Monday, November 30, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Yet I Will Rejoice

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Thanksgiving!

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

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Do You Ever Wonder Who Wrote The Book On Love

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

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

“And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”  – 1 Corinthians 13:3-8

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

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” – John 3:16-17

Jesus confronted Peter because Peter was struggling with love.

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

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

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

I [Paul] beseech [urge] you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service [of worship]. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” – Romans 12:1-2

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Waiting On God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 16, 2020

Thinking Inside The Box

Seek the Lord while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. ‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater, So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.’” – Isaiah 55:6-11

I am certain that you have heard the saying, “thinking outside the box”.  The idea being that you have to look at a situation from a different perspective to come up with a solution or new understanding.  As Christians, as born-again-by-the-Spirit people, our challenge it to view life, the events in our life time – all of the events and eternity beyond from God’s perspective.  A friend of ours passed away suddenly this past weekend.  A shock to all who knew her.  A wonderful Christian woman.  We had not seen her very often for the past few months because of COVID.  She had just had gall bladder surgery a week or so ago.  We were planning to take her a meal – her favorite – that day, but she did not answer her texts or phone.  We never imagined it was because she has passed away. We live our lives and then, one day, our live on this earth is over.  We had a power outage yesterday – in fact 22,000 families had a power outage. I was looking at my computer screen and then the screen when dark. Just like that – in the blink of an eye. That is what life on this earth is like.

So what is my point. It is not about the death of our friend, although we will miss her. It is about understanding life on earth from inside God’s box.  Seeing life the way that He sees life on this planet.  According to the 2010 census, at that time seven (7) percent of the population was between 65 and 74. Four (4) percent of the population was between 75 and 84. One and a half (1.5) percent was between 84 and 94.  Do you see a trend?  Our friend was 63. My sister who passed recently was 72. It is so important for us Christians to view this life from God’s perspective and not the world’s. 

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

God has told us that life on this planet is for a season. That we are all going to die one day. He does not tell us how, where, or when – just that it is inevitable. My intent is not to focus on death this morning – but turn your focus toward God. God who offers eternal life through His Son. God who formed us from dust. Who spoke the  universe into being. The God who never changes.  The God who loves us. To see that our existence is more than a statistic or an obituary or a head stone.  Most people spend most of their lives trying to scratch out a living. For some they wonder where their next meal will come from. For others, they wonder if their investments will be enough to support their lifestyle until they die.  Perhaps their children are wondering if their will be anything left for them. Our nature is to view our lives from inside a worldly box – with a natural understanding. But – as Christians, God, through His word, encourages us to see life from His perspective. To think inside His box and to live our natural lives with that perspective.

Then He [Jesus] spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods.  And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” ’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’” – Luke 12:16-20

My point is not about death and it is not about having money or not having money.  My point is that no matter what happens in this life – there is a bigger story -  a greater context. There is more than the circumstances that, when added up, represent our lives on this planet.  God not only asks us to see life differently, He enables us to do it – but that won’t happen unless we draw close to God by faith. Our lives are filled with joy and sorrow. Sometimes fear of what might happen. But it is possible to live above all of that. Not denying the reality our natural lives but resting in the power of our spiritual nature.  I wish I were a better writer so I could make this clearer than I have. These are hard times that we face – but God is greater.  I will end this with a word from Proverbs. Something to pray on. God’s encouragement to think inside His box.

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

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

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

Friday, November 13, 2020

God Uses Unlikely People To Do The Impossible

He does that so that He can be glorified through their obedience. Even a cursory reading of the Bible reveals how God chooses those that the world would never choose to bring Him glory and blessings to people.

D. L. Moody was a shoe salesman who never attended school beyond the fifth grade. After his conversion he became an evangelist and publisher, who founded the Moody Church, Northfield School and Mount Hermon School in Massachusetts, Moody Bible Institute and Moody Publishers in Chicago. He never went to seminary but led thousands to faith in Jesus. You never know how God is going to use you as you walk by faith in obedience to His call. 

