Thursday, December 31, 2015

Do It Better

Do It Better
January 4, 2016
Romans 3:23  ". . . for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God . . ."

Happy New Year!  Most people believe the start of a new year can be the start of something fresh, a new chapter, good things to come.  And it can certainly mean that if it is what the Lord desires.  The turn of a new year is often a time when we like to make resolutions, intentions to do something with vigor.  If the new year is a time for you to do that, then you certainly should.  Good habits are worth the effort and the start of a new year can be just the place to begin.  You may be the opposite kind of person at the new year, realizing resolutions are easily broken by the majority of individuals.  There is nothing in Scripture requiring you to make a New Year's Resolution.

But I do have a suggestion.  Whether you make a resolution or not, whether you try something new or you pick up something you set down a long time ago, you should do life better.  Picking up a new habit is great, but how about the things with no Heavenly value you need to lay down?  How about getting back to what the Lord has for your life.  Whether it is the start of a new year or the start of a new morning, the Lord desires that you align yourself daily with His plan for your life.  I'm not suggesting you've left the path completely, but I am suggesting you've probably missed the mark more often than not.  The Lord's design for your life has not changed, it has always been the same since the day you were born.  Your life, your current state of being, may agree with that or it might not.  Does your life look completely as the Lord intended or does it look a little more messy?  As you do life, are you doing it as the Lord wants?

If you saw a picture, a final drawing of what the Lord desired for your life, would it resemble your life today.  The Holy Spirit is pricking your heart right now, this very moment, affirming in your spirit what He'd like for you to change, how He'd like it better.  This isn't to punish you but to give you the life He intended for you.  Doing it better means He can use you for His glory even more.  Doing it better means you can receive His full blessings on this earth.  Doing it better means less heart ache than you experienced last year.  Doing it better means your reward in Heaven will be larger and your time on this earth will be far less stressful.

As I read and re-read Scripture, I notice the lives of those who did amazing things for the Lord.  I also noticed where they missed the mark while going about their lives, how that impacted things so much, the ripple effect into everything.  While they were used for His glory, they certainly could have done life better, if anything avoided so much heart ache.  The Lord's grace was there for them and it is there for you, though grace for your shortcomings should not be your permanent crutch.  Do life, that is for sure, but this should be your resolution: do life better, as God intended for you.  You know where you've missed the mark and He's asking you, telling you, to re-align your life perfectly with the original path He had for you.  This isn't limited to your current spiritual walk but your hobbies and activities, your marriage, and even your career.  Re-evaluate everything and figure out where you can do life better.

Don't take my word for it; look it up
: Ps 139:16, Matt 3:10, Matt 24:45-47, Rom 3:21-24, James 4:17

Sunday, December 27, 2015

More Room

More Room
December 28, 2015
Luke 2:7  ". . .She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them."

Having just come away from celebrating Christmas, I will ask you a question.  Did you make room this Christmas for Him?  Did you make a concerted effort to include Christ in the majority or all of your Christmas plans and celebrations?  While you might be quick to answer in the affirmative, did you truly make enough room for Jesus or could you have done better.  The Innkeeper, the character in the story of the birth of Jesus, did not have enough room, hence the need for the stable and manger.  Sure he might not have been expecting the birth of a king, and if he was expecting Him then he would have made SURE to have enough space.  But the Innkeeper wasn't looking out for His Savior and therefore did not have enough room.  I will ask you the question again, in consideration of the Innkeeper.  Did you prepare enough room, in advance, in excitement of your King?

If you read the birth story of Jesus between the different gospels you get a full and vivid picture of the characters involved.  Without me hashing it from the beginning, you'll recall the many characters: angels, wise men, shepherd, the keeper of the inn, Mary, Joseph, the witnessing animals.  This list includes likely and unlikely characters and I would suggest you parallel yourself with one of these characters.  Which one most described you this Christmas.  Were you a shocked shepherd?  Were you a seeking wise man?  Were you a busy inn keeper?  Were you a by-standing animal?  Were you a patient and diligent Joseph?  Were you a willing Mary?  Maybe you were a messenger angel.  All the characters played a unique role in the story of Christmas and I'm sure you were like more than one or two of them at times.  Which character did you attempt to be like this Christmas?  I would suggest we all fell a little short of truly honoring the birth of Christ.

This gives you an opportunity for reflection and determination.  Evaluate your actions over this most recent celebratory season of the birth of our Savior and determine how you want to live your life going forward.  Me, personally, I fall into the busy keeper of the inn role.  This is not one role I am proud of but life gets busy and my life tends to get filled up.  I don't intentionally fill up my rooms, but I also don't purposely set a side a place for Him in every area.  This gives me, and you, an opportunity to do better in every facet.  We can determine which character we'd like to be like, who we want to be.  I know who I want to be but life gets in my way.  What gets in the way of who you want to be?  Don't lie to yourself, because there is something that keeps you from being that person.  Maybe you've never thought of it before; maybe you've never imagined who you should be like.  If you don't intentionally be somebody you'll accidentally be someone you don't like.

The Lord appreciates an intentional person, someone who wants to be someone in His story, this story of life.  There is room for you to be someone and you get to make more room for this opportunity.  There is more room for Him in your life.  There is more room than you realize and this is going to be huge, your expanded role.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Matthew 1:18-24, Luke 2:1-21

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Can You Do It

Can You Do It
December 21, 2015
Philippians 4:13  "I can do all this through him who gives me strength."

I can do everything through Christ who gives me the strength.  Oh what a wonderful, magnificent part of the Bible.  It you've been a Christian for any length of time, you've probably quoted this Scripture a time or two, chanting it even as a self pep talk.  We've all leaned on this verse at some time, believing the verse to be true, that we really CAN do all things through the strength found in Christ.  It is critical, though, if you are going to use this verse as a life quote, to make sure you are using it and understanding it correctly.  Can you REALLY do EVERYTHING?  I'm mean, the Bible uses the world "ALL" as if it is excluding nothing.  So can you really do everything through Him?

First we must understand who penned the words and why he said it.  It was written by the apostle Paul, and he said it to the Christians who were living in Philippi, trying to encourage them to live the life of a Christian through any and all circumstances.  He was telling them no matter what happens, he had to, and we must also, live as a Christian in every situation we find ourselves.  Specifically, Paul was talking about his ability to be content in times of plenty and content in times of trouble.  In fact, Paul never writes that he could do "ALL THINGS."  Paul said he could do, "ALL THIS."  Paul was being specific to his ability to maintain his Christianity in opposite physical and emotional scenarios.  Paul never said he could jump off a cliff and fly, which is obviously absurd, but the point must be made.  A Christian cannot decide what they want to do, then apply the verse to mean "ALL THINGS" to suit the preference.  This is a blatant misuse of Scripture, which has led many to believe inappropriately.

