Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Rejoice In Service And Give God The Credit

Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” —Luke 10:20

Every now and again, we all have an opportunity to experience something supernatural.  The movement of the Spirit of God.  Some mighty act of God precipitated through us or through someone else.  We are amazed and perhaps derive a sense of great joy – like the disciples.  But we must be careful – like the disciples.  It is very easy to lose focus on the God who is the source of all spiritual power and focus on the event that is the result of that spiritual power.   And perhaps, even attribute credit to yourself or to someone else and not to the Source. 

A question that is very often asked of volunteer mission teams at the end of their trips is “What did you get out of your time here?”  A simple question, well intentioned, but it focuses on the wrong point of their service. I have known a good many people whose lives have been forever transformed through serving others. But, maybe a better question might be, “What did God reveal to you during your time here?”

I have people give me credit for my service all the time.  It is easy to begin to think that somehow I am the reason some good happened.  But, in fact, the source of the “good” was God, not my abilities.  In fact, God is the source of my abilities that I used to serve others as well.  Jesus told the disciples not to rejoice in what they were doing, but in why they were able to do it. 

Listen.  It is OK to feel good about yourself.  But we must be careful that we don’t take credit for something that someone else, namely God, did through us.  Certainly the world does not understand that. And that lack of understanding presents you with an opportunity to avoid robbing God of His glory and giving all of the credit to God. In response to praise for my service I most often say, “The only credit I can take is saying ‘yes’ to God.”

And about that feeling.  I was talking to someone the other day.  He was telling me about how he had helped someone in need.  He said “It made me feel good inside.” I told him the feeling he had was not “Good” but “Right”.  When we are obedient to God’s leading and will, we have a sense of “Right”.  That can be easily mistaken for good and that can be easily mis-attributed to our own action and credit.  Like the doing of a good thing somehow vindicates us – making us good.  Right– is what it feels like to be walking in obedience to the will of the Father.  Out of obedience springs the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace …. The result of that, in our flesh, is most often the human emotion of feeling good. 

It’s OK to have that feeling.  What is not Ok is taking credit for it.  Make certain that in all you do for God that you give credit where credit is due.  And you can feel good about that!

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, August 30, 2021

I Am An Alligator – Not A Dinosaur

“Wisdom is with aged men, And with length of days, understanding. With Him are wisdom and strength, He has counsel and understanding.” – Job 12:12-13

I am an observer of people (not nosey – just observant) – I pay attention to what they do – what they say – how they treat others. Not in a judgmental way, but as a neutral observer. Eventually my observations find their way to personal application and maybe even as a topic in my BLOG.  I once (or maybe more than once) commented that I have 2 boxes in my brain.  In one box goes all of the good that I have seen and experienced and in the other box, yeah that’s right – all of the not so good – or said another way, the bad.  I make it a point to never reach into the second box – the bad box, in my quest to find an answer for how I will respond to others or treat others.  

I have to admit that I have not always been successful in my personal compliance with my approach to life, but I do think I am getting better. I see dust gathering on the lid of the second box which is a good sign that it has largely fallen into disuse. So what does this have to do with alligators and dinosaurs?  Well ……

An observation ….. Alligators have been around for a long time. The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service describes them as “A member of the crocodile family, the American alligator is a living fossil from the Age of Reptiles, having survived on earth for 200 million years.”  They are living – active creatures – Still, after 200 million years (plus or minus) part of nature’s food chain. Dinosaurs, if you believe that Jurassic Park was just a movie, are nothing more than (dead) fossils.  Their time has passed – living in nothing more than a fantasy in someone’s mind, or as a fossilized curiosity in a museum or a find in a farmer’s field or in some archeological dig. 

So where is the spiritual context? As most of you reading this will know, my “age-ometer” just rolled over to 71. That means I have been in the over 55 age group for 16 years. That said, I have become sensitive to, hopefully not obsessed with, my place in the Body of Christ. It seems to me that most churches have adopted a cultural view of aging.  Once a Christian reaches a certain age – they are no longer part of the “spiritual food chain” but become fossilized to be put on a shelf with the other fossils leaving the “real” ministry and work of the church to be left to the younger – living Christians.  The thing is – I am having a difficult time finding support for that thinking and doing in the Bible. In fact – it is quite the opposite. In our natural culture the thinking that , “young is good and old is not so good” is prevalent.  In fact there are many older people struggling to not look older – because, I think, they don’t want to be set aside. They want to be relevant. Well what does the Bible have to say about the aging of our physical nature in contrast to our spiritual nature?