Edward Kimble, a Sunday School teacher, led D. L. Moody to the Lord, whose preaching led to the conversion of Frederick Meyer, who influenced Wilbur Chapman, whose preaching led to the conversion of Billy Sunday. During a Crusade in Charlotte, North Carolina, Billy Sunday asked Mordecai Ham to preach in his absence. It was during Ham’s preaching that Billy Graham placed his faith in Jesus. Billy Graham’s son, Franklin Graham has followed in his father’s footsteps as has his daughter Anne Graham Lotz. You plant and water, but you may never know what your obedience to God’s call will produce, but He does.

Think about what D.L. Moody doing for a living before responding to God’s call. He didn’t have much formal education. What qualified him to do what he did for the kingdom of God and future generations is the same that qualifies all of us. God does not call the qualified, He qualifies the called. Perhaps you feel that your Christian life is inconsequential. That there is nothing of value that you can offer God. Perhaps there are things in your past that you feel make you unusable.  God is the God of second chances. Consider your spiritual passion. We all have one. If there were no limitations, what is it that you want to do in the kingdom of God?

“Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit.”  – Zechariah 4:6

Understanding and embracing the fact that it is God and not you that equips you for service is the key to successfully fulfilling your purpose and calling? The question is, “Are you ready and willing to make that a reality in your life?”  Consider Gideon.  Judges chapter 6

Now the Angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth tree which was in O-phrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite (A-Bye_Ez_Right), while his son Gideon threshed wheat in the winepress, in order to hide it from the Midianites. And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him, and said to him, ‘The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!’ Gideon said to Him, ‘O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.’ Then the Lord turned to him and said, ‘Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?’ So he said to Him, ‘O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man.’” – Judges 6:11-16

You know that Gideon was not confident that God had picked the right man. Once Gideon yielded to the call to what was beyond him, God used him to do what seemed impossible.  Read what happened when Gideon went to battle in Judges 7.

There is nothing that God has purposed for you to do that you can accomplish without Him.  The men in the Bible, the men who did mighty things, did them by the power of God not by their own wit or strength. To serve God in the place that He has chosen will always require faith.  Like Gideon we can look at our heritage or perhaps our education and training in light of what God has called us to do and then wilt in fear at the thought of saying “Yes.” The effectiveness of our service is limited by the quality of our faith and our willingness to trust the One who calls. All too often, we are willing to acknowledge that the Word of God is truth and can be trusted until it is us that the Lord is calling to get out of the boat – to do the seemingly impossible.  And Jesus asked Peter,

You of little faith…. why did you doubt?” – Matthew 14:31 

Paul wrote –

Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13

The question is – do we believe it and are we willing to walk in it … That is something that you must answer for yourself.

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

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Bending Your Knee To Your Culture

Then Nebuchadnezzar, in rage and fury, gave the command to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. So they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying to them, ‘Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the gold image which I have set up? Now if you are ready at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, and you fall down and worship the image which I have made, good! But if you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?’ Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.’” —Daniel 3:13-18

As you know, Israel had been taken captive and many of the people had been taken back to Babylon. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego were among them, as was Daniel (the lion’s den guy).  There were cultural practices that everyone was expected to comply with. One was, at a certain time during the day to bow down before a golden image and worship it.  So there was a problem for the Jews.  Jehovah God had said explicitly that they were not to do that.

You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth;  you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” – Exodus 20:3-6

They were faced with cultural demands to go along and get along, even when it was contrary to what God had made explicitly clear not to do.  It is not different than the struggles Christians face wherever they might live in the world.  Every culture – following its natural bent, free from submission to a holy God – does and believes what it considers to be right and appropriate.  There is some overlap where what that culture believes or practices is the same as what the Word of God says is right and appropriate – God-honoring behavior. But that is not what was happening with those three men – they were being told to abandon their faith in favor of compliance with what the culture said was right and good.  Each of us faces that challenge every day.  Since our culture, in general, has drifted away from Biblical principals as the rule for right living and defining what good is – there is greater pressure on Christians to bend their knees. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego would not, even to their peril; and we must not even at our own peril but for the glory of God. In their case, their hope was that they would be saved from bad consequences (death in the furnace), but even in the face of that possibility, they would not deny their God. For many Christians, they are asked to compromise their faith for cultural acceptance – friendship – even marriage perhaps. 