Before you get angry, first understand that the Lord's strength is full enough to equip you to truly accomplish anything He desires for your life.  This statement is true and is supported throughout all of Scripture.  But it must be noted that the Lord will not equip you and strengthen you if He has not first ordered it to happen.  Yes you can truly do it if the Lord has ordained it, but you don't get to decide what you get to do with the Lord's strength.  Paul DOES say you can be certain to draw on the strength of the Lord to help you in every circumstance you find yourself, but He does not say you get to manipulate the circumstances with the strength of Christ to bend it to your own will.  There is a difference between leaning on the Lord to get through difficulty and determining what you'd like your future to become.  You must first check your self, your pride, your agenda, your goals, and your desires at the door before you are allowed to quote this famous verse.  At no point can you quote it to speak into existence something that might actually be contrary to the Lord's will.

Your usage of this verse must be rooted in the foundation of the Lord's will for your life and the path you've ended up on if you've actually followed Him.  Using this verse must be tempered with what is written in James 4:15.  James says that you can pray and hope for a specific future outcome, knowing the Lord's will should be the only result.  So, you can quote the verse, if you actually quote it correctly, with the right words.  You must also intend the meaning the Lord ascribed to it.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Romans 8:28, James 4:15

Sunday, December 13, 2015


December 14, 2015
Matthew 1:18  "This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph. . ."

The story of the birth of Jesus usually starts the same, no mater who is telling the tale.  It almost always starts with, "Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph."  It begins with basically the inception of Jesus.  Whenever someone is recounting the story of a person's life, birth is usually a good place to start, especially with the introduction of the parents responsible for the deed.  I like how the book of Matthew starts with the story, however, it introduces the story by telling us how the Messiah came into the world.  There is a difference between being introduced to a child, a baby, compared to being introduced to the Messiah.  Matthew introduces the end from the beginning, by calling Him the Messiah he tells us who Jesus was before He was even born.  In fact, the point of Jesus being the Messiah actually tells us the story before the story.

There is a story that must be told before the birth of Jesus being the Messiah.  The story is the reason for the Messiah and what a Messiah accomplishes.  Everyone thinks the birth of Jesus starts with Mary and Joseph, except I would argue that the birth of Jesus starts with the birth of the world.  Remember the beginning of the Bible?  In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.  And then in the New Testament, the Bible says that Jesus was there in the beginning, at the inception of creation.  In is interesting how many thousands of years take place between the inception of the world, with Jesus present, and the inception of a baby, the human form of Jesus.  It tells us that birth was preceded by life.  The planning that went into the story of Jesus' birth, thousands of years of planning were apparently required.

Translate this planning into your own life for a moment.  Your life story started with your birth, and some would argue it started with the introduction of your parents.  I would argue that it started many years prior to that.  Birth was preceded by life, even yours.  Every birth is preceded by life, the life giving planning inspired by the Lord.  It took a tremendous amount of planning to bring your life about.  If the Lord took a tremendous amount of planning to bring your life to fruition, isn't it reasonable to think that He has a plan and intention for your life?  Every birth has an intention from the Lord.  This goes for the birth that gave you life and the events that are birthing in your life right now.  The Lord did not conceive of Jesus just to result in a still birth.  If the Lord has birthed something in your life, do you think He is intent on allowing it to be a still birth?  Birth was meant to be the start of something, not the end result of something.

The Lord had a plan when He brought your life about, just like He had a plan when He brought about Jesus as the son of Mary and Joseph.  The Lord is patient and relentless in the execution of His plans, setting them up even thousands of years in advance to bring about a birth.  And that birth isn't the beginning.  The beginning started so long ago.  If it feels like a birth for you, put it in perspective that it is the result of significant planning by the Lord and still not the end result.  There is so much more right after a birth, just like there was so much more that prepares for a birth.  Get excited, something is birthing.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Gen 1:1, Is 43:19, Is 66:8-10, Matt 1, James 1:18

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Bloody Glasses

Bloody Glasses
December 7, 2015
Ephesians 1:4  "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. . ."

There is something called rose colored glasses.  It is an idiom about the outlook someone has, which is more favorable in comparison to another person's point of view.  In fact, the outlook of having rose colored glasses is kind of offensive, suggesting the person's point of view is not grounded in reality.  Someone with rose colored glasses cannot see things the way that actually are, but in a rosy light.  This can actually be a good thing sometimes as it allows a person to be happier, not seeing the negative in a situation.  The down side is that the person can sometimes be taken advantage of or taken for a fool.  If I had to error on one side, I suppose I would like to have rose colored glasses in more situations.

Someone else has rose colored glasses.  It is the Lord.  His glasses are more like blood colored glasses, though.  It is the only way He can look at you and me, in the midst of our sin, and not wipe us off the face of the earth.  Our sins make us look despicable, literally, but the Lord looks at us through blood colored glasses.  Paul writes in Ephesians that the Lord looks at us as blameless.  This is not to say the Lord can't blame us for our actions, because He can.  This is saying that when the Lord looks at us, He is seeing first the redemption Jesus paid for with His own blood.  The blood of Jesus is a filter that the Lord looks through in order to see us as Holy and Blameless in His sight.

In verse four of the first chapter of Ephesians, Scripture says the Lord chose us to be blameless in His sight.  But there is no way we can be blameless unless something wipes away our sins.  That redemption is spelled out in the verses following the fourth verse, through to the explanation of how it happens.  In verse seven, Paul writes that we are redeemed through the blood of Jesus, which is only due to the graciousness of God.  The Lord looks at us through blood colored glasses because He was full of grace before we were even born.  He knew we'd be full of sin and knew there would be no way He could look upon us as blameless unless He also made a way to see us in that light.

If this is how the Lord looks at us, then we need to cut ourselves a little slack.  We think that because we can't actually be perfect then the Lord could never possibly look at us that way.  Surprising enough, the Lord doesn't submit to our line of thinking.  Right now, if you've accepted the blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sin, then you are perfectly blameless.  The Lord does not see your wrongs, in fact He has no more record of them.  They are removed from His memory and He can see you in a very favorable light.  The Lord has the enviable blood colored glasses and He is looking through them right now.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: 1 Cor 13:5, Eph 1, 1 John 4:8

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Get Excited

Get Excited
November 30, 2015
Ephesians 1:18  "I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people."

