Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Staying In Stride With Jesus - It's A Supernatural Ability

"Enoch walked with God…" —Genesis 5:24

“The true test of a person’s spiritual life and character is not what he does in the extraordinary moments of life, but what he does during the ordinary times when there is nothing tremendous or exciting happening. A person’s worth is revealed in his attitude toward the ordinary things of life when he is not under the spotlight (see John 1:35-37 and John 3:30). It is painful work to get in step with God and to keep pace with Him […] In learning to walk with God, there is always the difficulty of getting into His stride, but once we have done so, the only characteristic that exhibits itself is the very life of God Himself." - Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest ”

I was walking down the hall with a friend the other day, but his pace was much faster than mine.  I soon found myself a few yards behind him.  I thought, “I guess my age is catching up with me.”  Then it dawned on me that I might just be out of shape!  We can get out of shape spiritually too.  

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.  Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.  So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.  - 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

This new life we live requires the discipline of an athlete.  Without proper spiritual conditioning, we will find ourselves falling behind, getting spiritually winded – another way of saying that we will struggle with sin and obedience.

There are two qualities that are important both in manufacturing and in the Christian life.  Validity and Reliability.  Validity means that whatever it is, is made and functions according to the designer’s plan.  Reliability means that it continues to function in the same valid way every time.  Have you ever said of someone that they are unreliable?  That they can’t be counted on? Well, perhaps that could be said of us as well with respect to our walk with the Lord.  We all have feet of clay, but we also all have the Spirit of God and the capacity to live a super-natural life.  A life dependent upon the One who saved us and not ourselves. And so my friend, I think we all need to look to Jesus and pick up the pace!

"Therefore we also, 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, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." - Hebrews 12:1-2

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

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Loving God More Must Be More Than A "Want" ... It's A Command

…being justified freely by His grace… —Romans 3:24

We have to realize that we cannot earn or win anything from God through our own efforts. We must either receive it as a gift or do without it. The greatest spiritual blessing we receive is when we come to the knowledge that we are destitute. Until we get there, our Lord is powerless. He can do nothing for us as long as we think we are sufficient in and of ourselves." Oswald Chambers - My Utmost For His Highest

As Christians we live our lives on this earth with a tension between the spiritual and the natural.  The preaching of the earthly health and wealth gospel … God wants you to be rich and healthy … is the carnal Christian's attempt to resolve that tension.  The idea is that God will give you money .. which He tells you not to love … and health .. which He tells you that you will face affliction and hardship of many kinds … and so … you can really be independent of God .. all of your earthly needs will be met … do you see the heresy in this?  God wants us to give up our dependence upon earthly comforts and assurances and trust Him, alone.  There is a difference between depending on something and having it. When Job lost everything, the assumption was that he had done something wrong .. why?  Because he lost his earthly possessions. What was the truth .. there was something spiritual at work that superseded the natural.  The same is true in our lives.  The thing is, you must be willing to submit to that … to yield your devotion and dependence upon the natural and trust God's provision.  What do you hunger for?  I see people struggling after disasters and war and poverty, while Americans are trying to figure out if they should go ahead and buy that $1000 iPhone and get rid of their $700 iPhone.  The Church in the United States is the “frog in the pot” with respect to materialism.  We don’t know that we are being cooked … instead, we think the water temperature is just right.

I have been watching the Black Friday phenomenon  .. which it seems has crept into Thursday.  While I am trying to find money to help people recover from Hurricane Harvey and people are spending money – hand over fist – to satisfy their lust for more – because they certainly don’t need it – not really.  With respect to the rest of the world, I think it is safe to say that 99% of what we buy is to satisfy our wants.  Our needs were met a long time ago.   We are trying to get masks to people who have none and can't afford them - and people with the means are wondering what color and style they should buy.  Something that will go with their outfit. (Psalm 37:4) "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart"  The emphasis here is on our focus on God and His changing what we desire to conform to what He desires.

 “You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” James 4:2-4

Ugh! That does not leave a lot of wiggle room does it. I guess I should quote Jesus to bring this to a close.  (Matthew 13:14-16) “And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: ‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive; For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear" .....  And I would add .. He who is convicted – let him repent.”  Pray about it!

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

Monday, July 20, 2020

You Must Die Before You Die

“And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” – Hebrews 9:27

Have you ever heard a sermon and suddenly you had a new, a deeper understanding of a particular scripture? That happened to me today.  The Pastor was preaching using two examples found in Luke chapter 13.

