Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Do You Love God More?

If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” – Luke 14:26-27

There is a tension between the natural and the supernatural or spiritual. And there are some aspects of the natural that seem reasonable, even honorable, that are often chosen above spiritual mandates.  Jesus was speaking to the most important.

“‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?’ Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” – Matthew 22:36-39

Love God first and then love others. Would God ask you to forsake your natural relationships in favor of your relationship with Him? No – He commands it. Jesus did not mean that I am to hate my relatives, but choosing God before them is likened to hating them. Because I didn’t choose them first. God also said to honor our mothers and fathers – the 5th commandment – but that was in the context of the first four which have to do with putting God first. Because I obey the first four (having to do with my relationship with God), I can fulfill the last six (having to do with my relationship with others.

It is like the not-so-funny joke about the wife who told her husband that he never tells her that he loves her.  He answered that he told her the day he married her and if it ever changes he will let her know. That is how many treat God after salvation. Spiritual comes first then the natural – but we can become so busy with the natural that sometimes the spiritual can seem to get in the way. 

To make certain that I am clear – neglecting your family is not the same as putting God first.  God – family – others should be the order of things.  Many Christians must face the reality of people they love not being people of faith.  They may even face rejection for their faith – or at minimum relational distancing – being treated like a person with special needs – not quite right.

If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me [Jesus] before it hated you.” – John 15:18

But my encouragement is not for them – they are incapable of understanding it and see it as foolishness – it is for you. We must constantly check ourselves, else our flesh – old nature – will draw us away.  We may even hear the question that Eve heard in the Garden – “Did God really say …?” Would God really ask you to choose between Him and your wife, husband, children, mother, father? He already has – but not to their detriment but for their good.  If God calls you to go beyond the secular and serve in the spiritual why do you think that He would neglect your family? As a friend of mine would say, “That is stinkin’ thinkin’!” That is you old nature rising up against the new.  It is you will resisting the will of the Father.  The subject is deep – but I think I will stop here – it is enough to consider.

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, November 29, 2021

How Do You Spell Relief?

Now it happened as He [Jesus] went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. And they lifted up their voices and said, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ So when He saw them, He said to them, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan. So Jesus answered and said, ‘Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?’ And He said to him, ‘Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.’” – Luke 17:11-19

There was a commercial years ago – “How do you spell relief? R-O-L-A-I-D-S Rolaids tastes like a mint and works like a miracle!” Until a cure was found in the 1900’s, leprosy was a fatal disease. These ten me were in a hopeless situation when they turned to Jesus. Someone who was “labeled” as unclean had to be declared clean by the priests. The ten men went to the priests and were declared to be clean – free of leprosy. A miracle. And yet, only one sought Jesus out to thank Him and acknowledge God. And that one was a Samaritan – rejected by the Jews.  The ones who should have been grateful were not. I imagine with the trouble behind them, they wanted to get back to their lives before they were stricken by leprosy.

That parable is there for a reason – for our benefit. Not just to shake our heads at the ingratitude shown – but to give us insight into the heart of man – our own hearts. These 10 men were saved from a certain and painful death.  How much more were you and I saved from certain death. Saved to eternal life. Healed spiritually. Made clean. When Jesus was talking to Nicodemus (John 3) and Jesus said, “You must be born again”, He was saying that Nicodemus must be healed – made clean.  I heard a song during the church service this past Sunday.

“When I Think about the Lord, How He saved me, how He raised me, How He filled me, with the Holy Ghost. How He healed me, to the uttermost.

When I Think about the Lord, How He picked me up and turned me around, How He placed my feet on solid ground

It makes me wanna shout, Hallelujah, Thank you JESUS, LORD, you’re worthy, of all the glory, and all the honor, And all the praise.” (When I Think About The Lord – James Huey)

A lot like the one healed Samaritan leper. Are you mindful and grateful for your healing – like he was. Or have you moved on past that and got on with your life. Do you live with an attitude of gratitude?  Do you have a constant awareness of what God has done through Jesus by His spirit as a result of your faith – which has made you spiritually well - eternally. Just like the Samaritan leper.  I suspect that the other 9 men were healed physically but that was the limit and all they were really interested in. So many people just want relief for the moment.

Think about the Lord how He healed you to the uttermost and then shout Hallelujah – Thank you Jesus!

