Monday, December 26, 2011

Fool's Gold

Fool's Gold
Dec 26, 2011
Rev 21:21 ". . . The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass."

Gold is a naturally occurring element, and in its purest form can stand alone without any other chemical element added to it. Gold is considered extremely valuable; pure gold is rare. It has been used since the history of mankind as a form of currency, which also adds to its intrinsic value. It is extremely malleable, conducts electricity very well, yet resists corrosion and maintains its luster. It currently has a market price of $1,600 USD per ounce (it's very heavy, so that's about the same volume equivalent as two teaspoons (10ml) of water). The gold used in making jewelry usually has a mixture of nickel, zinc, and other metals, bringing the cost down and adding strength. Gold is not a good construction material for buildings because it is one of the softer metals. It dents easily, and you certainly wouldn't want to be touching gold if it was struck by lightning.

The Bible declares that the walls and streets of Heaven are made of gold. Well, sort of. The Bible states that the walls and streets of Heaven are like gold. If you want to translate the Bible literally, then you can read that the streets of Heaven would be made of a pure substance as we understand it on our periodic table of elements (Au). But I would argue for a moment that the depiction of Heaven with streets of gold is a metaphor for the vast richness and glory in comparison to earth. The passage in Revelation depicts one of the most valuable substances on earth as common and even something that is tread upon. Back when the Bible was written, the construction material for walls and roads was brick (usually made of dirt and clay). In writing the Bible, God wasn't trying to convince us of the building materials that are used in Heaven, He was trying to convince us that Heaven is a place we should want to someday live because of its richness. He also made clear that something we value here on earth is not so important in Heaven, especially if we can walk on it like dirt.

There is another substance on earth that is nicknamed "fool's gold". At first appearance it looks like gold, but in reality it is far from being a close cousin to it. "Fool's gold" is iron pyrite, made of iron and sulfur. Many people looking for gold think they have found it, but end up with iron pyrite, which has hardly the same value and properties of gold. Depending on its form, iron pyrite is worth less than $1 USD per ounce, sometimes even less than a few pennies. You can imagine the disappointment if a person thinks he has found a few ounces of gold and it turns out to be iron pyrite. This is why it is nicknamed "fool's gold".

The Bible says that you and I are easily fooled into believing what is truly valuable on this earth. You and I like to place value on what we have in comparison to others: possessions, status, activities, etc. Nothing we have on this earth has any value in Heaven, though. The only things of worth in Heaven are what we do on this earth that give glory to the Lord. The Apostle Peter writes it this way, ". . . the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." In other words, Peter was saying how you respond to situations in life and what you do for the Lord are the only things that matter on this earth. This is hard to swallow, as we like to have nice things sometimes, we like feeling good about ourselves, and we like being respected and important. The Lord would say that this is a fool's pursuit, trying to attain things in life that are worthless in the Kingdom of Heaven.

It takes a mature Christian to find real value in life, the value in all that is done in the name of the Lord. Everything else is worthless, even an ounce of gold.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Prov 8:11, Acts 14:15, Rom 8:18, Phil 3:8, Col 1:10, 2 Thess 1:11, James 1:26, 1 Peter 1:6-8, 1 Peter 3:4, Rev 21

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Elusive Contentment

Elusive Contentment
December 19, 2011
1 Timothy 6:6 "But godliness with contentment is great gain."

It is hard to be content sometimes. Being content means being satisfied with your current level of "it." "It" would be defined uniquely in every given circumstance. When the Bible discusses the word for contentment, it is talking about physical things (possessions, wealth, & income). You and I have struggled with this since we were little, always wanting more than we have. This longing for more is built into us because of sin. If we did not have a sinful nature, we would not be greedy or selfish, and would therefore always be content. Some Christians, in an effort to justify wanting or having more than enough, tout Scriptures about the Lord wanting to richly bless us if we serve Him. The word for "bless" appears almost 400 times in the Bible. It is easy to find a Bible verse that enforces our desire for physical blessing to mean being rich, wealth that is bestowed upon us by the Lord.

But the Bible actually refutes us if we misinterpret Scripture into teaching that we will get rich if we live a Godly life, awaiting for His earthly prosperity. It says very clearly that people are robbed of the truth if they believe that living a Godly life will grant them physical blessings of richness and wealth (1 Timothy 6:1-5). The Bible goes on further to say that we should live a Godly life and find contentment with whatever we have. It doesn't say we should search for contentment in different things, seeking for it through lifestyle changes or taking new directions. It says we should live a Godly life, then be content with where that leads us, wherever it takes us. If we do that, we will have gained more than we realize. Let me expand on that.

If you read through Scripture, it says to live a Godly life (which is defined as adhering to Biblical directions and following the leading of the Lord). If you do this, you will find yourself inevitably in God's will for your life. The Lord's will for your life will not only lead to satisfaction and fulfillment but a greater gain than you can understand. Scripture says that by following the Lord, by doing His will and following His commands, you will store up for yourself treasure in Heaven. It is a future reward system that, though we cannot understand, we must accept in faith. We must believe that a future reward will be worth more than having riches and physical blessing today. If we are left to define the level of "it" we think will make us content, then we will never stop with wanting and pursuing more. This is why contentment is always elusive. If we chase after more in an effort to feel content on this earth, we will never have enough nor will we be storing up future rewards in Heaven. In searching for the degree that will make us content, we actually find ourselves in an empty pursuit, permanently elusive.

Instead, we should pursue Godliness, finding contentment in doing the Lord's will. This will not necessarily lead to physical blessing, but emotional satisfaction in knowing the Father's heart will be pleased and that He will place Heavenly deposits into your account for future benefit. The contentment is in knowing your current situation is actually part of the Lord's will for your life, if you've been following Him. This will change your perspective on your situations in life. If you can find contentment today, then you have found yourself in the Lord's will. This is the best place to be and far better than any amount of physical wealth. If you are currently not content, then you have not found the Lord's will for your life and are searching for the wrong things, a pursuit that will leave you empty.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Joshua 24:15, Prov 19:23, Ecc 4:8, Phil 4:10-12, 1 Tim 6:1-20, 1 Thess 4:2-4

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Show Up

Show Up
December 12, 2011
Luke 12:11 "When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say. . ."

Sometimes it is easy to shun away from activities because we are afraid. We fear embarrassment, we fear humiliation, we fear failure, we fear what others will think, we fear everything imaginable. It is far easier to not do what we believe the Lord wants us to do, that way our fears can never come true. Inactivity is much more cozy than taking a step forward, possibly out of our comfort zone. We even reserve most of our hearts, not giving everything over to the Lord for fear He would ask us to do something crazy that we just can't do. We avoid engaging in doing good things because we aren't sure what all we should be doing anyway.

But the Lord is not going to ask you to do something He has not equipped you to do. Let me clarify that. The Lord is not going to ask you to step forward and yet leave you stranded. If He has something for you to do, then He has either equipped you fully or will being picking up where you lack. The Lord already knows the end result of all your activities but you might only be aware of the initial starting point, the first step you feel in your heart you should be taking. Take that step. Don't be fearful of falling on your face or worry about about the next step. Your job is to simply show up everyday into the Lord's presence and take the one step He asks of you that day. You don't have to save the universe, you don't have to have it all planned out, you might not even know what you are going to say. The Lord would ask that you trust in Him to give you that next step, to show you what you should do, and tell you what you should say in each and every circumstance.

The disciples had the same fear of not knowing the future or being fully prepared for everything that could arise. The Lord wasn't scared, though. He told the disciples to simply show up in His name, to take the first step. He promised to give them the next step and when they got into a predicament, lacking the words, He would empower them with the right wisdom and words at the right time. In fact, the entire book of Acts is full of the disciples simply showing up. They showed up each and every day, their hearts committed to the Lord. The Lord was faithful to lead them to the next step, show them what they should do, and tell them what they should say. He had everything already worked out, all they had to do was show up.

Your job is not to plan out the rest of your life; your job is to simply show up. Let the Lord do the hard part and reveal the critical pieces at the critical moments. If you let the Lord lead, you can rest all your fears aside, knowing that they won't matter. All your fears cannot possibly come true if you are allowing the Lord to lead. If you submit your heart to Him then whatever happens will happen. The outcome becomes the Lord's responsibility, regardless of what you do. And when you show up you still might find yourself in a predicament. The Lord would say to you the same thing He spoke to the disciples, "do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.” When you show up you might not have a clue, but it will be clear, crystal clear, in the exact moment it matters.

Acts 4:8 is an example of perfect fulfillment of Jesus' words in Luke 12:11-12. All Peter did was show up, the Lord did the rest. Read it for yourself.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Matthew 10:19-20, Luke 12:11-12, Acts 1:8, Acts 2:14-21, Acts 3:1-7, Acts 4:8

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Island Exile

Island Exile
December 5, 2011
Revelation 1:9 "I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus."

If Jesus ever had a best friend while He was on this earth, it would have been the Apostle John. This isn't John the Baptist, but the one called the "beloved of Jesus," who also wrote five books of the New Testament (the most controversial of those books being Revelation). You'd think that by being the best friend of Jesus you might get special privileges, maybe an extra watchful eye on your life by the Almighty Himself. Not so. John, though Jesus loved him as a dear, close friend, was not spared difficulty, suffering, or even loneliness in his lifetime. In fact, for being bold in speaking up about the Christ, John was imprisoned. He was sentenced to imprisonment on a deserted isle, an island only for criminals. John was not a criminal, however; he was allowed to be there by the will of the Father.

