Thursday, June 17, 2021

Living Without Compromise – Possible But Not Probable

“…Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.…” — Matthew 23:23-28

Jesus did not cut the religious leaders much slack – well actually none at all.  Those who had been set apart to point the people toward God and away from the world were, themselves, engulfed in the natural while having the outward appearance of being spiritually elite – living without compromise.  But God sees the heart of man and Jesus could see right through their charade. 

But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’” – 1 Samuel : 16-7

Recall that Samuel was sent to Jesse to anoint one of Jesse’s sons as the next king of Israel. Samuel was looking for someone who looked like King Saul – but God had someone else in mind. The “runt” with a big heart for God.  King Saul had a heart that was compromised – he did not love God with his whole heart. That is a struggle that we all have. David was not without sin – he was not perfect but he was repentant. King Saul did not repent but made excuses for his disobedience.

A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart.” – Proverbs 21:2

So it is with us.  We have to be careful about making excuses for what we know is sin. Living a compromised life is living without the power of God. When David came face to face with his sin, he repented. Read Psalm 51. The temptation is to stuff it and move on as if the sin was not there. Like the Pharisees. I can say that apart from Jesus, there is not one of us that is sin – compromise free.  Our lives are filled with course corrections. The great thing is that we can make them. For those without Jesus – their flight controls are frozen. One of the helicopters I flew in the Army was the Chinook – CH-47. The one with rotor blades on both ends.  You cannot fly that helicopter without the assistance of hydraulics. That helicopter has three hydraulic systems … oh caught myself – you don’t need to know how it works 😊  My point is that when all of the hydraulics fail you are at the mercy of the wind and gravity. You are just along for the ride or the crash more correctly.  Don’t deceive yourself into thinking that sin does not matter. That compromise with the culture and its definition of “right” does not matter. We have been called out to be salt and light – distinguishable to a world flying without hydraulics. Be alert to your tendency to fly off course and when you do – make the course correction. (1 John 1:9)

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

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Taking Off Your Sandals In God's Presence

“…having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus…” —Hebrews 10:19

“Our ability to approach God is due entirely to the vicarious, or substitutionary, identification of our Lord with sin. We have “boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus.”  […] We have the idea that there are certain good and virtuous things in each of us that do not need to be based on the atonement by the Cross of Christ. … We have to realize that the identification of Jesus with sin means a radical change of all of our sympathies and interests. Vicarious intercession means that we deliberately substitute God’s interests in others for our natural sympathy with them.” – Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest

We must never lose sight of who God is.  You think, “Oh I know who He is.  He is the  ……. “ Yet we can become irreverent in our attitude and even references to God.  Have you ever heard someone call God “the man upstairs”?  Normally when I hear that I assume that the person is not born again, but that is not necessarily so.  When God spoke to Moses on the mountain …

When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.” – Exodus 3:4-6

Why take off his sandals?  When you are in the presence of the Creator God, you must stand clean before Him.  Taking off his sandals represented all of the things that Moses had picked up from a sinful the world.  As Christians, we have access to the Holy of Holies – God’s presence through the blood of Jesus – the veil was torn.  But that does not mean that we can approach God with sin in our heart .. any way we want to .. like the relationship is up to us and not God.

Years ago it was customary for people to dress up in the “Sunday-go-to-meetin’ clothes” when they went to church.  It was akin to taking off their shoes in the presence of God.  Today – there is a casualness on church attire.  Shorts and flipflops are considered acceptable.  Having said that, the issue is not really about the clothes I wear to church, what is on the outside but my heart – you heart – on the inside.  Jesus said

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” – Matthew 23:25-26

A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart.” – Proverbs 21:2

I want to encourage you to consider how you approach God.  If you are going to talk with Him – your heart must be clean.  You should have a reverence toward Him.  Moses had to look away because of God’s glory.  I have a friend who stands in his bare feet when he preaches.  When I first saw that, I thought it was a little quirky.  But on reflection, it is actually out of great reverence toward God.  A reminder to himself and to those under the sound of his voice that what he is doing has eternal consequences as he is fulfilling his God-given purpose. It is a visual statement that he understands that he has a great responsibility to a holy God and must stand clean before Him.  Something every Christian should be sensitive to – every day of the week – not just Sunday morning.

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, June 15, 2021

How To Know When God Shows Up

 “When it pleased God…” —Galatians 1:15

“As servants of God, we must learn to make room for Him— to give God “elbow room.” We plan and figure and predict that this or that will happen, but we forget to make room for God to come in as He chooses. Would we be surprised if God came into our meeting or into our preaching in a way we had never expected Him to come? Do not look for God to come in a particular way, but do look for Him. […] Keep your life so constantly in touch with God that His surprising power can break through at any point. Live in a constant state of expectancy, and leave room for God to come in as He decides.” Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest

Do you expect for God to show up for you, personally?  What does that look like in your mind?   A burning bush?  The Shekinah glory as a cloud or pillar of fire?  Or a still small voice?

