Friday, May 28, 2021

Christian Profiling – Are You Doing It?

“….since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all. Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.’” – Colossians 3:9-15

You know what “profiling” is don’t you? Making assumptions about someone else base upon what they look like or where they happen to be.  God is a discerner of the heart, as all Spirit led Christians should be, but the natural man cannot discern the heart so he makes assumptions based upon the external. I wrote about how we like groups yesterday.  Being a Christian is being part of a group – the family of God. Paul wrote that although there may be external or circumstantial differences between Christians – we are all the same inside. We are to “put on” love. That is an intentional act on our part. Like getting dressed – it takes deliberate thought and action.

We make spiritual choices every day. We choose between our old nature and our new nature throughout the day. We very often give or withhold love and acceptance based upon the natural – the consensus of the group we most identify with. Race and politics are the popular sources of division today. If you are from one race you are most likely a racist – if you are associated with one party you are a socialist.  We are so much more comfortable if we can just sort people out – put them in a box – oh if we could only just depend upon the externals. But – as a Christian that is actually sin. WHAT!!!

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

If you have read this far, then you read the first verse reference at the beginning. I am not making this stuff up.  It is in the Bible – you know that Book that you embrace as God’s revelation to mankind.  So if you didn’t before, you now know the good to do. Spiritual discernment and the demonstration of God’s love to others depends upon having a right heart before God. (BTW, there are only two boxes – the lost and the saved and those have eternal consequences)

“….do not forget my law, But let your heart keep my commands; For length of days and long life And peace they will add to you. Let not mercy and truth forsake you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart, [Be Deliberate] And so find favor and high esteem In the sight of God and man. 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 3:1-8

Think about it – Pray about it - Believe it – walk in it. Let your light shine and give God the glory. And remember ….

“If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.” – 1 John 4:20-21

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

Thursday, May 27, 2021

So – You Think We Are Related?

“Then one said to Him, ‘Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You.’ But He answered and said to the one who told Him, ‘Who is My mother and who are My brothers?’ And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, ‘Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.’” – Matthew 12:47-49

I am certain that you have read those verses at some time. When I read them, frankly they seemed odd to me – maybe even harsh. Jesus family was on the doorstep – wanting to see Him – but He was too busy it seemed. Or was He disrespecting His family – His mother? Well no, actually, He wasn’t. Instead He was teaching a spiritual truth.  The physical or natural dominates the way we live and think and relate. That applies to Christians and non-Christians alike.  Who we are naturally – socially, ethnically, economically, culturally very often has primacy over who we are Spiritually. The Disciples saw Jesus’ natural family and responded to what they saw – but Jesus saw something else.

Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not [d]imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” – 2 Corinthians 5:16-21

We like groups. We like to identify with other people who are like us or who like what we like. Could be race, could be the part of the country we live in, could be family, could be denomination or faith, could be a sports team – it is something we have in common that makes us feel “warm” inside – we like to belong – we don’t want to be alone. And those who are not like us or don’t like what we like – well there must be something wrong – and it is certainly not us!

Having commonality Spiritually is something that is born out of faith in Jesus.  You know that already. To embrace that commonality the way Jesus did requires that our faith has primacy over everything else. All of the natural things that we identify with are secondary – even family – to our new life.  If God is your Father because Jesus is your Lord and the Spirit is in you, then you are my Brother or Sister. That is a Spiritual truth that we are supposed to embrace, to live and walk in. But very often we fail. Very often we demand that you must first embrace the “natural” me before I can embrace the “spiritual” you. 

There is so much racial tension in our country. It has always been there – but it is like a volcano that lies dormant and then erupts from time to time. Sometimes small eruptions and sometimes it is like Mount Saint Helen. There are certainly inequities in every country – ours included. All are deep rooted in the natural. Fear and anger because of past and present injustices are the fuel for division. Everyone identifies with their groups. The gaps between the groups get wider. Social reformation requires a heart change – heart change doesn’t happen without Jesus.  And there is the problem.  The natural world does not want Jesus to be the answer. The groups are formed – the people identify with the groups – everyone takes a stand with the group in which they find their identity. The answer to the problems of this world cannot be Jesus – the world won’t let it be Jesus. That would mean they would have to abandon what they trust, rely on, love.  Hmmmm.  Sounds like the day that I came face to face with Jesus and abandoned what I trusted, relied on and loved putting my faith, my very life in Him.