While in exile on this island, John had nothing but time, time to be alone with the Lord. It was during this alone time that John was inspired by the Holy Spirit and given the words for the book of Revelation. John wrote, and wrote, and wrote some extremely weird stuff. If you've ever read Revelation, you understand that it is different from any other book of the Bible. But it contains very important information from the Lord, so important that it took John's devoted time in exile to accomplish the writing of it. John thought he was in exile because of speaking boldly about the Christ, but John's exile was used by the Lord to accomplish the important task of writing the book of Revelation.

In fact, if you've ever read the entirety of the Bible from cover to cover, you'll find that every man of God who was used mightily for His purposes, was in exile at one time or another. Abraham, Daniel, David, Elijah, Jesus, Paul, Samuel, this list could go on. That time of exile, either forced or self imposed, was critical for the Lord to change that person or to communicate vital information. This time alone, where the individual had no one but the Lord, was a time for the Lord to speak into his life, molding him for the future. These times of exile were never meant to be permanent, but intended as a launching point for something greater in the near future.

You've perhaps been alone, but this alone time was not, and is not, intended to be lonely. It is a time for the Lord to speak into your life, change your heart, empower you for the future, to launch you into something greater for your life and those around you. It might feel permanent, but the Lord did not abandon you. In fact, the Lord wants to have a deep relationship with you during this unique time. He wants to wash you of your past, inspire you, to bring you to a new place in life where you will do important things, things that are dear to the heart of the Father. But you cannot move forward from this alone time unless you've discovered the heart of the Father, listening intently to what He has for you. If you find yourself feeling lonely, it is a clue to be alone with the Lord and hear what He has for you, what plans He has for your future.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Ps 147:2, Is 11:12, Is 17:13, Jer 24:4-6, Ezekiel 11 & 12, Daniel 5 & 6, Micah 4:6, Matthew 1:17, 1 Peter 1:1, Revelation 1

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Follow Me Follow My God

Follow Me Follow My God
November 28, 2011
1 Corinthians 11:1 "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ."

In the Old Testament, there is a beautifully written story of love and tragedy. It is the true story of a woman whose husband died and left her childless; the woman's name was Ruth. You've heard the story, I'm sure, of how Ruth ended up marrying Boaz and they were blessed to become the great, great grandparents of the famous King David, and subsequently were part of the lineage of Jesus. There is another character in the story, however, who sometimes gets overlooked as a hero. Her name was Naomi, and she was Ruth's first mother-in-law. After Ruth's first husband died, Naomi recommended that Ruth go back to her own people to find a new husband, but Ruth refused to leave Naomi's side. Listen to Ruth's words of loyalty, "Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God." Most mother-in-laws have a bad reputation, but not Naomi. She was a woman to be followed.

Naomi must have been such a wonderful person that Ruth was willing to be a widow for the rest of her life, willing to leave her homeland forever, and even willing to follow a new god. Ruth was willing to convert to Naomi's religion, willing to serve the One True God, all because of who Naomi was, because of the example Naomi must have set with her life. Notice Naomi did not ask Ruth to follow her; Naomi simply lived her own life in such a way that pleased the Lord. Ruth took notice of how Naomi lived and wanted to be like her. Ruth followed Naomi because Naomi followed the Lord; she was drawn to the Lord because He lived inside of Naomi.

You and I need to be like Naomi. We need to follow the Lord wholeheartedly, simply living our lives to honor Him. If we did, more people would be drawn to us, and consequently drawn to the One who lives inside our hearts. Our lives would then be an example. People would want to be with us and want to live the way we live. They would want to know our God and follow Him.

In the New Testament, Paul instructs us to live this way. He said, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." Paul realized that since not everyone could see Christ, sometimes they need an example of Him in order to understand His ways. Paul was willing to be a living example of Christ and recommended we follow this model. We are to live our lives as exemplary Christians and others will naturally follow. You don't have to be a leader; your job is not to lead them. Your job is to follow Christ and recognize that everyone is watching you at one time or another. Your example, your daily living, is the only representation of Christ on this earth.

You will lead them to Christ naturally, since people will be following you. Have you known a few people whose lives truly represent wholehearted service to Christ that you can emulate? Its your turn to live that way. People will be drawn to your God when you live your life to Him. If they aren't, then maybe you should examine how you live.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Ruth 1:1-16, John 12:25-26, John 10:26-28, Cor 1:3-5, 1 Cor 1:11-13

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Father Knows Best

Father Knows Best
Nov 21, 2011
Proverbs 16:1 "To humans belong the plans of the heart, but from the Lord comes the proper answer of the tongue."

This verse, "To humans belong the plans of the heart, but from the Lord comes the proper answer of the tongue," is rather easily interpreted, but difficult to grasp in all its fullness. Some translations of this text differ in the last part of the phrase, reading "but to the Lord belongs the reply of the tongue." This verse simply means that a man can plan and dream all he wants but the Lord has the final say in it all. The Lord will always have the last word regarding our plans and it will be the correct one. What the Lord says becomes law; there will be no other back-talk, regardless of what He decides. This doesn't usually rest well with us as we always like a rebuttal, the opportunity to convince a higher authority that our plans are correct, that our way should be right. For some reason, even with the Heavenly Father, we always want an appeal process to argue our case and possibly change His mind, in an effort to get what we want.

The Heavenly Father is not a mind changer, He is not wishy-washy in His resolve on any matter. It is firmly decided ahead of time, because He already knows what we want, what we think, and what we will do in every situation. He knows the prayer requests that He is going to answer and He knows ahead of time the proper answer for the course of our plans. He knows His timing in answering our requests and He knows what is right for us in each and every scenario, regardless of what we planned. In short, The Father knows best.

This usually does not sit well with us. We think He has it all wrong sometimes, that He might not have it right this time around. Sure, He is probably right 99% of the time, but just this once He might have made a mistake, a mistake we are quick to point out in an effort to change the situation, to get our way, to make our plans the right ones. We wish, want, desire, and pray to get our way, but the last word on the subject comes from the Lord.

In order to wrestle with this verse correctly, to relax in knowing that The Father knows best even when our plans do not go as planned, we must re-read the last part of the verse. In this particular translation the words appear as, "proper answer." In understanding this verse, we need to realize that the Lord has our best interests at heart, that He is on our side even when our plans do not work out the way we want in life, what we think is appropriate. We have to trust in Him. That's the tricky part, trusting in Him. We have to trust that He is still in control, looking out for our best interests even when we get the opposite of what we planned.

You may have a complaint in your plans right now that you can do nothing about and might believe the Lord is in error for not changing the situation. I assure you, He knows best and is working it out the way He sees best. So, instead of complaining about your plans gone awry, you have an opportunity to thank Him for working it out with the "proper answer." If you cannot do this, then re-think how much you truly trust in the Lord. If you cannot thank Him for your plans going in a different direction, or for the things you want to change, then you don't trust Him as your Lord and Savior. You may have plans, but He has the final say in how they work out in your life! But don't worry, your Heavenly Father knows best.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Ps 33:11, Pr 3:5, Pr 16:2-3, Pr 19:21, Rom 8:28

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Women Are Weaker

Women Are Weaker
Nov 14, 2011
1 Peter 3:7 "Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers."

There is a peculiar verse in the Bible that suggests women are the weaker sex. While a few might argue the interpretation of that being men are superior to women, they would be displaying their ignorance. On the contrary, this verse must be interpreted using the entire text of the Bible, supporting the fact that women are completely equal to men in the eyes of the Lord. When the verse was written, as is true even in modern times, women were often exploited, kept down, and ruled over by aggressive men. This was then perpetuated over the years, creating a societal norm. The Lord was quick to write about this through the Apostle Peter, in an effort to put an end to the subjugation of women.

If you read the very beginning of the Bible, you'll be reminded of Adam & Eve in the Garden of Eden. As part of the curse received from eating of the forbidden fruit, a woman's desire would be for a man and that man would rule over her. This desire then leads to the temptation and opportunity of allowing a man to dominate her life. Couple this with a man's own sinful nature to overpower and his ability to do so through his strength, and an environment is created where a woman can be subjugated to the point of being truly controlled by a man.

Since this phenomenon is a direct result of the curse, then the opposite would have been true in the Lord's original design. He created them in His own image, with the ONLY difference from each other being gender. Neither was stronger or weaker, neither desired to rule over or be ruled. His own words describe them as in His image, male and female (together reflecting all the qualities of the Lord). Otherwise, they were created equally, to be partners in life and co-heirs in eternity.

But because of the curse and our own sinful nature, we must be aware of the tendency to subjugate women, thinking they are the weaker sex. To help combat this, Scripture says it is a man's task and responsibility to overcome it, not a woman's job to break free and rebel against it. It is a man's job, then, to be cognizant of his own tendency to overpower a woman physically, emotionally, and sexually. He is to be respectful of her, in the manner of Christ's love. This respect is defined as lifting up and honoring a woman, supporting her in the important roles she plays in our lives. The word for respect was not simply being kind or nice, but one of physical action propelling her onward and upward in Christ and in her place in this world. To respect a woman is to hold her in high regard for her tremendous value.

If a man does not lift her up and honor her, Scripture says the Lord may not hear his prayers. If you read throughout the Bible, the only prayers the Lord ignores are the prayers of a wicked man who is on his own path to destruction and Hell. Peter was not necessarily saying that the man who did not respect his wife would be going to Hell. He was, however, trying to stress how important it was to the Lord's own heart, that treating a woman with the utmost of respect and supporting her was more important to Him than any other prayer request a man might have. It is to a man's benefit, then, to lift up and honor women as it means he will have the attention of the Heavenly Father who is the giver of blessings and rewards in this life and the next.

