words.”  The thing is, it is my spirit that is checked when I hear them come out of the mouths of other Christians.  Now you may be thinking, “So what is the big deal – they are just words.” Please allow me to give you some Biblical perspective. 

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

Words matter. We are salt and light – speaking life  -ambassadors of Christ – representatives of the King. Why would we think it is OK to represent the world instead – and encourage others to do it as well? Well the answer to that question is – “No body likes to sin alone!” Ask Adam and Eve about that.

But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude [likeness] of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening?” – James 3:8-11

Does this seem like a trivial thing to you? Well, it may seem that way but looking at a person of the opposite sex lustfully may seem trivial – but Jesus said you are guilt of adultery if the temptation settles into your heart.  The word says “Don’t do it.” The world says, “It’s not so bad – there are a lot worse things than profanity.” This is what James said about it. 

“For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.”  – James 2:10

That does not leave any wiggle room.  Sin is not OK, no matter how trivial it might seem. How acceptable it might be among even your Christian friends. Remember, people don’t like to sin alone – it other professing Christians are doing it, it is easy to feel justified in doing it yourself. I am reminded of the classic “Mom” question in response to me say “All my friends are doing it”. “If your friends jumped off of a bridge, would you jump off too?”

Well …. Would you?  Do you?

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

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Are You Ready To Tend The Garden?

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

A friend of mine was talking to me about something that happened to her.  Something wonderful and, at the same time terrifying.  She was talking to tech support trying to solve her internet router problem – if can you identify – say Hallelujah!  At any rate – she had been having a not-so-good week – and ready or not – somehow the conversation went personal and spiritual. Next thing you know – she led a young man – who lives on the other side of the world to the foot of the cross.  She said she was terrified and yet her heart was rejoicing.  She knows that she can’t save anyone.  She knows that there is not special Christian mantra that, if said often enough, will be irresistible to the hearer.  She knew it was God and she suspected that what had been happening to her the week prior was preparation for that phone call.

Do you think that God would do that? Does it seem impossible or circumstantial? Let me ask this.  Do you believe that God would send His Son from heaven to die on a cross for that young man on the other end of that phone call? Do you believe that could happen? Why are we surprised by what God does.  One reason I think is that deep down, everyone knows that they don’t deserve God’s grace and mercy – and yet He gave it and continues to give it. The really amazing thing is that He uses people like you and me, like my friend to be part of it. We are merely tending the Garden – like Paul and Apollos

Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.”  – 1 Corinthians 3:5-7

We are not on the hunt for “spiritual scalps” as if we get extra points in heaven for leading people to the Lord.  We are just doing our “job”, what God intended and what Jesus commanded.  God uses us as part of the “salvation chain of events” that culminates in someone surrendering to faith in Jesus. It is a privilege to be part of that. But I want to point out a part of 1 Peter 3:15 that is typically not emphasized. “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts” That means that we must be spiritually prepared for what God is leading us to.  So often we prepare to share our faith as if we were memorizing our lines for a play or a speech.  When God uses you to plant or water, it is a spiritual event.  We should spend more time on preparing our hearts and less time on memorizing a script as if a person’s salvation depended upon our words said the right way in the right amount of time.

I know that what I am saying is not conventional, but God is not conventional – He is God. There is no magic formula for leading someone to the Lord like my friend did – it is spiritual and Spirit-led. Listen my mom shared the Lord with me for seven years – but it was not until my heart was ready did I put my faith in Jesus – and then it was not during a conversation with her.  Was she part of it – absolutely but she was not the source of the power behind it.  So what about you? Are you ready? Or I suppose I should ask, “Is your heart sanctified and ready?” I hope so.

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

Monday, April 27, 2020

The Value of Adversity

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” – James 1:2-8

Have you heard the expression, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”? Do you believe it? I have been watching our country respond to the COVID 19 pandemic with some interest.  On the whole, people in this country are self-absorbed – narcissistic even. (BTW Narcissism a sense of self-importance, a lack of empathy for others, a need for excessive admiration, and the belief that one is unique and deserving of special treatment.) So I have been pleasantly surprised to see how many have responded to this crisis – excluding politicians and talking heads on TV.  It caused me to reflect on how this country has responded when threatened by some “evil” in the past.

When we face adversity, which is a guarantee in this life, as Christians, we must do so with faith in God and not trust in our government or ourselves, really.  James’ reference to being double minded is when we can’t decide who we are going to trust – God or man.  The Bible says “Trust in the Lord with every ounce of your being ..” Proverbs 3:5-6 paraphrased.  Lack of faith is indecisiveness.  Our problem is when we have decided what we want the outcome to be and doubt that God will deliver on our desires.  What if He doesn’t heal me? What if He doesn’t get my job back for me? What if ………?

Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  – Philippians 4:11-13

Paul’s attitude on life was a result of his life-focus.  His faith was in Jesus not in his circumstances. Oh, I am not like Paul, you say? Yes you are, I say.  We are all saved by grace through faith.  What might make you think that you are not like Paul is that you don’t place your faith in Jesus like Paul. It is not that you can’t.  It is that you choose not to. Me too, by the way.  We are struggle with being double minded.  Some more than others. But struggle we do!