I am hoping you can see my point.  Don’t read the Bible or listen to the Word preached through a cultural filter. Satan asked Eve, “Did God really say?” to plant doubt that what God said was right and clear. Why couldn’t they redefine what “right” was. Well, they did and were cast – not in a furnace – but out of the Garden. There may be some things that our culture says is right that is contrary to the Word of God that you have embraced.  I want you to encourage you to reconsider those things.  Like Lot’s wife who looked back to Sodom longing for what she had left behind sinned, we too sin when we reject what the Word makes clear and bend our knees to the demands of the culture that are contrary to God’s Word.  (in light of the recent election – I want to add this has nothing to do with politics – this problem is on both sides of the aisle”)

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

Let your light shine before all men!

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

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Leaning On Jesus

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

Those verses have been some of my “most-used” over the years.  They represent the every-day struggle that I face – that we all face.  Trusting God and not ourselves.  A good friend shared a teaching a couple of years ago about leaning on Jesus.  The picture was of a disciple – presumably John –  leaning on Jesus at the Last Supper (John 13). I recall in my childhood walking down the road with my best friend, arms across one another’s shoulders.  A sign of genuine affection and heart connection. But back to the picture of the disciple.  Jesus was the Messiah and the source of Truth. All of the disciples, less one, were totally devoted to the Lord. And yet, when Jesus was arrested, their faith – their confidence – their relationship was shaken.  Life has a way of doing that to us. Shaking our confidence in God. Enticing us to abandon our trust in a sovereign God and, instead, turn toward our culture or our own personal, limited – worldly – understanding.  Very often choosing some other way than the Way to place our trust in.

A song has been rumbling in my mind as I typed these words. Learning to Lean. An old Gospel song. Full of truth, but not voiced nearly so often as it once was. Learning to Lean On Jesus, John Stallings.

“Learning to lean, Learning to lean

I'm learning to lean on Jesus

Finding more power than I've ever dreamed

I'm learning to lean on Jesus”

I suppose the point of emphasis here is the word “learning”.  I am reminded of a story about an reporter who interviewed a very successful businessman.  The report asked, “How is it that you are so successful.” The man answered, “By making all the right choices.” The report asked, “How did you learn to make the right choices.” To which the businessman replied, “By making the wrong choices.” We have to learn to lean on Jesus – which means, implicitly, that we will make wrong choices. The question is  - will we learn from them – or will we be so determined to prove  that we know best, that we will continue to trust in someone or something other than God. 

I will close with  quote that I have often used – and is worthy of repeating

I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am” John Newton – author of Amazing Grace.

How about you? 

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

Monday, November 9, 2020

Yielding To The Ways Of The World – We Have A Choice

Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men. But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless. Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned.” —Titus 3:1-9

Paul wrote to Titus, whom he called his partner and fellow worker in 2 Corinthians 8:23, to encourage him to encourage the Saints.  That is what I do with these devotions – encourage the Saints. Paul encouraged Titus to remind – to affirm constantly. Why? Because our tendency is to be drawn to the ways of the world. To respond to life in the same manner with the same attitudes of those who have not been born of the Spirit.  I included 9 verses from Titus 3 because I wanted to remind you – to encourage you – to walk in the Spirit and not the flesh.  Everything we do – everything we say – what we think – it all should reflect our new life in Christ.  We should “be careful” about what we say, what we do, how we treat others, what we put our trust in.  I have been reading what many Christians have been writing – listening to what they have been saying – vitriolic words – filled with bitter criticism or malice. It saddens me, frankly. It reflects fear of an uncertain future. So it causes me to wonder. What is their hope and confidence built on? If you are concerned that our country will turn away from God – it is too late.  In my opinion, it has – long ago. If there is any lesson to be gained over the turmoil that defines the last few years it is that the world needs a Savior. The thing is – it has one – His name is Jesus. 

If there is a “take-away” from this Presidential election – from the prevalence of the COVID pandemic, it must be that life on this planet is full of uncertainties.  That we, as ambassadors for Christ, are called to be light and salt in an uncertain world. Light houses – warning the people about the rocks and reminding them that there is a God in heaven Who is sovereign and desiring to draw them close by the way that we live and trust and love.  Paul was encouraging Titus to remind the Christians that they, who were once like everyone else, are now “new” having their hope in the Creator God and faith in His Son and empowered to live a different life by the Spirit and the revealed will of the Father by the Word of God. 