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, November 26, 2021

Robbing God Of His Glory

 Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.” – Malachi 3:8

“ … But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God. Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things.” – Acts 5:1-5

Doing good things as a Christian and giving God the credit – is – well ….. Good.  Sacrificing – giving up what the worlds sees of great worth for the good of others is praise worthy. The thing is – the praise belongs to God – not to men.  It is an easy trap to fall in to.  People don’t see God – they see the one who has done the good deed. And when you take credit for something that has a spiritual root – where the glory and praise rightfully belong to God – you are robbing God.  In the case of Ananias and his wife – they made a commitment to men before God and then attempted to deceive men and dishonor God. They wanted to have their cake and eat it too.  Even though they said they would sell the land and give the proceeds to help the Church, they decided they would keep some of the money and tell everyone what they gave was all they received from the sale.  Who would know the difference. And people would be certain to say how spiritual and wonderful they both were.

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

There are three sources from which sins springs in a person’s heart – lust of the flesh – lust of the eyes – and the pride of life.  You can always trace sin back to one of the three.  We love the praise of others.  It is affirming and assuring – comforting even – but at what cost. Recognition is not bad – failing to give credit where credit is due – is.

When you do work that is motivated by the Spirit of God, accomplished through personal sacrifice and resourced through the Saints, others very often extend their thanks and admiration for your work. I know of a number of cases when the accomplishment was shared but there was no mention of God.  To a casual reader it might seem that we are doing a good thing – and we are – but is it our good deed when in reality it is an act of faith and demonstration of God’s provision. I know that the intent was not to “blow our own horn” but if we fail to acknowledge God – that is the unintended result. Something I tell people it that the only credit I can take is saying “yes” to God. The call and the capability come from God. It may seem like an inconsequential oversight – but it is not.

Does that seem like a small thing to you? It shouldn’t. If we are involved in ministry, of any sort, our hearts must be right before God. If we are doing what we do to be recognized by men, then we are being carnal – “having a form of godliness but denying the power of God.” 1 Timothy 3:5

I know that a number of people who read these devotions are involved deeply in ministry. I am face with this temptation all the time as I am certain you are.  Be careful my friends. 

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, November 25, 2021

Doing Things Out Of Habit Not Worship

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31

“ … he (Paul) took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of them all; and when he had broken it he began to eat.” – Acts 27:35

… foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.” – 1 Timothy 4:3-5

There are aspects of our faith that can easily become rituals – things we do that have a spiritual root, but lack spiritual sincerity. Praying before a meal is one of those things. Instead of being something that you get to do – giving thanks to God for His provision – it becomes something that you have to do – because that is what you do before you eat.  We teach our children to pray but it can become something like saying please and thankyou or not chew with your mouth open. It is a rule and not an act of worship

This is the day that our country celebrates Thanksgiving – and yet this country, on the whole, does not worship the God that was being thanked. In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Native Americans shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. Think about that – people of different cultures coming together to give thanks. This holiday – has been commercialized and diluted to a secular event. The major events are parades, sports and the pardoning on a truly by the President – heard God mentioned yet? Me neither.

We make it a point to pray before our meals – even when we are in a restaurant.  A curious thing – perhaps alarming – for some reason people never pray before they eat the appetizers – but wait until the meal is served. It is as if appetizers are exempt. Ritual – not worship.  I think it is important to express our faith whenever we are given the opportunity. Praying in public is one of those ways.  You might be surprised to discover that there are other Christians in the restaurant with you but they are intimidated and choose not to pray.

I was thinking about a practice that has fallen into disuse. We used to ask the server if they would like to pray with us. If they did, I would ask them if there was something they would like us to pray about.  There was one restaurant in particular when the server said, “I know what you want to do!”, meaning that she knew about our praying with the servers. As I said, we have not done that for some time – I am thinking that we need to revive the practice. 