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.” – 1 John 3:1

Who or what do you identify with? God’s family or your natural family. If it is the former, do you feel guilty when you admit it? Letting go of the natural in favor of the Spiritual is an act of faith and love for God. Impossible to do without faith. The world may be divided, but the Body of Christ is “supposed” to be united. A friend of mine used to say, “United becomes Un-tied when the “I” is out of place.” One more verse for perspective on this issue.

“If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.” – 1 John 4:20-21

Think about it – Pray about it - 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, May 25, 2021

Walk This Way

“Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ Whenever you turn to the right hand Or whenever you turn to the left. You will also defile the covering of your images of silver, And the ornament of your molded images of gold. You will throw them away as an unclean thing; You will say to them, ‘Get away!’” – Isaiah 30:21-22

The world is depending upon the Body of Christ to be a light – a witness – to the Glory of God. Each of us has the opportunity to give testimony by the way we walk, the way live and the way we love. We have the Spirit in us to guide us, teach us, even admonish us – bring conviction when our hearts wander. You know these things to be true. We all live under the constant pressure to conform to this world when God’s intent is that we be transformed. I once knew a man – a Christian Brother – with whom I served in the Army. He and his wife had a significant influence on Martie and me when we were first born again. We were assigned to the same Division – 4th Infantry in an armor (tank) unit. My friend and I were talking about the pressures we experienced to conform to the “image and behavior” of an Army officer. The issue of drinking alcohol came up. Drinking in excess had been such a big part of my “old” life and a desire to drink was gone. My friend told me that although he did not want to drink, he felt it was necessary to drink in order to be accepted and even be successful as an officer. So – contrary to his belief – he did. I get it. His dad had been a successful Army officer – he wanted to be the same – or thought he did. Actually he eventually left the military to pursue a secular career. 

My experience in the Army was different. I did not drink – even though I would attend what was known as “purple alerts” on Friday afternoons when the officers would gather at the Officers’ Club to drink. I went but did not drink alcohol. When I attended formal functions there would be toasts made and wine glasses filled.  I turned my wine glass upside down and used my water glass to make the toast.  When I did, I noticed that some of the other young officers did the same, but only after I did. Success in the military life did not depend upon the consumption of alcohol – or the vulgarity of your vocabulary – but on your competency as a soldier.

So what was really going on with my friend. Well, to the point, he had taken his eyes off of God – was no longer listening to the Spirit when it came to his walk – but looked to the world – or the Army – as the determiner of his success.  The temptation to trust in the wrong thing is always right in front of all of us.  The point of my sharing this story is not that I am good and my friend is not. It is that what my friend believed to be true was not true – he was deceived by his old nature. Perhaps lack of faith that God was sovereign – even in the Army. It happens to all of us. Compromise with the promise of something good resulting. We had a saying that God made the assignments, Washington merely cut (wrote) the orders.

Look to the Garden and the lesson learned there.  Trusting our own wit, our feelings, the ways of the world and no longer listening to the Spirit of God is part of our sinful nature – birthed in the Garden. 

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you[a] 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

What do you struggle with? Please don’t read this as a proclamation of my purity – like I don’t have my own struggles – of course I do. I would hope that these words brings pause to your thinking and perhaps encourages you to draw closer to God and stop embracing those things that are contrary to your new nature.  To consider those things that you have accepted as “good” or “good enough” that are not.

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, May 24, 2021

Talking About The Elephant In The Room

 “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” – Ephesians 4:29

Every day we are bombarded with the ways of the culture. Some of those ways are not evil – some are not contrary to God’s Word – but so many others are. It is difficult for many Christians to discern the difference.  As we consider life and the living of it, we might draw a line to divide the two, using the Word of God as the pen to draw it.  On one side of the line are those things that God speaks directly to as “Thou Shalt Nots” or “Thou Shalts.  Our culture would have us believe that life is not that simple.  That there is a gray area – a not really that bad area – that God – if you believe in God – tolerates, winks at, does not really mind. In fact, that gray area is an illusion – a deception of the Strong Man – an enticement to question “Did God really say!” 

I was speaking with two different Christian men on two different occasions recently. In the course of our conversation, they both used profanity in their conversations. When they did, there was an almost imperceptible pause and they looked at me as if they wanted to see my reaction to their words. They were disappointed – I didn’t have a reaction. But I did have an understanding. Profanity used to be a big part of my vocabulary – but like excessive drinking of alcohol, both were no longer part of my new way of living. Just like I did not need to drink myself stupid (looking back I think it was PTSD), after I was born again, when I spoke to people – profane words no longer came to mind or out of my mouth. When I hear those words come out of the mouths of professing Christians – apparently proud of their freedom to speak them – defiant to anyone who might question their use of them – I am reminded of a verse in the Bible.

