Friday, April 30, 2021

What To Do When The World Treats You Badly

"We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, … we are dishonored! … we both hunger and thirst, … we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. … Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. ..." - 1 Corinthians 4:10-13

I was talking with someone the other day.  I thought we had a good relationship.  That we saw the world in the same way – from God’s perspective.  That we understood that we each were devoted to living for Christ.  Then, out of the blue, they suggest that I was acting with wrong motive, a lack of integrity. The feeling that flooded in was indignation.  What they had suggested was the farthest thing from the truth.  I could feel the “old man” wanting to rise up. I know that my tone changed, even though I controlled my tongue. 

Has that ever happened to you?  Being falsely accused is painful.  It’s one thing to have done wrongly and then be found out.  It is quite another to have done nothing wrong, but accused all the same.  Jesus said (Matthew 5:11-12) “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” And that is what they did to Jesus as well.  So you want to be known as a Jesus follower.  You want to do the will of the Father. Are you willing to suffer like Jesus did? Or are you “in this” for the good stuff only? 

In verses 13-16, Jesus went on to say that we are to be salt and light.  The habitation of the Spirit of God makes it possible to respond to the world – even when there is injustice perpetrated against you – in a way that glorifies God.  It means that you must lay your pride and ego on the altar.  You must resist the temptation to “strike back”.  Listen it is one thing to not do something but feel it in your heart.  It is another thing to not do something and have compassion for the person giving offense.

Sin is birthed from the heart not the hand or the mouth.  The Apostle John said that if you hate you are guilty of murder.  (1 John 3:15)  Jesus said if you have lustful thoughts about a person of the opposite sex, who is not your spouse, you are guilty of adultery.  (Matthew 5:27-28) You don’t have to act on the thought to have sinned.  It is when you resist the thought and submit to the Spirit that you are salt and light.  Showing grace and mercy is a spiritual act and is contrary to the nature of your flesh.

It is not something that you can do by trying to control yourself.  You will be successful only if you stop trying and start trusting. So what did I do?  There was a struggle in my heart. The “old man” wanted to rise up, but he did not, by the grace of God. Instead, I followed up our conversation with a text telling them that I understood that they had significant responsibility and a difficult job to do. 

You see, it was really not about me.  It was about the stress of the responsibility they had to bear.  Had I made an issue of it out of pride and a feeling that I needed to vindicate myself, I would have done harm.  Oh, my flesh would have “felt” better, but there would have been no salt and light. 

Life is full of opportunities for you to show Jesus to the world. But, you have to be ready and you have to be willing.  Are you? 

Believe it – walk in it. Let your light shine and give God the glory.

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

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

No Longer Cool To Be A Christian

 "We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored! To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now." - 1 Corinthians 4:10-13

Paul was writing to the Corinthians describing how the Apostles were treated by the world so that Jesus might be revealed to a world spinning itself toward oblivion.  When I read those words, I could not help but reflect on what the world thinks of us Christians today. What we embrace as truth about God and mankind as it is revealed in the Word of God is contrary to contemporary thinking and objectionable when shared. The world demands tolerance, which is to say that if I believe it is right, then who are you to say it is wrong. And if I can get others to agree with me, then that is proof that I am right in my thinking and doing.  If we choose to stand on the Word then by the world’s standards we are fools, weak, dishonored, reviled, persecuted, defamed. We are wrong and embrace a lie, not the truth.  This is not a new problem – but for many Christians it is a new and shocking realization. 

For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power.” – 2 Timothy 3:2-5

There are those who identify with Jesus, but have chosen to embrace a re-interpretation of the Word to match with the world’s version of truth. Asking the question the serpent asked Adam and Eve, “Did God really say …..” It is the idea that you cannot love someone if, at the same time, you call them sinners. That makes you a hater. So then, that would make God a hater and the Bible is not true – God did not love us while we were yet sinners – He couldn’t and neither can we. Do you see the stream of thought here? Of course there are Christians that struggle with separating the sin from the sinner. That is because it requires the power of God for us to do that. God did not wink at our sin – He sent His Son to save us from our sin.  To undo what was done in the Garden. My point – be careful that you don’t compromise the truth for a lie to find acceptance from the world and the culture you live in. 