There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.’” – Luke 13:1-5

Two examples – in one the people died through an act of violence and the other – a natural disaster.  In both cases, Jesus focused on the fact that the people died. and not how or why they died.  He wasn't being insensitive. Why did they die? We all die. Sometimes it is through violence, sometimes through natural disasters, and other times from illness or just old age – our bodies wear out. Whatever the reason, the fact is that we will all die one day.  We don’t know how, don’t know where, don’t know when. But unless the Lord returns beforehand – we DO know IF. The answer is YES.

So to Jesus’ point.  Since we will all die a physical death, the answer to escape Hell is that we must die before we die. It is likened to John 3 where Jesus told Nicodemus “You must be born again”. You must be born spiritually AFTER you are born naturally. And you must die spiritually to the old nature BEFORE you die naturally.  Born spiritually to a new life – dead spiritually to your old life. Where we were once dead toward God, by faith we have been made alive toward God and dead toward the world and the things of the world – or not.

"And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others." Ephesians 2:1-3

You see, our problem is that we want to hang on to those thing which we died to – that we still have an affection for. Justifying why it is really OK in our minds and avoiding anything that might convict us otherwise. 

I was just thinking of a joke I heard years ago. It seems there was a man who loved to golf with his buddies.  He left to golf on Saturday and told his wife he would be back by 1:00pm at the latest.  Well, 1:00pm passed, then 2, then 3, 4, 5 and finally her husband pulled in the driveway.  When she asked what happened, he said, “Well, on the second fairway, Bob had a heart attack and died – right there.” “That is terrible!” she replied. “So what took you so long to get home?” To which he replied, “Well, I would hit the ball and drag Bob. Hit the ball and drag Bob. I didn’t finish until 5:00pm!”

That is the way it is with many of us in our spiritual journey.  We “drag” our old-dead selves around with us. It slows us down. Hinders us from accomplishing our purpose and call.  Why, because we really don’t want to give it up – that which we are dragging around.  Jesus was calling people to a spiritual repentance which meant that they must die to the world if they wanted to live.  If you wonder why the Church is not making more of an impact – it is because the heart of the Church is not pure – it is dragging things of this world around with it and calling it good.

I cannot convince you of the truth of this matter, but the Spirit of God can convict you of it. What is it that is slowing you down – you need to let it go and die to it.  That is an act of the will and of faith. We must be willing and then trust God by faith to help us abandon whatever it is. That is at the root of repentance. Godly sorrow and yielding to the Spirit of God. What are you waiting for – an invitation? I just gave you one.

Church – it is time – The world needs you to and God purposed you to BE the light! A light sourced by the Holy Spirit and not through your own effort to be as good as you can be – because, frankly, that will never be good enough. And it will not accomplish God’s purpose.

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

Friday, July 17, 2020

Set Apart For God

“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;  who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.” – 1 Peter 2:9-12

 I woke this morning with a thought on my mind. Circumcision of my heart.  That is the way most of these devotions start. A thought, a chance encounter, a word from someone. Then I have to settle down and listen. That is true for all of us.  The Spirit speaks and we must focus our attention on the speaker.  It can be difficult to get someone’s attention.  Have you ever been talking to someone and they are constantly check their phone -  as if there might be someone more important than you that wants to communicate with them? The world is demanding our attention – we are tyrannized by the urgent and often miss what is important.  We don’t really listen to people – and when we do – we are merely waiting for our opportunity to talk. What we have to say is so much more important than anything they might want to say.  We step on each other’s conversations because of it.  We disrespect each other and don’t even see it as disrespect.

So the Spirit seems to speak to me early in the morning – when I rise – before I plunge into the issues of the day.  When I can hear His voice above the din of the day. I am reminded of the time when the Lord spoke to Samuel – woke him up actually –

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

Oh – perhaps you don’t think that you are anything like Samuel. That was then when God was speaking directly to people.  God speaks to His children to, still; by His Spirit through the Word, prayer, other Christians, and circumstances.  The problem is that we are not listening. 