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

The words we use in conversation are very telling about the condition of our hearts. It might not be profanity – maybe it is gossip – or criticism. Words that do not build up but tear down. Words that bring hurt and harm. Words that shout out the values of the culture and not godly values.  I have had conversations with some people where they were about to say one of those “words” but caught themselves – there was a slight pause as they mentally recovered and searched their vocabulary for a “godly” substitute. Nothing is ever more obvious to me when that happens. I have seen or – or more correctly heard it – so many times – so many times.  I suppose it might be because of their perception of who I am and not wanting to offend me.  The thing is – it is not me they need to worry about – Sin is consummated in the heart before any visible or audible act is committed. In other words, they didn’t hide it from God. They thought it – just didn’t say it. Paul’s admonition to Titus covers it ….

“….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.” – Titus 3:1-7  

What do you struggle with? Please don’t read this as a proclamation of my purity – like I don’t have my own struggles – of course I do. But this issue is like the elephant in the room.  Everyone sees it. No one wants to talk about it.  I would hope that these words brings pause to your thinking and perhaps encourages you to draw closer to God and stop embracing those things that are contrary to your new nature.  To consider those things that you have accepted as “good” or “good enough” that are not.

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, May 20, 2021

Is There Enough Evidence To Convict You Of Being A Christian

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:13-16

As a born again Believers, we have the “light of God” – the Holy Spirit in us. That light and His transforming power should be evident to everyone we meet.  Not only by what we say or don’t say, but by what we do and don’t do.  Jesus charged the disciples – which includes us – to let our light shine in the world.  We are to be witnesses so that God will be glorified and Jesus lifted up.  Jesus said (John 13:35) “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”  Years ago we sang a song at fellowships – “They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love”.  I think there are two main reasons why there is a lack of light in a Christian’s life.

First. Many Christians are not pursuing their faith and they are still spiritual infants and are indistinguishable from those who are still lost in the world.

Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly.” – 1 Corinthians 3:1-3  

2 Corinthians 5:17 says “old things are passing away and all things are becoming new”  That transformation is true for the heart that is devoted to God.  But Spiritual transformation does not happen when your heart remains devoted to the things of this world.  Instead, your growth is stunted – your light is hidden – your witness non-existent. 

Second.  Many Christian are afraid of being rejected by the culture they live in – afraid of the social and/or financial loss they might incur if they let their light shine and make what they believe to be Truth – Biblical Truth – known.  Jesus told the disciples …

Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household. Anyone who loves their father or mother more than Me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of Me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for My sake will find it.” – Matthew 10:34-39

We have a “herd” instinct.  We want to be around other people.  We want to be accepted by those people.  For Christians – that can mean that they must not make their beliefs evident – they must be a silent witness – go along to get along – even when what is acceptable to the “herd” is clearly contrary to the declaration of God.  The only way to overcome that compromise is by having a strong faith – a heart for God.

I am not sharing these admonitions to try to throw a “guilt trip” on you.  Instead, I want to encourage you to understand and acknowledge the very real challenges of living the Christian life in a fallen world that is contrary to your new nature and life – how we are to live.  Dr. Francis Schaeffer wrote a book some years back “How Should We Then Live” which addresses this very thing.  How should Christians live in the context of the world around them.  I don’t want you think, after reading this, that you will just have to try harder.  On the contrary. My hope is simply that you will understand the need for all of us to “faith” harder.  Read Proverbs 3:5-6 and Joshua 1:8-10. 

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, May 18, 2021

The Practice of the Presence of God – Day 6

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  –  1 Peter 1:6-7

“God often allows us to go through difficulties to purify our souls and to teach us to rely on Him more. The difficulties of life do not have to be unbearable. It is the way we look at them – through faith or unbelief – that makes them seem so.” (pp 54,55 The Practice of the Presence of God)

The fact that you have to face difficulties in life should come as no surprise to you. There are a number of reasons – some consequence of your sin – God forgives you but does not necessarily relieve you of the worldly consequence – some action of another person in which you were innocent of any wrong doing – or perhaps just the fact that you live in a world that is sin-sick and full of maladies that we may not escape or avoid merely because we are born again.