If a man is dominating a woman, thinking she is the weaker sex, he is only demonstrating folly and his own weakness as a man. It takes a strong man to honor the women around him. It takes a true Christian to lift her up.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Gen 1:26-27, Gen 3:16, 1 Cor 12:22

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Basics

The Basics
Nov 7, 2011
Romans 8:39 ". . . neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Christianity is founded upon one basic principle. It is one that we know extremely well but take for granted. It is the simplest concept, yet so simple we doubt its truth. That principle is this: Jesus loves you. Some of you just shut your brains down because it is too elementary of a topic. You are too sophisticated in your thinking to stop and ponder the validity and magnitude of what such an easy principle can do in your life. We teach this basic principle to little children in sing-song effect, but we stop there. Because it is so easy to understand, it becomes only a child's Sunday school lesson, one that is seldom repeated again due to its simplicity. But it needs to be preached often, as we rarely grasp what it means for our lives.

If we truly lived with the understanding that Jesus loves us, then we would live differently. It would be easy to live out our Christianity because we would be in love with The One who loved us first. We would gladly live in service to Him, as it would be an outward expression of our gratitude for what His love did for us on the cross. We would never have issues with our self-image, pride, or sinful desires. Our emotional struggles would cease to exist. We would find fulfillment in life and never question our place in this world. Yes, it is an easy concept, so easy a child can understand it--but for some reason we don't get it. The Bible teaches that we must become like a little child in order to grasp the concepts of Heaven. So, to help you better understand, please click on the link below to learn from an expert.

This video was recorded at our breakfast table a few weeks ago, just before my daughter's third birthday. Her name is Brynley and she is an expert child. She also understands the very basic principle upon which Christianity is founded. Do you?

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Matt 18:3, John 3:16, John 8:42, John 14:15 & 23, John 21:16, 1 John 3:16, 1 John 4:17

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Handsome Reward

Handsome Reward
Oct 31, 2011
Matthew 16:27 "For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done."

Who doesn't want a reward? Rewards are definitely a good thing, something desired by all. Rewards are different from earnings, however. Earnings or wages are clearly defined, something that is negotiated before the work is done. Those wages are earned when the work is performed and can be demanded by the worker, upon completion of his work. Rewards can also be earned for a service that is performed. You can't receive a reward by just sitting idly by the wayside. However, rewards are not necessarily clearly defined. Rewards are given by a generous benefactor who determines the value of the service earned. The worker cannot negotiate the value of the reward; he must be satisfied with what the benefactor determines as appropriate.

The word for "reward" appears over fifty times in the Bible, typically referencing something the Lord will be granting to His subjects for their service. In a few of the instances, the reward is defined as access granted into Heaven upon physical death. In a few more of the instances the Lord, Himself, is defined as the reward (as in a perfect relationship with the Lord in Heaven). But in most of the instances where the word for "reward" appears, it is very nebulous as to what the "getter" will get. It IS clear, though, that the Lord promises a reward for all the things done on this earth, some form of payment in exchange for our loyal service to Him and mankind. The reward will be a form of trophy or currency or status or honor. Some believe the reward will be jewels in a crown that can be worn (which we can then lay at the feet of the Lord as a gift). I have often wondered what He would do with a billion crowns; He can only wear but one.

I don't understand a reward at all, actually. Here on earth, where the human nature prevails, we are full of pride and selfishness. On earth, any form of trophy, currency, status, or honor is desirable because these things satisfy our sinful nature. We will not have a sinful nature in Heaven. If you take away the sinful nature, there would be no pride or selfishness. Then, no amount of trophies, currency, status, or honor will need to exist. Without a sinful nature in Heaven, a reward won't even matter. We won't care in Heaven if we have more fame or fortune than the next guy. It won't even be an issue. We cannot relate to this in our current state on Earth because each of us understands what it means to have more than someone else. Rewards satisfy our flesh.

If it won't matter to us in Heaven to have more "things" than someone else, then why does the Lord even suggest He will reward us? He has decided that all we do matters to Him, therefore He is willing to motivate our selfish nature here on earth if it means we accomplish His agenda. He speaks to us in terms we can understand, concepts that are familiar to us. The fact of the matter is, no mind can fathom what it will be like it Heaven. Our wildest imaginations cannot even compare to the Glory that will be revealed to us when we get there. Your reward, Christian, is promised to be great for all the things you have accomplished here on Earth for the Lord. You are to be motivated in service to Him, all the days of your life, in anticipation of what you will receive on the other side. The Generous Benefactor will determine your reward and He promises to reward you handsomely for all that you have done in His name. Only, don't try to guess what your reward will be; you are guaranteed to be pleasantly surprised.

Be motivated to do good here on Earth in anticipation of a future Heavenly reward. The Lord promises it will be worth it, no matter what the reward looks like.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Gen 15:1, Ps 62:12, Prov 13:21, Prov 14:14, Prov 19:17, Prov 25:22, Jer 17:10, Malachi 3:13-18, Matt 5:12, Matt 6:1, Mark 9:41, Eph 6:8, Col 3:24, 2 John 1:8

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Wrong Envy

Wrong Envy
October 24, 2011
Psalm 73:3 "For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked."

All of us have envied someone else's life. We want what they have, the life they lead. Their lives, though possibly not Christian-like, look so much more appealing. We see their houses, cars, and lifestyle, and long for their possessions. They may not have a relationship with the Lord, but they still have so much of what we want. It is natural to pine after their lifestyle; after all, it is a life lived in the flesh, satisfying the desires of self. Desiring someone else's life is not a modern phenomenon; this problem was written about thousands and thousands of years ago by a particular Psalmist. He went through a period of looking at the way others lived and truly coveted their lifestyle, despite how they gained it all. It seemed their ways paid off. They weren't God-fearing people, but they certainly lived a life of luxury.

Thankfully, the Psalmist thought it through, truly pondering the envy he felt. He went full circle through the emotions of desiring what others had and realized they had everything in life--except for the Lord. The godless might have fame and fortune, but if they don't have a relationship with the Lord, they don't have anything. We envy those who have a fortunate lifestyle, but seldom do we envy those who have an amazing relationship with the Lord. When was the last time you looked at someone and thought you might like to have their same level of intimacy with the Creator of the Universe?

When the Psalmist finally realized the error in his thinking (for envying the lifestyle of the godless), he called himself ignorant and stupid. He was then filled with thanksgiving when the Lord was still willing to have a relationship with him, despite envying the wrong things in this life. He came to the understanding that if he had the Lord, then he had everything he could truly want in life. The Psalmist said it was refreshing to be in the presence of a tender God who led him wisely and blessed his life with good things from above, regardless of how others lived.

Oh, that we would all come to the same understanding and realization in life. Knowing and believing that the Lord is all we need. A relationship with the Heavenly Father is all that we could ever want. The godless might have a luxurious lifestyle here on Earth, but they will die without the Lord. And after they are gone, their money and fame will not be able to redeem them from Hell. An eternity with the Lord is far more desirable than a few years of pleasure on this earth. While it is not good to desire anything someone else has, it IS good to desire a relationship with the Lord. Think it through and realize what others have, no matter how amazing here on Earth, cannot compare to the majesty of the Lord of Hosts (who, incidentally, wants to be yours on a personal level).

Read the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 73 and see if you can relate to his thinking. Then see if you can come to his same realization: that you already have EVERYTHING if you are in the presence of the Holy One. It will change your day, knowing you have all you need when you have Him. Spend the rest of the day in His presence and see if you aren't fulfilled.

(This Psalmist's name was Asaph, who was the director of music under King David. It is believed David contributed to the thought behind the text while Asaph put it to music.)

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Psalm 73

Sunday, October 16, 2011


Oct 17, 2011
Proverbs 18:24 "One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother."

The term "fair weather friend" is indicative of a friend who only sticks around when it's easy and everything is in his favor, when it benefits him. But when the going gets tough, those fair weather friends cannot be found. You've had this experience, when a friend leaves you at the first sign of difficulty. I've had friends and even family turn their backs on me during a course of personal difficulty. Times like that really show you who the true friends are; they are loyal no matter the situation. Loyal friends are few and far between, it seems. But it goes both ways (friendship and loyalty). You've been tempted, I'm sure, to walk the other way instead of treading though difficulty with someone else. Having been on both sides of the situation I'm impressed by one man's loyalty and integrity to stick with a relationship regardless of how tough the scenario. His name was Joseph.

If you read the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis, you see a young man sold into slavery by his brothers. His brothers were not loyal to him and it seemed the Lord was not, either. Joseph grew up fearing the Lord and did not deserve to be enslaved. The Lord allowed it though, for many, many years. It would have been very tempting for Joseph to walk away from his relationship with God, turn his back from serving the Lord. After all, it appeared the Lord had left Joseph, disowning him to an undeserved punishment of slavery and eventually imprisonment. Joseph didn't turn his back on the Lord during his season of apparent abandonment. In fact, Joseph had an opportunity to rise above his situation without the Lord's help, but chose the more difficult path. Joseph was seduced by a powerful woman who could have influenced his predicament, helping him overcome slavery. But Joseph declined the temptation saying, ". . .How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” Joseph was loyal to the Lord no matter how tough things got.

Things got worse for Joseph when the disdained and rejected woman lied, causing Joseph's prison sentence; he still remained faithful to the Lord. Joseph sat in prison for years when he had an opportunity to hear the perplexing dreams of two fellow inmates. Joseph said, "Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams." This statement by Joseph suggested that he was not only loyal to the Lord, but close enough in his relationship to God so as to hear from the Lord secrets of the deep. Joseph could interpret the dreams because he had an intimate and personal connection with the Lord. Joseph remained loyal to the Lord and developed a deeper relationship with Him despite the opportunity for disharmony in their relationship. It was the Lord who allowed Joseph's imprisonment and yet Joseph remained loyal to his God.