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

It says that we should not focus on the fact that the outward man that is perishing, but the inward – spiritual man that is being renewed day by day.  The inward man is maturing and will become mature on that day when they meet Jesus face to face.  Why would such a person be set on a shelf?  Why would they not be cherished and sought out for their wisdom and understanding?  It is like Christians have decided that each adult generation must figure it out on their own. Once you can be categorized as a senior – all you are good for is getting together with other seniors – boarding a bus and going to Branson, Missouri – or some other destination.  It is a gross waste of spiritual resources!

The thing is – many “seniors” have bought into that thinking and are content with “finding their seat on the bus or the next seniors’ lunch”.  This would be a difficult thing to undo because so many people are content with the way things are. Not me apparently – the proof is that I am writing this devotional to challenge you and I will not get on the bus!

This is our admonishment in Hebrews. We should not be content with merely going along for the ride!

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”  – Hebrews 5:12-14

We will not hear, “Well done, My good and faithful servant” until we get to heaven.  There is no spiritual retirement plan while we still have breath on this planet. We should be teaching the younger people – younger in the faith – leading them to spiritual maturity and not be sequestered on Sunday morning.

“ …. older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things— that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children ..” –  Titus 2:2-4

My encouragement is this. If you are categorized as a “senior”, seek what the Lord would have you do with the spiritual wisdom and gifts He has given you – don’t be content with being patronized and marginalized as a fossilized dinosaur. And if you are not a senior – make it a point to encourage those who are to press on in their faith reminding them that they are still a part of the Body of Christ and have a role to play. Because they are alligators, not dinosaurs after all!

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

Friday, August 27, 2021

Obedience Does Not Require Understanding .. It Requires Trust

Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” – Matthew 7:9-11

Understanding is not a pre-condition for God’s expectation that we obey Him.  There is something called Root-cause analysis that is intended to ferret out the true source of a particular problem.  One method is called the 5-Whys.  No – not 5 Guys, 5-Whys.  You keep asking why to every answer to why until you get to the root cause.  Perhaps you remember the saying, “For the want of a nail a shoe was lost, for the want of a shoe a horse was lost, for the want of a horse a king was lost, for the want of a king a kingdom was lost.”  The root cause of losing the kingdom was the loss of a nail in the horse’s shoe.  Well, we ask “why” of God often as a pre-condition for obeying Him.  Have your children ever challenged you as their parent with “Why”?  “Because I said so!” was often my answer.  In a great respect that should be sufficient with God.  We understand His nature.  We understand that there are things that we don’t know, we don’t know.  God sees from beginning to end.  

Jesus asked the question in Matthew 7 had to do with praying to God, but the expectation is the same.  God will do what is best for us and what will bring glory to Him as we obey Him.  It is critical that you know it is God.  If it is in His Word, we must embrace the fact that His Word is truth (John 17:17), no matter how you feel about it.  You must be a Christian to know His voice (John 10:27)  But, more than that your heart must be right, as a result of submitting your life to the Spirit of God.  Ignoring God and going your own way is not good, in fact, it’s sin.  (James 4:17) “Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.”

“Yes Lord, yes.  I will trust you and obey.  Yes Lord yes, to your will and to your way.  When your Spirit speaks to me, with my whole heart I’ll agree. And I will answer Yes, Lord .. .Yes!”  But friend, don’t stop with Yes … James reminds us that faith without works (stepping out in obedience by faith) is dead.  – of no practical value.

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, August 26, 2021

Who's Your Daddy?

Thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ… —2 Corinthians 2:14

“Be careful that you vigorously maintain God’s perspective, and remember that it must be done every day, little by little. Don’t think on a finite level. No outside power can touch the proper perspective.  The proper perspective to maintain is that we are here for only one purpose— to be captives marching in the procession of Christ’s triumphs. We are not on display in God’s showcase— we are here to exhibit only one thing— the “captivity [of our lives] to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). […] Paul said, in essence, “I am in the procession of a conqueror, and it doesn’t matter what the difficulties are, for I am always led in triumph.” […] It was Paul’s joy to be a captive of the Lord, and he had no other interest in heaven or on earth. It is a shameful thing for a Christian to talk about getting the victory. We should belong so completely to the Victor that it is always His victory, and “we are more than conquerors through Him…” (Romans 8:37).” OSWALD CHAMBERS – My Utmost For His Highest