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 1:28-32

Really you should read Romans 1 starting at verse 18 for a clear depiction of where our country is with respect to its morality and mores in 2021. Remembering that those words were penned almost 2000 years ago.  The point – sinful man has not changed – only technology has.  If I am blind, wearing glasses does not give me sight. A nice home, money, or even a cell phone, does not make me better than the men and women of any other century, past or future. I shared these verses yesterday.

"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 12:2

"Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection." – Philippians 3:8-10

We live in a time when using the word “man” instead of delineating both men and women makes you kin to a misogynist. At the same time it is acceptable to use the Lord’s name as an expletive and the use of profanity is more than acceptable – even encouraged among some Christian circles as a sign that you have a deeper spirituality. Do not be deceived. The word “tolerance” has been redefined to mean agreement that what is being tolerated is good.  This is a spiritually challenging time we live in.  If you want to know what is true and good – read the Word of God.

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

Believe it – walk in it. Let your light shine and give God the glory.

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

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Your New Life Is Not Yours To Live

"God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot?" - 1 Corinthians 6:14-15

Jesus submitted to the will of the Father who chose not to remove the “cup” from which Jesus was about to partake – the Cross at Calvary. Jesus died to the world and was raised up by the Father – not on His own. Jesus did not lay in the tomb counting the minutes until it was time to make His move and come out of the tomb. His resurrection from the dead is a picture of our new birth. Once we were all dead toward God but by faith, we too were resurrected. Transformed – like Jesus – new creations.

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" – 2 Corinthians 5:17-20

"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." – Galatians 2:20

We live out our lives as Christians in a natural body. That body is subject to life in the natural world even though we are born again supernaturally.  It is that paradox that we struggle with every day.  The key is to live our lives with a keen awareness of that very fact.  The New Testament reveals the ministry of Jesus, the mystery of our inclusion in God’s plan of restoration, and a guide to how we should live our new lives in Christ.  New lives lived out by the power of God – not our vain effort to be like Jesus by our own power. We have been sanctified – set apart by faith in Jesus – and we are being sanctified – made to be like Jesus through faith and the power of God.

"For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren" – Romans 8:29

"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 12:2

"Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection." – Philippians 3:8-10

Dr. Francis Schaeffer, a Christian apologist, wrote a book entitled, “How Should We Then Live”. The question has to do with how Christians should live in a world that does not know Christ and not pursue those things that are contrary to God’s creative design.  I quoted these verses to encourage you to remember who you are – just as I am doing even as I write these words, and remember that the new life we live – we live by faith having been called to be witnesses not just by words but by the way we live and love.

Believe it – walk in it. Let your light shine and give God the glory.

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

Monday, April 26, 2021

What To Do When A Christian Won't Repent

"Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s." - 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Forgiveness is conditional. Don’t confuse not forgiving with harboring ill-will toward someone. I ended my last post with that statement. 

Very often I think that we think of relationships mostly on the natural level. We, figuratively, dump all of our relationships into one bucket. I think we should re-think that thinking. If we have a relationship with a Christian then that relationship always - always has a spiritual context - or at least has the potential for spiritual context.  I say that because all Christians,  meaning those people who are born again by faith in Jesus, are sealed with and inhabited by the Spirit of God. Not so with the people who are not Christians. They are incapable of anything spiritual, that is until they yield themselves by faith to the lordship of Christ. (Ephesians 2:8-9) So if the Bible speaks of spiritual reconciliation and restoration it can only be between Christians. 

But what if a Christian will not repent? A Christian, maybe a friend or relative, who has sinned against you. There are a couple things. First there can be no forgiveness resulting in restoration of a relationship without repentance. Second, in spite of the hurt or harm they have done and you have experienced, we should not harbor ill-will toward them in our hearts, even though there may be relational separation. Let's look at a couple of verses for context.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven" - Matthew 5:43-45

Jesus didn't say anything about them saying they were even sorry first. In fact the Bible says this about that!

"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." - Romans 5:8

So once again, God beat us to the punch, setting the example for us. And guess what - for us to do what God expects takes faith to do. We cannot - must not, become bitter toward other people. We need to understand the root of the problem - sin - and solution which is a hardened heart turned toward God. We are supposed to pray for them - not resent them or wish them harm or hardship. 

Now there are other verses that address an unrepentant Christian. In fact, there is a progression of confrontation until they are taken before the church and essentially shunned - treated as an unbeliever. (that is the affected relationship part)

"Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’  And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector." - Matthew 18:15-17

Pretty clear - but I don't see that happening much in the church today. It normally gets stuck at the first step. But the point is that you can't save anyone and you can't make another Christian repent. Both salvation and repentance are between them and the Father. But what you can do is pray and be an example of obedience to the Word.