You and I should take a few lessons from Joseph, staying true to the Lord despite whatever difficulty the Lord allows in our lives. Joseph didn't get mad a the Lord and blame Him; he drew closer to Him. But instead of growing deeper in our relationship with Him, we often let our circumstances drive a wedge between us, blaming the Lord for all that goes wrong in our lives, believing He has abandoned us. If Joseph can be imprisoned for years and draw closer to God, surely you and I can endure what the Lord allows, however difficult, and not let it hinder our relationship with Him.

The Lord promises to be a friend who sticks closer than a brother; we should consider the same in return. During unique times in your life, consider drawing closer to the Lord instead of blaming Him for allowing your circumstances, those situations in which He could have intervened but instead allowed them to happen. If the Lord is a friend who sticks closer than a brother, yet still allows bad things to happen to you, is it possible that those times are meant for your good somehow? Joseph declared that to be true towards the end of his life. He stated very clearly that the years of imprisonment where meant for good things, good things from the Lord. The Lord is loyal to His children, Christian, even in your life right now. Return the loyalty; you'll be glad you did.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Gen 39 & 40, Gen 50:20, Joshua 24:20, Heb 13:5, James 4:8

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Money's Motive

Money's Motive
Oct 10, 2011
2 Corinthians 9:7 "Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."

You have heard that you reap what you sow. This is a reference to sowing seed into the ground, expecting a future harvest of fruit from that seed. This is true in all facets of life, both the physical and spiritual. The Lord says you'll reap rewards when you sow financially. He says, "Test me in this and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it." Sounds like a winning formula: put a small financial seed IN and get a huge financial crop OUT! The Lord was talking about sowing the full tithe, ten percent off the top, into His house. He made this promise of blessing because His people were being greedy and stingy with their money. They were keeping the tithe to themselves. There wasn't any generosity in their hearts; they weren't even giving out of obedience or compulsion.

The Lord set up the first rules of financial giving way back in the Old Testament. He instructed the Israelites to bring their tithes into His storehouse. The Lord was extremely specific; "bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks." It wasn't just a ten percent tithe; there were freewill offerings and special gifts, too. We rarely give a full ten percent, let alone an additional freewill offering or special gift. If we do give at special times, we usually count it toward our tithe, checking it off the list, getting closer to that ten percent. There are quite a few who don't give at all, which the Lord considers hoarding. If someone is hoarding his tithe, it is safe to say he probably isn't giving freewill offerings or special gifts, either. Stingy with tithes probably means stingy on all counts.

The Apostle Paul said that we should each give what we have decided in our hearts to give and do so with a good attitude. (His comment was made in reference to directing our special gifts and freewill offerings, by the way, not redefining the tithe as an optional ten percent.) Paul was advising that the heart should be involved when we give, or stated more clearly, having a spirit of generosity. He said directly that the Lord loves a cheerful giver. It is interesting that right before he talked about giving cheerfully, he also reinforced the lesson of sowing. Paul wrote, "Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously." Bring this "sow/reap generously" principle back full circle to the Lord's promise of testing Him with the full tithe and reaping a harvest so large there won't be room enough to contain it. You'll reap what you sow. If you sow generously you will reap generously. This is indicative of a heart condition, not an amount. You may out-give most people in your church when it comes to the dollar amount or even percent of income, but if your heart isn't in it (sowing sparingly), you will reap sparingly.

If God's promise of pouring out financial blessing doesn't seem to apply in your life, maybe the fault isn't in the amount you are giving, but the heart in which you give. If you give out of compulsion or with motive to get something in return, then you are probably sowing sparingly regardless of the amount. You will reap sparingly if your motive isn't out of a spirit of generosity. Sow with an attitude of generosity, regardless of the amount, and you are guaranteed to reap generously. Change your heart; the Lord loves it when you give out of a willful and glad heart. If your heart isn't in it . . . well, you'll reap what you sow.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Lev 27:30-32, Numbers 18, Deut 12:5-6, Proverbs 11:18, Malachi 3:6-10, 2 Corinthians 9:6-14, Gal 6:7-8

Sunday, October 2, 2011

What If I Doubt

What If I Doubt
Oct 3, 2011
Romans 11:23 "And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again."

It is a human tendency to have doubts. Doubting can be healthy when it keeps us safe from those who would take advantage of us. Having doubts can also create a determination to discover the truth, which can be eye opening. But doubting the Lord is not generally a good idea, though He often has patience with us when we doubt. Some people have a rough time with doubting the Lord; at times I have had the same tendency. If you are honest with yourself; you have had your share of doubts, too. A few of you might be super-faith-stars; the rest of us are human.

The Apostle Thomas is often called Doubting Thomas because he needed to see the scars in the hands of Jesus to believe He had risen from the dead. People criticize Thomas to this day because he wanted proof that it was truly Him, but given the same circumstances I'm sure you and I might may have a similar request. We want proof sometimes in order to believe the Lord. Yes, the Lord honors those who do not ask for proof, but for those who do, the Lord is often patient.

Listen to what Jesus said to Thomas regarding his need for proof. Jesus said, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." Jesus did not deny him. If you read the original account, Jesus had appeared to the other disciples first and showed them His scars. Thomas was told second hand that Jesus was alive; he wanted the same opportunity the other disciples had been given. Jesus was patient with Thomas. Jesus didn't chastise him; He showed Thomas kindness when Thomas had doubts. Jesus met him without hesitation and without condemnation.

There are actually several instances in the New Testament when the Lord is patient regarding unbelief. One man knew that Jesus might be able to heal his son of an evil spirit. Jesus said it would be possible if the man believed. The man said, "'I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!'" Then Jesus honored the man's request and drove out the evil spirit. Jesus didn't chastise the man for his level of faith; Jesus worked with what the man had. Jesus met the man without hesitation and without condemnation.

Having doubts is natural, but living in a constant state of unbelief is not desireable. If you do have doubts, ask the Lord to reveal Himself to you. He will. If you have unbelief, come to the Lord with what you have and ask Him to help you overcome the rest.

He is willing to give you an opportunity to come to a decision regarding what you believe; just don't live a lifetime without seeking Him for the truth. There comes a time when you need to make up your mind, even though you might not have all the answers. He prefers faith without proof but He is willing to meet you where you are. If you have doubts, don't live in fear; ask the Lord for the clarity you need. It is better to ask the Lord for help than live a lifetime of duplicity, especially when Hell is at stake. I've never seen the Lord deny an earnest request for more of Him.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Mark 9:17-26, John 12:37, John 19:20-29, Romans 11:22-24, 1 Tim 1:13, Heb 3:19

Sunday, September 25, 2011

I Can't Do It

I Can't Do It
September 26, 2011
Philippians 4:13 "I can do all this through him who gives me strength."

Can't, cannot, these are words in our vocabulary that we use to suggest a reason to give up. If I say, "I can't," it gives me justification to quit. If we say it enough, it allows us to even believe it has truth or merit. If we tell other people we "can't" do something, then hopefully they will believe it, too, relieving us of the pressure of having to go through a struggle or difficult task. It is so much easier to believe in "can't" than it is to believe we can do something difficult. "Can't" gives us an excuse for our laziness or unwillingness, it eliminates hard work. Believing in "can't" also signals defeat; it means you will not even try. It is defeat before the opportunity to fail even occurs.

The Bible teaches that this thinking, this failure that results from "can't" is not an appropriate concept to propagate. In fact, it teaches just the opposite if you are a Christian. The Apostle Paul said, "I can do all this through him who gives me strength." Other translations of his words read it another way, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." We must be careful in how we interpret his teaching, however, being diligent to read the appropriate meaning into it. Paul was not saying Jesus would give him supernatural abilities or Herculean muscles. Paul was not saying that he would now possess physical skills surpassing that of a human, becoming god-like. Paul was saying that in difficult situations, it was the support from the person of Jesus Christ that would allow him to get through it. Paul was referring to emotional fortitude through difficulty or situational struggles. It was meant as a truth to help us endure hardship, not drawing upon human fortitude but rather spiritual grace from the Lord.

Paul was not even suggesting that the situation would be overturned through the strength of Jesus, but rather that survival through it would be possible. The Lord may not pluck you from the circumstance, requiring you to walk through it. There are many situations in life that I don't think I could emotionally or spiritually endure, like being captured by militants in a hostile nation or watching my child battle cancer. But Paul teaches that emotional and spiritual survival is possible if we use Christ as our bolster. His words are spoken as a guarantee for each new situation, meaning the strength of Christ will always be there for those who trust in Him and draw upon their faith in Him. It is a promise for you and me. Christ will be faithful to us. He will be there with us through our struggles, through our difficulties, through all the situations in life when we want to say, "I can't do it." True, you can't do it on your own, but you CAN do it through the strength of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Each of you reading this is going through something that you'd like to quit or change, something difficult in which defeat would seem far easier to accept. But the Lord would like to give you His strength today. For those who are afraid to step out in faith, afraid to venture forward thinking you can't do it, Christ is saying that He will be with you and give you what it takes each step of the way. You may not possess all the strength for the journey up front, but Christ will give you just enough of His fortitude to make it through whatever it is you are dealing with today, right now. Be blessed in knowing you do not walk alone through your struggles. Christ is in the trenches with you through every heartache, every difficulty, every report, every situation or circumstance in which it would be far easier to quit. Quitting is not what the Lord intended for your life and He does not want you to give up now. Draw upon His strength today, dealing with what ails you. You CAN make it through; He promises.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: 1 Cor 8:6, 2 Cor 9:8, 1 Tim 1:12, 1 Peter 4:11

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Faith and Sin

Faith and Sin
September 19, 2011
Romans 10:10 "For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved."