It seems everyone wants to know where they came from – what their genealogical roots are. For Christians the answer simple - it is Abba - The Creator God.  “I heard an old, old story, How a Savior came from glory, How He gave His life on Calvary To save a wretch like me; I heard about His groaning, Of His precious blood's atoning, Then I repented of my sins And won the victory. O victory in Jesus, My Savior, forever. He sought me and bought me With His redeeming blood; He loved me ere I knew Him And all my love is due Him, He plunged me to victory, Beneath the cleansing flood.”  (Victory In Jesus) We have victory over sin and death only because of Jesus.  Because of Jesus, we are born again into a new existence by the Spirit.  And because of that, we should live every day with that new perspective.  We should see the world like God sees the world.  Paul wrote to the Ephesians

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength  he [God the Father] exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his [Jesus] feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” – Ephesians 1:18-22

But that is a problem for most of us.  Keeping the proper perspective that is.  We live our lives more like victims than victors.  Why? Because we lack perspective.  “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16).  We have not made our faith a priority but have relegated it to something we call on in times of trouble.  We view the world and engage the world with natural eyes and our old nature, rather than like Jesus.  Jesus walked with sinners, but was not influenced by them.  For many Christians their natural heritage is far more important to them than their spiritual heritage.  It is like a security blanket – something they can count on. Unfortunately that often leads to spiritual isolation.  I am sure you have seen the commercial for sending in your DNA so you can find out where you came from.  Ancestry dot com.  That business was born out of the Mormon church, by the way. People find comfort in knowing those things, but from an eternal perspective, who your great-great-great grandfather was is not important.  He will not keep you out of hell.   Ok, here is an ancestral revelation that might save you some money and time.  You came from Adam.  But there is One who is called the second Adam and “If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation. All things are passed away, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) You have a new DNA.  You must see the world through your new spiritual eyes.  The only way you can do that is by drawing closer to the Lord than you are right now.  For generations the world has struggled to find meaning by looking within, identifying with culture and ethnicity to find connectedness and people will continue to struggle in this quest until they either find Jesus or judgment.

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, August 25, 2021

Living By Faith And Not By Flesh

Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.” – Hebrews 10:38-39

“If the Son of God has been born into my human flesh, then am I allowing His holy innocence, simplicity, and oneness with the Father the opportunity to exhibit itself in me?” OSWALD CHAMBERS

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

One of the greatest challenges that Christians face is living by their faith and not by their flesh.  The reason, I think, is because, typically, we don’t really respect God or acknowledge that our life is not our own.  We fail to fully yield our lives to God.  We talk a good game, but we decide, for ourselves, how much of our lives we will yield to God.  It might be possessions, relationships, attitudes, devotions, even past hurts that we choose cling to.  I sometimes wonder why God would tolerate it.  

Have you ever had a defiant child who would not listen?  (Maybe been one yourself) A child who defiantly chose that which was harmful or hurtful in place of what was right and good?  They were going to do things their way, no matter what.  As if they had to prove that they knew what was best and the parents – or God did not. Not really. No the motive of the parents or God was to keep them from doing something that was “good for them.” Said another way, they did not really believe that the parents, or God really loved them. Why would God permit us, those who claim Jesus as Lord, to act like defiant children in light of His Son’s great sacrifice for our salvation? God’s grace and mercy, the grace and mercy that covers our sin and opens the doors of eternity in heaven up to us, is beyond my comprehension. I don’t deserve Heaven or even the fruit of the Spirit – but God offers it anyway.

I have said this before, but everything in our lives has a spiritual context. (Ephesians 6:12) “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” We choose to parse life out into the natural and spiritual, but life is not really like that at all. The natural and spiritual are not equal.  As a Christian, it is important that you see everything in its spiritual context.  Before your new birth, it was impossible.  Jesus said “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) In other words, the people only had a natural understanding.  

Spiritual insight begins when you are born again – spiritually.  When it begins in you, there will be a change … transformation … old things passing away .. all things becoming new in the context of your new life in Christ. The light of Christ will begin to shine through you.  God will be glorified and the Gospel will be proclaimed to a world darkened by sin.  But you have to let that happen .. desire it .. embrace it even though your flesh will resist … submit to it … walk in it .. every day … live it.