And he [the Lord] said, ‘Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.’ And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’” – 1 Kings 19:11-13

If you are looking for God to show up .. He is already has.  When we gather to worship, we don’t have to ask the Lord to show up.  His Spirit is in each believer.  People may not be willing to admit it, but they would really prefer that God show up in the wind or earthquake or fire.

I was on staff with Promise Keepers for a time.  I attended the PK Pastor’s conference in 1995 in Atlanta.  There were about 40,000 ministers in the Georgia Dome.  We were asked to be silent and close our eyes to pray as a solemn assembly.  As we all prayed in silence, I peeked.  I confess it!  I was wondering how God would show himself in this glorious event. Perhaps the roof would open and God’s Shekinah Glory would once again appear.  As I looked up, I saw a single dove flying in circles above the crowd.  I closed my eyes, opened them again and the dove was gone.  So I thought – get a grip Charley, you were seeing things.  After the Amen … a man standing next to me said “Hey did you see that Dove flying over the crowd?”  Is it OK if God doesn’t answer your prayer in the way you would like but He assures you that He is still sovereign?  By the way, ever since, Doves have been following me around.  I won’t go into details … but it is not my imagination.  And I thank God for the reminder every time a dove shows up. 

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” –  Jeremiah 29:13

Have you ever known someone who was not really interested in you, but in what you could give them?  Why are you interested in God?  Is He merely a fireman, maybe a divine waiter, or is He the source of life?  He has already given you the greatest gift that can be given – eternal life in His Son.  He has sealed you with His Spirit.  He has blessed you with every spiritual blessing.  (Read Ephesians 1 and 2) That, my friend, is a reason to rejoice no matter what comes your way in this life.

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

Monday, June 14, 2021

Sin May Promise Joy But Its Fruit Is Always Sorrow

 “‘You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I [Jesus] say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.  “Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.” – Matthew 5:27-32

When Jesus came – He did not make right living easier – in fact, He raised the bar on right and wrong. He took it from a list of 10 things to do and not do to a whole new level. He took it from the outside – observable actions – to the inside – the thoughts and heart of man.  Keep in mind that although the principles in the Bible apply to all human kind, it is a revelation to the children of God and is only “doable” by the power of God in us.  The Spiritual truth can only be understood by those who are sealed with the Spirit of God. Those who have the mind of Christ.

These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For ‘who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 2:13-16

I am using the examples of adultery and divorce but they are only two examples of the nature of sin.  The sins of mankind are legion. The nature of sin is that it is a promise of joy and peace, but its fruit is sorrow and tribulation. There is always going to be a clash between the Lord’s design and man’s living.  It started in the Garden and persists to this day and will persist until Jesus returns.  Contrary to popular belief, people do not get better on their own. They can want to “give peace a chance” but when it comes down to it – peace does not have a chance in the natural world – sin gets in the way – every time.  I imagine when some of you read the reference from Matthew 5 – you have been affected in some way by divorce and be reminded of it. People get married for all kinds of reasons. Love, of course, is in the mix, but love in itself is not enough to overcome our sinful nature. I won’t pretend to understand all of the ins and outs of divorce, especially among Christians.  I do know what I have seen and personally experienced growing up in a divorced home. Everyone in the family is wounded by the divorce. But God is Jehovah Rafa – the God who heals. And he can bring healing.  My mom became a Christian long after her divorce – and she had a wonderful ministry and was a godly influence on many people. But those wounds become scars and the effects persist in the lives of those affected throughout their – my – lifetime. God forgives us (1 John 1:9) but does not necessarily relieve us of the consequences.  But I am reminded and am thankful that … His grace is sufficient. My point is don’t believe the lie that the “kids will be OK” as a justification for the rightness of choosing to divorce – even if the divorce is necessary. And it may be. But no matter, sin will bring you sorrow.  