Paul writes his famous letter to the church in Ephesus, which is known as the book of Ephesians.  He opens the first chapter with such excitement about the Lord's grace and love and the future inheritance found in Heaven.  If you read the first chapter as one opening paragraph, you'll see that Paul's sentences are short and overflowing with words like peace, joy, purpose, unity, destiny, riches.  I can find few places in the Bible written with so much enthusiasm and genuine excitement.  Paul was excited, but for what?  Paul tries to communicate what he was excited about, the blessings in Heaven which will eventually be made known to each of us.  He realizes we will have to wait for some of them and understands we will not grasp the reason for his excitement to the same depth he was experiencing it, as he penned the words.  He even has to write, "I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in his holy people."

Paul knew we wouldn't get it.  He understood it is beyond comprehension, the future and plan the Lord has for us, and tried to communicate that we probably wouldn't get it.  It is something that cannot be explained, but must be revealed in our hearts  by the Lord.  The Lord had revealed it to Paul's heart with such deep conviction that Paul was able to stay excited the rest of his days on the earth.  It kept him going.  Paul knew we needed that same excitement and knew there were not words to explain the reason for his continued enthusiasm.  Paul prayed the Lord would reveal it to us in the same way it was revealed to him.  He tried to raise the excitement of the Ephesians and some of them were able to generate a degree of enthusiasm for what the Lord was and is doing.  He suggested maintaining the same excitement would be required to carry them through the rest of their lives, and if they couldn't maintain motivation through enthusiasm they might fall away from the Lord.

It was rather prophetic, in fact.  If you read the book of Revelation, you'll find that the church in Ephesus was described as having lost their first love.  They failed to fully grasp the momentum and love for the Lord, and maintain it.  They traded the future glory and riches for something only slightly shinny on the earth, which faded away.  You and I have the tendency to be like the Ephesians.  We grasp a little bit of the excitement, but never fully let it set in to stay motivated like Paul.  We lose our excitement, forgetting our first love, when the world distracts us with flashy lights.  The flashy lights have no real substance and in the end leave us hollow and unfulfilled, and for many, lead to an eternity in hell.

Paul was trying to rally for motivation, knowing we needed to get excited about all the Lord has in store.  He knew the bigger and more genuine our enthusiasm for the work of the Lord, the more likely we would make it to the end of the race on this earth successfully.  But he also knew that he could only introduce us to the excitement, that the Lord would have to convince us individually so we would have the same internal conviction that Paul possessed.  I want you to be excited about the Lord; I want to continually be excited myself.  We both must pray like Paul prayed, that the Lord would open the eyes of our hearts to be enlightened of the future hope and glory.  It's time to get excited, Christian.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Ephesians 1, Rev 2:1-7

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Dirty Feet

Dirty Feet
November 23, 2015
Luke 7:45  "You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet."

Feet can be disgusting.  Everyone has smelled dirty feet before and I doubt there is anyone who would suggest it is pleasant.  Being close enough to smell someone's dirty feet is bad enough, but please don't ask me to touch them.  Kissing dirty feet is just crossing the line; that's even worse than touching them.  If the thought of putting your lips on someone's nasty feet grosses you out then the point has been made.  This is exactly what happened to Jesus at a dinner party.  A woman walked in to a dinner party where she wasn't comfortably welcomed, started crying for some odd reason, then poured perfume on Jesus' feet, kissing them with her lips and wiping them with her hair.  It was rather awkward and slightly on the inappropriate side of social etiquette.  People were embarrassed for her.

She was identified as a woman who lived a sinful lifestyle, not by her name.  There are two different accounts in the gospels of Jesus  having his feet doused with perfume.  One account puts him at Lazarus' house and another puts Him at the house of a pharisee, Simon.  Scholars suggest that these were truly two separate events.  Regardless of who the woman was, she had lived a bad life.  Some suggest she was a prostitute, but it is not known what offenses she committed.  Apparently they were, well, bad.  Apparently she lived such a life of regret that she came to the feet of Jesus crying, weeping even.  Her tears were of remorse for her sin.  I wonder why she was so full of regret?  Was she simply a prostitute or did she cause harm to others?  Did she abort her baby or she sell him?  Did she participate in the trafficking of young girls?  Why such remorse to the point that she could not contain her composure?  I imagine she was a blubbering mess, not even able to talk about her sorrow and regretful lifestyle.  Whatever it was, the weight of her sin was too much for her to carry.  She wanted them wiped away and her dignity did not matter in expressing her feelings in front of others, to the point of being a sobbing mess at the dirty feet of a man called Savior.

The woman didn't care what others thought; she wanted to be at the feet of a Savior.  She was tired of carrying around the guilt of her life.  Did she plan on pouring the whole bottle of perfume on His feet?  I doubt it.  I think she planned on possibly washing His feet then maybe dabbing them with a little perfume to get rid of the dirty feet smell.  I think when she initiated the process that her feelings got the best of her, that the Spirit of Jesus was so intense and her need for a Savior was so great that she could not contain her composure.  She broke down and couldn't stop.  Whatever happened, it probably wasn't fully planned.  But it must have been something special to actually touch the feet of Jesus.  Can you imagine actually touching Jesus, even if it was just His foot?  If power exuded just from His words, just how much power was in Him?  The Holy Spirit inside of Him, the same Holy Spirit that was powerful enough to raise Him from the dead, broke through to the woman's heart when she touched Him.  She was already crying when she started, but then she could not contain herself.  By the end, her lips were touching His feet, she was sobbing, and her hair was drying off her own tears from His flesh.  He wrecked her composure but got rid of her sin.

You may not have the sin this woman carried with her, but you have something you've been carrying around with you.  I wonder if you ended up in a room with Jesus, I wonder if you'd be able to maintain your composure, retain your dignity.  Or would the power of His Holy Spirit fillet you open to the heart of your sin.  How close do you want to get to Jesus?  The closer you get the more likely you are to be moved by His power.  Again, how close do you want to get to Jesus?  Are you willing to kiss his feet?  Be careful how close you get to Jesus, you might end up doing something socially awkward.  But would it matter.  It'd be better to say you touched the feet of your Savior than to say you maintained your Christian composure.  Getting closer to Jesus has the potential to get a little messy.  Careful, you might embarrass yourself.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Luke 7:36-50, Hebrews 4:12 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

No Specifics

No Specifics
November 16, 2015
Luke 8:46  "But Jesus said, 'Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.'"