No matter what the difficulty or its cause, we can live above it at peace.

Peace I [Jesus] leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid..’” – John 14:27

Given Jesus’ words, it sounds like the presence of peace in times of trouble is up to us. In a way it is and in a way it isn’t.  Peace – calm in the midst of calamity – is a spiritual fruit – it is supernatural.  It is a product of an abiding relationship with the Father – practice of the presence of God. We are not like the Ostrich who buries its head in the sand when danger comes, but with assurance we face it head on. We know who is present with us. It is the attitude of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego when they stood before King Nebuchadnezzar.

“‘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 3:15-18

It is not that those guys did not see the furnace or feel its heat or understand what might very well happen to them.  Their confidence was in God.  If our sense of peace is dependent upon the absence of difficulty – we will never be at peace. In this day people are so fearful. So much uncertainty. It is a great opportunity to be witnesses to a world in turmoil – a world with no peace. If you will only practice the presence of God.

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, May 17, 2021

The Practice of the Presence of God – Day 5

 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”  –  Philippians 4:6-8

“Our sanctification does not depend as much on changing our activities as it does on doing them for God rather than ourselves… We must recall our minds to God. Otherwise our spirits may wander, dragging us down to the things of earth.. Remember what I advised you to do: Think about God as often as you can, day and night, in everything you do. He is always with you. Just as you would be rude if you deserted a friend who was visiting you, why would you be disrespectful of God by abandoning His presence?” (pp 24,46,51 The Practice of the Presence of God)

Why do you do what you do? Most often the things we do are for our own benefit – even when we do for others, often it results in us feeling good about ourselves. The Shorter Catechism, poses the question “What is the chief end of man?” The answer – “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Not a word about self-gratification – padding my nest – making sure that I have enough toys to be comfortable – to be self-confident. Pastor Rick Warren’s book, Purpose Driven Life, starts out with the phrase “It’s not about me.”

Having the right attitude and perspective towards the new life we are living starts with what we think about – what we allow to bounce around in our little grey cells. What we dwell on.  It takes effort to keep our focus on God. 

Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’” – 1 Corinthians 15:33

It is so easy allow the world, its values, its definition of what is right to dominate our thoughts and actions and leave God standing at the window looking in.  We should not isolate ourselves from the world – that is counter to God’s intent for us to be living testimonies of His grace, mercy and love. But we must insulate ourselves from the effects of living in a world that is running pell-mell to its destruction and eternal separation from the Creator God. We can see Him, but have you ever tried to relate with – to talk to someone who is outside looking through a window. And like Brother Lawrence said –we must recall our minds to God, else our spirits will wander and we will be drug down to the things of the earth.  It is common to mankind. It is the pit that so many well intentioned Christians fall into and eventually adapt their lives to. If we are going to practice the presence of God, we must be on our guard lest we find ourselves in the same pit.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” – Proverbs 4:23

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, May 14, 2021

The Practice of the Presence of God – Day 4

For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified’”  –  1 Corinthians 2:2

“I haven’t followed any particular steps in my own spiritual growth…. My first prayers were about death, judgement, hell, heaven, and my sins….During the first 10 years, however, I worried that my walk with the Lord wasn’t good enough. Because I couldn’t forget my past sins … I used to fall often and then get up again … I feel unable to express what is going on inside me right now. I’m not anxious about my purpose in life because I only want to do God’s will.  I wouldn’t even lift a straw from the ground without His order or any other motive than love for Him.” (pp 39,40,41, The Practice of the Presence of God)

Reading Brother Lawrence’s description of his spiritual path, I think, is pretty much a description of what most Christians experience.  Like a baby … who crawls and then walks, we all go through it.  It is the process of sanctification (big word) – being conformed into the image of Jesus – which the Father has purposed. Sadly for me it has not been a steady climb, but I have plateaued from time to time. But it seems that those seasons when there was not much growth were not the finish line for me, but the Spirit would urge me to press on. Martie and I were born again in September of 1976. The thing is, I think, is to never be satisfied with where we are.  But to pursue God. To practice being aware of His presence.  Martie and I are in Montana right now at the Grand Canyon.  It is magnificent.  A brilliant reminder of God’s creation. God is not in it – as some religions would tell us, but He is present all around us.  Oh that I would be aware of that all of the time.