Believe it – walk in it. Let your light shine and give God the glory.

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

Friday, April 23, 2021

Repentance and Forgiveness Go Together Like a Horse and Carriage

“Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him. And the apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.’” Luke 17:3-5

If [your brother] repents, forgive him” Repentance is a condition for forgiveness. So what is repentance? I once heard it described as doing a 180 degree turn or an about face, for those who are military minded. It is a change of heart. But toward whom. Consider this. If I sin, in any way, I sin against God first and then against others. If I repent, I must repent toward God and that repentance will also be applied to other people I have sinned against. Admitting that I have sinned is the first step toward repentance. That is called confessing my sin.

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” – 1 John 1:8-10

So if I confess my sin and repent – confession is more than merely saying I am sorry, but is accompanied by, perhaps motivated by, a change of heart. With me? So let’s get back to the issue of me forgiving others. If the person has repented then their hearts have been cleansed by God. And if God has forgiven them – how is it that we could say “I do not forgive you?” Are we greater than God? And so we are compelled to forgive them. That is why, I believe that the disciples said, “Increase our faith.” Because being able to forgive is a faith issue. 

I think that all to often we look at forgiving people as a relational – natural issue not as the spiritual issue that it is. People might say, “I just can’t find it in myself forgive a person.” I would say, “Have they repented before God? Then you really have no choice. Stopping looking inside yourself for the power to forgive. It is a spiritual act, a faith issue and not a natural one.” So if you find it difficult, you must take that to God. You should ask Him to strengthen your faith.

Forgiveness is conditional. Don’t confuse it with harboring ill will toward someone. That is not a choice we have either.  I will speak to that in my next post.

Believe it – walk in it. Let your light shine and give God the glory.

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

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Forgive Seems Like An Impossible Command

“Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him. And the apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.’” Luke 17:3-5

Martie and I were talking about her Bible Study Fellowship class that she leads and the issue of forgiveness. I find it interesting that I have been walking in the Way for some 45 years and yet a conversation with spark a thought that opens the door to more spiritual understanding. Not to say that I think I will ever arrive – but to say that I am reminded that God is at work in me by His Spirit through His Word and that will continue until the day I see Him face to face. But I digress!

Whenever Jesus said to do something – when the Word tells us to do something – it is a spiritual directive. God has no expectation that we can do what is spiritual in the power of our flesh. Forgiveness is a spiritual act.  Did you notice that the disciples asked Jesus for more faith? Why? I think because doing what Jesus just told them to do ran crosswise to what their flesh told them to do.  Please don’t miss the qualification of forgiveness – repentance.  Repentance is not saying you are sorry – that leads to repentance but it is not repentance.  Repentance is a heart change and is also spiritual. The offender is not repentant only towards the person offended, but first toward God. It is a change of heart and that toward God first and the one offended second.

Man’s laws – even though Biblical based – cannot change hearts. Violated, the offender might be punished, but that does not change a heart – prison does not change a heart – only faith in Jesus can do that – it is spiritual not natural. But how difficult is it to forgive someone – even though they repented – had a heart change – our flesh cries out for not just restitution – but retribution. Our flesh does not want them to avoid punishment. We want our pound of flesh! We demand it!

Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. “But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’  So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt.’” – Matthew 18:21-30

We want God to forgive us, but struggle with demonstrating that same forgiveness toward others. The reason is it is spiritual. Not forgiving someone who has repented reveals our own hearts. Do you not like that thought? Me either! That is the difference between the spirit and the flesh. Forgiveness reveals our spiritual struggle. Martie made the point that we need to pray about forgiveness and not just “try” to forgive. When we say, “I just can’t forgive.” That is an indication that we understand the spiritual nature of forgiveness. But if we say, “I won’t forgive!” well that is an indication that we have a heart problem.  There is much more to be said, but I will leave it here. That is enough for one day. 

Believe it – walk in it. Let your light shine and give God the glory.