My encouragement is that you be mindful of what you do and why you do it. Don’t let prayer become something that you have to do – but something that you get to do. Thank God for His provision – for your daily bread. Be spiritually aware at all times. Realize that you can glorify God – even in a restaurant. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

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, November 24, 2021

Almost Persuaded

 “‘King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you do believe.’ Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘You almost persuade me to become a Christian.’  And Paul said, ‘I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains.’” – Acts 26:27-29

Whenever I hear or read those two words together, I am reminded of Tennessee Ernie Ford singing the song, “Almost Persuaded” – almost persuaded now to believe – almost persuaded Christ to receive – almost persuaded but lost. When Philip Bliss wrote that song in 1871, he must have been thinking about Paul’s conversation with King Agrippa. Philip Bliss composed the music “It Is Well With My Soul” written by his good friend Horatio G. Spafford. He also led the music at a number of D.L. Moody’s evangelistic meetings. It is amazing how God intertwines lives. Tragically, Philip Bliss and his wife died in a train accident in 1878 – he was 38 years old. 

That reminded me of another person whose life came to an abrupt end. Right after I was born again, a second lieutenant in the Army, I considered becoming a Chaplain. I figured that I was a Christian and I was an officer – so it made sense that I should be a chaplain – I was feeling the call to ministry.  I sought the counsel of a friend and mentor, who was a chaplain, as well as advice from other mature Christians. (Henry Blackaby wrote that we hear God’s voice through prayer, the Word, circumstances, and the counsel of other Christians – and  I found that to be true.) One of my friends, a Lieutenant Colonel – Ed Herr, talked to me about my decision.  At the time, I was in the Armor Branch (think tank corps) In the Army, officers where their branch insignia on their collar.  Ed said, “If you become a chaplain you will wear a Cross on your collar (designating a Christian chaplain) but as a “line officer” (a combat officer) you wear a Tank on your collar.  Soldiers expect Chaplains to act a certain way. But you will have a much more effective Christian witness if you are wearing the Armor insignia.  I took his advice and did not become a chaplain. But that is not the main point of the story. Ed was selected to go to the Army War College – the school that leads to a promotion to full colonel.  The night of the welcoming dinner, Ed went back to the car to get something for his wife. He was confronted by two men – robbed – and killed. Hard to understand.

Coincidently the last song that Philip Bliss had written before his death was the chorus and music for the hymn, "He Knows" which was written by Mary G. Brainard, which began as follows: "I know not what awaits me. God kindly veils my eyes..."

So many people we all know believe that they have plenty of time to choose Jesus or not. Christian or not, we are not guaranteed our next breath or heartbeat, let alone a long life. The Bible does not tell us about what happened to King Agrippa after his encounter with Paul – but it is not much of a stretch to imagine that he was never born again. Almost persuaded. 

You never know when God will use you as a stepping stone on the path that leads to someone’s salvation. Be ready and be faithful. Some are blessed to be present on the day  their decision is made – while still others, most, are one of many who point others to Jesus but never see that new birth. Whatever the place God puts you on the path – your responsibility is to be faithful in your witness. If Paul could not convince the King to be saved – what makes you think that you have that power.  Salvation is a personal, faith decision – a transaction between a person and God and not the product of a convincing argument made by man. An evangelist may speak – but it is God who calls and the Spirit who convicts the sinner. 

BTW – this was not the direction I thought this devotion was going – but it where the Spirit led. I trust that someone needed to read it for the glory of God.

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, November 23, 2021

What Motivates Us To Just Walk On By

Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.” – Luke 10:31-34

The Good Samaritan – you are well versed in that story, I am certain. I have written about a number of times. The question Jesus asked at the end of the parable was, “Who was the neighbor?” Which one acted rightly?  It was not the ones that you might expect.  The ones that cold recite scripture and verse what people of God are supposed to do. It was the one that had no reason to go out of his way. Before I go on, I want to remind you that the Bible is more than an equivalent to the Rules of the Road for the state you live in.  It has a spiritual source – it is the breath of God and requires the power of the Spirit of God and our submission to the Spirit to live by it. 

I say that because I think that we sometimes forget that and think that everyone – born again or not – should obey it. They should, but they can’t.

Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. – Romans 5:20-21

God’s creative intent was not that we be given a list of shall nots, but that because of our relationship with Him that we would live in harmony with all of creation.  Since the fall of Adam we have proven that we need help to be what God intended. That we can’t do it on our own.

So to my point – what we see on television  and read on line is all man trying to achieve their idea of what “right is”. All around the world there is tension between people groups.  Groups that represent differences in ethnicity, nationality, religious belief, politics, geography …. the list is a long one.  The root of tension between those groups is sin.  What you see on television or read on line is a reflection of the natural world – shouting out that it needs a savior. Of late the solution seems to be to use violence to make it happen.  Think about it. Do you really think there is anything spiritual in that? It is all carnality – mankind trying to fix man mankind. So what are we supposed to do about it?