This following quote is by John Newton (the Amazing Grace guy). I have shared it before but I think it captures what Brother Lawrence was saying.

“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.”

Me too!

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, May 13, 2021

The Practice of the Presence of God – Day 3

And they said to one another, ‘Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?’”  –  Luke 24:32

“I have taken the liberty, my dear friend, of telling you all of this so you might reexamine your own relationship with God. If by some means (I pray it not be so) it has cooled even slightly, perhaps our brother’s (Brother Lawrence) attitude will rekindle and inflame it.” (p31, The Practice of the Presence of God)

When I read those lines I thought – “YES! And that is why I do what I do in writing this devotion!” – Even when I know that the words I write may seem harsh – that is never their intent. My intent is to rekindle and inflame the heart to burn within you in response to some spiritual truth I might share.

“He [God] wants to possess our hearts completely.” (p33, The Practice of the Presence of God)

You might be thinking, “Oh I know that already.” But what I had to ask, and hope you will ask, is, “Does He really?” Practicing the presence of God is not sitting cross-legged in a room filled with candles and incense reciting some mantra all day every day.  That is not it. Marriage is a dim reflection of what our relationship with God is to be like. Wanting to be together. Wanting to hear each other’s voice. Having intimate conversations. Focused on the relationship and resting in the bond of love. Is that how you feel about your relationship with the Father?  That is what Practicing being in His Presence looks like. To have a burning heart – being passionate about our relationship with the Creator God.

A song has come to mind, as it often does, “In The Garden”. “I come to the Garden alone. While the dew is still on the roses. And the voice I hear falling on my ear, The Son of God discloses. And He walks with me and He talks with me. And He tells me I am His own. And the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.” (Austin Miles, Public Domain) That song speaks to the personal intimacy that God desires to have with His children. I once heard the word intimacy explained as meaning “Into me see”. It is revealing the heart – to do that requires trust and love.  Sometimes I think our motive for confessing our sins is not so much because it affects our relationship with the Father, but that there is a fear of being “cut off” and not getting what we want.  Not the kind of relationship God seeks. It is a love relationship.  One that requires effort. One that reflects the Father’s love.

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 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 13:1-8

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, May 12, 2021

The Practice of the Presence of God – Day 2

Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit says the Lord of hosts  Zechariah 4:6

“Whenever he [Brother Lawrence] considered doing some good deed, he always consulted God about it, saying, “Lord, I will never be able to do that if You don’t help me.” When he sinned, he confessed it to God with these words: “I can do nothing better without You. Please keep me from falling and correct the mistakes I make.” After that he did not feel guilty about the sin.” (p15, The Practice of the Presence of God)

There are two thoughts and one principle. 

The spiritual principle is this. Our new life in Christ is a spiritual one at its foundation and its essence.  We are totally dependent upon God, the Father, God the Son and the Holy Spirit to live it out.  We are saved by grace through faith (Ephesian 2:8-9) and live by the Spirit Who lives in us (Galatians 5:25)

If you go without drinking water for more than 3 days, you will most likely die, some people have lived for 10 days. A person becomes desperate for water when their survival instinct kicks in.  Have you ever felt a desperate need for the Spirit of God? To draw close to the Father? Sadly I don’t always live with an awareness of my dependence upon the Spirit for my new life. I have been foolish in that regard. Thinking I can live me new life on my own. How about you?

Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” – Galatians 3:3

That brings me to the first thought. If there is anything that God asks me to do – if I have the thought to do that glorifies Him and helps others – it is impossible to accomplish without Him.

I can do all things through Christ Who gives me strength.”  – Philippians 4:13

The opposite of that truth is that there is nothing I can do without His strength which is made possible by submission to the Spirit and an abiding relationship with Him.  Living our new lives as Christians is more than being nice or doing good deeds. The power to do rightly from God’s perspective and to live out our new lives lies in our willingness to drink in the Living Water every day.

The second thought is this.  It is impossible live a sinless life, that is to live without sin in this natural life, but it is possible to sin – less. The fact that we sin is not excusable but it is understandable. When we sin it is because we have yielded to our old nature – the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life. (1 John 2:16) To acknowledge to God that “I can nothing better without You [Father]” is to admit that my new life in Christ is totally dependent upon the God and not my personal moral strength and will.  Brother Lawrence was not making an excuse, but was admitting the truth. Understanding the reason that he had sinned. Seeking forgiveness and walking in it.