Does having "unconfessed" sin mean that the sin has not been forgiven? This is a question we have all asked at one point. The act of confessing sin is for repentance and change; it is admitting and acknowledging your sin in an effort to take responsibility, to start over with a clean slate. But what about the sin you just committed five minutes ago and haven't had the chance to confess? What if you died without having the opportunity to confess this sin? Does that mean the Lord has not forgiven you for it? Would this also mean you could be denied entrance into Heaven? You might say it could possibly be OK if the sin was a little white lie that didn't hurt anyone, but what about right after having an abortion? I would submit that it is not the act of confession alone that allows your sins to be forgiven; it is your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

There were four men who brought a paralytic to Jesus for healing. They lowered the man through the roof to present him for the opportunity. The words in the Bible right after that did not reveal a healing miracle at first. In fact, Jesus saw the faith of all five men and was astonished. Jesus immediately said, "Your sins are forgiven." The paralyzed man never confessed his sin to Jesus though he received forgiveness for everything he had done. He didn't confess his sins but he DID have tremendous faith in who Jesus was and what Jesus could do.

On another occasion, when Jesus was hanging on the cross, there was a man next to Him being crucified for his own sin of thievery. The man looked at Jesus and recognized He was the Son of the Living God. The man asked Jesus to remember him when Jesus made it to Heaven. Jesus, upon seeing the man's faith in Him was willing to honor the request. The man never confessed his sin directly, but died receiving eternal salvation.

The paralyzed man never confessed his sin but was forgiven. The dying thief never confessed his sin but made it to Heaven. Neither man made a physical act of confession for his sin. Jesus honored them both, though, not because they had an opportunity to confess but because they both demonstrated tremendous faith in who Jesus was and is, recognizing Him as the Savior, as the Son of God.

Interestingly, these two men are not known in the Bible by their names, which are never mentioned. They are known and will always be known by their faith. It takes faith in who Jesus is and what He can do in order to accomplish the forgiveness of sin and gain entrance into Heaven. No amount of heartless confession, nice deeds, or clean living will warrant forgiveness from the Lord. It takes faith in the person of Jesus as the Christ to lose the chains of sin and gain the freedom of eternity. It is the confession of faith that is critical then, the true heart facing Jesus that will be forgiven and saved.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Mark 2:1-12, Luke 5:17-26, Luke 23:32-43, Rom 5:1, Tim 6:12, James 5:15

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Unforgivable Sin

Unforgivable Sin
Sept 12, 2011
Mark 3:29 "But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin."

Jesus was a man. Yes, He was the son of God, which made Him a deity, but He was also a man. In that same vein, He functioned all the days of His life on earth as a man. He performed many miracles, which seem to reflect Him as God, but He performed them as a man. Interestingly, if you tally all the miracles performed by Jesus and compare them to the miracles performed by the disciples after Jesus ascended into Heaven, the number that Jesus performed would be small. But few seem to remember that the disciples worked miracles, too. In fact, it was Jesus who taught the disciples His secret to performing miracles: the Power of the Holy Spirit. Anything Jesus did on earth was only through the Power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus did not perform any god-like functions in His own strength while earth bound; He was a conduit of the Holy Spirit.

On one occasion while Jesus was performing miracles, the Pharisees accused Him of driving out demons by the power of a demon. Jesus was quick with His retort, saying that it was by the Power of the Holy Spirit (not the power of a demon or His own power as the Son of God). This led to the next discussion Jesus had regarding the Holy Spirit: blaspheming the Holy Spirit as an unforgivable sin. He said that you could deny Jesus as the Son of God and still be forgiven, but you would never be forgiven if you blasphemed against the Holy Spirit. The word blaspheme was used to describe an abuse, a curse, or irreverence regarding the Power of the Holy Spirit. Why this is such a grave sin, I do not understand, but I DO understand the Power of the Holy Spirit.

When my wife was pregnant with our second child, she suffered from a brain tumor. She could not undergo treatments while pregnant. Our unborn daughter at the time also suffered in utero, as all the scans and ultrasounds reflected health problems. The doctors said it appeared our unborn child would enter the world with mal-functioning kidneys, spina bifida, and Down’s syndrome, if she made it out alive (my wife’s tumor could have terminated the pregnancy). All we could do was pray that the Power of the Holy Spirit, the same Power that raised Christ from the dead, would heal our daughter. Our daughter was soon born and in perfect health; her kidney issues resolved within months. No spina bifida or Down’s, either. A few weeks later, the doctors checked on my wife’s brain tumor. The results were astonishing. They could not find a tumor; the Lord had healed her through the Power of the Holy Spirit. To honor the Lord and the Power that healed our daughter, we named our daughter a very special name which carries the meaning of the Holy Spirit. Her first name means "like a dove" or "small bird" and her middle name means "small fire" or "like tongues of fire" (both references to the physical demonstration of the Holy Spirit).

I say all this as to not blaspheme the Power of the Holy Spirit. If I count my wife’s healing and my daughter’s perfection to happenstance, I blaspheme the Holy Spirit, an unforgivable sin. If I attribute success to modern science and do not speak reverently of the Power of the Holy Spirit, I blaspheme Him. If I dismiss miracles in my life as commonplace or random acts of nature, I risk living with an unforgivable sin. If I call my miracles as though I somehow had a part in them, I risk the Lord holding something against me. You, too, have undoubtedly had a miracle in your life at one point or another and must recognize that it was through the Power of the Holy Spirit. Recount your story and be sure to attribute the success to the Power of the Holy Spirit. Be careful not to give credit to modern science, luck, randomness, or the gods of this world. This could leave you with an unforgivable sin.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Matt 9:4-8, Matt 10, Matt 12:15-32, Mark 2:23 - Mark 3:30

Monday, September 5, 2011

Get Out of the Boat

Get Out of the Boat
September 5, 2011
Matthew 14:29 "'Come,' [the Lord] said."

We've all heard the story about Jesus walking on the water; it was during this same instance that He called to Peter and he, too, walked on water. (To get the full effect of the story, it must be read in three versions of the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, & John). The disciples had just witnessed the miracle of Jesus feeding the five thousand people with a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish. Then Jesus instructed the disciples to go on ahead to the next stop, which required an evening's row across a lake. In fact, the lake was approximately 8-10 miles across; the disciples had made it about half way across by 2 a.m. They were rowing the boat when a storm began to blow; they struggled to row against it. Then rising out of the stormy night, they saw an apparition walking on the lake; they didn't know it was Jesus. They were petrified, believing what they saw was a ghost, or an evil spirit. It was like a scene out of a scary, horror movie--a dark and stormy night complete with a suspenseful spirit.

Jesus knew their fearful thoughts and called out to them, telling them not to be afraid. They heard His voice, a familiar voice. Peter decided to double check, wanting to make sure it was really Him. Peter asked Jesus to invite him out on the water to verify His identity. Peter said, "Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water." Then Jesus said, "Come." When Peter heard that word "Come," he knew it was Jesus and stepped out of the boat to walk on the water with Him. Peter was willing to step out in faith because he had heard the voice of Jesus. Recall when Peter met Jesus for the first time. Peter was in the exact same position, sitting in a boat, and Jesus said, "Come." Peter was familiar with this direction from the Lord; he had heard it before. He followed the first time, and he was willing to get out of the boat to walk on the water when he heard it again. But notice, before Jesus called him from the safety of the boat, to walk out in faith, Peter made himself available to the opportunity.

I recall one time when the Lord asked me to step out in faith. I had been a Christian for years, and was trying to figure out the next step in my life. I needed direction. After making myself available to the Lord through prayer, I distinctly heard His voice calling me to make a huge move (about 2,000 miles away from my current, comfortable position). I was willing to follow The Voice because I was familiar with it. After moving forward, though, I became afraid; it was a major decision and I didn't really have a plan. All I had was that voice telling me to step out. After speaking with a very wise man, he counseled me regarding my fears. He told me to re-play that voice in my head, the one calling me out, every time I was fearful in my new journey. Thankfully, I did what he suggested. I stepped out in faith and the Lord carried me through. Fear crept inside my head every now and again, but I played the voice of the Lord over and over, reminding myself it was Him who had called me to step out in faith.

Peter didn't do that. Peter didn't remember it was the voice of the Lord who had called him out of the boat onto that water. Even though it was only moments before, Peter became afraid on the water and started to sink. The fear of sinking is what keeps you and me from stepping out. In fact, the fear of sinking is what keeps us from being willing to step out. We seldom make ourselves available to the Lord, for fear He might actually ask us to step out in faith. Be honest with yourself; you probably aren't willing to sell everything you own and move to a different country tomorrow. And if you have done that, you know what it is like to be fearful of doing the right or wrong thing. But the Lord will always carry you through if you have faith in Him and you are stepping out in obedience to His voice.

Peter didn't begin to sink until he lacked faith out in the midst of the lake. Jesus never changed His position; it was Peter who forgot it was the voice of the Lord calling him to step out. Know that if you step out, you must have faith that the Lord WILL carry you through. Make yourself available, listen for His voice, and remain faithful to that voice however fearful you are when the waters are rough. You will only sink if you lose faith that the Lord is the one calling you, taking your eyes off of Him. Go ahead, make yourself available; He promises not to let you sink when you step out.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Matthew 14, Mark 6, John 6

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Jealousy and Blessing

Jealousy and Blessing
August 29, 2011
Zechariah 8:2 "This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'I am very jealous for Zion; I am burning with jealousy for her.'"