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, August 24, 2021

Hugging A Porcupine

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” – Matthew 5:43-45

It is easy to love people that love you back. Like sitting in a comfortable chair or hugging a teddy bear. All warm and snuggly, but that is not always the case, is it? Sometimes – perhaps more times than you would like, you encounter people that are unkind, unloving, perhaps even hateful and mean spirited.  It might even be someone in your own family or group of friends.  Pastor Rick Warren said, “Hurt people – hurt people.” It is more than the turn of a phrase – though it is that – it is truth. I am certainly not suggesting that you should be a punching bag – literally or figuratively, or a pin cushion – but, rather, I am suggesting this.

As Christians, we have the capacity and the opportunity to show the love of God to people who are lost and or hurting. That is if we have the right perspective on the situation we find ourselves in.  For nearly all of us, our “go to” is to defend ourselves when people curse us, hate us, spitefully use us or persecute us. Particularly if we are innocent and not complicit in some sin or wrong doing. I was just having this conversation with someone yesterday. They have a loved one who is hanging on to life by a thread. The loved one and their spouse, the whole family really, are stressed – fearful – and worn out. They have been on an emotional and physical roller coaster for several years.  In the midst of a recent critical medical incident, there were some things said that were unkind to my friend.  They were struggling with the hurt it caused and the fact that what was said did not have a seed of truth. They were struggling with the hurtful words that were said to them. With the rejection they felt.

The person I was talking to was clearly hurt and told me that they had done no harm. My advice was this – “You need to absorb that and not hold it against them. Think of it as a gift to them. A sacrifice that you are making as you see them struggling to just hang on. It was not really a personal attack – even though it felt like it was. Almost like a betrayal.  Remember that together they have been facing impending death for years. It has taken its toll on them.” I was thinking of the words, “Bless those who curse you. Do good to those who hate you. Pray for them.” I find it interesting that, as Christians – being a reflection of Christ – salt and light – we can agree that the Word of God is good and right until we are offended. Then it is “Katy bar the door!”

“… But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another..” – Galatians 5:22-26

What I was asking the person to do was spiritual not natural. To ask someone who is not a Christian to do something that is inherently spiritual, is asking them to do the impossible. The fruit of the Spirit is something that is independent of our circumstances and flesh but totally dependent upon our spiritual condition.  If we live by the Spirit – and if you are born again you do – then walk in the Spirit – under the influence of the leading of the Spirit. The Spirit enables us to respond supernaturally and not with our flesh. I did not give this advice as though it was theoretical – something that I had read somewhere – “Do as I say, not as I do.” Some years ago – I was the one under attack and a Brother told me to not respond – that God would vindicate me – that I should “hug the porcupine”. And so I did. That memory, just now, brought to mind another scripture …. Something else was at work in this conversation – I was passing along the comfort.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ..” – 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

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, August 23, 2021

Flying Solo

But now I go away to Him who sent Me, and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.” – John 16:5-7

In most Army helicopters, there are two pilots – there is always a PIC – Pilot in command and a co-pilot.  Commercial airlines call that person, the Captain.  The other pilot – the co-pilot – is given tasks to do to help the PIC safely traverse the skies.  I could always tell when the person I was flying with was used to flying by themselves in a single pilot aircraft.  The tell was that they tried to do everything on their own and I was just along for the ride.  Things can get busy in an aircraft – there is a reason that there are two seats up front.  In some aircraft there is a third seat behind the pilots for a navigator. So …. to my point!

Many, if not most of us, are living our lives as if we were flying solo. Like living the Christian life – keeping our old natures and its desires in check – is totally dependent upon our will and moral courage and strength.  The fact is that living the Christian life, successfully, is impossible if I try to live it on my own. God, the Father, sent the Holy Spirit, to be the means by which we are able to do that which is spiritual.  Perhaps you remember the bumper sticker that said “God is my co-pilot”.  Well that is close but not accurate.  God is, in fact, the PIC in the aircraft that we call our mortal life. The Spirit is His presence and enabler in our lives.  We treat the Spirit like a co-pilot – perhaps listening to His suggestions – but then choosing to do what we think is best – even when it goes against the Spirit’s leading.

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

We live as if only one pilot is necessary – we live our new lives as if successful living was totally dependent upon us and our choices.  And when the Word is clear that we are to live and walk by the Spirit and not the flesh – we dismiss it. Like Adam and Eve, we want to be in charge. This is not a new problem and it is not just me or you that struggles with it. 