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He 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.” – I John 1:8-10

So how is it that Brother Lawrence could say that he did not feel guilty about his sin? He understood that he was forgiven through the blood of Jesus. That is not to say that he did not have remorse – that there was not a need for reconciliation or restitution on the part of the one or ones that were offended, but he was forgiven and cleansed.  We should not confuse guilt and remorse.  Guilt will stifle your walk much like unconfessed sin will. But once confessed – we are no longer guilty before the Father. (there is the spiritual context again) God has cleansed us. But resist the temptation to think that sinning does not matter – that is your flesh seeking the opportunity to have its way in your life.

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?” – Romans 6:1-3

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, May 11, 2021

The Practice of the Presence of God – Day 1

The next few devotions are birthed from a book, The Practice of the Presence of God, that I have read and re-read over the years.  I plan to expand on the spiritual principles or admonitions that are recounted in the book. If you are a reader and have not read it, I encourage you to do so.

To start, I thought I should give you some background on Brother Lawrence. Some of my Protestant readers may be wondering why I am sharing the thoughts of a Catholic Brother. I would say this about that. Being Catholic does not mean you are not a Christian – anymore than being a Protestant means that you are – being born again is dependent upon one thing and one thing alone – faith in Christ. Attending a particular church, identifying with a certain denomination, reciting a creed, or practicing certain rituals does not mean that you are or are not a child of God.

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God [the Father] raised Him [ Jesus] from the dead, [then] you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’”– Romans 10: 9-13

Brother Lawrence [1612-1691], (born Nicolas Herman, in France) served as a lay brother in a Carmelite monastery in Paris. Christians commonly remember him for the intimacy he expressed concerning his relationship to God as recorded in a book compiled after his death, the classic Christian text, The Practice of the Presence of God.

A priest of that time, Father de Beaufort, recalls that "Lawrence was open, eliciting confidence, letting you feel you could tell him anything…Once you got past the rough exterior you discovered unusual wisdom, a freedom beyond the reach of the ordinary lay brother". Another wrote, Brother Lawrence looks rough in appearance, and gentle by manners. This blend demonstrates God in him.

I suppose what draws me close to him is that before he went to the monastery, he was a soldier and served in several wars, yet was used by God for His purposes. Rough on the outside – but compassionate in his heart and actions.  My mom once told me that I was steel and velvet – I trusted that it was a “trait that demonstrated God in me.”

“Brother Lawrence insisted that to be constantly aware of God’s presence, it is necessary to form the habit continually talking to Him throughout the day.” (p12, The Practice of the Presence of God)

The following are questions that I found myself asking myself about the practice of my faith.  I ask them of you to set the stage for the next few days.

How often do you think about God during the day? When you sit down to eat? In the morning or evening when you read the Bible? Or do you save those thoughts until Sunday morning and cram them into the hour or so that you are on the church grounds?  Does thinking about God all of the time and talking to Him frequently seem a bit excessive to you? Fanatical even? 

One might think, Brother Lawrence was in a monastery and so he had the time for that kind of devotion. Let me suggest that it does not matter where we are or what we are doing – there is always room for God in our thoughts and hearts – we just have to be willing to give it. It is about what is important to you – to me (I am feeling some conviction right now!) How important is your salvation? Upon whom does your well-being depend?

It does us no good to agree that something is right and good and then do nothing about it.  That happens a lot after Sunday morning sermons – or perhaps after reading one of these devotions of mine.

Don’t miss the word – “Practice”. This is not a discipline that magically happens at the point of agreement that practicing the presence of God is important. It requires the discipline of doing it – being intentional.  And, like most things that require discipline, it takes time to hone that habit or skill to make it a part of who you are – reflecting Whose you are.  So why not start today!

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, May 10, 2021

Getting Your Heart Ready When Trouble Comes

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7

Have you ever made a promise to God that you didn’t keep?  That is something that we called in the Army “foxhole religion”  When your life is in mortal danger and you suddenly “get religion”.  You make promises to God. “God if you get me out of this, I promise to be faithful.”  So you get out of it.  Although maybe not for the reason you think.

God sees the heart. The verse I referenced is when Samuel had been sent to anoint the next king of Israel. It is not the words we say, but the attitude of the heart. Since God looks at the heart, the words that come out of your mouth may or may not reflect true faith.  God knows your true intent when you call out to Him.  By the way, if the person calling out to God is an unbeliever – not His child – then the only prayer He will respond to from them is the prayer for salvation. 

if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” – Romans 10:9-10

Many times we pray to God making promises to Him that we have no intention of fulfilling.  And even if we did intend to fulfill them, we may not be willing to accept whatever God’s answer might be – good or bad – in the light of God’s sovereignty.  Jesus prayed (Luke 22:41-43) “He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.”