In Galatians 5, you can read about the fruit of the flesh (my description) and the fruit of the Spirit (God’s revelation).  The fruit of the flesh is manifested because of the circumstances people find themselves in and self-trust, The Fruit of the Spirit is manifested in Christians, in spite of their circumstances, because of faith and their trust in God.  What Paul was describing in Philippians was a result of the Spirit of God at work in his life. 

 “… love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” – Galatians 5:22-23

I saw a bumper sticker once that said “No Jesus – no peace – Know Jesus – know peace”  We will never know what it’s like to live in contentment no matter what storm is raging around us if we are double minded – something to pray about and then practice.  The good thing about adversity is that it can drive you to your knees and cause you to “look to the Hills from whence your help cometh” (Psalm 121)

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

Friday, April 24, 2020

When Not Seeing Is Believing

Faith is the substance of things hoped for the evidence of things not seen.” – Hebrews 11:1

To exercise faith, we must first act without seeing and then we will see without acting. We must be willing to trust God first and then God will bless us … act on our behalf … accomplish His purpose. That is not to say that somehow our unbelief limits God. But because of our unbelief, we will miss what God might do in response to our belief. Our lack of faith limits us, not God. The exercising of faith is a challenge to our flesh, but a joy to our spirit.

Having faith is easy when it is not being tested. In Matthew 14, Peter started out by trusting, responding to the word of Jesus. But then he felt the salt water splashing in his face. He saw the waves rolling around him. He realized that what he was doing was impossible. But there he was out of the boat and walking on the sea. The moment he stopped trusting, he started sinking.

Like Peter, we find ourselves in situations that seem impossible for us to overcome. We struggle with the enormity of what we see and feel, and lack confidence in what we don’t see. We lack confidence that we can really do what must be done. In our own minds, we are certain that we won’t survive this, that we won’t be able to bear it another minute. That is when we need to look to Jesus.

In my experience the greatest enemy facing me and my desire to follow God and yield to His leading and ways is, well, me! Not trusting God is part of my old nature, trusting God is part of the new. I find it so easy to agree with God and acknowledge His precepts as right, and yet, when faced with life I turn to me and not to Him. The phrase “Living by Faith” is not meant to be a plaque on the living room wall or merely a pleasantry that we acknowledge as being right. To live by faith in God means to trust Him first.

Living by faith is not like one of the bodily functions controlled by the autonomic nervous system, like breathing and heart beating. Faith is something that you must pursue, to think about. Living by faith is intentional. It is an act of the will. If you are struggling in your faith, it is most likely that the source of the struggle is you and not your circumstances. Like the man who sought help from Jesus for his son.

So He asked his father, ‘How long has this been happening to him?’ And he said, ‘From childhood. And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.’ Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!’” ― Mark 9:21-24

In this life on Earth, we are not spared from hardship or heartache, but we can endure whatever life brings our way if we will only have faith in the One who sent His Son, the One who created us from dust and breathed life into us. Born once naturally and then again in our spiritual rebirth when He sealed us with His Spirit ― the Breath of God. I know that trusting God in the midst of the turmoil of life can be difficult. Maybe you think it is impossible. At times I did.

There are consequences when Christians neglect the disciplines of the Faith. If Sunday is the weekly sum total of the time they spend with the Father, and maybe not even then, when the test comes, and it will come, they will likely get a failing grade. Not because God was not able to sustain them, but because they chose to ignore Him and trust themselves. Why is something that seems so simple so hard to do? Because it’s in the DNA of our old nature to trust ourselves even if it always leads to failure. Remember that is the definition of insanity. Doing the same thing over and over the same way, expecting a different outcome.

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

Thursday, April 23, 2020

We Are The Same Standing Before God in Christ

“Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I [Paul] withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews? We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ” ― Galatians 2:11-16

Something that I have always been dismayed by is the tendency for many Christians to put their natural heritage, their ethnicity, ahead of their spiritual heritage.  Paul confronted Peter over that.  My ancestors are from Scotland – not Africa, not Asia, not South or Central America. That determines what I look like on the outside but it does not define who I am on the inside – if I am truly born again and not merely religious that is. Paul was at the pinnacle of what it meant to be a Jew when he met Jesus on the road.  He was persecuting Christians – and the next thing he knew, he was defending them. He got it.

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

There is no room for racial division in the Body of Christ.  We should not extend our natural self and demand acceptance of our flesh before we extend our spiritual self in fellowship and unity.

A new commandment I [Jesus] give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”  – John 15:34-35

Did you catch that? People will know that we are Jesus disciples if we love one another – that love is a love born out of our new nature – it comes from God.  The world is full of division - the Body of Christ is “supposed” to be united in love by the Spirit through faith in Jesus. If I love you by the Spirit but you tolerate me in the flesh there is no unity.  What does the Spirit have to do with the flesh. It is an uneven yoke and will be easily broken.  John 17 is all about unity in the Body.  If you have a problem loving your brother or sister – no matter what the color of their skin is, what part of the country they live in or how much money they have or don’t have – you have a love problem – not with them – that is merely a reflection – a response.  No, the problem is that you don’t love God enough – pure and simple – like or not – believe it or not – I didn’t say it – God did.