Well – first off – we can’t solve the problem with more laws or more tolerance or more money – the problem is spiritual and needs a spiritual solution. That solution, unfortunately won’t be realized until Jesus returns. Things on this earth don’t get better on their own. So we do nothing? God Forbid.

You can divide mankind into two groups. Those who are born again and those who are not. Pretty simple. The way those who are born again live and relate should be based upon the fact that they are all adopted into the family of God through faith in Jesus.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” – Galatians 3:28

As Christians we are all the same – unfortunately – we are more like the priest and Levite than we are the Samaritan.  Wish it were not so but it is.  I see all those sources of tension at work in many Christians that I know – and they seem to feel justified in how they feel and how they relate.  They are blind to their sin. There is a Christian man I know that I call brother but he does not – he catches himself each time – I can see it in his body language – I reason it is because that word is reserved, in his mind and heart, for people in his ethnic group. Race does not make you my brother or sister.

When I was in living in Haiti and I would preach at a Haitian church, I would always begin with the words, “Mwen pa blan, mwen se fre ou” (I am not white, I am your brother). Then I would share 2 Corinthians 5:17. Nationality does not make you my brother or sister. When I was in Alabama speaking at predominately white churches, someone at the church would invariably say, “You are not around here are you?” Because of I didn’t have a Southern accent. But more – it was the suggestion that I was not like them. I had ancestors who lived in Virginia as early as 1650. Geography does not make you my brother or sister.

What is my point – as Christians we have a responsibility to be salt and light in a dark world. The world wants what God offers but on their terms not His. We are His ambassadors. And how will the world know He sent us?

By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:35

Our place in this messed up world is pretty simple really. Let me sum it up.

He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God.” – Micah 6:8

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

Monday, November 22, 2021

When Doing Right Is Wrong

But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.” – 1 Corinthians 8:9-13

A friend of mine posted on Facebook that a church (happens to be in Texas) was chanting during the worship service, “ Let’s go Brandon.” In case you are not “in the know”, which I was not before today, the chant, according to the press, “has exploded on the right, as a “cri de Coeur” (a cry from the heart; heartfelt or sincere appeal) that takes sarcastic swings at President Biden and the mainstream media without running afoul of technology censors." I was quick to tell my friend that one church in Texas does not represent all churches in Texas – but it does and should raise concern.

But here is the “rest of the Story”! The church had rented their sanctuary out during the week. It was not on Sunday and it was not a Church event. One thing I learned in the Army – the first report is never accurate.  To know how to respond requires more information.  It may well be that the church, in its entirety, supported that event – but there is no proof of that. However it does emphasize and important point and Biblical imperative. Sometimes you must not do what is right or legal if it will cause your brother to stumble.

The church had not done anything wrong – that event could have gone on anywhere. However, the fact that it appeared that the church was sanctioning a political event – taking sides if you will – cast dispersions on the faith. The appearance of evil.

Abstain from all appearance of evil.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:22

It may be that the church in question does not care what others think – that they are not their “brother’s keeper”, but the Bible is clear that we are and we should care – lest we cause someone to stumble. If something wells up inside of you at the thought of not doing something that you want to do and in which there is no sin – that feeling is from the old – self-centered – nature. Choosing to not do something that is permissible has to do with submitting to one another – which is a spiritual act. It is about thinking about others before you think about yourself.

Pick something else – say alcohol – that is always an attention getter! I may believe it is ok to drink a glass of wine, but I should not go into a bar and drink that glass knowing that although I may use moderation in my drinking – there are many who do not. I should not encourage wrong behavior but should glorify God and point others to Jesus in all that I do. The Jesus who sacrificed everything for our sakes.

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, November 17, 2021

Is It OK For A Christian To Say #@$%_!(

Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.  And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:29-32

Profanity was a big - or I guess I should say, natural, part of my vocabulary before I was born again.  I thought nothing of it - unless I was around women and children.  So I guess I did think something of it after all.  But profanity like a number of other things in my life virtually disappeared, old things passed away, from my thinking and speaking - no matter who was listening. Sure, they are just words - but then again - words are a reflection of the heart.