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

Monday, April 19, 2021

MEB4U - Me Before You – UB4ME

“Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, ‘Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask.’ And He said to them, ‘What do you want Me to do for you?’ They said to Him, ‘Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.’ And when the ten heard it, they began to be greatly displeased with James and John. But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, ‘You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.’” Mark 10:35-37,41-45

A preacher told a story about a car that passed him with the vanity plate “MEB4U”. I am certain you have experienced that as well. A car riding your bumper, then passing you only to turn off of the road. Or maybe a car going under the speed limit, so you attempt to pass them only to have them speed up as if they were in a race and not merely going to the grocery store. It is part of our old nature to find significance wherever it might be found – in whatever trivial thing it might be found. We just want our day in the sun – or even a moment to somehow validate our worth as a human being – to affirm our significance in this world.  Along with Peter, James and John were part of the inner circle. Like the teacher’s pet. You know – the one who is held in higher regard than then rest of the “pack”. There is always a resentment or perhaps jealousy directed at them from those who are not so highly favored.

It is the same in the Body of Christ.  That is because we Christians have our roots in the world. When we are saved by faith – we bring along all of our insecurities – biases – and habits with us.  Very often we view our new life through the lens of our old one.  In God’s economy there is no favoritism. We are all loved the same – although we are not all used by God in the same way. Where what you do might place you higher in the culture’s pecking order, it has nothing to do with where you stand before God and with other Christians.  The ground at the foot of the cross is level.  If you want to find significance in the kingdom of God then you must become insignificant.   

Then He came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked them, ‘What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?’ But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest. And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, ‘If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.’” – Mark 9:33-37

Doesn't do much to boost your pride, does it? It is contrary to everything that the culture teaches – that our carnal hearts cry out for. There is no room for prejudice. For jealousy.

So when He [Jesus] had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.’” – John 13:12-14

There are some churches that practice foot washing as a sign of humility. Jesus washing the Disciples’ feet was a “visual” allegory or metaphor (I always get them confused) to express the idea of what it means to be great in God’s eyes.  You must be a servant to be great. You must be last to be first. If you embraced that in the way you live your life how would that change the way you treat people – not your friends, although it might be your friends – but those you have decided are somehow less than you. Those who have a lower station in our culture or your piece of the culture? So …. the preacher suggested that rather than read MEB4U as “me before you” that perhaps we should understand it to mean “me be for you”

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


Believe it – walk in it. Let your light shine and give God the glory.

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

Friday, April 16, 2021

The Temptation To Lose Hope When Things Don’t Go Your Way

“let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” —Hebrews 10:22-23

Have you ever been discouraged?  Of course you have.  Have you ever lost hope because life made a left turn when your thought you were going to the right?  It is the reality of living in a world that has rejected the One who created it.  A world that suffers under the burden of sin and the brokenness that sin brings.

I was talking with someone the other day.  They were sharing their concern for their child.  The child, who once had been “sold out” to Jesus, was now struggling with their faith.  Questioning their faith and God.  I would hazard a guess that most Christian parents know that concern. But it is not like pulling your child out of the street by the arm so they don’t get hit by a car.  When it comes to facing life and the struggle it brings, they must choose to get out of the street on their own.  You can certainly pray for them and should.  But no amount of talking (or nagging) will  coax them out of the street.  You must love them through their struggle of faith.

I told my friend that what we see is like looking at a picture.  A moment in time.  We should be careful that we don’t draw the wrong conclusions about their life.  I asked if they could remember a point in time when the child professed their faith in Jesus. “Yes” was the answer. 

I am an eternal security guy.  I believe that once you are adopted by faith into the family of God, nothing can change that.  I believe that being sealed by the Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14) is a forever thing.  I believe that when Jesus said (John 10:28) “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.”) That “no one” means no one, including the person who has been given eternal life. The person who was born again.

I told my friend that they needed to trust God and believe His Word is truth.  (Oh, did that sound like Proverbs 3:5-6?) That the certainty of salvation applies to their child even when they see the child wandering into the street – not embracing their faith.  Struggling to understand why what happened to them, happened to them.  Is God really there? Does their faith really matter?  Don’t draw the wrong conclusion from the photo.  God sees from beginning to end.  We only see what is now and what we can see in the photo album representing their life in the past. God is sovereign.  He’s got this.  (Hebrews 11:1) “Faith is the substance of things hoped for.  The evidence of things not seen.”  So I encouraged my friend and I encourage you, friends, with this.  (Philippians 4:6-7) “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.”

Believe it – walk in it. Let your light shine and give God the glory.