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

And because we love Him, we love others.  There you have it. Perhaps it is something to pray about.

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

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Being Satisfied With Good-Enough

“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.” ― Philippians 3:13-15

When, in this mortal life, can we say, ‘I am spiritual enough?’ or ‘I have done enough.’ or ‘I have changed enough?’ or ‘I have given up enough?’

Is there a point in our life when we can just be satisfied with where we are – who we are – even with some things that we know in our heart are not pleasing to God? But they are good enough as far as we are concerned? The Apostle Paul seems to be telling us – actually God through Paul – that we should never be satisfied with where we are. I am not suggesting that I should try harder to be more godly and less carnal. I am saying that I must “faith” harder – surrender more so I can become more godly and less carnal. I should never be satisfied with any of the carnality that continues to haunt me and is sometimes displayed – even though I would like people to think that I am past all of that.

None of us are past that. All of us struggle with our flesh and its desire to rule over us. That tension is always there – I suppose God allows it as a reminder that I am dependent on God, the Spirit, and the Word in this new life of mine. When I am tempted it is my natural side that is tempted not my spiritual nature. When I sin – it is my sinful nature that is rising up.

Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.” – James 1:12-14

Don’t be satisfied with good-enough! Don’t be content with the fact that you must face temptations to yield to your old nature and submit to them. That is never OK. It is never justified although it might be rationalized.  I saw a that word, rationalized, written in a different way – Rational Lies – we tell ourselves lies to justify our sin. God is not convinced and neither is the Spirit in us. And really, neither are we.

Press On toward  your high calling, my friend, and look to God, not yourself, for the strength to do it.

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

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Walking By The Man In The Ditch

“Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side.” ― Luke 10:30-32

Typically, the story of the Good Samaritan is focused on, well, the Good Samaritan. And, that is good. But today I want to focus on the other two guys. This was a parable which means that for the purpose of the parable there were only three people that walked down that road. A priest, a Levite and the guy from Samaria.  A Levite was from the tribe of Levi and they helped the priests in the temple – so, today, we might say a pastor, a worship leader and a guy from the wrong side of town.

You get the idea. Anyway – the pastor and the worship leader were busy men.  They had some place to go and a certain time to get there.  They saw the guy in the ditch but had no compassion for him – he might be a Christian, but he didn’t attend their church. So – no responsibility, right? Justified in not allowing that person to disrupt their schedule, their priorities and perhaps their resources.

Starting to get the idea?  We have to be careful that when God presents an opportunity for us to be Jesus to someone, we don’t see it as inopportune.  So we just keep on walking – avoid eye contact – that always seems to work.  Pretend like the person isn’t there.  That is another effective way of dodging the issue. I mean maybe that is not your gifting – yeah that’s it. It is God’s fault that he did not equip you for that moment. Uh, probably not!

We all struggle with the temptation to walk on the other side of the road.  When we do – it is an indication that we have a love problem. Certainly toward the person in need – but more directly – for God, Himself.

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

If we are having a problem loving others – in a practical way – not just having a good feeling towards other people – it is because we have a weak relationship with the Father. Those guys were in the worship business – and yet they missed the opportunity to show the love of God – the object of their worship to another human being in need.

No matter what God asks me to do for others, it will never match the sacrifice Jesus made for me. The same goes for you my friend.

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

Monday, April 20, 2020

How Many Times? The Answer Is Not Blowin’ In The Wind

“Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” ― Matthew 18:21-23

In the 60’s and 70’s there was a group called Peter, Paul, and Mary. Almost sounds Biblical doesn’t it? But they were a secular group. Anyway, the sang a song called “Blowin’ in the Wind”. In that song was the phrase “How many times?” As I sat here this morning asking the Lord “What is it that I should write?” that song came to mind and then Peter asking Jesus that same question.

On the face of it, it seems reasonable doesn’t it. Someone wrongs you, over and over, how many times do you have to forgive them? I guess the question might be reversed – “How many times do you want God to forgive you?” Five? Ten? Or how about every time. I think there is a distinction that should be made here – Forgiveness is your part – confession and repentance is the offender’s part. It is not to say that there is not a disruption in the relationship. But when someone offends you and repents then the relationship is restored.

How exactly that works with God and me is how it is supposed to work with me and others.  That is why Jesus shared the parable about the unforgiving servant right after Peter’s question. I get the feeling that Peter had some number in his head at which point he would feel justified in rejecting his repentant friend.

But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt.” – Matthew 5:28-30

The servant who had just been forgiven much now had the opportunity to forgive little, but it was different. Had had been offended where before he was the offender.  He wanted forgiveness of his debt but was unwilling even to give more time to repaid a debt owed him.  Jesus is the payment of our debt – the satisfier of God’s wrath for my sin.  Why would I not be willing to show the same grace and mercy to others? No matter how many times I am offended by someone – it can never match the forgiveness I have received and the gift of eternal life that I have been given.  Same goes for you!