Do not quench the Spirit.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:19

God saw fit to include that admonishment for a reason. Got any idea what that might be?  God sent the Spirit as a help and guide – but so very often our response is “Talk to the hand!” I don’t need any help – no matter the struggle I am facing. I can do it myself – I want to do it myself – even if I fail – and then I might ask – “Where is God when I need him?” So what are you facing today – are you flying solo? Again?

“…. Trust in the Lord .. and do not lean on [trust] your own understanding … acknowledge Him in all your ways …. He will direct you.” – Proverbs 3:5-6

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, August 19, 2021

Presence Of Temptation Spiritual Disorder (PTSD)

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle [battle] against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” – Ephesians 6:10-13

“Our Lord’s making of a disciple is supernatural. God does not ask us to do the things that are naturally easy for us— He only asks us to do the things that we are perfectly fit to do through His grace, and that is where the cross we must bear will always come.” Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest

Martie and I were chatting the other day when she mentioned that the pursuit of our spiritual life is like a battle. I was immediately reminded of Ephesians 6:12 and putting on the “full armor of God”.

Girded your waist with truth – so as to avoid becoming entangles in the affairs of this world and your culture.  Put on the breastplate of righteousness – to protect your vital organs – that being your heart. Shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace – so wherever you go you bring the influence and presence of the Spirit of God. Take up the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one - temptation. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Pray always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful. But most importantly – be ready to Stand and Fight the spiritual battle.

Suited up for battle – fully equipped to deal with what the enemy brings you way.  I read an article the other day on thoughts about why the Afghan army failed and the country was lost to the Taliban. The write, an instructor at Army War College, said that it is not that they were not trained – they had been trained for the past 20 years – it is that they lacked the heart – the dedication to fight and even die in that fighting.  [Or perhaps they do not view loyalty to their country in the same way that the Western Culture does] It is not that they were not equipped – they were – it is that they failed to use the training and equipment when the battle was upon them – when they came face to face with the enemy. Instead of fighting – they gave up. It was the story of the Mouse That Roared, a 1955 Cold War satirical novel by Irish American writer Leonard Wibberley. If you recall, a tiny European country defeated the United States in a war without firing a shot.

Each of us, Christians, is faced with a challenge every day – the battle is raging around us.  Satan – the mouse – does not have the power to defeat us – but we have the ability to pay our weapons down because we lack the heart – the will – the faith to stand against the wiles of the devil.  We are willing to lay our lives down – but instead surrender to a weak enemy. We will yield to PTSD because if we are not committed – not devoted fully to God.  We are in a battle my friends – a spiritual battle. My encouragement to you?

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

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, August 18, 2021

Christians Are A Spiritual Work In Progress

I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. 22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” – Romans 7:21-25

For the first 2 years in Texas, we lived in a travel trailer in a church parking lot – on a major highway – on the approach/departure end of an airport.  The highway is under construction and has been for years.  For local residents, it seems like the work has been going on since they can remember, with no end in sight. Not too different from the process of sanctification that happens in a Christian’s life.  That change – that construction – just doesn’t seem to happen fast enough in other people – not in me – other people.

Don’t you wish you had the power to change someone – quickly.  I mean – change their behavior – cause them to do what you want them to do? I have thought that many times for our children and their children.  If I could only get them to see the truth of what I say and the danger and consequences of the choices they are making.  Unfortunately, very often, their understanding only comes after they are suffering the consequences of their poor choices. If only I had the power to change them and get them to see so they could avoid the heartache that is sure to come. Of course, as a parent, your heart hurts for them. And sometimes, you may even wonder – “What did I do wrong?” – “I feel like a bad parent because I could not get them to change course.”

Martie and I were watching a church service last Sunday – holed up in our COVID cave – and the preacher said “No one has to be taught how to sin, we are all born with that nature.”  It was then that I was reminded that what I wanted to see in my children and their children was a change in their nature and then a change in their heart and then a change in their life choices.  

(2 Corinthians 5:17) says if we are in Christ – born again – the old nature will decrease and the new nature will increase.  The most important thing you can do for your child is lead them to Jesus – but the choice to yield their hearts to God is theirs, not yours. Oh – and to clarify – our lives are no different than theirs.  My mom felt the very same way about me and the other 6 children in our family.  Our three children have all professed faith in Jesus.  And we all still make poor choices – all of us.  We have a new life that is under construction.

So, today, I don’t want to change my kids or their kids – I want them to fully yield their hearts to the Lord and let Him do the supernatural work of sanctification.  You may have heard this before – my mom told me that her mom told her “When children are young, they step on your toes, and when they are older, they step on your heart.”  It is the nature of things.  “Nothing new under the sun ..” (King Solomon). 