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

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Abandoning The Things Of This World Starts In The Heart

Whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. —Matthew 5:41

“Our Lord’s teaching can be summed up in this: the relationship that He demands for us is an impossible one unless He has done a supernatural work in us. […] No amount of enthusiasm will ever stand up to the strain that Jesus Christ will put upon His servant. Only one thing will bear the strain, and that is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ Himself— a relationship that has been examined, purified, and tested until only one purpose remains and I can truly say, ‘I am here for God to send me where He will.’ […] God does not ask us to do the things that are naturally easy for us— He only asks us to do the things that we are perfectly fit to do through His grace, and that is where the cross we must bear will always come.” – Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest

Many of Chamber’s devotions were derived from his lectures at a Bible College.  He was speaking to men and women who had been called by God to service beyond what most of us are called to after our conversion.  But, the principles are the same.  Even the person with only one spiritual gift, and that, they consider to be almost non-essential (God does not agree with them by the way) faces the same challenges that every other saint faces in living their new life. 

But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.” – 1 Corinthians 12:20-25

We are all called to abandon the same things, even though for most it will be an abandonment in the heart, while with a few, it will require physical abandonment.  It is one thing to say that you love God more than your family, it is quite another to leave your family and go on Mission for God.  It is one thing to say that you do not love the things of this world, it is quite another to sell your house and put your retirement at risk in order to go where God has said “Go!”. At the same time – it is one thing to say I will abandon my devotion for worldly things in favor of the heavenly and quite another to actually do it when faced with a choice to embrace the world or your faith.

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

Believe it – walk in it. Let your light shine and give God the glory.

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

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

How Do You Approach God?

Clouds and darkness surround Him… —Psalm 97:2

“A person who has not been born again by the Spirit of God will tell you that the teachings of Jesus are simple. But when he is baptized by the Holy Spirit, he finds that “clouds and darkness surround Him….” When we come into close contact with the teachings of Jesus Christ we have our first realization of this. The only possible way to have full understanding of the teachings of Jesus is through the light of the Spirit of God shining inside us. If we have never had the experience of taking our casual, religious shoes off our casual, religious feet— getting rid of all the excessive informality with which we approach God— it is questionable whether we have ever stood in His presence. The people who are flippant and disrespectful in their approach to God are those who have never been introduced to Jesus Christ. […] Jesus said, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). […] …. the way God speaks to us; not by visions and dreams, but by words. When a man gets to God, it is by the most simple way— words.” Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest

Are you familiar with the idiom “Coming with your hat in your hand”?  It means to approach someone “In a meek or submissive manner. (The removal of one's hat is typically a gesture of respect.)”  Men used to tip their hat or grab the brim and move it downward as a show of respect.  Standing before God with our hats in our hands is comparable to Moses removing his sandals because He was standing on holy ground. When we come to worship, we may come just as we are, but we must be careful that we are not prideful in our attitude toward God thinking He can “take it or leave it”.  You might be thinking, “I would never do that?”  Well, my fear is that the fact is most of us refuse to remove our hats when we stand before God. We might as well be doing through a McDonald’s drive through ordering lunch.

Over the past 30 years, there has been a shift in how people dress on Sunday morning.  We no longer wear our “Sunday go to meetin’ clothes”, but whatever we pull out of the closet.  If a man wears a suit and tie to church people might think he is going to preach.  You know that God judges the heart of man, not his outward appearance.  But very often the outward appearance is a reflection of the heart.  Don’t misunderstand me.  I don’t think Moses had a suit and tie on when God interrupted his life … he had on work clothes.  This is not about clothing.  It’s about reverence.  In times past, I am certain that many people came to church “all dolled up”, “dressed to the nines” (I love those old sayings) with sin in their heart, looking for recognition by men and not God.  What I am concerned about is that we may have lost our awareness that we have come to worship a Holy God.  When we approach Him, on any day, it must be with an awareness that the only reason we have access to God is because of Jesus and His sacrifice.

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” – Hebrews 4:13-16

Jesus is our high priest making intercession for us before a holy Creator God. The Holy Spirit dwells in us praying those things that are too hard for us to pray. We cannot approach God on our own merit but only because of the blood of Jesus. Let that settle in for a moment.  The next time you pray .. read the Word of God .. attend a worship service … maybe even take your next breath … keep that in mind.  He is the potter, we are the clay.  We are saved by grace through faith and not works .. there is nothing we can take credit for.  So take off your hat! Lose those shoes!