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” ― 1 John 1:9

Is that a hard thing for you to do? Well that is because it is an impossible thing to do – if you are counting on you – alone. Forgiveness – like God forgives – has a spiritual root.  It is a reflection of the fruit of the Spirit. If you can’t find it to forgive when a person repents then the root of your problem is spiritual not self-will. And for those who offend you that don’t repent? God has an answer for that too.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I [Jesus] say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” – Matthew 5:43-48 

No matter what God asks me to do for others, it will never match the sacrifice Jesus made for me. The same goes for you my friend.

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

Friday, April 17, 2020

What It Takes To Be A Witness

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

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”  I first heard Dr. John Maxwell say this at a Promise Keepers Conference in Indianapolis in the mid 90’s.  There are some statement that I have heard over the years that have stuck with me – that is one of them.  It is not so much what I say but what I do about what I say. It is not enough to think good thoughts – that is the world’s version of praying – but what is most beneficial is faith in action.

When the Good Samaritan saw the man in the ditch – it was not enough to stop and say – “I will pray for you friend.” The man needed something more than that. Sometimes saying “ I will pray for you.”  Is just a way of avoiding getting involved – of having to do something tangible.  In that case the Samaritan who had no cultural obligation to help a Jew – helped – above and beyond.

If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.” – Matthew 5:40-42

I have a red hooded Carhartt work jacket that I have had since 2005. I was standing in the parking lot of a church in Waveland, Mississippi.  I was running a volunteer camp at the time.  It was November or December, not sure, but I do know it was cold and I was not dressed for it. I didn’t have a coat, but the situation called for me to be where I was in spite of the cold.  We had over a hundred volunteers at the camp who had come to help the people affected by Katrina. At any rate, I was doing what I do – what God has SHAPE’d (not a typo) me to do. A guy walked up to me and asked if I had a coat. “No I don’t.” was my answer. So he took his coat off and gave it to me. The red hooded Carhartt work jacket. And said “Keep it!” I was humbled by his demonstration of Jesus command. And me being me – I reminded him that the scripture said he should give me his shirt too! He said he was going to keep his shirt! That selfless act is another thing that has stuck with me over the years. He may not remember it, but I do every time I put that jacket on because it is cold outside.

I don’t even know his name.  He went his way that day and I went mine – both of us consumed with the unbelievable task at hand. Why tell you that story? Because I know that he was a disciple of Jesus. Not because he shared the Gospel with me – but because of his selfless act of kindness to a stranger. Hmmm.  Kind of like the Good Samaritan.

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” ― John 15:33

Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan after he had shared the two greatest commandments – Love God and Love Others. He was asked to explain who the “others” were – certainly not the people we don’t’ like! God sent His Son to die for people who didn’t like Him. Kind of takes away our excuses doesn’t it.

We have all been affected by COVID 19. But that has not absolved us of being Jesus to those around us.  Those we meet. Those that we may not like even – for what we consider to be justifiable reasons. 

No matter what God asks me to do for others, it will never match the sacrifice Jesus made for me. Same goes for you my friend.

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

Thursday, April 16, 2020

What Have You Put Your Faith In?

“Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” ― James 4:17

When we are confronted with the Truth of God, you and I know it. The troubling question is always, “What are we 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? That is a kinder way of describing disobedience. Very often we choose to not consider our disregard as disobedience, but rather merely a choice that is available to us.

This is something you can tuck in your pocket: God will not bless us in our disobedience. What you don’t realize at the moment you are confronted with the Truth is that you have entered into Spiritual warfare. Your spiritual nature is doing battle with your old nature, your sinful nature. If you choose to ignore the Truth, it is because your natural self is stronger than your spiritual self and if you think that God will bless you anyway, you are deceiving both your selves.

This principle is immutable. God will not compromise. You can’t make deals with God. “God if you do this, then I will do that.” Obedience begins in the heart and is demonstrated by what we do. Before Abraham took Isaac to the mountain, Isaac was already sacrificed in Abraham’s heart. But at the same time, although Abraham did not know how God would do it, Abraham was confident that God would fulfill His promise to Abraham through Isaac. (Hebrews 11:19)

Obedience is born out of faith in the one whom you obey. We can have faith in God, faith in ourselves, or faith in the world. We never lack faith – the real question is,  “What do you have faith in?” Not what do you “want” to have faith in, but when it is time to exercise your faith – what is it that you are depending upon? Separation from God in the Garden began when Adam put his faith in himself and lost faith with God. My obedience or disobedience do not change who God is, but it does change how I relate to Him and to the world. Your actions and thoughts are shaped by what you have faith in, which is what you worship.

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

Not only does your mouth speak what is in your heart, but what you do in life is derived from what is in your heart and where your devotion is placed. As Christians, we must always be on our guard. Adam did not intend to sin, but he was tempted, and he yielded to the temptation. A word to the wise for all of us. We should not deceive ourselves into thinking the condition of our heart and the sin that has taken up residence there does not matter, that we can serve God in spite of our sin. We might still do “good” things, but what we do does not honor God nor do those deeds have the power of God behind them.

And he [the rich young ruler] 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 18:21-23

What have you put your faith in?

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

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

God Gets Us Moving So He Can Direct Our Path

 “Men make plans in their hearts, but God orders their steps.” – Proverbs 16:9 

The path that I follow as I walk in the Way is not about me chopping my way through the jungle – making a path – figuring it out on my own. It’s about me listening to the Lord and not judging the people or decomposing the problem to solve it like it was some academic exercise, but hearing the still small voice.  Lord, I want to hear your voice and follow you.