There is power in the blood of Jesus.  The power sets everything right, regardless of what is wrong.  It has the ability to heal a person's health regardless of the issue; it has the ability to restore a desperate marriage no matter what the offense; it has the ability to forgive any wrong despite the severity.  Whatever the ailment, Jesus has the right fix.  It does not matter what is wrong, it only matters that you bring the issue to Him and trust in His power.

There was a woman in the Bible who was described as someone with an issue of blood.  A woman who was actively bleeding was considered unclean; a priest couldn't touch her.  But this woman, desperate for a healing, knew that the power that lived inside of Jesus could make her well.  All she needed to do was bring the issue to the feet of Jesus and He would have the exact fix for her problem.  The She didn't have to get specific with her prayer request; she only had to bring the issue to the feet of Jesus.  His power would automatically set it right and she knew this.  She tried to get close to Him but couldn't barely touch the hem of His clothing.  Immediately, she was healed.  Jesus turned around and wondered who touched Him.  Ironic that He asked that.  Wasn't He all knowing?  When the power flowed from Him to heal her, He knew that power had left Him to fix something wrong.  Did He have to ask her what she needed?  I doubt it.  The power had the right fix regardless of her or Jesus having to talk about what was wrong.  They both knew He had the power to make it right.  That is all that mattered.  She trusted in His power.

We get caught up in getting specific in how Jesus can fix our problems.  We even teach that if we don't get specific in our prayer request then the Lord doesn't know what we need.  This is foolish.  Let me provide this example.  If I see an elderly woman struggling to open a heavy door against a strong wind, I should have enough common sense to see that she needs my help.  I have enough intelligence to know what she needs without her asking.  If I go over and help her, I will only be successful in helping her if she steps out of the way.  If she blocks my attempt; I cannot help.  If she allows me to step in, then I know how best to help her.  She doesn't need to get specific with how I should help her.  She only needs to be willing to let me and trust that I can do it.

This is how it is the with Lord.  You must be willing to let His power help you; you only need to submit the issue to Him and let His power take over.  You don't have to tell Him what you need; His intelligence knows and His power can handle it.  You, however, must get out of the way and submit it to Him.  I find that the more I intervene, the more I work against the Lord.  The more specific I get the more Satan knows how to attack.  The more specific I get the more distrust I show in the Lord's ability to handle it.  The Bible says when you don't know how to pray then let the Holy Spirit intercede for you with groanings that words cannot express or comprehend.  The Lord knows better how to help you than you do.  His power knows better how to fix the situation than you do.  Let His power work and submit it to Him.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Luke 8:40-48, Rom 8:26-27

Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Right Choice

The Right Choice
November 9, 2015
Matthew 21:31  "'Which of the two did what his father wanted?'"

Jesus told some fantastic parables, analogies that put the pious religious elite in their place.  One such parable was of two sons.  The Father told the the two sons to go and work in the vineyard.  One said he would go but did not.  The other refused but later decided he would go and do the will of the Father.  The parable was slightly explained by Jesus when He told the religious elite that they were like the son who said he would go but never did.  The opposite of the religious elite, the tax collectors and prostitutes, were the ones who did the will of the Father and ended up in Heaven.  While the parable is about salvation, it is about more than just entering the kingdom of God.

Without adding words to Scripture or putting context where Jesus didn't intend, I believe the parable is not examined in its entirety.  Modern scholars disagree with the complete version of the story, suggesting scribes did not document the parable fully, rather instead jotting down the gist of it.  The Pharisees would not enter the Kingdom of Heaven because they said they believed the Word of God yet did not follow it.  The sinners, however, they refused the Word of God initially but accepted it later in life, and so got the reward.    I believe it is more than just a quick story of salvation but of obeying the Father wholly.  The full extent of obedience is not just in accepting Jesus as a Savior but of accepting Jesus as a Savior AND following His instructions.  The includes what the tax collectors and prostitutes demonstrated in their faith.  Not only did they accept Jesus as their Savior but they became disciples in spreading the excitement of following Jesus.  They believed AND they became ambassadors.

You and I have been given an option of working in the Vineyard, just like the two sons in the parable.  Thankfully, most of you have accepted Jesus as your Savior.  Sadly, some of you might read this and go to church but will end up with the same fate as the Pharisees in Hell.  You say you believe in the Word of God and in salvation through Christ, but do you live like it?  The tax collectors and prostitutes in Jesus' parable figured it out.  It required a full life-change and commitment, which entailed becoming an ambassador for the Lord.  Do you live like the Pharisee, or is there a full turn-around in your behavior?  It's one thing to accept salvation on your death bed and make it to Heaven, but it is another thing to accept salvation early and do nothing with it for the rest of our life.  Do you live like you are saved?  Are you really working in the Vineyard of the Lord?

This parable has exciting news because it carries with it the opportunity for second chances.  The son who initially refused to work in the vineyard, he repented and went at it.  You, too, can have a second opportunity in what the Lord is calling you to do.  He is calling you first to repentance and secondly to obedience.  If you find yourself not fully walking in obedience, there is opportunity to start right here and right now.

I believe if Jesus meant the parable to end with accepting salvation, then He would not have required the sons in the parable to work in the vineyard; He would have likened it to accepting a free gift.  If you want to debate this, please read the parable in Matthew immediately following this specific parable.  Jesus was comparing the Pharisees to the son who said they would go and work but did not.  The Pharisees thought they WERE doing religious work, only they were not.  They were spending all their time and energy getting it wrong, not engaged correctly in the ways of the Kingdom or the work of the Kingdom.  Accepting Jesus as your Savior requires you to be obedient in accepting the Kingdom and working FOR the Kingdom.  You have a second chance, just like Jesus was giving the Pharisees.  Whether it is the first time or the second time, make the right choice.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Matt 7:21, Matt 21, Luke 6:46

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Wrong Question

Wrong Question
November 2, 2015
Judges 13:18  "He replied, 'Why do you ask my name?  It is beyond understanding.'"