The take away here – love your kids – you don’t have to like what they do. Pray for your kids. Be an example for your kids of what a Christian is supposed to look like – be like – behave like – love like.  Dr. James Dobson says values are “caught” not “taught”.  What do you value? God’s truth or the culture’s truth?  If they make poor choices – you don’t have to pretend they were good choices – you just keep loving the one who made them. (that phrase is what is called a double entendre).

BTW – this applies to other people you know – not just your kids! Maybe your spouse 😊

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, August 17, 2021

When God Gives You Opportunity

"Preach the word!  Be ready in season and out of season.  Convince, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and teaching.” – 2 Timothy 4:2

You never know when God is going to give you the opportunity.  Be ready.  As it happened I was reading Ecclesiastes chapter 3 this morning.  There is a time or season for everything.

I took Martie's car in for a service.  It was going to be a wait so they offered to drop me off at a store or restaurant and then they would pick me up.  The young man who drove was talking with me - idle banter - when he asked me what I did.  I told him and he said that he was from Salt Lake City and new a number of missionaries.  Although I did not ask, I assumed he was Mormon.  We chatted a bit about the life God has called Martie and me to.  As it happened, he also picked me up.  Our conversation led to discussing how to love your wife and how to deal with conflicts - differences of opinion.  I pointed him to scripture.  Before I got out of the car, he asked me if I was doing OK, if I was having trouble.  I told him that when you are in the center of God's will, you are always doing OK.  God provides. I gave him my card and encouraged him to look us up on the Web.  Planting seeds.

It doesn't end there.  It took a while longer on the car service so they asked if they could take me home and they will come back to get me when the car is done.  New driver.  We talked about our being from Alabama and why.  About how hot it was and I added that we were used to it having lived in Haiti for 4 years.  He asked if the Haitians were open to the Gospel.  That surprised me.  So I talked to him about Christians in Haiti and the openness to the Gospel there.  That morphed into a conversation about the small church he attends and the fact that they don't do much with missions.  I talked to him about Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts.  I encouraged him to see that his little church could be faithful in Jerusalem and trust that God will bring the increase and ministry direction.

All of this just because Martie's car needed a service.  My point to you is be ready .. but more, be willing.  You never know when and where God will give you opportunity to speak life into someone.  Maybe today! And if you should think that you are not gifted and knowledgeable enough – you are because what I am talking about is spiritual and totally dependent upon the Spirit of God and your submission to the Spirit. You don’t have to convince anybody – but you should be ready to tell everybody!

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, August 16, 2021

When God’s Eye’s Are Resting On Us

“… And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.” – Matthew 24:6-8

Jesus was talking to His disciples about the second coming – when the Messiah returns for His Bride, the Church.  I have heard many Christians suggesting that the end is near – that Jesus’ return is on the horizon.  They say this, I think, out of an awareness that the world is shrouded in darkness.  All of our technology and medical advancements have not changed the fundamental problem in this world – sin.  Man’s efforts will always fall short of being the solution for peace and prosperity. It doesn’t matter what governmental system is put in place, what societal norms are embraced – sin will always mess it up. John Lennon sang a song with the words, “All we are saying is give peace a chance.” The peace that the world is looking for is only found in hearts devoted to God by faith in His Son.  Peace is a spiritual reality … not merely the absence of wars but the absence of hate which is to say the presence of love – the love that comes from God. So – if the world is not reconciled to God then it will not know the love of God and so will not have the peace of God. 

Today we see wars raging – rumors of new wars starting – famine – pestilence or plagues or pandemics – earthquakes.  We are in the middle of all of that! But “these are the beginning of sorrows.” A number of people have been asking me about how to respond to the earthquake in Haiti – how can they help.  The catalyst for our going to Haiti was the earthquake in 2010.  This is an unedited message I receive from Jeanne Pierre, a Haitian woman who served as a teacher and director in the school we helped launch in Bossier just outside of Jacmel. Jeanne was just married and moved to Les Anglaise with her husband to enter into ministry there. 

It’s where i am living after my weeding [wedding] with my husband now we are slipping [sleeping] in the yard because a lot of house are down and the les anglais church too. [Les Anglaise is on the Western tip of the Southwest peninsula of Haiti – not far from the epicenter of the earthquake] There are some children who are died it is so sad for the comity [community]of les anglais. Some families are criying. Parents and children together are died. It’s sadness where I just arrive two weeks about. Where we are preparing for les anglais ministries. I am from Jacmel but now in the ministry I leave Jacmel to go to live les anglais.”