There is nothing that we will face that compares to what Jesus was facing – incomprehensible for the human imagination and experience. He needed spiritual strength to endure.  And so do we.  God does not need our promises – He wants our devotion and trust.  If you are not ready - spiritually ready - when you find yourself in a foxhole, and you will, facing an impossible situation, and it will be – it will not be a time for empty promises.  So friend – get your heart ready.

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, May 6, 2021

The Ministry Of Being Inconvenienced

Arise, shine… …”  — Isaiah 60:1

“Whenever God gives us His inspiration, suddenly taking the initiative becomes a moral issue— a matter of obedience. Then we must act to be obedient and not continue to lie down doing nothing. […] Drudgery is one of the finest tests to determine the genuineness of our character. […] It is the utterly hard, menial, tiresome, and dirty work. And when we experience it, our spirituality is instantly tested and we will know whether or not we are spiritually genuine. Read John 13. In this chapter, we see the Incarnate God performing the greatest example of drudgery— washing fishermen’s feet. He then says to them, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14). […] When the Lord does something through us, He always transforms it. Our Lord takes our human flesh and transforms it, and now every believer’s body has become “the temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19).” Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest

God will not make us obey and step out .. we must choose to obey Him .. What God asks you to do will likely be contrary to the desires of your flesh nature.  It may not be glorious … it most likely will be mundane … You may never stand before thousands like a Billy Graham … you more than likely will be called to kneel before one, like Jesus.  The Lord had given me Galatians 6:2 as a command to focus on for this year … more correctly, from this year on …. “Bear one another’s burdens and thus fulfill the law of Christ.”  Read Matthew 22:37-39 to remind yourself of the “law of Christ”.  I recall a time when Martie and I sat with a woman listened to her as she poured her heart out for over 3 hours.  The whole while, I was reminding myself of Galatians 6:2.  I mean most of us are willing to give someone a few minutes .. but three hours?  When I was talking with the same woman about repairs to her home a few days later she commented on her visit to our office.  She told me that she was talking to her friend about it.  She told her friend “These people listened to me talk about things I have not ever shared with anyone for over three hours!  Where did these people come from?  Why are they here?”  I told her that we are here because God sent us here.  I told her that we are here not to merely help the houses but primarily to help the people that live in the houses.  That help is more than sheetrock and paint … nails and lumber … it is meant to bring comfort from the God of all comfort … Laying our lives and livelihood down in Alabama and coming to Texas  does not mean we are heroes … it simply means we are obedient.  We have some dear friends who told us that they “live simply so others can simply live”.  It has become wonderful model for us.

I told someone the other day that we had been given the ministry of being inconvenienced. They had asked me if it would be convenient for me to help them with some task. Convenient? Why should my convenience be the measure of my willingness to help. As soon as I start thinking of people’s needs as troublesome, I must do a heart check – my heart.

God has a purpose for each of us .. has equipped us each for those purposes.  Our responsibility is to walk in obedience by faith.  Micah 6:8 “What does the Lord require of you, O’ man.  But to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.  God does not actually say “Go” by yourself .. He says “Come to where I am” So …. what are you waiting for? Arise and Shine!

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, May 5, 2021

Changing Your Attitude Toward The Never Changers In Your Life

Jesus did not commit Himself to them…, for He knew what was in man …”  — John 2:24-25

“Many of the things in life that inflict the greatest injury, grief, or pain, stem from the fact that we suffer from illusions. … if we love someone, but do not love God, we demand total perfection and righteousness from that person … we are demanding of a human being something which he or she cannot possibly give. … Our Lord trusted no one, and never placed His faith in people, yet He was never suspicious or bitter. Our Lord’s confidence in God, and in what God’s grace could do for anyone, was so perfect that He never despaired, never giving up hope for any person. If our trust is placed in human beings, we will end up despairing of everyone.”  OSWALD CHAMBERS