The word for today for me and perhaps for you is this.  We have been set apart by God – sanctified by the Spirit through faith in Jesus.  Our hearts have been circumcised.  Changed forever. Once circumcised – you can’t undo that. Like the amputation of a leg or arm – you are no longer the same. We like to think that we are like everyone else – but you are not. You have been set apart.  Your identity is in Christ and no longer in the world – the natural things.  Our faith defines who we are – not our country – not our financial position – not our education level – not our accent – not even our lineage.  But it is so difficult to set those things aside.  How we live as Christians very often is dependent upon what is going on around us in this natural world and is not shaped by our faith and God’s revelation of our new life in Christ.

"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.  Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." 2 Corinthians 5:16-21

Like the story about the new pastor who preached the same sermon for the first 5 Sunday’s. One of the members asked if he did not have other sermons to preach. The Pastor answered, “Yes, but I will preach this sermon until you receive and obey what God is telling you to do.”  I have to catch myself – not judging pastors because of their eloquence or lack of it – their ability to alliterate (use the same letter for the first word in their sermons points). But I should be listening to what the Lord has to say through them.

Like Samuel, I, we, should be saying – “Speak Lord you servant is listening.”

We have been set apart for God’s purpose – not for the comfort the world offers.  Each day, we must commit to service, to seek the Lord, to listen for the Lord’s voice.  Dr Henry Blackaby said, with respect to hearing God, “Hearing God is not really the problem.  Obeying Him is the problem.”    

Church – it is time – The world needs you to Be the light!

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

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Sin Without Borders

“For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.” – 1 Corinthians 12:12-13

Unity with diversity in the Body of Christ is a manifestation of the Spirit of God, not some contrivance of man.  The word “diversity” has a number of meanings in our culture. In this case – in the Biblical context, it has to do with ethnic, socio-economic, national differences.  I would say that forgiveness is the first step - we seem to want to frame things in terms of the worldly aspects of relationships - but our relationship as Brother and Sisters is first spiritual.

I recall years ago, I was at a Promise Keeper’s Conference as the State Manager for Alabama and Mississippi. Unity in the Body – racial reconciliation was a key point in the mission focus of Promise Keepers.  We all wore staff shirts so attendees knew who we were.  A man approached me and said, “I live in a county where there are no black people. What should I do?” I told him that he should repent of any sinful attitudes he has toward other people and if he should meet someone – anyone who is different from him, he should treat them like Jesus would treat them. And if they are a Christian, he should receive them as a Brother or Sister. That the Lord would give him opportunity to consummate that heart change – he just needed to be ready. But it starts with a heart change.

Listen, the problem with unity in the Body of Christ is not just between back and white Christians.  It is a problem – a sin  problem – that permeates every culture every society on the Earth. Sin has no borders. I was emailing a friend – back and forth the other day and shared these thoughts – so I “thought” I would share them with you as well.

Here is something to think about

The issue of division is multi-dimensional

Christian to Christian - Spiritual

Christian to Non-Christian - Spiritual - This is where the uneven yoke enters in. 

Non-Christian to Non-Christian - Carnal

Social Class to Social Class - Carnal

People Group to People Group - Carnal

The solution in each case is not one size fits all.

As a Christian, if you think of "my people" as being the same color or ethnicity - that is carnal thinking.  We may have the same biological roots as non-Christians, but we have new roots by faith in Christ and the indwelling of the same Spirit.

 "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.  Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." 2 Corinthians 5:16-21

 Some big verses here

 1.           Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh” – who is included in “no one” – you are either a Christian or you are not – saved or lost

 “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

 2.           if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” – What things have passed away – our relationship to the world

 3.           not imputing their trespasses to them, and {God} has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” – God extended His hand before we could extend our hearts

 Social injustice cannot be ignored by Christians – the question is – do we hold it against those who are not complicit merely because of their skin color? I think not.

 Should we have an expectation of an “active” compassion from those who have the same faith in the same Lord and have the same Spirit? I think so.

 The Body of Christ should not and cannot remain silent – at the same time, there should be nothing but love and unity demonstrated between all Christians.

 There are many, like the man I mentioned, who realize that they have harbored sinful attitudes toward others merely because they were different.  They acknowledge their kinship. But once the Spirit brings conviction – it leads to one of two things – You quench the Spirit and reject the revelation , or you submit to the Truth and repent.  All of that must first happen in the heart. The is true for all people – this sin has no borders – it is not an illness that only white Christians have – it affects all of mankind.

Church – it is time – Be the light!

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

Monday, July 13, 2020

Who Are You Following - Jesus or Someone Else?