Jealousy. We've all been jealous of someone else. We want what they have or we want their affection. Jealousy is a very volatile emotion. It can be dangerous to have jealousy and it is a dangerous emotion to arouse in someone else. It is especially hazardous to arouse the jealousy of the Lord. He calls Himself a jealous god. What is He jealous for? Simple: our affection. He wants our hearts. He wants us to serve Him and do everything as unto Him. The Lord wants us to think of Him before everything else. He wants to be first in our lives. Because of His jealousy, He watches our hearts very closely. He knows when we are turned toward Him or interested in something else.

It is easy to see how the Lord can become jealous when we are serving money or fame or status instead of serving Him. Those idols are obvious enough to see in our lives without a great degree of investigation. But other things make the Lord jealous, too, and they happen within the four walls of our churches. The Lord is jealous when we do good things just for the sake of doing good. While this seems silly, the Lord wants us to do good things because our hearts are turned toward Him. It's a bigger deal than you and I think; the Lord felt strongly enough about the topic to even write about it. In Zechariah 7, the Lord was frustrated with His nation because they were fasting and celebrating the Lord's feasts, as was their religious custom and tradition. And while this fasting and feasting was done correctly in the physical sense, following the instructions laid out by the Lord, the people's hearts were not truly in it. It was done out of habit. They did good things, but not for the sake of the Lord. They did it out of habit or custom. Because they didn't have their hearts in the right place, they were also easily enticed into sin. The Lord was frustrated with this and was jealous. He wanted their hearts, even if occasionally they followed a few commands.

This happens in the church. We volunteer, give to the needy, donate our time, but we do it out of habit sometimes. We do our good deeds because it is good, not necessarily because we are deeply in love with the Lord. When the Lord was jealous for His nation in Zechariah 7, He burned so deeply that He allowed financial and physical destitution into the land because He said their hearts were as hard as stone. They thought the Lord was angry with them; they didn't understand He was jealous for their affection, like a lover. He was jealous for their hearts. He promised, though, to bless them if they just turned their hearts toward Him (Zechariah 8). Listen to His words of blessing He promised if their hearts were turned toward Him: "The seed will grow well, the vine will yield its crops, and the heavens will drop their due." This outpouring upon the people was promised as an overflow of what the Lord's love would do for them. Just as jealousy led Him to bring devastation to the land, His love would bring them refreshment.

There is another, more famous, instance in the Bible when the Lord promises such a blessing. It was written earlier in the Bible found in 2 Chronicles 7:14, "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land." Notice, though, that His blessing required them to turn away from the other things they had set before their eyes. He wanted to be first in their lives back then and He wants to be first in our lives now. The act of turning your heart toward the Lord is not simply the act of turning away from sin (you can do good just for the sake of doing good). The Lord wants you to turn your heart toward Him and fall deeply in love with Him. He is jealous for you and your affection. He wants you to do good things, but because your heart is turned toward Him in love and adoration. Don't give your money out of habit, give it because you are in love with Him. Don't volunteer your time because it is the right thing to do, do it because you are passionate about the Lord. Don't participate in the church because that's what you've always done. Be an active participant because your heart is in step with the Lord's.

Fall in love with the Lord and do everything you do out of adoration for Him. You'll find that His love in return will be far greater than anything imaginable on this earth. Do everything you can to keep His jealousy subsided.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: 2 Chronicles 7, Zechariah 7 -9

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Losing Grace

Losing Grace
August 22, 2011
Romans 6:1 "What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?"

We are all sinners saved by grace. Grace is something extended to us out of the Lord's own generosity. We are not owed grace, nor do we especially deserve it. In fact, that's part of the definition of grace: the Lord giving us a pass when we probably deserve otherwise. It is akin to mercy, when the Lord withholds just and due punishment for our sinful acts. Thank the Lord for grace, without it we would not have the opportunity to beg for His clemency. In the last twenty years or so, I have seen a grace movement within the church walls that has had a dramatic impact on how people view the Lord and who is able to feel comfortable walking into a church building. Fifty years ago the message coming out of our churches was still one of repent and be saved because the Lord would not accept us with sin in our lives. This message has changed to be far more full of grace. We tell people to come as they are, the Lord will accept them. While this is true, the pendulum of this message is having an unintended impact.

We are so full of grace in our society and our churches that the most wretched of sinners can now feel comfortable darkening the door of a church. This is a good thing, but somehow we also enable the casual church attendee to continue with his sinful lifestyle while regularly attending our church. The end result of this is a church full of un-saved, non-Christians who may never make it to Heaven. Paul warns of the potential in this message of Grace while writing his letter to the church in Rome. Obviously, the more sin in a person's life means more grace is required to cover it. Thank the Lord for this; there is grace enough. The most wretched of sinner may now come to the Lord through an abundance of grace. But then a transformation must happen; the sinner must die to that sin and live in righteousness. Grace must not become a crutch to justify sin. We are able to live free WITH grace, not freely live FOR grace. If we continue in our sin, knowing there is grace enough, we have nullified the reason for grace.

Paul, as a writer for the Lord, says that sin must die in us. We are to receive the abundant gift of grace and live to no longer require such an amount. If we still live needing an abundance of grace, then sin is still the lord of our life. Paul then sums this up by saying that the wages of this sin is death (eternal separation from the Lord, in Hell). Wow! We can receive the Lord's grace yet still be damned to Hell if we live with His grace as a means to justify our lifestyle of sin. This message of the Lord's grace, intended to bring life, can have the opposite effect if left unchecked in our churches.

The solution to this is not easy, because the Lord's grace must be preached. You cannot take the message of grace out of our churches. However, the church then has an increased obligation to preach a message of a lifestyle change. Paul used an analogy for his church in Rome to combat the abuse of the Lord's grace. He recommended they become slaves to righteousness. This is not a message I have EVER heard taught from our pulpits. But, being a slave to righteousness sounds far more appealing than living an eternity in Hell. Christian, it is time we have a new movement within our church walls. The Lord's full message must be preached and that includes being a slave to righteousness. If we don't preach this message, then all those people we worked so hard to bring into our church will still be going to Hell.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Romans 6

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Walk This Way

Walk This Way
August 15, 2011
Isaiah 30:21 "Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in it.'"

Sometimes, it seems finding direction in life is a never-ending quest. We long for the definitive answer as to what we should do with our lives, permanently. It would be so much easier if we all had a concrete answer to that age-old question, "What should I be when I grow up?" This question is asked by people of every age, even the seniors among us. A map with a final destination would be ideal, that way we could see the clear path to follow. We would know what we were supposed to be doing at EVERY stage in life. There would be no questions; the way would be crystal clear. We could then relax and know what was up ahead, even the speed bumps. But for some reason, the Lord does not work this way in our lives. I have spoken with many elderly people over the years and they advise there is no finality on knowing what the next step should be. Rather, life is like a treasure-less box of random items. Let me explain.

We've all been given a treasure box filled with items, but for some reason we don't see or understand the value of the items. In your box you'll find random things; they might include: a piece of wood, a triangle, two small coins, some fish food, an old key, a pack of batteries, four sets of shoes that don't fit, etc. We open the box and think we are supposed to make sense of it all, somehow put it all together to build one sculpture. This final sculpture, we think, is what we are supposed to be in life or what we are to become, the end result of our life's work. Not so. The Lord doesn't give us those items to build ourselves up, rather to be used for Him. The items in the box are the talents and situations in life we all have been given. They are not meant to be balled together for one final presentation, but rather a lifetime of experiences in serving the Lord.

When you begin your journey with the Lord, your life becomes a path of glorifying Him every step of the way. The items in your box are to be used for His purposes. You will not understand the items until the exact moment they are needed. You'll come up against a random locked door and realize you've been given an old key to open it. The lights will be out and there will be a flashlight needing batteries; you'll have them on hand at the right moment. A stranger will need two small coins; you'll have those, too. All for the glory of the Lord. Your job is not to figure out what the items will be needed for; your job is to simply follow the Lord, wherever He leads.

The Bible says there will be a voice inside of you that says, "This is the way, walk in it." This is the voice of the Lord; it will not show you a map or tell you what you should become in the end. The voice will lead you to the next step only. You might feel ill-equipped for the next step, but don't worry, you'll have a treasure box filled with the right talents to be pulled out when the Lord intends for you to need them. The Lord will give you the right things at the right time for your journey; your job is to simply follow that voice. Don't try to make sense of it, thinking it is a final destination. And those items in your box, they are not really yours. So, if you want some permanence in your life or a concrete answer, know that the only thing final and concrete is the Lord. Everything else is up for His leading. Walk this way. Listen closely; He's directing your steps even now.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Psalm 37:23, Psalm 119:104-106, Psalm 139:16, Proverbs 28:6, Jer 6:16, Hosea 14:9, Matt 6:34, John 16:13, 1 Cor 12, 1 Cor 14:1 & 12, Heb 2:4, James 4:13

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Lord Left

The Lord Left
August 8, 2011
Judges 16:20 "Then she called, 'Samson, the Philistines are upon you!' He awoke from his sleep and thought, 'I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.' But he did not know that the LORD had left him."