Example: Having made my first trip to Haiti, I wish I could say I knew where the Lord was leading us, but I didn’t. I had a strong suspicion that Haiti was part of our future somehow. It would be nice if the Lord would load our next destination into “My Favorite Places” in our GPS and then I could just select it and follow the route to our next place of service. It is probably not going to happen. Instead, He wants us to do what we have done in the past. Place our faith in the One who calls and look for the signs along the way. The route may seem treacherous, but God is with us. He is in the boat sleeping while we are in the same boat worrying. And He asks ‘Why are you worrying.’ He is on the water, walking confidently, while we are struggling to keep our head above water. We are concerned about the waves around us and wondering what in the world we are doing outside of the safety of the boat. And He asks us, “Why did you doubt?” Lord we believe, but help us with our unbelief.

So, the first trip was a stepping stone on the path the Lord had set our feet upon. I was hoping for an epiphany, something I could tell Martie ― OK, this is it. But I still saw men as trees walking. I knew my vision would clear in time and we would be in the place the Lord had intended. In the meantime, we would walk in what we knew and would trust the Lord in what we didn’t know.

Nothing happens until something moves.” ― Albert Einstein

A friend of ours told me the other day, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” I know that sounds like one of those “Duh!” statements.  But it is actually profound in its simplicity.  Accepting and acting when we don’t know is what faith and obedience in God is all about.  But oh, we want to know!

Choosing to step out is an act of our will in obedience to the voice of God. Making a change in the direction we thought we were going in, is a demonstration of our willingness to follow wherever He leads.

There is a song – “Wherever He leads I’ll go” a verse says “I’ll follow my Christ who loves me so – wherever He leads, I’ll go.”  I often wonder what was going on in the life of the person who wrote those great hymns. In this case the writer was, Dr. B.B. McKinney. “Reverend R. S. Jones, McKinney’s friend of many years, who because of ill health had recently returned from missionary service in Brazil. The two men were visiting over dinner one evening when Mr. Jones revealed to Dr. McKinney that his physicians would not allow him to return to South America. When asked about his future plans the missionary said, ‘I don’t know, but wherever He leads I’ll go.’” ( And thus a song was born from that conversation.

Following God will always cost you some earthly devotion.

If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” – Mark 8:34

In what way has God challenged you in your journey as a Christian? Where does He want to take you?

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

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Places Where Jesus Is Not Welcome

“….Now a good way off from them there was a herd of many swine feeding. So the demons begged Him, saying, ‘If You cast us out, permit us to go away into the herd of swine.’ And He said to them, ‘Go.’ So when they had come out, they went into the herd of swine. And suddenly the whole herd of swine ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and perished in the water. Then those who kept them fled; and they went away into the city and told everything, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus. And when they saw Him, they begged Him to depart from their region." – Matthew 8:30-34

Jesus intervened in the life of a man tormented by demons.  Instead of rejoicing with the man and acknowledging the significant thing that Jesus had done – the local people asked Jesus to leave the area. They didn’t want Jesus around.  He was making them uncomfortable – messing with their way of living.  When Jesus shows up – He is not always welcome.

Some years ago – well, I guess a lot of years ago, I was invited to a get together with some men from the church we were attending.  It was Superbowl time – a time that our culture reveres as much, it seems to me, as Christmas and Easter. So – the game was about to start – everyone settled in to watch it.  I struck up a conversation with a couple of the guys about Jesus and some faith issue.  I don’t remember what the topic was but I do remember the response. “Look we came here to watch football – not to talk about Jesus.” The message was clear.

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

Men have a penchant for compartmentalizing their lives.  It is like the person who puts food on their plate and does not allow any of the individual food items to touch each other – the beans, the meat, the potatoes are all kept separate. Even though they are all going into the same stomach. I am certain that “foodies” would argue that they just want to enjoy the taste of each – nothing nefarious going on. But don’t even think about putting the beans on the potatoes!  You will be in big trouble buddy!

So the guys were in their football compartment – Jesus was relegated to His space – and in their minds the compartments should never touch – I mean why should they? What does Jesus have to do with football?

Our faith does not have a switch that you can flip off and on like a light switch.  We only let our “light” shine at the appropriate moments in the appropriate places.  There are some places where Jesus is not welcome.  In fact, if He shows up, it will make people feel uncomfortable and we don’t like that feeling – so Jesus will just have to leave.

I was talking with someone last week about the cost of following Jesus and the rejection that sometimes follows by people we know – sometimes even rejection by members of our family.  I told them – “It is not you they are rejecting, it is the Spirit of God that you brought with you.”

And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.” – John 3:19-20

I am not suggesting that watching the Superbowl is evil. What I am suggesting is that there is nothing on this earth that is superior to our faith and when we start thinking that there are circumstances when we don’t have time for Jesus – we have a faith problem. And when you experience rejection –  when you feel like the odd person out – and it is not because you have been insensitively bashing someone with the Bible – remember that the world – on the whole – did not embrace Jesus’ presence. Don’t be surprised or dismayed by what you see or experience. It is the very reason that God sent the Son – to rescue people just like them and He uses people just like you to bring His light into the room.  