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

Martie and I have been watching with great dismay as profanity has found its way into virtually every aspect of life. You see it written on cars - in publications - on television - in movies. In print you may see the first letter followed by a series of dots or special characters like I used in the title of this post.  The thing is - our minds fill in the blanks so the objective of the writer is fulfilled as if the word had been spelled out in plain text.

There used to be censors for television and movies that prevented profanity and sexual content from being made public - then they started using ratings to warn people or entice them that they would be exposed to certain "adult" content. It is OK for adults but not for children.  I learned that lesson when I was a child.  I spent many hours sitting on the back steps having taken a bite of soap for cussing in front of my mom - I might have been 5 or 6 at the time.  The thing is, the words I used I had heard from her! (long before she was saved I might add) Kids were carded at the movie theaters to prove they were old enough to watch certain ratings.  Now they can watch what they want right in their own living rooms.

Martie and I have a small plaque sitting on the side board just below our television that says "Above All Else - Guard Your Heart" - Proverbs 4:23

It is a reminder that the television is a portal through which carnality can finds its way into our home and minds.  And just when we think we have found something "safe" to watch - BOOM!!! There it is - profanity at its best - or worst!

I have talked with some Christian men who seem to think that the use us profanity is not only permissible but is actually a sign of some superior spirituality. It is a sign that they are MEN of faith, when what I see is carnality.  

 "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you." - Philippians 4:8-9

How do you reconcile the using or listening to profanity in light of that admonition? I do not think it is justifiable. Thinking it but not saying it is not an escape clause in the Bible.  Jesus said that if you think it - embrace it - you are guilty of it. (He used adultery and murder in our thought life as examples. Matthew 5:21-30)

My point here is to encourage you to be on your guard. Do not use the excuse of "that is just in the movie" as a reason to "dip your toes" into the culture and what is offers as OK all the while being in conflict with what the Spirit would tell you is NOT OK.

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” – Matthew 5:13

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, November 16, 2021

You Are Not Alone – Or Are You?

“…  you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light  (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. …. See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, ….. submitting to one another in the fear of God.” – Ephesians 5:8-10,15,21

Martie and I watched a television program Sunday night that featured Adele. I must say, I had heard of her but had not listened to any of her music. She is apparently a “big deal”.  As part of the programming there were vignettes of an interview with Oprah Winfrey. The interview circled mostly around Adele’s troubled life, her recent divorce and her quest to be happy in spite of it all.  Adele seemed like a good enough person but what got my attention was the focus on happiness. I am quite certain the woman is very rich – so money is not the source of what she is looking for or she would already be there. I am certain she has more than enough for several lifetimes. What was sad to me was it seemed that with all of her fame – with all of her money – in her heart, she as on her own.

Earlier that morning, we had watched a streamed service from a local church. The pastor was preaching on Ephesians 5. Connecting the two events, I was thinking about the importance of being connected in the Body of Christ, and how alone we can find ourselves even though we are surrounded by friends, family and other Christians. Have you ever felt alone in a crowded room? I suspect that there are many Christians – some that you may know well, that feel that way – even when they are with you.  Like Adele standing alone behind that microphone – the people around us are like the audience, enjoying the “show”. And when they show is over, you are still alone.

So what does this have to do with Ephesians 5? Well, glad you asked!  When we are commanded – strong word that – it is something that God intends for us to do to fulfill His purposes.  If we are submitting to one another – putting others before us – and they are doing the same – then there is no place for loneliness – although there is a temptation to feel like you are alone.  That we are not living our new lives on our own. Do you remember Elijah in the cave – full of despair even after seeing God at work – ready to give it up because he felt alone – but God reminded him that he was not alone. Our happiness or contentment is found through faith and not circumstances. What binds us together is our love for one another – which is demonstrated by mutual submission – thinking more of others than ourselves.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:34-35

How did Jesus love us? He died for us – suffered the cross for our benefit.  Loving people sacrificially is a living witness to the world.  I must say, in my experience that Church falls woefully short. We keep our emotional distance. We can be in a church on Sunday slam full of people – but the people might as well be sitting behind a computer screen watching the service over the internet. Even with all of the “glad handing” and “good to see you’s” we are surrounded by lonely people. Submitting – having another Christian’s back, if you will, means that you must engage them on a personal level. Get beyond the social gratuities. To let them into your personal space and they do likewise. How does that happen? It starts with 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, November 15, 2021