Samson was a Biblical version of a modern day superhero. He had supernatural strength and no one could best him in battle, not even a thousand men. Recall the story: he was born a Nazarite and he could not cut his hair, consume alcohol, or touch a dead body. Because of this dedication, the Lord was willing to give Samson special strength, as He had a specific purpose for Samson to fulfill. Most people believe the source to Samson's strength was in his hair, because it was when the devilish woman cut his hair that his strength was noticed to have vanished. But I would submit to you that the source of Samson's strength was not in his hair, but in his relationship with the Lord.

Samson violated the "dead body" rule when he scooped some honey from a dead lion carcass. It is believed Samson violated the "alcohol" rule the night Delilah cut off his hair (how else could she have a man come in to shave his head unless he was drunk?). And then of course, he violated the "hair cut" rule by giving away his secret, thus falling prey to the woman's trap. The only way he could so willingly violate his vows was if they no longer mattered to him. If his vows to the Lord did not matter anymore, then certainly his relationship with the Lord was not top priority, either. The night Delilah had Samson's hair cut off, she cried out that the Philistines were attacking. The Bible says Samson arose and said, "I’ll go out as before and shake myself free." Notice Samson didn't say, "The Lord will deliver me again." In Samson's arrogance, his words declared that he alone possessed the strength, never acknowledging it was from the Lord.

After Samson's hair was cut, the Bible doesn't say "his strength failed because of his hair." No, it says, "the Lord had left him." What a powerful statement, "the Lord had left him." The Lord doesn't honor people who have no regard for Him. Samson's actions had demonstrated that the Lord and his relationship with Him were not too important. The Lord finally got the hint and walked away from Samson, taking His strength with Him. The Lord didn't take away Samson's strength; the Lord took His own strength from Samson. It was never Samson's in the first place. Anything Samson did, or accomplished, was a direct result of the Lord's presence and strength in his life.

Christian, you can do nothing on your own apart from what the strength of the Lord allows. You may not feel like a modern day superhero, but every thing in your life is a direct result of the Lord's presence and strength. If you decide not to acknowledge Him, He is willing to keep His strength to Himself. When the Lord takes His presence from your life, it leaves you vulnerable to attack. Samson learned that lesson the hard way when they gouged out his eyes and imprisoned him for years. But there is always a second chance to get the Lord's presence and strength back, once you've re-established your right relationship Him. Samson, at the end of his life, after ALL his failures, had more success with the Lord's strength in one moment than during all his previous years combined. The Lord brought His strength back into Samson's life and gave him one more victory. Yes, his hair grew back, but so did his right relationship with the Lord.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Judges 13-16, John 15:1-8, Phil 4:13

Sunday, July 31, 2011

National Curse

National Curse
August 1, 2011
Malachi 3:9 "You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me."

Economic blessing is something most every person of any nation desires. We'd all love the random large checks in the mail and jobs for all eligible workers. Everyone has day-dreamed of what it would be like to have an endless supply of money, or at least money enough for all the bills with a little left over. There is a known formula for putting yourself in the best position possible for making that happen, if you serve the Lord. You may have heard it as bringing the WHOLE tithe into the Lord's house (this is that ten percent of your gross income). You may read about it in Malachi chapter 3. But, there is another factor to consider when waiting for that economic blessing to fall from the sky. It is a curse that is experienced if "you" don't tithe.

In Malachi 3, the Lord was quick to judge the entire nation of Jews because, as a whole, they were not bringing the full tithe into the Lord's house. Certainly there were a few; there must have been some, who tithed faithfully and diligently in that whole nation of people. But regardless of how faithful the few tithed and waited for the financial blessing that was promised to follow, the entire nation was under a curse. It does not seem fair that the faithful would receive the same curse as all the others who didn't tithe. But the Lord was clear the financial curse extended to the whole nation, regardless of who was actually tithing.

Consider the United States today, the population of which is currently over three hundred million. A California research firm, The Barna Group, estimated that in 2007 only 5% of the U.S. population tithed on a regular basis. But in 2007, over 76% of the U.S. population identified themselves in different sampling polls as Christian. WOW! Talk about not putting your money where your mouth is! Yet, as a nation, and as individual Christians, we wonder why our economic blessing from the Lord seems non-existent. If you look at many other nations, the percentage of Christians is much lower and consequently, the percentage of individuals who tithe.

The percentage of Christians in the U.S. has declined steadily over the last decade and so, incidentally, has the financial success. It seems every year there are fewer Christians AND the percentage of those Christians who tithe declines. Could there be a correlation between the financial decline in the U.S. and the decline in individual giving? I would suggest that the Lord might be trying to send a message. I would also suggest that the first nation of individuals to dedicate themselves to the Lord whole heartedly (and put their money where their mouth is) would find the Lord's words in Malachi to be true!

In the Bible, a few couldn't carry the whole nation with regard to tithing and subsequent blessing. I would also suggest the same might be true today, in ANY nation. We don't have to start with every person, just everyone who claims to be a Christian. Instead of sending financial aid to other countries (though they need it), maybe we should send more missionaries. Instead of complaining that the politicians can't fix our own economic decline, maybe we should just start tithing on the money we DO have? That means all of those who call themselves by the Lord's name, not just a few faithful.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Jer 8:12-14, Malachi 3, Luke 6:38, Luke 12:31, 2 Cor 9:5

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Thanks and Multiplication

Thanks and Multiplication
July 25, 2011
John 6:11 "Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted..."

To want more than we have is part of the natural human condition. We are never satisfied with the amount that we have, however great or small. We always want more. Sometimes we work for it, sometimes we gamble for it, sometimes we wish for it, and sometimes we pray for it. We pray for it because, in the back of our minds, we know the Lord is the source of all things, who better to grant our wishes come true. But the source of wanting more of anything, except for a few basic needs, comes from our selfish, sinful nature. When we live with an insatiate desire for more (unless the subject matter is the Lord), we give sway to being ungrateful and eventually greedy. The Lord does not grant anything to us when it is born of our sinful desire.

Jesus was preaching to a very large crowd of people, approximately 5,000. The people were hungry and truly needed to eat. No food was readily available and there weren't any hot dog vendors around to meet the need. The only things available were a few loaves of bread and a few fish. You remember the story. Jesus multiplied the few pieces of bread and fish to feed all five thousand people. But if you read the story carefully, Jesus was not able to create the multiplication miracle until He had given thanks. The multiplication miracle did not come from being greedy or wanting more, it came from sincere thanks and appreciation for what the Lord had already supplied (the first loaves and fishes). Jesus would not have been able to perform the miracle if it were born of His selfish desire to simply have more or if He was being greedy. No, He was thankful, something you and I fail at every single day.

Consider, for instance, the last meal you consumed. It has become a tradition in Christian culture to say a small prayer of "thanks" before each meal. You've certainly done this once or twice. I've probably said a small prayer of thanksgiving a million times before I have eaten. But when was the last time you and I were sincerely and truly grateful for the meal we were about to consume. When was the last time our hearts were filled with appreciation to the Lord for supplying our daily bread? I've probably said a prayer of thanksgiving more times out of habit than I have out of a spirit of gratefulness. We are all guilty of this. Yet we have the audacity to ask for more, and I'm not simply referring to food. We live without a spirit of gratitude but still ask the Lord to open the floodgates of Heaven to give us more of the things we want.

The miracle Jesus performed in multiplying the loaves and the fishes was out of basic human necessity to fuel the body for survival. It was certainly not born of greed, adding excessive amounts to what He already was given. It was done only through a spirit of true thankfulness. But notice what happened AFTER Jesus had given thanks and created the unbelievable multiplication miracle. Each person who consumed their share of the loaves and fishes had as much as he wanted. Scripture doesn't say they consumed as much as they needed but they had "as much as they wanted." Wow, the outcome everyone wants from the onset, more of what we want regardless of need. The Lord only allowed that amount, though, because it was born from a spirit of thankfulness.

Try spending more time being thankful, truly thankful, than asking for more. You might actually end up with more of what you want anyway! The multiplication miracle you're looking for won't happen unless you're truly grateful for what you DO have.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Psalm 136, Neh 12:31, Jer 33:11, Mark 8, Matt 15, John 6:23, 1 Thess 5:18

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Everything is Mine

Everything is Mine
July 18, 2011
Psalm 50:9-10 "I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills."

Everything in the world belongs to the Lord. Everything! It is all His. He may do with it as He chooses and does not need any assistance from us. He may use His property at His discretion for all intents and purposes. This means the Lord may keep His riches to Himself or re-distribute to others for their consumption. Either way, everything is His. No matter what you have, it is not yours; it belongs to the Lord. Your wealth and property are not your own, they are His. The Lord said, "I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills." Let's examine this statement.

Bulls or goats in someone's pens were considered their property. The livestock someone could keep penned up was probably enough to feed an extended family for a year. At the time the Bible was written, a family could keep maybe a few bulls or goats in a pen, but not hundreds or thousands. It would have been too expensive. Naturally, animals in the forest would be considered anyone's game, but must be hunted. Cattle on a hill, however, were the choicest of property. If cattle were on a hill, they were put there by a wealthy owner or rancher under the protection of his herdsmen. The grass on a hill is considered a tougher grass that is harder to digest. It makes for a longer growth period to the time when the cow can be slaughtered for meat. However, the meat is superior. Cattle out in the open are also a target for predators or thieves; they are easily seen and readily hunted. Hence the need for herdsmen who could defend the cattle better from a hill than an unprotected valley. In short, if cattle were on a hill, they were placed there intentionally as a wealthy man's property.