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

I want to encourage you to read those verses in Titus and then reflect on their application to your life.  How should you respond to what is happening around you? How can you respond in way that honors God and is a testimony to a world headed full speed toward the rocks.

This Book of the Law [the Word of God]  shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:8-9

Don’t just read or listen to the Word and then move on with life, like the man in the mirror (James 1:23). Meditate on it.  Let the Spirit of God do what He does with it. For your good and God’s glory.

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

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

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Obeying God Is Not Natural, It's Super-natural

Just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned…” —Romans 5:12

There are sins in your life that you try so hard to resist, you are not successful.  Why do I know that? Because it is a common problem. It is in our nature – born of Adam to sin.  It is a spiritual problem that requires a spiritual solution.  God had to send His Son to overcome sin and its penalty.  The root of our sins is our sin nature.  At the root of our sin nature is our desire to be the “ruler of our world”. 

You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” – (Genesis 3:4-5)  

The original sin was our desire to be like God … not in His image and likeness, we were created by Him to be like that, but to take His place.  To be in charge, so to speak.  But God wants us to be like the Son (Romans 8:29) who reflects the Father. (John 14:9)  It seems so simple when you read it, but it can be, and is, so difficult to live it.  We can only live our new life successfully if we live it in the awareness of the power by which we must live it.

It is not by strength, not by power, but by My Spirit says the Lord God of Hosts.” – Zechariah 4:6

Our new life is spiritual.  Our old life is natural.  We are drawn to the natural.  Our old nature, like the Song of the Sirens, lures us to the rocks.  If you are familiar with the ancient Greek epic the Odyssey, the Sirens attempted to use their enchanting song to lure the hero Odysseus and his crew towards deadly waters. Odysseus' crew had blocked their ears to protect themselves from the Sirens' singing, but Odysseus, wanting to hear the Sirens, was lashed to the mast of the ship.  Don’t be fooled that you can listen to the “song” and not give in to its allure – the result is sin.

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. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.” – James 1:12-16

To be successful in living out our new life, we must seek out the spiritual.  The spiritual does not happen naturally.  If you live your life with little thought to the spiritual disciplines, you are in trouble .. spiritually speaking.  You are headed for the rocks. Galatians 2:20 says that you are crucified with Christ, nevertheless you live, but it’s not you but Christ in you.  You are sealed with the Spirit.  Jesus is not in your heart, He is at the right hand of the Father as our intercessor and high priest, the Spirit is in you.  The Spirit is in you and is what makes the spiritual part of you, your new life, possible.  Don’t neglect spiritual things .. the Word, prayer, fellowship with other believers … if you do you will find it impossible to live the new life.  Trying to be “good” has its source in the original sin … believing the lie “I can do it, I don’t need God.”   Believing that you can listen to the song and not be drawn to the rocks.

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

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Knowing Where You Are Going Is Not A Requirement

 “He went out, not knowing where he was going.” —Hebrews 11:8

“One of the most difficult questions to answer in Christian work is, “What do you expect to do?” You don’t know what you are going to do. The only thing you know is that God knows what He is doing. Continually examine your attitude toward God to see if you are willing to “go out” in every area of your life, trusting in God entirely. […] Each morning as you wake, there is a new opportunity to “go out,” building your confidence in God. “…do not worry about your life…nor about the body…” (Luke 12:22). In other words, don’t worry about the things that concerned you before you did “go out.”[…] He will never tell you. God does not tell you what He is going to do— He reveals to you who He is.” (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest)

There are a couple of essentials in “going”.  The first is “knowing”.  Knowing that it is God who sends and not your own idea of what you should do or where you should go.  When God sends you, He goes with you.  It’s not like leaving your parents’ home.  You leave and they stay. But … if you go off on your own to do something that requires the power of God, but you are doing it on your own … you are in trouble from the start.  You can do nothing in the flesh that will please God. To know it is God, your heart must be right with Him … your relationship must be solid … your devotion to Him consistent.  God examines the heart.  Why do you think He chose Abraham?  The second is “leaving”.  Paul wrote …. (Philippians 3:-13-14) “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  If you are going to follow God then you must be prepared to abandon your earthly affections and trust God.