In our efforts to understand our lives and the place where the Lord has set us, we ask questions.  Being inquisitive is OK; it is in our DNA.  Children from an early age ask so many questions; they want to understand and learn.  Sometimes children ask too many questions, the answers to which they cannot handle.  As a parent, I have to decide when they are ready to handle the information. Information is so important and the more questions we ask the better the outcome.  Tough decisions are made based on critical information.  If you don't ask questions then you might make a poor decision without the proper knowledge.  We should always be seeking information and truth; man's quest for knowledge will never be complete.  But when it comes to things of the Lord and the world outside of our own, that information is not so available to us.

Before Samson was born an angel appeared to his parents and foretold of Samson's life.  His parents were excited about the idea and asked the angel many questions.  I encourage you to read the full account in Judges 13.  Some of the questions the angel was willing to answer and others the angel refused.  The angel wanted to equip them with enough information to do the job the Lord had for them as Samson's parents.  But the angel was not willing to answer questions for which they could not handle.  The question the angel refused was a simple one; they ask him his name.  He denied it, telling them they couldn't understand the answer.  I know if Samson's parents continued in their pursuit of other information from this angel, he would have denied many requests.  Just like my children cannot handle information based on their level of understanding, mankind cannot handle spiritual information because it just would not make sense.  It would only lead to more questions and a larger quest for knowledge, knowledge that we cannot handle.

The Lord requires us to come as a child, with innocence of heart and sincerity of faith.  The sincerity of faith must be rooted in a place of acceptance.  We must accept that the Lord is in charge, that He cannot fail, that He knows better than we can ever fathom, that He has our best interests at heart, and that He will equip us with just enough information to do the job He has required of us.  No where in Scripture does it say He will ever answer all the questions we have or that we will even understand the answers to the questions.  The Bible never says we will have an answer to all the questions of WHY.  It only says He will send His Spirit who will guide you to the truth.

I suspect you have many questions in your life right now but you aren't getting the answer.  You've been searching Scripture, asking it of sage advisers, petitioning the Lord but to no avail.  Well, I have an answer for you but you might not like it.  Here is the answer; the same one the angel told Samson's parents: "Why do you ask that question?  It is beyond your understanding."  Frustrating as this might sound, it is for your benefit.  The Lord knew that Samson's parents didn't need to have that questioned answered in order for them to do their job; it just would have made things more difficult.  If you don't have an answer after an appropriate amount of searching and seeking, then the answer is one you are not able to handle just yet.  Either you're not ready for the answer or it isn't necessary to do you job.  It is quite possible that having the answer would make the situation worse.  Either way, you must trust the Lord.  If you don't have an answer to an important question, then maybe the information isn't really that critical right now or maybe you are asking the wrong question.  Find satisfaction in the Lord's sovereignty and let that be answer enough.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Judges 13, Mark 10:13-15, John 13:33-34,  John 14, John 16:12-15

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Missing Mercy

Missing Mercy
October 26, 2015
Psalm 6:9  "The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer."

The point of mercy is often missed.  Mercy isn't so someone can get away with murder; it isn't just clemency for wrong doing.  Mercy is an act of compassion in an effort to reduce someones just and due consequences--but for a reason.  Many punishments are given to the fullest extent of the law; yet often a lighter punishment can be given and still be considered just.  The factors that go into mercy are important.  Mercy, being steeped in compassion must be rooted in love.  King David knew this all too well.

King David deserved some severe consequences for his actions, his sins.  He had the option of being turned over to his enemy for a short time or being turned over to the wrath of the Lord for a short time.  David chose to be turned over to the wrath of God and experience His power.  David was a wise man, as stated in his reasoning for the choice.  He said that the Lord would execute the punishment but knew the Lord would also exercise mercy at the same time.  He knew the Lord was and is Almighty but he also knew the Lord was and is compassionate.  Essentially, David knew the Lord would hand out the punishment appropriately, and would do so in love.  That's the great thing about the Lord, even when He enforces discipline, He still does so in love.  David's enemies, if they had their way, would not have relented; they would not have shown any amount of mercy.

We all know the Lord is full of mercy, but for some reason we don't seem to allow the Lord to function in His mercy.  Sometimes, we hold ourselves to an unforgivable standard and don't accept the Lord's mercy.  Those of you who are perfectionists, when you fail the Lord, you feel you are unforgivable and cannot accept the Lord's mercy and cannot consider that the Lord actually does love you despite your sin.  The Lord's mercies are new every day but yours are not, necessarily.  We aren't so quick to have compassion on ourselves, because of the feeling of guilt, and therefore project that onto the Lord, thinking He doesn't even want us.  Remember, the Lord does everything out of His love for us.  If we don't accept the Lord's mercy for the wrong doing, then it means there is a bigger problem.  It means you might not love yourself, especially in the manner the Lord loves you.

If you are missing mercy in your life, then you might be treating yourself like David's enemies.  The Lord is full of mercy, but you might be your own worst enemy.  Mercy is there for a reason; it is given to those who have a contrite heart.  Consider that if you do not think you are deserving of mercy, then maybe your heart is a little hard.  If you are missing some mercy in your life, consider a little bit of humility and a contrite heart.  The Lord said He would never turn away a contrite heart.  When was the last time you asked the Lord for mercy?  Have mercy on yourself, because the Lord does.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Ex 33:19, 2 Sam 24:14, 1 Kings 8:28, 1 Chron 21:13, Ps 69:16, Pr 28:13, Hos 6:6, Lk 1:50, Rom 9:15-23

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Don't Trust God, II of II

Don't Trust God, II of II
October 19, 2015
Proverbs 3:5  "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on our own understanding."

As stated before, you should never JUST trust the Lord---because He will never resolve the situation how you want it to resolve or how you think it should play out.  If you walk through a situation, attempting to trust in the Lord, yet imagine and desire a specific outcome, then you are not truly trusting the Lord.  If you are desiring your scripted outcome for a situation, you are hoping He will answer your prayer request the way you want.  While subtle it may seem, this is not what trusting in the Lord fully means.  Don't trust the Lord if you want your way, as your ways are not His ways.