That is a tragic story – please pray for Jeanne Pierre Amady and her husband, Thony Amady.  They are part of Lemuel Ministries, https://www.lemuelministries.org/, [a Haitian ministry] in an area that may very likely be overlooked because it is not a population center like Les Cayes.  My point in sharing this story is that  what Jesus was talking about is more than hyperbole or mere words. It is about the struggles that people face. A tropical storm is bearing down on Haiti and many people are sleeping outside afraid to be in buildings.

So what does this have to do with you and me?  As Christians we are to be salt and light in the midst of the rumors of new wars starting – famine – pestilence or plagues or pandemics – earthquakes (an other natural disasters). We are to be the hands and feet of Jesus. It is too easy to read a post on Facebook, like it, and move on to the next post. Or to watch a news story and feel sorry for the people who are in the midst of it and then wonder “What’s for supper?” like the man in the mirror, forgetting what you just say.  Are you your brother’s keeper? The answer is “yes”.

“ ... I [God] looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one...” — Ezekiel 22:30

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

Friday, August 13, 2021

What I Am And What I Am Not

“ ... But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles...” — Galatians 1:11-16

So that was who Paul used to be and who God called him to be. So what am I? First, I am not the Holy Spirit – neither are you.  Very often we try to be just that.  Thinking that we can change someone’s heart and their behavior or even save someone. It is important that we keep them in mind. If you think that – or try to do that – do something that is inherently spiritual by your own devices and designs you will be frustrated and disappointed. We must be aware, and accepting, of who we are and who we are not. 

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

My point in referencing this scripture is that there is a spiritual reality that we live in. What is accomplished by us, spiritually, is actually being accomplished through us, by the power of the Spirit of God. As Christians we all have spiritual roles and responsibilities. Counselor, Pointer to the Truth, Encourager, Ambassador for Christ – Salt and Light, Brother. You are to represent Jesus to the world around you, at your place of work or study, to your friends, to your wife, to your children, to the lost, to the saved. You are not the Holy Spirit but you are sealed by the Holy Spirit, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, lead by the Spirit, taught by the Spirit, corrected and convicted by the Spirit.  You are a sinner saved by grace who faces temptation every day and falls frequently, having trusted in your own strength and will power to overcome something that has a spiritual root. You are a cracked pot – a jar of clay, having flaws that are deep rooted, born out of the sins of others and your own. You are an adopted son or daughter. Your adoption was paid for by the blood of Jesus. It didn’t cost you anything but it cost Jesus everything. You are tempted to treat your new life with indifference – like it does not matter to you.  And perhaps most of all – you are loved with an everlasting love by the God who created you from the dust – who knew you before you were yet formed in the womb – and who has a plan for you to prosper in this life – a prosperity that has nothing to do with money and everything to do with obedience, living by faith and walking in the power of the Spirit in you.

“ …. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation…” – 2 Corinthians 5:17-18

To paraphrase a quote by John Newton that I shared yesterday – “ We are not the people we ought to be, we are not the people we wish to be, and we are not the people we hope to be, but by the grace of God, we are not the people we used to be.”

If you are not satisfied with where you are in your Christian life – good! If you are disappointed in your lack of consistency in your walk – good! In my mind, that means that the Spirit of God is at work in you. That you have a spiritual awareness.  That is not to say that you should be content in knowing that but that you should rejoice that God has not forsaken you.  I am reminded of something Paul wrote in Romans 7

For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” – Romans 7:14-25

Don’t be surprised by the struggle. Remember who you are in Christ and the life you have been called to live – the responsibilities we have been shaped to fulfill. The great salvation that is yours for eternity.