Spiritual Markers


“… that this may be a sign among you when your children ask in time to come, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ Then you shall answer them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever. And the children of Israel did so, just as Joshua commanded, and took up twelve stones from the midst of the Jordan, as the Lord had spoken to Joshua, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, and carried them over with them to the place where they lodged, and laid them down there. Then Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of the Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests who bore the ark of the covenant stood; and they are there to this day.” – Joshua 4:6-9

I was talking with a friend of mine some weeks ago about a decision he was struggling with. I told him that I had been in his place many times in the past.  That he was standing at the spiritual River Jordan faced with a decision – obey God or shrink back in fear and doubt.  I reminded him of the two times that the nation of Israel stood at the Jordan. The second time – the crossed by faith – the first time they wandered because of their lack of faith. 

If you are a Christian – you will have stood at that same river, perhaps more than once. The first time you stood at the water’s edge was when you yielded your life to God by faith in Jesus. But that was only the beginning of your journey.  Dr. Henry Blackaby (Experiencing God) calls those times Spiritual Markers. Occasions in our lives when we have a “crisis of belief”. We know what God has said and yet, we balk at taking stepping out on the journey He has called us to. I can recall being in a swimming pool with one of my children standing at the edge – water wings on their little arms – their eyes wide – as I said “Come on – jump, I will catch you!” It always took a bit of coaching – encouragement. They knew I would not ask them to do something that would harm them – yet – they could see the water and they had doubts. Eventually each of them made the leap – but like Israel – not always the first time they were presented with the opportunity. The same for us.

And Peter answered Him and said, ‘Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.’ So He said, ‘Come.’ And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw [a]that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, ‘Lord, save me!’ And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’” – Matthew 14:28-31

Perhaps like Peter – you made the leap and then began to doubt that you had chosen wisely when things did not seem to be going your way.  We, too often, forget that we are on a spiritual journey requiring faith and not sight and natural wisdom. That we must keep our eyes fixed on the One who has called us out of the boat. Our circumstances often tempt us to trust in ourselves and not in the Caller.

Do you have any stacks of stones that celebrate God and His power demonstrated in your life.  It does not have to be as momentous as the River Jordan backing up while at flood stage or walking on water – it may be something quite small that changed a life choice or something else – but it was something that required you to exercise your faith – to go against your flesh and human reasoning.   

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 55:7-9

Resist the temptation to trust in your natural reasoning and practice to make spiritual decisions.

…. 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.” –  1 Corinthians 2:14

You will know when it is God speaking and when it is not. The question is – will you have the faith to obey?

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, November 12, 2021

Serving Many For An Audience Of One

This is My commandment, that you love one another as I [Jesus] have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” – John 5:12-13

We just celebrated Veterans Day. The recognition of men and women who are set their lives aside for a season – be it a short or long season – for the good of others.  There is something called the Code of Conduct that I was taught when I was a young soldier. There were 6 points. The first is “I am an American fighting man. I serve in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.” The last is “I will never forget that I am an American fighting man, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.”  There are many people who have served in the military who are veterans but have never been in harms way. But that is not the point of the recognition. The point is the willingness to be placed in harms’ way that is the point. When I buy building materials at Home Depot, I get a discount for being a veteran.  The clerk will look at my VA card and say, “Thank you for your service.” That is a pretty common phrase now-a-days. The willingness to sacrifice your welfare for the good of others is a noble act. As a Christian – there is really not a lot of difference in our service. That one day we will hear the words for our Lord –

Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” – Matthew 25:23

There is something we referred to in the Army called the “tooth to tail ratio”. That that referred to was how many people (the tail) it took to support one infantryman – the one looking the enemy in the eyes. Generally speaking it was 10 to 1. There are 10 people supporting each soldier on the front line. Every one of the ten in the tail was important to ensure that the one was equipped to fight the enemy – mano y mano – if you will. We called then Remington Raiders (clerk typists) Chairborne Rangers (admin people) – in Vietnam – Saigon Warriors – service members who never got their boots muddy while they were in Vietnam.  But that was never to suggest that their responsibilities were not important – not critical to the fight. Some veterans never left the United States during their service – but that is not the point. They wore the uniform. General George Patton is credited with this motto – “I am a soldier – I fight where I am told – I win where I fight.”