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

Perhaps you have heard or been part of this conversation. (Teenager) “Hey my friends are going to (fill in the blank) and asked me if I want to go. Can I go please?” (Parent) “No you are not going there.  (Teenager – whiny voice) “But everybody is going!” (Parent) “We have already talked about this. If your friends said they were going to jump off of a bridge, would you jump off with them? The answer is still no.” Teenager storms off to complain to their friends about how mean the parent is.

We all have a strong desire to go with the crowd. To be part of something.  To not be rejected. Especially during our teenage years when we are trying to figure out who we are.  But that motivation to conform our behavior to the majority really never ends.  Dr James Dobson once said that by the time a child reached age 12, their values have been shaped – by their parents. It is at that point that the parents’ influence begins to wane and the child’s peers influence becomes dominant.  As Christians, we struggle with the same influences – but it is between the spiritual and the natural.  The old nature and the new nature.  To believe what God has said or to yield to the world’s truth. The ways of the world are seasoned with enough Biblical truth to give it some credibility. To make it easier to accept and embrace.  And with the weight of the majority behind it, embracing the ways of the world is a lot easier. Add in the natural wisdom of the world and it makes sense – seems reasonable even.

I talk to Christians all the time who embrace beliefs that are clearly contrary to the Bible, but they are part of the culture they live in – part of the social or ethnic group they identify with – and push back if I suggest that as Christians, they are believing or behaving wrongly.  Like the teenager.  They use human wisdom – their emotions to guide their beliefs and actions. They try to justify their belief in an effort to not have to change it. Once we yield to the temptation to challenge God and choose the world, sin enters in. It doesn’t have to be a big thing – it can seem quite innocent – trivial – like the frog in the pot. But …..

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. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.” – 1 Corinthians 5:6-7

So what is my point.  I write these devotions with the hope that I can encourage some to brighten their light by walking after the Spirit and not the flesh. To recognize the spiritual battle that we are all engaged in.  The tug of war that is going on for our hearts’ devotion. To trust God who saved us and to follow the leading of the Spirit who dwells in us. Those who have been born again. The Youth Pastor at the church we attend spoke yesterday. He was addressing the graduating seniors. He said that a 2 year study on the difference between Christian and non-Christian teenagers revealed that they were indistinguishable from each other.  I would say that if a study was performed to compare the behavior and beliefs (what I mean by belief is what I act on not what I say I believe) they result would be the same.  Those who are reading this, might successfully argue that it is not true for them. But the temptation to follow the crowd – to yield to what the world says is true is strong – it is persistent – it is compelling – it may even seem reasonable if you are willing to ignore the Bible and the conviction or the Spirit.

How important is it to you for the world to embrace you – receive you as one if its own? You might tell me – that what the world thinks is not important – that you will always choose God –  maybe like Peter. We only believe the part of the Bible that we obey. But we want to convince ourselves that we believe all of it.

Then Jesus said to them, ‘All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: I will strike the Shepherd, And the sheep will be scattered. But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.’ Peter said to Him, ‘Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that today, even this night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.’ But he spoke more vehemently, ‘If I have to die with You, I will not deny You!’ And they all said likewise.” – Mark 14:27-31

Be the light!

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

Friday, July 10, 2020

Don’t Be Blind To The Spiritual Reality – Be The Light

“Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, ‘We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.’  Also there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so. And the evil spirit answered and said, ‘Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?’ Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.” – Acts 19:13-16

There is a spiritual reality that the world does not know. That reality is based upon the Creator God. As born again Believers, we are part of a spiritual kingdom. In the case of the men described in Acts 19, they were religious but were not part of that kingdom.  The evil spirit acknowledged Jesus and Paul – but did not recognize those men. They were not spiritual men and therefore had no authority over the evil spirit. And they soon found that out.  Recall the story of Jesus casting out “Legion” (4000 to 6000), and these men were dealing with one spirit. So why share that story with you? Certainly not so you will cast out demons.

I was taking to a pastor friend in Haiti the other day about legislation that the president of Haiti signed into law. I won’t go into detail as they are not clear – but suffice it to say it is not good – but I will share what the Pastor told me the Church in Haiti was doing in response – “Yesterday about 200 pastors work (protest) in the streets of Jacmel against these laws, and we sent an open letters for the president to tell him we do not need these laws in our society.  If he does not repent,  in a couple of weeks all protestant churches in the whole country decide to invest (protest in) the street to say no.”