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

Monday, April 13, 2020

Hanging On To Just A Little Bit Is A Lot

“…. whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple." – Luke 14:33

The picture that the Gospels paint is clear about what God expects of His children – about what Jesus demanded of those who would follow in His footsteps.  About what it meant for Him to be Lord in their – in our – lives.  I am leading an Experiencing God study on Zoom – with a few friends.  I have led this study on several occasions – once in Haiti with about 15 young men and women – English speaking Haitians.  At any rate, the principles presented in the study have become foundational to my Christian view  - how I respond to and live my life.

There are 7 principles -  a principle being a basic idea or rule that explains or controls how something happens or works that Dr. Blackaby suggests explain how God interacts with the world and specifically with Christians.  No worries – I am not going to expound on all 7 this morning – but I do want to share two.

If you are going to follow Jesus, you will always be brought to a crisis of belief – challenged in your heart and your natural reasoning about how you live your life – what you embrace and what you reject.  Second – once you accept what ever it is that God has challenged you to believe and embrace, you will have to make major adjustments in your life if you “believe that what you believe is really real.” (Dr. Del Tackett, Focus on the Family). 

So Jesus said – “you must forsake all” “Love God with all your heart, mind, and soul” “Lay you life down for others” “Pick up your cross daily” The Epistles written by the Apostles tell us – “If we are in Christ – old things are passing away and all things are becoming new” “Don’t love the world or the things of this world” “You can’t love God and money – You can only love one of them (no matter how you try to convince yourself otherwise)” “We are saved by grace though faith – not works – (it is our first crisis of belief)”

These verse references are only the tip of the discipleship iceberg.  The adjustments that must take place in a Christian’s life are legion. And the thing is – you can’t do any of them on your own. They happen when you yield your heart to God – to the indwelling and leading of the Spirit of God through faith in the Son of God.

So – you have time to think these days – what is it that God has been speaking to you about that perhaps you have been unwilling to embrace? What crisis of believe has God brought you to – and like Israel standing at the river Jordan when it is overflowing its banks – God is saying walk across the river to the place I have promised. The first time – the people said “no” and wandered in the desert, missing what God had waiting for them.  The second time – they had to step into the water before the river backed up – in other words, they had to trust God in spite of what they saw or felt.  We all have regrets. Don’t let them be the reason that you don’t cross what ever river bank you are standing on today.  What adjustments will you have to make to obey? What are you going to do? I want to encourage you to step into the water – and just see what God will do as you obey Him.

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

Friday, April 10, 2020

Keeping Your Distance From Man – Drawing Close to God - Remembering and Rejoicing

“…. For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes." – 1 Corinthians 11:26

Last night a group of us from our church celebrated  the Lord’s Supper – virtually.  There were about 30 of us gathered together on the computer screen.  Remembering.  Remembering the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world.  His body broken and his blood shed as the eternal Passover sacrifice.

“And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before, ‘This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,’ then He adds, ‘Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.’ Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.” – Hebrews 10:11-18

It is important that we pause in the midst of this COVID-19 “mess” to remember and rejoice.  We need to remember what a great gift of life we, who profess Jesus as Lord, have been given because of Jesus, the Cross and His resurrection.  We need to rejoice in knowing that our salvation comes by faith and not by human effort.  If becoming a Christian required that you could lift 200 pounds – then only those who are strong would enter heaven. But that is not the case.  Only those who are humble in heart and will yield themselves to God, by faith, will know eternal life. Only those who have been born again.

Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.’” – John 3:3-6

Easter is one of the times when the church buildings fill up – people taking a break from their worldly endeavors – “pile” in to the pews for that one day.  The celebration of the Resurrection has been commercialized by the world – just like the Christmas celebration. All of the hoopla has been stripped away this year because of social distancing. The church buildings will be empty Sunday morning – but the Church is alive and well.  Now is the time to remember and rejoice – to draw close to the Father – remembering the Son – yielding to the Spirit and embracing the Word.

Don’t expect the World to rejoice with you.  It was the World that crucified Jesus – it wants nothing to do with the Father, the Son, the Spirit or the Word – or those who are called the children of God. Don’t let that surprise you – but it should sadden you.  But even in that you can rejoice because Jesus said it would be so.  In John 13, after the supper, Jesus gave two commands – serve one another and love one another – that will be a testimony to a world that is convinced it is right but is lost in its sin. That is our challenge and because of the Cross – we are up to the task – by the power that is in us – a yielded heart fueled by the power of the Holy Spirit.

These things I [Jesus] 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

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

Thursday, April 9, 2020

What Does It Take To Get Someone’s Attention

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

Watching the news yesterday, the Franklin Graham representing the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, shared the Gospel message and encouraged the listeners to pray the sinner’s prayer. Honestly I was surprised  because it was in stark contrast to what I normally see on TV – which is reflection of a culture that, on the whole, has drifted far from God. A culture that has been turned on its head because of COVID-19 and yet holds a disdain for anything to do with Jesus.