There are two parts to fully trusting in the Lord.  The first part and most obvious, trust, means assured reliance.  Assured Reliance.  Wow.  When was the last time you had assured reliance upon anything?  There are few things in life that happen with such type of consistency.  One example is the sun.  It rises every morning in the sky, without fail, but many times we cannot see it.  Though we know it is morning, and the clouds cover the light, we have assured reliance upon its presence.  It is always there, doing its job without fail, and to perfection.  Despite the rain or cold weather, you know it is up there, letting off the same brilliance it has ever since you felt its warm embrace upon your face.  This should be the same as the Lord; He is always there, doing His job to perfection and without fail, yet because you can't see Him sometimes, you think He is not present.  You have more trust in the sun than you do the Maker of the sun.  Take this one step further and admit you don't always trust that He is there and you don't always trust that He is doing His job to perfection.  We miss this first part of the equation when it comes to trusting the Lord.  Despite how you feel; you can have assured reliance that He IS doing His job and He is doing it right.

The second aspect of trusting the Lord is found in the second part of the declarative verse.  It reads: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and LEAN NOT ON YOUR OWN UNDERSTANDING."  Forgive me, maybe I didn't say that last part clear enough.  LEAN NOT ON YOUR OWN UNDERSTANDING.  This means, for those of you who are as obtuse as me, that you cannot imagine or pretend to know how best to resolve a situation.  You have to trust in the Lord and then stop trying to work it out for your self.  Your finite brain, my incomplete understanding, cannot possibly fathom the right resolution to a situation that will be best for the Lord's agenda while simultaneously being in your best interests.  The Lord has your best interests as heart, but that doesn't always mean what is truly good for you will necessarily feel good all the time.  Ironically, when the Lord doesn't work my situations out the way I'd like, I just assume He has failed me, that He is not actually trustworthy.  In actuality, He has not failed me.  He has constructed an outcome that is far better in accomplishing His will and is healthier for me than the resolution I prescribed.

Here is what I have learned.  If I think, even for one moment, how best to resolve a situation, then I am not fully trusting in the Lord.  Furthermore, the stronger I desire my own prescribed outcome, the more disappointed I am in the Lord, though this disappointment is misplaced.  He is fully trustworthy, despite the resolution to your situation, even the resolution to the situation that you don't like.  Look at your history, those perceived imperfect resolutions, and ask the Lord for forgiveness.  Apologize for your lack of understanding and begin to trust that what you got in life was actually OK.  Don't just trust the Lord.  Trust the Lord AND forget all you think you know about how best to work it out.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Gen 6-9, Ps 127:1, Proverbs 3, Is 64:4, Rom 8:28, Phil 2:12-13

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Don't Trust God, I of II

Don't Trust God, I of II
October 12, 2015
Proverbs 3:5  "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on our own understanding."

The Bible is so poetic at times; it would be wonderful if our lives worked out as such.  So many verses, I read them and they leave me warm and comfortable inside, feeling loved and important.  Yet seldom in the day-to-day does it ever work out that way.  I get frustrated, wondering how I got it wrong, or if I'm reading the Scriptures wrong.  But then I realize, the Bible is not complete; which makes it hard to trust the Lord.  The one thing the Bible lacks is the story in between the story.  Take for instance the story of Noah.  The Lord tells him to build the ark and so he builds it.  Then the Lord tells the animals to get in the ark.  Then the Lord sends the rain.  Then the boat lands, cue the sun and the rainbow, dove flying above with an olive branch, and done.  Oh, and by they way, it took Noah 100 years to build the ark.  OK, so what happened in those 100 years?  Did Noah quit a few times?  Did Noah fight with his wife and kids about it?  Did Noah have years of insecurity that he was doing the right thing?  Did Noah run into a supply issue with the gopher bark?  It doesn't say.  The Bible just works out the story so perfectly, just like we perpetuate it in telling the story to our kids.

When we know the end of the story as quickly as we are introduced to the story, it is easy to trust the Lord.  Sure, you can trust the Lord; it will work out perfectly in the end.  Noah had to trust the Lord for those FULL 100 years and I doubt it was poetic.  Noah was human and I've never met a human who was without emotion or the physical capacity to mess it up.  Noah had to trust the Lord that the Lord would work it out.  If you read the Bible, everyone had to trust the Lord: Joseph in slavery, Daniel in the lion's den, Nehemiah rebuilding the wall, John being exiled on an island, etc.  We read the Bible and get to the end so quickly; but when the people were living it, well, it probably was hard.  As the reader, you're omniscient to the characters' fate.  This is why it is so hard for us to trust in the Lord, I think.  We don't know the fate of our situation, the situation where WE have to trust the Lord right here and right now.  Sure, if we knew the situation's resolution before it ended, THEN we could trust the Lord.  Unfortunately, we will never know ahead of time how the situation will work out.  So, as humans we default to what we know; we default to our own personal history of situations in trying to predict the future resolution of our current one.  And this is how we fuel our trust in the Lord.

But here is what I've learned about trusting the Lord based on my own past.  I can't trust Him.  The Lord is not trustworthy.  When I use my own personal history as my only means to decide if the Lord is trustworthy, the fuel for the fire is gone.  You might suggest this should be the opposite, but let me explain.  When was the last time the Lord worked out your situation exactly how you wanted it?  I bet you're living with a resolution to a past situation that you don't like.  You're not satisfied with how it resolved.  Your imagination could have improved upon it so much, if you just got to make the determination.  But, news flash, you don't get to determine how the situation will work out.  You just get to trust the Lord.  And this is why you should never just trust the Lord---because He will never resolve the situation how you want it to resolve.

But Noah trusted Him and it worked out fine for Noah.  Oh yeah?  Did you ask Noah?  Maybe Noah was completely unsatisfied with the resolution in the end.  Maybe he grieved for those who died.  In fact, if you read the Bible, the end to Noah's story, he ended up a drunk, in a cave, most likely suffering from depression.  This is hardly a poetic story of trust.  But there is more to trusting the Lord than our version of how we want the situation to resolve.  Sure, the Lord will work it out, just not necessarily how you think.  This is actually not a bad thing....

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Gen 6-9, Proverbs 3

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Chosen One

The Chosen One
October 5, 2015
Ephesians 1:11  "In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will. . ."

It would be nice to be the chosen one; it would certainly make you feel special.  But what is the Chosen One; is there any such thing?  And what is the Chosen One chosen for?  In the Bible, the only reference for the Chosen One is Jesus.  He was selected since the beginning of time to be the one who could wipe away our sins and redeem our lives from Hell.  Jesus was and is the only true Chosen One.  It's a pretty big deal to be selected for such an honor, to unite the sinner with the Heavenly Father.  But apparently this role could not have been fulfilled by anyone else.  No one else was found perfect, without sin, who could be a deity and a human at the exact same time.  Neither you nor me could have made the cut for this short list; it just wasn't possible.  So, if we aren't the Chosen One, is anyone else special, or is that it?  Is Jesus the only one special, chosen for a specific time and task?  Is there no opportunity for any of us to be selected for something important?