There is something spiritual going on. That is to say , something spiritually significant going on – because there is always something spiritual going on.  This is not the time for the Church to be silent.  Can you imagine the Pastors from the Church in the United States taking to the streets? Instead there is silence. Oh there are meetings, to be sure. Meetings to talk about understanding the problem – analyzing it.  It has never been more obvious than today that Christians are a minority in the natural – but are the majority in the spiritual.  What I mean is, that to say “thus saith the Lord” means nothing to the culture we live in if it goes against a common belief.  The measure of rightness is man not God. We accommodate sin because we don’t want to condemn the one who is sinning. In face of the Word of God, we embrace what God condemns so we can embrace the sinner.

 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, 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 1:24-32

Be careful. It is difficult when you know someone who is involved in some way of living that is contrary to the Word that you don’t minimize the reality that it is sin so you don’t have to acknowledge that sin in the person’s life.  You don’t want to make them feel bad. If the excuse is that they were born that way, I would say that is true.  We were all born that way – in Sin as sinners.  That is why we need Jesus.  I hesitate to say that people who continue in sin cannot be saved, I would say that God knows the heart and that we all struggle with sin in our lives – but we are not to continue in sin. The moment I was born again did not result in a complete transformed natural life, but it did result in a changed heart and a spiritual birth. And yet we do continue to sin, don’t we. To say that God is big enough or strong enough to help any of us with our sin is, well, nonsense and reveals our lack of spiritual understanding.

God loved us while we were yet sinners – Christ died for us – including the ones that crucified Him – but not all will be saved.  The Apostles spent their lives encouraging Christians to reject the old nature and embrace the new.  That is what the New Testament letters focus on.  How to live the new life we have been given. We must not be silent when we encounter wrong. But we must be compassionate toward those who are doing the wrong.  We must stand for right – as defined by God in the Bible – be a light and a voice in the midst of the chaos raging around us.

We should not make excuses for sin in our lives or in the lives of others. We should understand the impossibility of people who are not born again to overcome sin.  Understand, that until they yield to the Spirit by faith in Jesus, that they will not even be willing to acknowledge many sins as sin.  And even after they have spiritual understanding they, like all Christians, will continue to struggle with not embracing the natural in favor of the spiritual.  The world sees us a hypocritical because we are not perfect.  The world looks at the frailty of man and not the steadfastness, grace and mercy of God.  They expect us to be perfect, but we are not. But be careful that you don’t use that imperfection in the natural as an excuse to continue in sin. 

“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?  Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?  Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?” – Romans 6:1-2

Be the light! 

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

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Seeing The World As It Really Is And Where You Fit

“[I, Paul] … do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” – Ephesians 1:18-23

What I see happening in our country and around the world is certainly troubling - disconcerting. Pandemics and social unrest seem to rage.  But then I thought of Paul’s prayer in Ephesians. That the Church would have spiritual eyes to see and with that clarity of visions, a heart to understand.  Paul went on to remind us that …

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.” – Ephesians 6:12

The real issue is not COVID 19 or the social unrest. It is the awakening to the fact that the God has called us out of but kept us in a world that that is driven by sin.  We expect good to reign in a world dominated by the effects of sin.  In recent days, we have been shocked back into reality. God has been saying, shouting even, “OPEN YOUR EYES CHILDREN!”  We have become blind – insensitive to sin. Sin that the fallen world accepts as normal and good, even. And if you disagree, then you are labeled as evil yourself. But why would we care if we are rejected for embracing the Truth, unless we prefer acceptance by the world over embracing the truth and the Father – the Source of all truth. 

Shining a light in someone’s face in a dark room, hurts their eyes. It makes them uncomfortable.  They may even shout, “Turn that light off!” On the one hand the world wants harmony among people, but it is not just racial harmony – it is acceptance of all people no matter what their life choices are – nothing to do with gender or race. But the world wants to redefine what gender is.  The world wants to redefine when a human becomes a human. The Church is a thorn in the world’s side. Or at least it should be.  The Church should be a reminder to the world that the harmony they seek can be found, but only in the context of God’s truth and salvation through Christ.  That is if the Church is indeed being the Church. The problem is that in many respects the Church is indistinguishable from the world it is supposed to be a witness to.

Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” – Genesis 3:1

Questioning the Word of God. We know what God said, but did He really mean it? Isn’t it open to interpretation? An interpretation that will accommodate what we want to do. Desires that are born out of our sinful nature. Something we can put a spiritual coat of paint on and argue that it is part of God’s truth and revelation in these advanced times.  The truth is that the times have not changed. Sin has not changed. How we live, how we look, technology all that changes with the generations – but sin does not. And neither does God.  The Church – Christians need to wake up and take a look around. It is sin that is raging. It is the light of Christ that needs to be shining even brighter. Loving God and loving each other. If you ask a Christian to repent of not caring about the plight of other Christians in this country – you may well be told that they do care – but the care is as effective as seeing a starving child on a commercial on TV and feeling sorry for them.  But that’s it – feeling sorry for them is enough – it’s not.  You will not speak up for them.

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

That verse applies to more than your circle of friends or the people in your family or local church.  God has given us a bigger group of “one-anothers” than that.  If a person’s heart has been sealed by the Spirit of God through faith in Jesus, they are your Brother or Sister. It does not matter what color of skin they have, how much money they have, where they live, what language they speak – they are family! Open your eyes – yield your heart.  I know a guy that whenever I see him he says “God loves you and so do I.” I hear the words, but wonder about the sincerity.  We have a lot of “coined phrases” – Christian-speak, that we use when speaking with others – but they don’t go very far – God bless you – I’ll pray for you – I love you.  Well how about adding this one – “I will lay down my life for you!” That one you might not be willing to say so readily. But you should.

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.’” – John 21:15

If you really love God, He wants you to show Him – not just talk about it.  Talk is cheap. Sacrifice is expensive.

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” – John 15:13

And if you are wondering – “Who are my friends?”, you have not been paying attention.

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

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Behaving Like Mere Mortals

“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?’” – 1 Corinthians 3:1-3

 One of the greatest challenges in the Christian life, I think, is making the transition from having a child like faith to that of being mature in the faith. When I speak or write to Christians, it often sounds harsh but that is because my words are received not as spiritual but as carnal.  The hearts of the hearers or readers, as it were, if not submitted to the Spirit will not receive spiritual truth as a balm, as a refreshing breeze, but perhaps as chastisement.  Very often the difference between criticism and encouragement is motivation. If I speak Biblical truth or write about it, the motivation is not to beat you down but to lift you up – to encourage you in the faith.

What do you think “behaving like mere men” means? I would suggest that it means that we are living like the rest of the world. Preferring the ways of the world over the clear declaration of God in His Word. Making excuses for why things are really “OK” or “not that bad”. When the Spirit has quickened our hearts that the “truth” we are embracing and pursuing is really a “lie”.

Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.” – Romans 1:24-25

Those verses have to do with people have fully rejected God and have never embraced salvation through Jesus by faith. But when we embrace the world – the things of this world – the ways of this world – we are essentially doing the same thing. 

Part of the reason so many Christians are living like those without faith is that they have never been weaned from the bottle – from the “milk” of the Word – have never eaten meat – and don’t even have a desire to do so.  They are content with the bottle once a week.  In comparison to the human body, that is not normal.  If you were to see a child in first grade with a pacifier or a baby bottle in their lunch bag - you would think it strange. I can remember speaking at a church some years back and told the congregation that I wished I had spiritual eye glasses to give them. If they put them on and looked around the sanctuary they would be surprised, maybe even shocked, to see those who were still in spiritual diapers.  It is not because they were victims, it was because they made a choice.  They are content with the bottle. Do you remembering weaning your children? For some it was easy, but for many it was an effort.  They wanted their bottle- they wanted their pacifier – they wanted to be comforted and not forced to grow up. And that is the mark of a Christian that has been weaned?

 “for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” – James 1:20-22

 Not just taking the Word in but expressing it by the way you live and do. By the way you love and by what you love.  I realize that for many reading this, I am “preaching to the choir”, but I hope that it gives you pause to think about what is happening in the Church right now. Why there is an expectation that the Body of Christ would do one thing – the right thing – the Biblical thing - but it is failing at the doing. Why – because on the whole – it is not as Spiritual as it should be.  Many are being asked to leave the bottle and eat meat. Cold turkey.  Those asking for the Church to rise up are finding that the “Church” can barely stand on its own – spiritually. Like being trained academically – but never really having applied what was learned.  Never really went to work, if you will. It is revealing and saddening. If we ever needed the Lord before, we sure do need Him now.

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