As a Christian – we don’t choose our spiritual gifts – we don’t decide what our place will be in the body of Christ. But, what we all do is surrender our hearts and our devotion to God by faith.  He has already decided how you will be used for His glory and the good of others. 

I [Paul] beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 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

Through personal sacrifice is how we serve God and others. Paul referred to being a Christians as being a good soldier.

You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. The hardworking farmer must be first to partake of the crops. Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things.” – 2 Timothy 2:3-7

Let me leave you with this – a couple verses from an old hymn.

Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war, With the cross of Jesus going on before!

Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe; Forward into battle, see his banner go!

Like a mighty army moves the church of God; Brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod;

We are not divided; all one body we, One in hope and doctrine, one in charity.” Onward Christian Soldiers, S. Baring-Gould, 1649, Public Domain

And … thank you for your service!

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, November 11, 2021

Distinguishing Between The Sin and The Sinner

But I [Jesus] say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.” – Luke 6:27-31

You may be familiar with the phrase, “Hate the sin but love the sinner.” It is not a verse in the Bible, but it is a spiritual concept that is probably best summarized by John 3:16

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” – John 3:16

God loved His creation, but rejects sin and so He sent Jesus to reconcile the world through the Cross. Notice the qualification- “that whoever believes in Jesus”. It does not mean that Jesus died and now everyone gets a pass. That whatever they do – loving God or not – God will overlook it – call it good for the purpose of granting eternal life in heaven. As Christians we are to love others like God loves others. Love people and hate sin. 

What do I mean by hate? Hate means to not love – to not embrace – to not say what is wrong is right.  Not to go along to get along.  Now, according to the culture in the United States – hate means to not embrace what the culture says is right – even if it is contrary to what the Bible says is right and wrong.  In other words – if you are not willing to agree that sin is not sin then you are a hater.  The culture does not make a distinction between the sin and the sinner. Putting John 3:16 in another context or phrasing ….

God so loved the mankind that He made a way to undo what Adam did in the Garden, bringing sin into the world. If people would put their faith in Jesus and His death on the cross for their sin, then they could be restored in relationship with God the Father and have eternal life with Him and escape Hell.

And that is our message to the world.

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 [sins] to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” – 2 Corinthians 5:18-19

That does not say that we are to condone sin – to agree that what the Bible says is sin is not really sin.  That we must say that what others do is just a choice and who are we to say otherwise.

If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you!” –  John 15:18-20

Don’t be surprised that our culture accuses Christians of hate. You are an ambassador of Christ. You are salt and light in a very dark culture. Those who love sin do not like the light and they don’t like to be told that what they say is right is wrong. If you fear men and crave their acceptance then you can have it – all you have to do is agree that sin is not sin – simple. Of course you will be enabling their eternal condemnation to hell. Can you live with that?

He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.” – John 3:18-20

I am not saying to isolate yourself from the Lost. Jesus was condemned for associating with sinners – but He said it is the sick who need healing. Still Jesus did not embrace their sin – He called them to repentance.

Why share this with you? Because I want to remind you of just how miraculous your new life in Christ is. God has committed you and me to a “word of reconciliation” to God by faith in Jesus. In order for sinners to make a life change they first need a heart change. And that can only happen when the Spirit of God brings a holy conviction of their sin and that person puts their faith in Jesus.  And that is what happened to you and to me.  It’s God that changes hearts not us. It’s God that brings understanding that what we call right is wrong and the truth that we are sinners.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17

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, November 10, 2021

Your Faith is Blessing and Treasure

"Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way? Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” – John 14:5-6

There are an estimated 4200 religions in the world.  Think about that.  Mankind – so distinct from all other creation on this earth – continues to seek out something greater than themselves. And out of that mass of religions, there are three major religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are monotheistic religions, namely they believe that there is only one God. All three religions believe that this God is the origin and source of all that exists. As Christians, we believe there is only one true faith – faith in Jesus, the Christ. Everyone else has missed it. If you are interested in understanding the root of the Islamic faith read Genesis 16 to 21.