But those cattle on that hill, the Lord said, do not actually belong to that rich man. The wealthy owner may place them there and think they are his property, but the wealth belongs to the Lord. The Lord said He owned the cattle on a thousand hills. He was suggesting that all the wealth of all the richest men combined were His alone. This is disheartening if you are one of those few rich men who put his cattle on a hill. In the United States alone, the richest one percent control about 42% of the wealth. The top 10% of people control about 93% of the wealth. That leaves seven percent of the United State's wealth divided in the hands of 90% of the population. WOW. How unbalanced that seems. But the Lord, He owns that top one percent's wealth. In fact, He controls it ALL.

What you have is not your own. You are entrusted with it and asked to be a good steward with it. But at any given moment, the Lord may do with it as He will. The Lord is apt to re-distribute His wealth as He sees fit to accomplish His own purposes. Don't be so selfish and think the little you have stored up belongs to you, to do with as you feel appropriate. It is the Lord's and He will do with it as He pleases. Change your mindset right now regarding the paycheck you will be earning this week. ALL of it is the Lord's. Feel blessed if He lets you use some of it for your own consumption, but feel extremely blessed if He asks you to re-distribute it to others who may need it far more than you. The Lord doesn't need your money, it is already His. If you consider it His from the onset, it will not hurt as much when He asks you to give some of it away.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Psalm 37:25, Psalm 50, Prov 13:22, Prov 18:10-12, Luke 16:11, 1 Tim 6:17, 1 Peter 4:10, Rev 3:17

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Lord Never Makes Sense

The Lord Never Makes Sense
July 11, 2011
2 Kings 5:10 ''Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, 'Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.'''

You have probably heard the phrase, "The Lord works in mysterious ways." Where this phrase came from, I don't know, but it is certainly true. While it is not found directly in the Bible, it is absolutely backed up by example after example when reading through its pages. In one such instance, there was a man with leprosy who was directed to wash seven times in the Jordan River. The man, Naaman, didn't like that idea; listen to his response in 2 Kings 5:11-12:

"But Naaman went away angry and said, 'I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?' So he turned and went off in a rage."

You and I respond like this, with doubt and disdain when we feel the path the Lord has for us does not make sense. We rationalize and recommend how best the Lord should work in our lives. But the Lord does not do things the way we think He should. Oftentimes, the Lord does not make sense. It didn't make sense for Naaman to wash himself in waters that he considered inferior. Naaman went off in a rage and did not receive the miracle he needed. He disagreed with the Lord and therefore did not receive what the Lord had for him. What a great lesson to learn for you and me. When we stomp our feet like a child and decide we don't like how the Lord is working, we can and will miss the miracle the Lord has for us. The Lord does not ask us to figure it out or to understand it; He asks that we submit to His way of doing things, to His recommendations.

Naaman wanted a super-human miracle to change his life, not an obscure method that required his submission and obedience. Submitting to the Lord's method required Naaman to have faith in the Lord, however random it seemed. You and I must do the same thing, submit to the Lord in order for faith to work its miracle in our lives and situations. If the Lord recommends it, it is best for us! But how often have we all deviated from the Lord's recommendations? We do this on a daily basis, apply our own rational thought and do things that make sense only to us. What makes sense to the Lord will not necessarily make sense to you and me. It isn't our job to figure it out; it is our job to obey and follow through with His recommendations. If you fight His way of doing things you will fight your own miracle. You have probably missed out on so many of the Lord's blessings for your life because you didn't do things His way.

Naaman finally, after the urging of others, submitted to the Lord's method. He did what made sense to the Lord and then received the miracle the Lord had for him. You will receive the Lord's miracle for your situation only when you do things His way. Don't make recommendations to the Lord on how best for Him to accomplish things in your life. Do things His way from the onset; your miracles will come to you so much more quickly.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: 2 Kings 5:1-14, Job 37:5, Is 55:8-9, Heb 1:1

Monday, July 4, 2011

End of Suffering

End of Suffering
July 4, 2011
1 Peter 4:1 "Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin."

I would like to be done with sin in my life. But in all honesty, I really don't want to get rid of sin; I want to get rid of the consequences of sin. I want to be rid of feeling convicted about my sin, but I don't really want to get rid of my wrongdoings. I would like to do whatever I want with no repercussions and still have the Lord's favor, regardless of how selfish I was acting. This is not an option, though, having your cake and eating it, too. You cannot live with sin in your life AND be pleasing to the Lord. You cannot serve the Lord AND serve your selfish desires. I've tried it and it does not work. You must choose the Lord's will or your own sin. Those are the only options.

There is a formula for getting rid of the sin in your life, but you won't want to hear it. In order to be rid of the sin in your life, you must take on the attitude of suffering. You won't want to admit it is true, but you must if you believe in the Lord and His Word. It is in plain print; Scripture couldn't be more clear. Read it for yourself, "Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin."

How unfortunate a statement for those of us who'd like to hang on to our selfish and fleshly desires. We want to end suffering in this present lifetime, not embrace it or endure it quietly. We want pleasure, not unpleasantness or discomfort. In fact, most moments of our lives are spent figuring out a way to enjoy things more and be rid of any amount of difficulty, work, or suffering. Some cultures, that aren't even Christian-based, embrace suffering as a lifestyle, but not us. We want all the fullness of Christ with none of the heartache. But to end our suffering on this earth would mean physical death or a life of filled with selfish, sensual satisfaction. Either way, it would mean the end of what the Lord wants for you and me right here, right now. The end of your suffering in this lifetime would be the permanence of sin.

On the flipside, though, if you embrace an attitude of suffering it would be the end of your selfish satisfaction, the end of your sin. Actually, listen to what Scripture says of those who choose to embrace an attitude of suffering. "As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God." Those who choose to lay down their selfish desires end up serving the Will of the Father. This is not self-punishment but laying down what you want in any and every circumstance, even if it results in no satisfaction for yourself. In order to live for the Will of the Lord, you must choose to set aside your own gratification. This would, as a result, mean the end of your life filled with sin. It doesn't wipe away your sin (the blood of Jesus took care of that) but it allows for your sinful nature to be put away, as all sin is born of selfishness.

Try it for a week, giving up anything you personally "want" in every and any circumstance. It will feel like suffering, but it will also make a way for the Lord's will to be accomplished through you. It will also mean you will have sinned a LOT less.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Matt 6:24, Mark 8:34, Romans 6:7, Philippians 1:21, Col 2:20, 1 Peter 4

Sunday, June 26, 2011


June 27, 2011
James 4:7 "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."

Resist the devil and he will flee from you! That is so much easier said than done. In fact, we want to be tempted by him; we like it. Somehow it gives us permission and an excuse to engage in sin. Satan tempts us and we give in to it; it is a familiar cycle. He tempts us to do things we want to do anyway. Without Satan tempting us, we probably wouldn't do half the things we know are wrong. It is far easier to give in to temptation than it is to resist it. Resisting takes fortitude, will-power. Resistance to temptation takes a strong person who can stand up to the blowing forces of a hurricane-like devil. Or so we think. I would submit to you that resistance does NOT take will-power or a strong person, but simply a smart person with only a little bit of effort. In fact, if you rely on will-power alone to resist the devil, you will eventually fail and feel miserable about it.

Recall Adam and Eve in the garden. When they were tempted by the serpent, he twisted the truth to convince them to sin by eating the forbidden fruit. He told them that the fruit would make them god-like. The fruit was the "knowledge of good and evil," which IS a quality the Lord possesses. But Adam and Eve thought they would have far more god-like powers by the way the devil made it sound. They caved in to his temptation, not because they weren't strong enough, but because they did not combat him with the right argument, nor did they even try.

Fast forward a few thousand years and you find Jesus alone in the wilderness, where He had fasted for 40 days. (He was fasting and praying because He was stressed about His coming trials and pending crucifixion on the cross, something He wasn't super excited about going through.) The devil came to tempt Him, to see if He would give in to sin. The devil declared that Jesus could have all the riches and power in the world if only He would bow down and worship Satan. Jesus did not give in to temptation that day, but He didn't resist by will-power alone. He wasn't even able to resist simply because He was a strong person (He was weakened from not eating for 40 days AND He was anxious about His coming death). Jesus resisted the devil by Truth and the Knowledge of the one true Lord. This was not a super-spiritual act that we have to emulate in order to resist temptation. Jesus refuted the devil's temptation with His head, not His fortitude.

Jesus resisted Satan by speaking the words, "Man shall not live by bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God." Jesus wasn't using some crazy trickery to refute the devil; He was quoting scripture found in Deut 8:3. He was quoting scripture that talks about being humbled and submitted to the Lord. Jesus' denial to engage in Satan's temptation was a logical action of rationale, not a nervous and trepidatious wringing of the hands to escape it by the skin of His teeth. Jesus had armed Himself with the Word of the Lord and stuck to it because He believed it as the Truth. Adam and Eve, on the other hand, did not stand on the Word of the Lord, which they didn't believe anyway. Had Adam and Eve actually believed the Lord's words as truth, they would NOT have given in to temptation. They would have argued against Satan's words, refuting them with the Word of the Lord! The fight then against temptation is a knowledge of the Lord's truth and using it to resist the devil's schemes. It doesn't take fortitude, only knowledge and a bit of effort.

If you find yourself giving in to temptation, you haven't armed yourself with enough of the Lord's truth OR you don't actually believe what you already know. Either way, you're doing yourself a dis-service and only trying to deny temptation by will-power or staying strong. The Bible says to humble yourself to the Lord's ways then resist the devil; Satan will flee from you. Resist him with the Word of the Lord, which you learned in the times you truly submitted to Him. If it worked for Jesus, it will work for you and me.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Gen 3, Deut 8, Matt 4, Luke 4