So to hear Franklin Graham speak about God’s love, Jesus sacrifice and the way to salvation was refreshing and, at the same time, quite like having someone shine a bright light in your eyes in a dark room.  Whenever there is a disaster – there are those who wonder if it is the judgement of God – an urging to respond to God – like the 10 plagues in Egypt.  Some wonder if we are in the last days – suspecting that Jesus return is imminent.  I wish I could confirm one or the other – but I can’t.  But I do know that when the feeling of being in control has been taken from the grip of those who think they have control, even if they are just hanging on by their fingertips – fear sets in – quickly. But with that fear, hardened hearts are sensitized to things spiritual. That is why Franklin Graham was on prime time TV. 

Listen – people will not hear the message of salvation anywhere but from the Body of Christ.  This is a time to be salt and light.  It is not the time to retreat within the walls of the local church fortress and close the gates. But a time to be ready to be a witness – not just with words but by the way we live our lives and respond to the same trouble everyone else faces.  My calling, and perhaps yours, is not to be like Franklin Graham – I have not been given the gift of evangelism – but I do have the responsibility of being a messenger of Hope – and ambassador for Christ – and so do you.

So be alert – be spiritually prepared – prayed up – tuned in – simply to be a witness when people ask for the reason for the hope that is in you.  Our responsibility is to lift Jesus up – it is the Holy Spirit’s job to bring the conviction that leads to salvation. 

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

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

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Are There Skeletons In Your Closet?

He [the Lord] asked me, 'Son of man, can these bones live?' I said, 'O Sovereign LORD, you alone know.'" - Ezekiel 37:3

Is there something in your life that you have decided is broken beyond repair? Something that you have given up hope that it will ever change. Not something about someone else – but something about you.  With respect to something that is typically not a good thing, I often hear people say – “Well that is just the way our family is.” As if to say – “There is nothing I can do about it – it is the way I was raised or it is my DNA.”  You might feel helpless and hopeless.

Perhaps it is a persistent sin – a sin that you cannot just seem to shake loose from.  Stuck on you like glue. You hate it.  Paul talked about his struggles in Romans chapter 7.

For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do….. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.  But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” – Romans 7:14-15,22-25

The solution to whatever it is that you think won’t ever change is not trying harder – it is “faithing” harder – trusting in God more and us less. Like Ezekiel – we are looking at something that is beyond the realm of possible – but it is not impossible for God. I am thinking – Ezekiel looked that the bones and knew that they were the bones of dead men – long gone.  God looked at the bones and He was and is the Creator God who formed man from the dust of the earth – spoke the universe into being – how difficult would it be for Him to raise up that which was thought impossible by men?  That which you have decided is impossible?

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” – Ephesians 3:20-21

That is the God who saved us. That is the God we serve.  There is nothing impossible for Him. That thing that you struggle with – give it to the Lord.  Stop trying to fix it yourself. I know that all of us have “dead bones” in our lives. As a Christian you are living a life of new possibilities – where the impossible is now possible but only by faith. I was just reminding a pastor friend in Jacmel, Haiti – Bondye kapab fé sa – God can do it! Whatever it is.

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

Monday, April 6, 2020

What Do You Have To Offer

And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered the temple; who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms. And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, ‘Look at us.’ So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. Then Peter said, ‘Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.’” – Acts 3:2-6

The first orphanage in Jacmel, Haiti I was asked to build was made from shipping containers.  The picture shows the dining facility which was a container under a roof on a cement pad.  The reason John Turnbull, Pastor Doug Moyer (sitting) and I had t-shirts on our heads was because we were doing a skit for the orphans about the lame man at the gate (Acts 3). I thought of this skit when I started to formulate the devotion for this morning.  John and I were Peter and John, but John was not John, John was Peter. Confusing?

When the lame man was at the gate he had no expectation of ever walking – let alone leaping or running. No, that was not to be his lot in life. Instead, his life - every day- was somehow getting to a place where he could beg for money so he could survive. You have seen people like him, I am certain – they have their spot along the road – you see them day after day – most of them have no hope of their days ever being any different. No hope for the future – for a “normal” life. You meet people like that every day – people who have no hope of their lives ever being better than they are. A life full of stress over a litany of troubles. Normally we don’t make eye contact with people we suspect might want something from us. If you look a beggar in the eye that normally means you intend to give them something – money or food – so you don’t unless you do – intend to give them something that is.

So this lame man looked at these two guys hoping for a coin or two. Peter fixed his eyes on him – remember – this was after Pentecost – Peter was a new Peter – filled with the Spirit of God – just like you and me. What Peter had to offer was not a coin – but a new life of hope – a new lease on life. The man expected a coin but instead Peter said “Rise up and walk!”

And he (Peter) took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them—walking, leaping, and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God. Then they knew that it was he who sat begging alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.” – Acts 3:7-10

This healing gave Peter the opportunity to lift up the name of Jesus (you can read the rest of the story in Acts 3).  And so do we.  We pass by spiritually lame people every day.  Oh, most often we try not to look them in the eyes. That is because we are looking at our human abilities and so avoid reaching down with our hand.  It was not Peter that healed the man, but God through Peter. In the same way, it is not you and I who save people – it is God through our lifting Jesus up – sharing the Gospel that the spiritually lame might be healed.