Don’t confuse the temptation to sin and sin. The first leads to the second. Pastor Greg Laurie, when speaking of temptation and sin said “You cannot keep a bird from flying over your head (temptation), but you can keep it from making a nest in your hair (sin).” John cautioned us in that regard.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” – 1 John 2:15-17

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

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

You Gotta Have Faith – You May Not Know Before You Go

Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and be…” — Matthew 13:31-32

Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’ So Jesus said to them, ‘Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.’” – Matthew 17:19-21

“‘But if You [Jesus] can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.’ Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!’” – Mark 9:22-24

But He [Jesus] said to them, ‘Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?’ Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.” – Matthew 8:26

I had a conversation with a friend recently who is struggling with discerning God’s leading. I sense that God is about to take him in a direction that is fraught with uncertainty and natural risk. By natural risk I mean that those things that we depend upon – like certainty of income – and a clear path to follow are two things that precursors for many to follow God. We want to know before we go. The idea of prostrating yourself at the foot of the Cross is a very lofty, spiritual thought. But – when you are faced with the reality of totally depending upon God’s provision – which you may not be able to see at the point where you begin the journey – well that is a horse of a different color!

I started this post with four verses that have to do with faith and the challenge of unbelief.  It is one thing to talk about faith and a wholly different thing to exercise faith.  Very often we are willing to trust God in eternal matters, but hesitate when we must trust Him with earthly ones.  Jesus made it clear that faith starts small and it takes deliberate effort for it to grow. Faith must be exercised to grow. Like the nation if Israel considering that there were giants in the land when they refused to cross the river the first time. They could trust God for some things – but their fear was stronger than their faith.  They lost sight of God and His power and His provision and trusted in their own – which was no match for giants.

The disciples in the boat – the same problem.  The man with the sick son – the same. My friend struggling with stepping onto the path that God has made clear – the same. Me at nearly 71 years old at a cross roads – again! The same. Perhaps you with something that is going on in your life. You may feel weak – vulnerable – at risk if you do what God has made plain to you. If you are a Christian then you are on a faith walk – or not. You may decide to not step into the river but to wander and wonder instead. The journey is full of uncertainty – opportunity to trust in your own strength and wisdom. Hearing God and knowing what He has said and still saying “Yes – but!”  I am not suggesting that you test God – but that you trust God. The essence of faith. Resist the temptation to cram God into your natural understanding and ways. Not possible.

Seek the Lord while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.  ‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.’” – Isaiah 55:6-9

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, June 8, 2021

Consider Lot’s Wife

 When the morning dawned, the angels urged Lot to hurry, saying, “Arise, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be consumed in the punishment of the city.” And while he lingered, the men took hold of his hand, his wife’s hand, and the hands of his two daughters, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city... But his wife looked back behind him…” — Genesis 19:15-16,26

We so often focus on Lot’s wife and her failure, but notice that Lot “lingered” and had to be taken by the hand and led out.  One of the biggest challenges we face in our new life is letting go of the old one. What the Lord says is clear to us, but the things of the world tug at our heart’s devotion. There is a song – “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” that might have been Lot’s wife’s theme song. The things of this world very often are what causes us to balk at obeying what God makes clear to us. Can you think of what it is in your life that you just can’t seem to let go of? Something that you look back at with longing?  You may have distanced yourself physically, but you are still devoted to it. 

Sodom had come under God’s judgement – Lot and his family – called out by God had a choice to align with the Lord or with the culture.  The sons-in-law thought Lot was joking when he said they had to leave Sodom. It was inconceivable – ridiculous.  Made no sense. Lot had gone off of the deep end.  Lot’s wife went with him but not because she was in agreement … and so she looked back with a longing, perhaps with regret that she had left Sodom – even in knowing that the Lord had been merciful to her and her family. 

The story causes me to reflect on my own life and examine my heart. Where do I find my satisfaction? To what am I devoted?  Knowing quite well that I have feet of clay and a heart prone to wander I pray what David prayed.

“‘Show me Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; On You I wait all the day. Remember, O Lord, Your tender mercies and Your loving kindnesses, For they are from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions; According to Your mercy remember me, For Your goodness’ sake, O Lord.” – Psalm 25:4-7

This has given me pause to consider my ways. I don’t expect to be sinless in this life but I do expect to sin – less. And I find that I need to be reminded from time to time so I can get back on the Path. How about you?

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

Monday, June 7, 2021

Three Things Every Christian Should Know

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? …. do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For “the two,” He says, “shall become one flesh.” …. he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. …. 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 6:15-20

I have told you in the past that when I listen to a sermon – I don’t try to remember all of what was said – I never have – my guess is that you don’t either. But, what I do try to do is grab ahold of one or two Spiritual truths. Many preachers use three points or alliteration (which is starting the preaching points with a words that starts with the same letter) Something to help you remember what they said. People don’t typically remember speeches or sermons. I would remind myself of that whenever I spoke to formations of soldiers. Keep it short and to the point.  With respect to sermons, I jot notes down when I hear something that stirs my spirit. Well yesterday I was reminded of what Paul wrote to the Corinthians.  They had been taught the fundamentals of the faith – they lived in a culture – had been active participants in a culture that practiced hedonism (engaging in the pursuit of pleasure; sensually self-indulgent). 