Believe it – walk in it. Let your light shine and give God the glory.

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

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

I Want To Go Back To The Day I First Believed

This is what the Lord says: ‘I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the wilderness, through a land not sown.” –  Jeremiah 2:2

“Am I as filled to overflowing with love for Jesus Christ as I was in the beginning, when I went out of my way to prove my devotion to Him? Does He ever find me pondering the time when I cared only for Him? Is that where I am now, or have I chosen man’s wisdom over true love for Him? Am I so in love with Him that I take no thought for where He might lead me? Or am I watching to see how much respect I get as I measure how much service I should give Him?” Oswald Chambers,  My Utmost For His Highest

Andrae Crouch wrote the song “Take Me Back”  It is about someone who has let the fire go out in their relationship with Jesus.

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

 I feel that I'm so far from you Lord, But still I hear you calling me. Those simple things that I once knew, their memories keep drawing me.

 I must confess, Lord I've been blessed but yet my soul's not satisfied. Renew my faith, restore my joy and dry my weeping eyes.”

 Is your love for God still fresh, like the day you prayed to receive Christ as your Lord? Or, have you become casual in your relationship with Him. Do you still acknowledge His divine nature and His sacrifice and the unbelievable grace and mercy that God poured out on your life with unbridled devotion to Him? Or do you treat your relationship as “no big deal”, you are a Christian .. you love Jesus .. but you are no fanatic.

Maybe it is time to rekindle the fire that once burned so brightly in your life.  To remember just how magnificent your salvation is .. and how great our God is.

Perhaps this should be your prayer today!

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

Believe it – walk in it. Let your light shine and give God the glory.

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

Monday, April 12, 2021

When It Comes To Faith – I really Don’t Know Much

For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” – 2 Timothy 1:12

Listening to a sermon yesterday, I was reminded of a fact. I know quite a bit about a lot of things – Jack of all trades kind’a guy some might say.  But there are some things that I don’t know – quite a few actually … for instance ….

  1. I know not why God’s wondrous grace to me He hath made known, Nor why, unworthy, Christ in love redeemed me for His own.
  2. I know not how this saving faith to me He did impart, Nor how believing in His Word wrought peace within my heart.
  3. I know not how the Spirit moves, convincing men of sin, Revealing Jesus through the Word, creating faith in Him.
  4. I know not when my Lord may come, at night or noonday fair, Nor if I walk the vale with Him, or meet Him in the air.
  5. I know not what of good or ill may be reserved for me, Of weary ways or golden days, before His face I see.
  6. But I know Whom I have believed, And am persuaded that He is able To keep that which I’ve committed Unto Him against that day. (I Know Whom I Have Believed, Daniel W. Whittle, Public Domain)

I love that song – but when I read the lyrics yesterday – it gave new context to Paul’s statement about what he did not know and what he did know.  What Paul did know gave him the confidence and strength to endure the hardships of life. It gave him perspective.

I was reminded that this life I live – have lived since 1976 when I was born again – I live by faith in Jesus. I don’t have all of the answers – so many unknowns but there is one thing I do know.  (I suppose this is a day for quotes) “I am not the man I ought to be, I am not the man I wish to be, and I am not the man I hope to be, but by the grace of God, I am not the man I used to be.” – John Newton, former slave ship captain and author of “Amazing Grace”

Spiritual transformation is a fact for everyone who has placed their trust in Jesus as the Messiah. Something to meditate on today.  Perhaps an encouragement to “turn your eyes upon Jesus and look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”

Believe it – walk in it. Let your light shine and give God the glory.

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

Friday, April 9, 2021

Following Jesus – Not An Easy Path

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?” – Matthew 5:43-46

So – You think that you are a Christian – that you have “arrived” spiritual speaking. Then you meet someone who is unkind – treats you disrespectfully – harshly. Perhaps responds to your “good deeds” with disdain or as if they were of no value.  Hmm -  sounds a little bit like the world treated Jesus – the Son of God who came to offer himself as a sacrifice for others. The condition for our service cannot be how that service is received. If it is, then the objective of our service is not glorify God but to glorify ourselves. To use the response of those we are serving or even those we are serving with as a barometer for our own worth is a big mistake. We will eventually be disappointed and discouraged.  Many people do good for the purpose of feeling good about themselves – validating their worth. That happens when they have lost sight of Who has called them – if they had been called to the service by God at all.