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, August 12, 2021

Synchronizing Reputation and Character

 “ ... But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles...” — Galatians 1:11-16

Reputation and character, what is the difference? Reputation is what people know about your actions before men. We very often behave in ways with the goal of impressing others and winning their favor. Character on the other hand is born out of the heart. It may well be that our actions and the way we treat others, which establishes our reputation may be rooted in our character. But it might be that, like the Pharisees, we are ‘white washed tombs filled with dead men’s bones’.  Paul was writing to the Galatians telling them that what they knew about him – his reputation – had indeed reflected his character, but God had called him through His grace and Paul was born again. Once Paul had a heart of stone and now he had a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26)

“ …. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17-18

There are a lot of reasons for there to be a disconnect between who people think we are and who we are when they are not around. I reflect on my own life and figure it can’t be all that different from the lives of other people. I call it my silent struggle, It is a struggle to overcome the negative influences in my life that have shaped attitudes and behaviors that must be submitted to God to be overcome. Just because I am born again does not mean that there are not struggles that I face. Temptations – old habits to overcome.  2 Corinthians 5:17 is about the synchronization of my character with my reputation.  It requires me to lay my life down daily before God. There is a term, “fire and forget” which refers to laser guided munitions.  I can fire a missile at a target from a helicopter, for example, and then not track it to impact – someone else does that.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could do that with our lives. Born and again and sin free. 

Let’s consider “sin free” for a moment.  We will never be sin free on this planet but we are free from the bondage and penalty of sin for eternity at the point of our conversions.  That does not mean that we are free to sin. That it doesn’t matter. The fact that we all sin – I am referring to Christians – is not a secret – read the Bible!  The question is what we do with that sin. Our character and our reputation among men will never be perfectly synchronized during this life – but that doe not mean that we cannot be light and salt – a reflection of Jesus to a lost world – in our work place – with our families and friends. If you want to know what a man is really like – ask if wife and children – who, if they are honest and are not trying to protect his reputation will tell you about his character.  I have quoted this before but it bears repeating.

I am not the man I ought to be, I am not the man I wish to be, and I am not the man I hope to be, but by the grace of God, I am not the man I used to be.” —John Newton, author of the words to the hymn “Amazing Grace”

And to that I say “Amen!” 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

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Truth Is Truth Or Is It?

“ ... Pilate therefore said to Him, ‘Are You a king then?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.’ Pilate said to Him, ‘What is truth?’...” — John 18:37-38

Pilate asked a great question, “What is Truth?”.  Jesus came to bear witness to the Truth. And what might that be? The fact that there is a Creator God who reigns supreme. That out of everything that He created, He created mankind in His image and likeness – separate and apart from every other living thing. That same God sent His Son to reconcile mankind to Himself through the Cross of Christ through faith in His resurrection. That Jesus had come as the Way, the Truth, and the Life giving sinful man access to the Father through the Son. That was the Truth that Jesus was referring to but that was truth that Pilate could not understand. It is a spiritual truth revealed by the Father and only understood by those who are born again.

“ …. since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,  because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, ... who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.” – Romans 1:20-25

You don’t have to look far to see the Truth of God being exchanged for the “truth of man” which is to say, the Truth exchanged for a lie. God’s truth cannot be changed by man – only ignored. The questioning of God’s Truth began in the Garden with the simple question, “Did God really say, you must not eat from any tree in the garden?” (Genesis 3:1) Adam and Eve wanted to go their own way – use their own wisdom to live their lives in a manner that they saw as right and good.  And so it is today.  God’s Truth is immutable – does not change with the generations and their whims. 

The redefinition of Truth in our times can and should put Christians at odds with the culture. If you don’t embrace the lies that are declared to be truth, then you may very well be labeled intolerant – of what? Of the lies. It is not possible, in the minds of the lost, that someone could love people and, at the same time, reject their life choices as acceptable. To refuse to promote what is not true according to the Word of God is to be made an outcast and declared a bad person. 

....knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.” – Romans 1:32

The verses I quoted were written about 2,000 years ago, but could have been written yesterday. The Truth does not change – nor does the heart of man. Is there some truth that you have compromised for the sake of your culture or your own convenience? Another name for that is sin!

All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, And its flower falls away, But the word of the Lord endures forever.” – 1 Peter 1:24-25

Truth does not change - but what you believe to be true, accept to be true, is what will shape your life and actions. Your emotions - your feelings - your fears will deceive you. It is in our old nature to wander from the Truth and seek another truth that supports our sinful choices. The Lost really have no choice in the matter. Those of us who are born, we do. We know the difference - but very often struggle with living it out.  It is not merely making a choice like deciding what you will have for dinner - it requires submission to the Spirit of God and willful obedience to God's Truth - and that's the truth!

"..... Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, Who seek Him with the whole heart! ... Oh, that my ways were directed To keep Your statutes! Then I would not be ashamed, When I look into all Your commandments. I will praise You with uprightness of heart, When I learn Your righteous judgments. I will keep Your statutes; Oh, do not forsake me utterly! How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.  With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!  Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You. – Psalm 119:1-11

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