Paul reminded them of three things and the sermon reminded me and so I am reminding you. Paul was not being critical but encouraging – the pastor’s motive  who preached the sermon was the same – and in the same manner – my motive is no different.  We all must be reminded from time to time to keep our focus and not be drawn away by our old nature. So what three things?

First. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Our bodies are members of Christ. We don’t just give our hearts to Jesus, (although that is what Christians very often say) but we give all of who we are. It matters what we do. What we do with our bodies reflects our hearts and faith. They are not independent of each other. As Christians we are one with Jesus and the Father through Jesus. The one-ness is a testimony to the a world that is in desperate need of a Savior.

“‘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.” – Matthew 22:37-38

I [Jesus] do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” – John 17:20-23

Second.  Do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? Sin matters. Participating in what the culture has deemed “OK” when the Word of God is clear that it is not “OK”  is sin. Participating – embracing those things in the culture that are contrary to God’s design and expressed direction makes us one with the culture – the very thing that we were saved from – we once again embrace using some twisted rationale for why it is OK.

Third.  Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you?  Where the Spirit was in the Holy of Holies – the Spirit is now in each of us. When we participate with the culture in its version of the truth, we defile the temple. I am ashamed at how flippant I can be about this truth. Like a little bit of sin does not matter.  A little bit of leaven affects the whole loaf. (Galatians 5:9)

In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” – Ephesians 1:13-14

This has given me pause to consider my ways. I don’t expect to be sinless in this life but I do expect to sin – less. And I find that I need to be reminded from time to time so I can get back on the Path. How about you?

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

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Saying The Magic Words When We Pray

Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.…” —John 16:22-23

“What is the magic word?” Have you ever said that to your children expecting them to respond with “please”?  That is how we very often treat the phrase “in Jesus name” when we pray. Our attitude is not that we ask consistent with the Father’s will, but that if we ask for things and “tack” – in Jesus name – on the end it somehow makes our request irresistible to the Father.  I’m concerned that we don’t give enough consideration to even our personal, spiritual condition when we ask.  As if the condition of our hearts does not matter – HEY! I said PLEASE! 

When we say “in Jesus name” it should be a reminder to us that the only reason the Father hears us is because of Jesus.  So it more of an acknowledgement – an a awareness – than a guarantee of a positive answer to our prayer.  James wrote (James 4:3) that “we have not because we ask not and that for which we do ask, we ask amiss.”  Think about what it is that you pray about. Much of our time in prayer has to do with physical and relational issues – natural issues, not spiritual ones. Do you pray before you eat? It is a good time to pause and think about God’ provision. That He is Jehovah Jireh.  God Provides.  Praying before you eat a meal can become a ritual – something that you have to “get out of the way” before you can eat. Have you noticed people praying in restaurants? Have you noticed that most people don’t pray, if they do pray, before they eat the appetizer – chips or bread for example – but only when the main course is served? That is telling and I have been guilty of doing that very thing.  We need to consider what we do and why we do it.  Have you ever thought about the fact that your praying in a public place is a testimony to the lost and an encouragement to other Christians who may be in the room.

What do you imagine that Jesus prayed about?  Prayer is having an intimate conversation with the Father. In Philippians 4, Paul makes it clear that we are to “be anxious for nothing but in everything let our requests be made known to God”. Peter wrote that we are to “cast all our cares on Him” (1 Peter 5:7).  But the assumption is that the context is our desire to be one with Jesus even as He is one with the Father.  How about it?

One more thing. Should someone ask you to pray for them or about some life issue – don’t just agree to pray. Stop right then and there and pray. All too often like the man looking in the mirror – when you turn away, you will very likely forget your promise.

…. pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” – James 5:16

In Jesus name!

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 

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Preparing For The Coming Storm

 We have lived in Texas since the Fall of 2017. We were drawn here by the Spirit of God just as we were drawn or led to Mississippi and Haiti. The Lord has moved us around, call us gypsies for Jesus, but now I think we will be staying put. We don’t have to move – now the disasters come to us. The prediction is that in 2021 there will be 13-20 named storms, 6-10 Hurricanes, and 3-5 major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher) Some of those storms will be in the Gulf of Mexico.  It is that time of year.  A hurricane starts as an Invest, then a Tropical disturbance, then a Tropical Storm, then a Hurricane with an intensity of 1 to 5.  They typically start on the west coast of Africa or in the southern part of the Gulf of Mexico.  It starts small and then strengthens into a hurricane and heads for land and the people living in the communities on the Gulf or East coast.  It is an all too familiar story.  The people living in those places can’t change the storms intensity or direction, all they can do is get ready to deal with the effects and aftermath of the storm.  Here in Houston and in Southwest Louisiana, many people are “storm-shocked” from the string of hurricanes they have endured over the past few years.  Even the threat of a potential storm all brings on fear, anxiety, and panic buying. Driving around Houston I see signs alerting everyone to the fact that Hurricane season is upon us and we need to be prepared.