“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. … All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. …. By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’ Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.” –  (Hebrews 11:8-10, 13, 17-19)

Both of these men were willing to put their lives, their affections, their cultural preferences behind them in favor of following God.  Jesus said if you are going to follow Him … be His disciple … your love for even your own family must be subordinate to obedience to God’s voice and His will.  I have heard many men say that their priorities are God, family, then ministry.  If I understand the Bible correctly .. ministry is doing God’s will .. it’s not a vocation … God may ask you to do something that requires not only your sacrifice, but your family’s as well.  That is a true test of higher devotion.  I do know people who think that “doing” comes before “being.”  Thinking that if I immerse myself in the work of the ministry then I will be in the will of God.  That is a “works” mentality. Doing the will of God starts in the heart not in the hands.  Following God for Martie and me has meant that we have not been with our family for years at a time.  Do we trust God enough to believe that He is in control?  Even in the lives of those on this earth that we love the most?  If not, when He says go – you will say no … maybe later.

So what is it that God has been saying to you?  Nothing?  Or maybe you have not been listening .. or maybe you put your fingers in your ears because you don’t want to hear.  This is my prayer for you ….

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” – (Ephesians 3:14-21) 

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

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Asking and Receiving

Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” —John 16:23-24

Wow, what a promise, I think.  Taken by itself it seems Jesus was telling His disciples that if they want some thing or some life event, all they have to do is ask in Jesus name and they will get it. Wow, again. Like your parents telling you to say the “magic word” (which is ‘please’) and you will get what you asked for.  So all we have to do is say “In Jesus Name” and voila – God will grant our request. Tell me, how is that working out for you? Oh, it doesn’t always work? So why not if that is what the Bible says? Is it possible that the Bible is wrong? Or is it possible that I did something wrong? So many questions.

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.” – James 4:2-3

Oh, that must be it. The reason God does not answer with a “yes” is because I asked with the wrong motive. I wanted to satisfy some earthly desire that I have. Like the Janis Joplin lyric that goes “Oh, Lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz, oh Lord won’t you get me a colored TV!” (In today’s vernacular it would be a 4k 70 in TV)  Or is there something else. Is it possible that my material wealth and prosperity is not a real concern of God’s.  This whole prayer thing can be very confusing and faith challenging.  Is it too simple to say that God doesn’t gives us what we want but what we need? If my toddler asked for a sharp knife and said please would I be compelled to give him the knife, even though I knew it was not the best thing for him? In fact it was bring him harm? So complicated.

So what do we know? Well, we know that we are suppose to seek the Father and ask Him for help.

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

We don’t know if God will intervene on our behalf or not. What we do know is that we are to seek Him – to turn our face toward the heavens – and speak to God. And when we do, we are promised the Peace of God which will guard or strengthen our hearts and thoughts in the face of the need for which we are asking help. Does God heal? I believe He does. Does God provide – He most certainly does. Is God faithful -  absolutely.  Will God always do what we ask Him to do? No. I can think of some biblical examples of people who understood that things might not go their way. The three men and the fiery furnace – “even if He does not save us we will not bend our knees to another god”. Job – “tho He slay me – yet will I serve Him” Jesus – “remove this cup, but not my will but your will (Father) be done”.  I have read about God responding to the cries of His people. So it is not that God cannot be influenced by our prayers.

Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” – James 5:16

If prayer did not matter then why would the Bible encourage us to pray? So it must matter. But I think the sum of it is this. Pray and trust God – even if things don’t go your way – trust God. Most if not all of the disciples lives came to an unpleasant end. If God used them in such a mighty way, why would He allow that to happen to them? My conclusion – there is much to this life and the next that I do not fully understand – but, in spite of that uncertainty, I must obey what I do understand. It is all about living by faith.

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

God will not prove Himself by answering your every prayer the way you want it answered. And our trust in Him should not be a function of His granting us our desires – every time. If that is the requirement for following God, you will most certainly fall away from the faith.  There is something deeper. Some deeper truth that surpasses the circumstances of this life on earth. Some eternal truth – supernatural – that is at play. The three men were saved from the fire – Job had all he had list restored – but Jesus went to the cross. God was glorified in each case. Are you willing to allow God to be glorified in your life – no matter what? Or do you demand that God fix your problems and save you from the dark – unpleasant things in this life – if He is really God?  I hope I have given you pause to rethink prayer and how you respond to this life.

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayerdistributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.” – Romans 12:9-13

Let your light shine.

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