We all want to believe we are special somehow, important enough to be chosen for something, anything.  Some of you believe you are special, but maybe shouldn't have such an inflated view of yourselves.  People can tell, by the way you walk, how important you think you are.  Others, quite the contrary, believe your life does not matter to anyone.  Let me set both groups of thought straight.  The moment you believe yourself special to this world is the moment your arrogance overshadows any important purpose you may have.  And the moment you believe yourself unimportant to anyone is the moment you insult the Creator of the Universe.  Every one has value and is important in the eyes of the Lord, but not the way you might think.
Throughout the Bible,the Lord Jesus Christ was referenced as The Chosen One, but more than thirty times the Bible mentions others who were chosen by the Lord for something specific.  There were individuals chosen for a reason only they could fulfill.  The list is long: the entire Israeli people, Moses, David, Solomon, Peter, just to name a few.  If the Bible were still being written, your name would be on that chosen list.

You were created with a purpose, for a reason; it was not an accident.  Everything about you was crafted and selected and even chosen by the Lord for this exact date and time and with purpose.  But your purpose is not an earthly one; possibly immeasurable on an earthly scale.  Your purpose, your value, your selection as chosen for a specific time and task is for a Heavenly reason and with Heavenly worth.  The truth of the matter is, you are a chosen one.  You were chosen for a specific purpose, for a specific role that only you can fulfill.  I cannot do your job and you cannot do mine.  Each and every one of us are a chosen one.  No, we are not THE Chosen One, but are chosen by the Lord for the job He has for us.  The problem is, you either don't believe He has a job for you to do or you don't think you've figured out what that job requires.  The good news is that you don't have to figure out exactly what it is, you just have to believe He wants to use you for His glory.  If you can believe this, then you will follow His leading and, without realizing it, you will fulfill what He has called you to do.

You ARE a chosen one, but you may not ever find out what you were chosen for.  The Lord cannot explain to you or me the exact purpose for your life, because I suspect it wouldn't make sense to either of us.  Furthermore, I suspect that if He told us ahead of time, that most of us would not follow through with it.  Jesus was the only one who knew ahead of time what His purpose would be.  Can you imagine living your life, knowing how you would be tortured and killed?  We would quit before we started on that path.  Know that you were chosen and that's all you need to know.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Ps105:26, Is 42:1, Matt 12:18, Lk 9:35, John 6:70, Acts 22:14, 1 Thes 1:4, 1 Peter 2:9

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Don't Blame Yourself

Don't Blame Yourself
Sept 28, 2015
Genesis 3:12  "The man said, 'The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.'"

Adam and Eve were the first sinners.  It is interesting, when you think about it, that the very first people to sin were Adam and Eve.  They didn't have a bad parental role model so the negative influences in their lives were never there.  They didn't have a rough childhood, or were abused but trusted adults.  Growing up, other children never teased them.  They had the perfect, literally perfect, life.  They never experienced stress, feelings of depression or neglect, financial hardship, or jealous behavior.  They had a great start in life, the idyllic story that fairy tales are made from, yet they still sinned.  How could they be led astray and travel the path of sin?  Aside from having the ability to choose, they were never faced with the desire to sin.  But sin, they did; apparently it was inevitable.  When given the opportunity, they responded with poor judgment, despite being set up for success.

And when they did sin; what was Adam's first response?  His exact words to the Lord were, "The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it."  He had the audacity to blame the Lord first, despite the Lord setting him up for success.  He also blamed his wife, the most influential person in his life at the time.  Man's first experience with sin was to blame everyone else and fail to take responsibility for his own actions.  This is what we do, too.  We blame the Lord for our circumstances and we blame the influential people around us, but seldom do we blame ourselves.  Adam had full control of his mind and body that day, yet made a bad decision.  Adam was equipped to make the perfect decision yet chose poorly.  This actually makes me feel a little better, if Adam and Eve (who had the perfect life) couldn't resist sin, then maybe I shouldn't have such high expectations of myself.  Nonetheless, the Lord expects us to make good decisions when it comes to sin.

Undoubtedly, you live in a constant weakened state.  Your life is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination.  Your parents were less than desirable at times, your childhood was full of antagonism, your financial situation has never been what you've needed it to be, and the current influential people in your life - well - they are actually sinners, too.  You were not set up perfectly in life, like Adam and Eve, yet you are expected to live your life according to the Lord's standards.  This creates emotional friction because your sinful nature will mix with your constant weakened state and then you will be tempted, which is a better recipe for sin than Adam and Eve had.  And then sin, you eventually will, whatever the situation. It is inevitable.  I'm not excusing it, but realizing it is going to happen.  But your response to your sin must be better than Adam's.

True, the Lord put you in this situation, even allowed it, but you cannot blame the Lord or your situation for your sin.  During whatever your trial, or weakened state, your ability to blame someone else is zero.  You don't get to blame your parents for the patterns they instilled in you and you don't get to blame your spouse for his or her bad influence.  The only person you may blame is yourself.  You have full and complete control over your actions, despite arguing your weakened state.  At some point, you get to become an adult and make the right decision despite your upbringing.  If you recognize your parents' poor direction and example, then you get to rise above that.  If your spouse isn't perfect, then you get to deal with that, too.  If your job and financial situation is stressful, then that gets knowingly added to your mix.  And this is the scenario in which you find yourself while being tempted.  And when you are tempted and when you sin, you don't get to blame the Lord and you don't get to blame the influences surrounding you.  You get to take full responsibility for your own actions.

While these seems unfair, you also get to take full reward someday in Heaven when you get it right.  No one else around you will be held accountable for your sin, and no one else around you will get rewarded for your good actions.  You get to blame you for the outcome.  It's time to start taking responsibility, despite all the negative influences you've had from the beginning.  There is power for living, however, and that requires submission to the Lord's Holy Spirit.  Want this Holy Spirit power for successful Christian living in a weakened state?