That is the way it is with the storms of life that all of us must endure.  Storms are sure to come - inevitable.  They will often have destructive power affecting – relationships – health – wealth.  We need to be prepared for them.  We can certainly pray that the storm will be averted, that the problem will go away, but it doesn’t always happen. So what to do. Well, you need a plan.  Jesus said

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

Did you catch that? Our disaster plan is faith in Jesus and peace through Jesus.  So long as you are walking on this planet and have breath, you will be faced with storms, with tribulation.  Remember the story about Jesus and the disciples in a boat.....

(Matthew 8:23-27) “Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, "LORD, save us! We're going to drown!" He replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.”

Did you catch that? The storm was raging and Jesus was sleeping.  He was at peace.  How is it that the disciples didn’t pick up on that?  Because they were focused on the storm and their fear.  Acutely aware of their lack of ability to do anything about it.  They wanted Jesus to fix it.  Had they truly understood His sovereignty, perhaps they would have taken a nap as well. 

Your ability to face the storms that will come your way is a function of the strength of you faith.  Jesus said they lacked faith and asked them why they were so afraid.  That was a rhetorical question because He knew their hearts and their faith.  And He knows our hearts and faith as well and asks us the same question.  My old friend Proverbs 3:5-6 comes to mind.  Trust God and not yourself.  In the Army we said “You fight the way you train.”  In other words, you need to be prepared for the battle.  Many of us put that off – that is until the storm comes.  Then we want to know where God is – Oh, he is sleeping.  It’s not a matter of God not caring, it is the point that He is sovereign – the master of the seas.  This is what King David wrote.

“The Lord is my light and my salvation— so why should I be afraid? The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble? When evil people come to devour me, when my enemies and foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though a mighty army surrounds me, my heart will not be afraid. Even if I am attacked, I will remain confident” – Psalm 27:1-3

Will there be consequences from the storm you must endure?  Most likely.  Can you survive it? Most certainly! That is if the Lord is your light and salvation you will. You may be in one right now. Look to Jesus.

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

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, June 1, 2021

Matters Of The Heart - Matter

 "The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings."  – Jeremiah 17:9-10

I am certain you are familiar with the phrase, “He had a change of heart.”  We use it when someone had a certain attitude or had decided to take a different course of action. Normally the choice had to do with a kinder or more considerate way. Most countries use incarceration as a way of controlling bad behavior with the hope of changing that behavior – but incarceration does not change the heart which is the source of all behavior – good and bad. The heart being the essence of who a person is.  When God gave Moses the 10 commandments (Exodus 20:3-17), there were 4 that had to do with our attitude toward God and 6 that had to do with our attitude toward other people. God was first and people were second. The 10 commandments were summarized by Jesus with the two greatest commandments in Matthew 22:37-39, love God first and then love others next.  So what is the problem? Like a friend of mine would say, “All there is to it is to do it!” How is that working out for you?

In Matthew chapter 5, Jesus shared eight (8) Beatitudes.  Eight attitudes, if you will, that people who have had a spiritual change of heart should have. Jesus raised the bar on the 10 Commandments by saying that contrary to our thinking – we don’t sin when we so something – we sin when we think something. I have said it before – sin starts in the heart.

You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.  ……  You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” – Matthew 5:21-22,27-28

Having the right attitudes in the heart is totally dependent upon having the right relationship with the Father through the Son by the inhabitation of the Spirit. 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 21 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 5:17-21

To live a life that glorifies God and is a testimony to the world is 100% dependent upon the surrender of our hearts. And that only happens through diligent pursuit of God by faith. We all struggle with the tension between our old and new natures.  Don’t deceive yourself in thinking that it only matters what you do – not what you think.

So Jesus said, ‘Are you also still without understanding? Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.’” – Matthew 15:16-20

Do you struggle with your heart? I do. I recall King David being accused by the Prophet Nathan of his sin with Bathsheba and the killing of her husband Uriah. David expressed his remorse in Psalm 51.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners shall be converted to You. Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, The God of my salvation, And my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, And my mouth shall show forth Your praise. For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart — These, O God, You will not despise.” – Psalm 51:10-17

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