And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to Him, ‘Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.’” – Matthew 11:2-6

What do you have to offer a crippled world – a world that seems to be imploding? Jesus. The world, the people you meet can rise up and walk in the name of Jesus. So let your light shine – even in the midst of this pandemic.

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

Thursday, April 2, 2020

What Is Truth

Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, “I find no fault in Him at all.” – John 18:17-38

Pilate was about to deny the Truth, who was a king – in the spiritual sense, and the truth that He had nothing worthy of going to the Cross. We so often struggle with understanding the truth of situations we find ourselves in.  We see life in one way but the truth is, from God’s perspective, something entirely different.

And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep. Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We are perishing!’ But He said to them, ‘Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?’.” – Matthew 8:24-26

The disciples were certain they knew the truth, they were about to die.  Some of them were seasoned fishermen who had spent their lives on the water.  They knew full well what storm like this one could to and what they had to do to survive, and they had done everything they knew to do – dug deep – but to no avail.  They were going to do.  But Jesus asked why they were afraid and told them they lacked faith.  Lacked faith? I am certain they were soaking wet from the waves crashing over the sides of the boat. It sure felt like they were done for.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” – Hebrews 11:1

Placing your trust in what you cannot see.  Trusting what is in direct contravention to human wisdom and life experience. From a human perspective – it is madness – from a spiritual perspective it is the very foundation of our finding salvation and eternal life.

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

I am certain those are verses that you are very familiar with – have heard perhaps hundreds of times.  If you are a Christian your exercised faith to become one, a Christian that is. And it is the same faith that we must exercise as we face the trials and tribulations in this natural life.  Do you recall when the man asked Jesus to heal his son?

And he said, ‘From childhood. And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.’ Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!’” – Mark 9:21-24

Perhaps you believe, you have faith, but you need help with your unbelief, your weak or faltering faith. This is not a criticism, but an encouragement to seek out the One who is the Way and the Truth and the Life – Jesus. Like with the disciples and the man – you may have done everything you know to do, but it was to no avail. In this desperate hour I urge you to “Look Up” – remember Whose you are, What He has promised and Who He is.

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 4:6-7

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

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

The Challenge Of Not Being Under Your Circumstances

Not that I [Paul] speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:11-13

Have you ever asked someone how they are doing and they said, “As well as I might expect under these circumstances.” The question is for all of us who are joint heirs with Christ – adopted sons and daughters of the Creator God – “What are you doing ‘under’ your circumstances?”

What Paul was telling the Philippians and us is that what is happening in the natural – although it may not be a good thing – should not dictate our contentment – our confidence in the future.  Living our lives with spiritual understanding – facing what this natural life brings – good and bad – with the knowing that God is sovereign.

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 4:6-7

There is not one thing that we should be anxious about – our future, our finances, the well-being of our family – whatever might raise its head like a poisonous snake and threaten to undo us.  How we respond to life is a function of the quality of our relationship with the Father – Our success with being content in all things – with not being anxious is determined by the quality of our faith.

In the Army we said that a unit “Fights the way it trains.”  When we are not in battle, we are preparing for battle. I remember, as a second Lieutenant – a butter bar – called that because of the gold bar that signified that rank – I was assigned as a scout platoon leader in an Armor (tank) battalion. The job of the scout is to find the enemy and report.  That means you are on the “pointy” end of the spear.  I would talk to the platoon about the importance of being proficient in what they did – so they would not be a casualty because of their incompetence.  I would talk to them about the Vietnam war – the end of still fresh in the minds of many.  My boss talked to me and told me to stop talking so much about war and death. That our unit was not high on the list for deployment.  We were, after all, a FAD (Force activity designator) 2 unit – meaning we would not be the first to deploy if a war with the Soviet Union broke out. I told him that the Russians did not have FAD-1 and FAD-2 bullets. Their bullets didn’t care who they killed. And the lesson I wanted to teach my troops was that people die in wars – that we might well because of the mission scouts had – which meant that we needed to be really good at what we did – we needed to train the way we would fight.

So – why did I share that story? Because in the same way – as Christians – is we neglect our faith – when the battle comes – whatever form it may take – and we are not ready – we will be in trouble.  We will be just like those who have no faith. If your focus is on the world – circumstances that seem overwhelming – threatening like that venomous snake – and not on God – you are in trouble spiritually.  But you don’t have to be.

If you are home – which most of us are – what are you doing with your time? Bing watching Netflix? Glued to news reports about COVID-19? Stressing over your future. I am not suggesting that you deny reality – COVID-19 is real – Layoffs are real – financial stress is real – but so is the overcoming faith that Paul wrote about – that Jesus spoke about. Jesus asked of His disciples – “Why did you doubt?” He said, “Oh you of little faith.” These were the men that walked beside Him – that personally saw what He did every day. And still they struggled with trust and faith. Do you remember the story about Thomas, the Doubter?

“Then He [Jesus] said to Thomas, ‘Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.’ 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 20:27-29

That would us – we were saved by grace through faith – not by sight!

Some trust in Chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God!” – Psalm 20:7

Remember that and rejoice in spite of the circumstances that might rage around you! Look up

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