The Jews, who rejected Jesus as a prophet, called him an imposter, while the Christians, on the other hand, considered him to be the son of God and worship him as such.  In Jewish eschatology, the Messiah is a future Jewish king from the Davidic line, who is expected to be anointed with holy anointing oil and rule the Jewish people during the Messianic Age and world to come. Islam considers Jesus to be one of the greatest and most forbearing of prophets, in addition to Noah, Abraham, Moses and Muhammad, peace be upon them. Jesus is also considered to be the Messiah as well. 

He [Jesus] said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered and said, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.’” – Matthew 16:15-17

We believe that apart from faith in Jesus, there is no hope beyond this mortal life. Believing that there is a God in Heaven. Believing that man was created by God. The existence of Adam and Abraham – is not enough. 

You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!” –  James 2:19

But there is something lacking. Recall the Pharisee, Nicodemus.

There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.’ Nicodemus answered and said to Him, ‘How can these things be?’  Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved’.” – John 3:1-17

There are many people who identify with the Christian faith, who are not born again.  It is more of a cultural – traditional belief and no-wise spiritual.  To have eternal life – you must be born again by the Spirit of God through faith that Jesus is the Christ. That is a distinctive among all 4200 religions. It is what makes Christianity different. God has revealed Himself through Jesus and, in turn, through those who have confessed with their mouths that Jesus is Lord and believe in their hearts that God, the Father, raise Jesus, the Son, from the dead. Having died for the world’s sin once for all.  Remarkable and true. But that truth is only revealed by the Spirit of God.

Why share this with you? Because I want to remind you of just how miraculous your new life in Christ is.

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, November 9, 2021

Are You Listening

while Samuel was lying down, that the Lord called Samuel. And he answered, ‘Here I am!’ So he ran to Eli and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ And he said, ‘I did not call; lie down again.’ And he went and lay down. Then the Lord called yet again, ‘Samuel!’ So Samuel arose and went to Eli, and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ He answered, ‘I did not call, my son; lie down again.’ (Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, nor was the word of the Lord yet revealed to him.) And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. So he arose and went to Eli, and said, ‘Here I am, for you did call me.’ Then Eli perceived that the Lord had called the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, ‘Go, lie down; and it shall be, if He calls you, that you must say, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears.’’ So Samuel went and lay down in his place. Now the Lord came and stood and called as at other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel answered, ‘Speak, for Your servant hears.’” – 1 Samuel 3:3-10

Can you identify with Samuel?  Perhaps not ever thinking that the Lord would call you? I mean who are we that God would even consider us useable for His purposes?

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him?  For You have made him a little lower than the angels, And You have crowned him with glory and honor.” – Psalm 8:3-5

And yet, for reasons that only God knows, He called Samuel.  If you are a Christian then God has called you. It is God who initiates relationship with us. Our part is to say “Speak for your servant hears or is listening.” Do you remember the day that you heard the Lord’s voice and yielded your heart and life by faith? Just like Samuel. It is a miraculous moment – life changing – of eternal consequence. 

God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began,  but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, to which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.” –  2 Timothy 1:8-11

Like Samuel and Paul, each of us has a holy calling from God. He appoints some to be preachers – pastors – teachers – or perhaps something not quite so out-front as that.  No matter what it is that you have been called to do in God’s economy – the thing to grasp is that it is spiritual and its successful accomplishment is totally dependent upon the Spirit of God and your obedience – not your effort. 

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” – Romans 8:28-29

Being empowered by the Holy Spirit is called an anointing. I am certain that you have seen it in others before. It is more something that you sense with your spirit and not see with your eyes. Each of us is anointed to accomplish what God has purposed. Just like Jesus.

God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.” – Acts 10:38

Why share this with you? Because I want to remind you of just how miraculous your new life in Christ is. I want to remind you that ….

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

Because in fulfilling our calling makes us salt and light in a world that desperately needs saving. Just like Jesus – Samuel and Paul – we are part of God’s eternal plan. You have a purpose to fulfill in this mortal life. Don’t let the sound of the beat of the world’s drum drown out the voice of the Lord. The Spirit does not shout, He whispers. What does He say to us?

“Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ Whenever you turn to the right hand Or whenever you turn to the left.” – Isaiah 30:21

Think about it – Pray about it – Believe it – Walk in it. Let your light shine and give God the glory.

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