Has anyone ever disappointed you? How does that make you feel?  Do you lose hope for them? Have you lost hope for them? Have you given up on them?  It is really pretty easy to do.  I think most people have a category that they put others in called “They are never going to change.”  In a way, we are correct.  They can’t change without help.  Not our help.  God’s help.  Just like He changed you and me … who were never going to change either.  Now the tricky part is that some think that if I am to think differently about that person, I must accept, embrace, the things they do and the life they live.  Not so! But, at the same time, when you cast them off as “unchangeable” you have judged them and condemned them to Hell.  Perhaps because of what they have done to you or someone else, perhaps that is your unspoken hope for them.  I know people in my life that I have done this to.  (This is very convicting as I type these words.)  Listen, God is in the business of saving us from Hell and transforming us to the image of His Son through faith.  Remember the parable of the unforgiving servant? (Matthew 18:21-35) Think about these verses in terms of the people in your life that you have relegated to “They are never going to change”.

(John 3:16) “For God so loved the world” That is pretty inclusive .. doesn’t leave anyone out including the ones that we think will never change.

(Romans 5:8) “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  God did not demand that we do something that we were incapable of doing, and yet He did not, could not, would not embrace us until we placed our faith in His Son.

The second greatest commandment is to love people (Matthew 22:39).  Don’t give up on those “Never Changers”, pray for them.  Change your attitude toward them.  You can’t you say? Of course you can’t, you need God’s help to do that.  What you are trying do in the flesh you can only do in the Spirit.  It is a supernatural act to do what Jesus did.  We need to see others just like Jesus did.  Even while on the Cross, Jesus asked the Father to forgive the very people that rejected Him and killed Him.  There is no way that we can love people like that on our own. 

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” – 1 John 4:18-20

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, May 4, 2021

Living Our New Life In Christ Is A Battle – Don’t Surrender

Take up the whole armor of God…praying always…”  —Ephesians 6:13,18

“You must learn to wrestle against the things that hinder your communication with God, and wrestle in prayer for other people; but to wrestle with God in prayer is unscriptural. Don’t become a cripple by wrestling with the ways of God, but be someone who wrestles before God with the things of this world, because “we are more than conquerors through Him…” (Romans 8:37). Wrestling before God makes an impact in His kingdom. If you ask me to pray for you, and I am not complete in Christ, my prayer accomplishes nothing. But if I am complete in Christ, my prayer brings victory all the time. Prayer is effective only when there is completeness— “take up the whole armor of God….” –  Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest

Do you brush your teeth in the morning?  Seem like an odd way to start a devotion?  Brushing your teeth is a discipline.  So is getting up to go to work.  If you don’t do either one, there are negative consequences.  You value your teeth … and you value your source of income .. so you make yourself do those things.  After a while, they become more routine, but still …. You must choose to do them.  That is the same with prayer and obedience.  We must discipline ourselves to do them.  Our natural selves push back – or wrestle with our spiritual selves.  The message is – you are too busy to brush (pray) this morning … you can do that later … or I will just call in sick today … I don’t feel like going to work (doing the will of God) today.  Something I have noticed as I grow older … the speed at which my body atrophies …. How quickly it loses strength .. stamina … tone … is accelerating.  And the difficulty I have getting back to where I was, ugh!  If I slack off in any way, BOOM!  I am sliding down the steep slope of atrophy. 

It’s the same with our spiritual life.  A life without spiritual discipline is a life of spiritual weakness.  The danger is .. you can become used to that condition and start to think that it is normal.  Well, it may be common, but it is far from “normal” if you are a Christian. I want to encourage you to get serious about your spiritual condition … God has called you to so much more than mediocrity in your faith walk.  I can encourage but the Spirit must convict your heart, if you are in need of conviction.  A dear friend said that my devotions were poignant.  Isn’t that an interesting word! Not used much anymore and frankly, although I have heard it and seen it written, I was never really sure of its meaning.  Some synonyms (another sparsely used word) are; affecting, emotional, impactful, impressive, moving, stirring. If what I write does those things then I know I am on the right track. My goal is to encourage and motivate – not to discourage or condemn. Most often what I write brings conviction to me – all we like sheep!

Consider your new life in Christ.  As Christians, like Jesus, we have two natures.  Your spiritual nature should be dominant. Like Jesus, we should seek to do the Father’s will.  Like Jesus, we must stand against temptation with the Word of God.  Like Jesus, we must be disciplined to talk to the Father and look to Him.  Like Jesus our lives should bring Glory to God , the Father, through obedience and devotion.  Like Jesus …. Our desire should be to fulfill the purpose the Father has given us. 

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