When we were serving in Haiti we participated in a get-together on Sunday nights for a few months.  People, mainly U.S. citizens serving in some way in Haiti, would gather. After a couple of meetings, I noticed that many of them were struggling – it was by their words and repeated complaints about how difficult being in Haiti was. Being in Haiti is difficult by definition – and how much more difficult for the Haitians who do not have the option to return to the United States.  One night, I was asked to lead a devotion. I told the group that if God had not called them to be in Haiti – if they were there because they wanted to do a good thing in their own strength then they should go home. Not one person asked for an elaboration. They didn’t want to go home, they just wanted to complain.  I was not asked to share a devotion about, by the way. Relating that story, I was just reminded of a verse in Philippians.

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” –Philippians 2:5-8

In a small way, leaving the “Promised Land” and all of its conveniences was like Jesus leaving Heaven to go to the cross.  As you can see, the issue is one of Agape love and humility.  Serving others requires sacrifice and inconvenience. It is humbling. If feeling good is a requirement for continued service, you won’t serve for long. In fact you will most likely become discouraged and resentful instead.  What exactly did you think Paul meant when he wrote that we should “offer ourselves as living sacrifices” or when Jesus said “to follow Me you must pick up your cross” What exactly did you think that you would be sacrificing?

A sacrifice is not a sacrifice if it doesn’t cost you something. What it gets down to is the question, “Are you willing to pay the price – to suffer the cost?” Are you willing to walk in Jesus footsteps? The life we have been called to is not an easy one – it is humbling and humanly impossible. 

When the young man asked Jesus what it took to have eternal life, Jesus gave him a list of actions, to which the young man said he did all of those. Perhaps he was a little smug as he impressed the people who had gathered with his goodness. Then Jesus, knowing the man’s heart said “Sell everything you own and give it to the poor.” The man went away sad because his sense of worth was found in himself and not God. (Matthew 19:16-24)

What does the Lord require of you? But to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” – Micah 6:8

Believe it – walk in it. Let your light shine and give God the glory.

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

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Are You Willing To Be A Stepping Stone?

My speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom…” – 1 Corinthians 2:4

“Belief in Jesus is a miracle produced only by the effectiveness of redemption, not by impressive speech, nor by wooing and persuading, but only by the sheer unaided power of God. The creative power of redemption comes through the preaching of the gospel, but never because of the personality of the preacher. … If it is only because of my preaching that people desire to be better, they will never get close to Jesus Christ. “And I, if I am lifted up…, will draw all peoples to Myself” (John 12:32).” Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest

I have often marveled at how God uses mere men and women as messengers to proclaim the Gospel to the world with words and their very changed lives. But it is important to understand that it is not the messenger but the message that brings salvation.  And not just any message.  I think we often get the “cart before the horse”.  My witness to anyone never precedes God … Salvation is a spiritual event and the Spirit of God always precedes the witness.  But, amazingly, God has ordained that we are a part of the salvation process.  Paul said “Some plant and some water, but God brings the increase.”  (1 Corinthians 3:6)

Let me share an example from my life. A Gospel seed was planted in my step-dad’s heart in 1951 on a hill in Korea.  He was a young Marine, part of a 81mm mortar crew. After a particularly intense battle, a Chaplain gave him a small New Testament bible with a reference to John 1:12 written on the inside cover. “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—”  I don’t know what the conversation between them was, but it was not until 1969 did he pray to receive Jesus as his savior and Lord.  He still had that Bible in 1969 and it is in the keeping of one of his children today. That chaplain was a stepping stone, maybe the first on the path to his salvation. We can’t save anyone. We might be the first stepping stone or, if we are so fortunate, the last when a person surrenders their heart by faith in Jesus. You should not think more of your role in sharing the Gospel, but then, you should not think less of it either.  In His wisdom, God has chosen to use us for the hearing of the Gospel as someone walks the path toward salvation. You should not worry about saying the right words. You should worry that you will surrender to the leading of the Spirit. Everyone is saved by grace through faith – not my words and not yours alone.

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” –Romans 10:14-15

Don’t believe for a minute that you have the power to save. At the same moment, don’t think that you telling someone about Jesus when the Spirit prompts you is not necessary.  You don’t know which stepping stone you are on the path someone takes to salvation.  But God does!

Believe it – walk in it. Let your light shine and give God the glory.

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