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Gen 3, 1 John 1:8, Eph 6:10-18

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Well Well Well

Well Well Well
September 21, 2015
John 4:14  ". . . but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

The story of Jesus and the woman at the well is so famous it barely needs recounted.  We all get it.  Jesus met a woman out in public. He exposed her questionable lifestyle, offered her living water, she believed He was the messiah, and she went and told the whole city.  Seldom do we think the story applies to us because none of us have the same awkward life she lived.  I doubt many of you have had five spouses and are in a living arrangement with some you're not married to.  Jesus didn't discuss the woman's sin, though, and He didn't tell her to "go and sin no more," like He did the woman caught in adultery.  The point Jesus was trying to get across to the woman at the well was that her life was in search of something to satisfy her, yet she was never satisfied.

The woman had five failed marriages, so apparently she was jumping from unsatisfaction to unsatisfaction, in search of something to fill her up.  This is why Jesus told her that He could offer her living water, so she would never thirst again.  Any sin the woman faced was dwarfed in comparison to the reason WHY she wasn't living a righteous lifestyle.  She was in search of something that would satisfy her.  Jesus basically told her that nothing she did would ever satisfy the hunger and thirst inside.  She could go on the way she was living and always feel like there was something more, that maybe if she tried something new that this time would be different, this time she would feel whole and satisfied and complete.  Well, Jesus poked holes in that theory for her.  He knew she wanted a satisfaction for her thirst.  He didn't judge her because of her lifestyle; He offered her a solution to what would stop her from making such bad decisions in searching for satisfaction.  He offered her something that would be enough for once in her life.  She wouldn't have to keep jumping from unsatisfaction to unsatisfaction.  He offered her the fulfillment she was looking for.

But what if you are a Christian, you believe in Jesus as your Savior, but still feel unsatisfied?  If you are a believer and feel like you are still thirsty, then maybe you are missing something.  When Jesus talked about the living water He had to offer the woman at the well, the satisfaction that comes from Salvation, He was saying she had to drink from the cup to receive the living water.  He had the living water, but she couldn't have it unless She took it from Him and drank from it.  No, it wasn't actually magic water, but a metaphor of taking the gift of satisfaction FROM Jesus.  The metaphor of salvation being consumed from a cup started in Psalm 116, when the psalmist said there was a cup filled with salvation, from which he drank and then lifted up the empty cup to Heaven to show the Lord that what was in the cup had been completely consumed.

If you are a Christian, and still feel unsatisfied, I would ask if you've fully consumed what was in that cup.  You can't sip from it, and just taste it; you must fully drink it, emptying the cup.  Unless you are satisfying your wants and needs from that cup, with a deep and committed relationship with the Heavenly Father, then you will be left thirsty.  You will again turn to the things of this world to make you feel satisfied but will always end up feeling empty.  If your relationship with the Lord isn't enough to satisfy you inside, then you haven't fully experienced the wholeness of a full relationship with Him.  Maybe you've neglected your relationship and instead of coming back to Him for satisfaction you are attempting to fill it with things from this world.  If you do, you will be setting yourself on a path, the same exact path of the woman who was at the well.  That path will end in failed satisfaction which creates a bigger hole, more empty each time.

Notice the full words in they way Jesus described what was in His cup.  He said you would drink it and it would become a spring of water in you, welling up.....When was the last time you had a refreshing spring in you, welling up?

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Psalm 116, John 4

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Missing Letters

Missing Letters
September 14, 2015
Matthew 5:18  "For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished."

Jesus said He had come to fulfill the law, not remove it.  Jesus promised that all of the pen strokes used to write the law would remain in effect until Heaven and Earth disappeared.  Since Earth is still beneath us, it stands to reason the Lord's laws remain in effect.  Those laws are the irrefutable instructions left to us by which we are to live our lives.  If you recount the law, though, what specifically are we required to follow?  The law started with the instructions the Lord gave through Moses, which included items like: don't commit murder, don't worship other gods, don't lie or steal, etc.  Then those laws were expanded to requiring sacrifices for our sins, bringing offerings to the temple, and not having physical relations with someone other than your spouse, especially close family members.  Since we don't sacrifice animals anymore, are there other rules we can put by the wayside?

True, we don't sacrifice animals anymore, but only because Christ was the ultimate sacrifice, which fulfilled that portion of the law, not abolished it.  So, are there other things we can factor out of the equation?  If you want to live like a sinner and still receive the reward of a saint, then you may certainly not remove anything from the Lord's requirements of you.  You have to obey the full letter of the law; Scripture says to a better extent than the Pharisees.  This sounds tough but Jesus said all the laws of the Lord could be summed up by loving the Lord your God with all your heart and by loving your neighbor as if you were loving yourself.  This sounds way easier but must be interpreted within light of the full scripture.  If loving yourself means you indulge in sin and promote your neighbor to do the same then you are missing some letters from the law.

Scripture says if you truly loved the Lord with all your heart, then your actions would prove it; you would do what He has asked of you, which includes taking care of the least important person among you as well as honoring the Lord with all you have.  Jesus said we would implement this lifestyle with the same fervor that the Pharisees implemented in following their rules.  I'm confident none of us loves his neighbor with the same fortitude that the Pharisees implemented when they counted how many steps they could take on the Sabbath day before it could be defined as working.  I say this to suggest you and I are probably missing some letters from our law.  I do not weigh all of my decisions against the two most important guidelines (loving the Lord with all my heart and loving my neighbor as myself), but I should.

If I am going to implement the Lord's instructions with more strength than the Pharisees, then I will naturally weigh everything against His guidelines.  You and I are free to do what we want, but must ask ourselves before we do something if it demonstrates love for the Father and love for our fellow man.  If it does, then we are free to participate.  If it does not, and we do it anyway, we are missing some letters from the law.  Marriages would be different if people thought this way when considering their own happiness--they would probably lay their pride down more often than not for the other person.  Your relationship with your employer would be different if you weighed everything against the two most important guidelines, too.

If you are going to follow the Lord, then it means obeying the full letter of the law, the law which Jesus summed up nicely.  But it takes great intent to apply it at all times.  Scripture says if you do, however, you will be known as the greatest in Heaven.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Matt 5:17-48, Matt 22:36-40

Sunday, September 6, 2015

What If, part II of II

What If, part II of II
September 7, 2015
Jeremiah 18:4  "But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him."

Since the Lord is the Master Potter and we are His clay, His workmanship, we must submit to Him forming us.  Scripture says that if and when the Lord is forming His clay, He may decide if it is marred and then begin again.  He may glance at His creation and make something else.  Many people think this is a complimentary statement, that the Lord will bring beauty from ashes, making a new creation out of His broken pottery.  This is not so, this could not be farther from the truth of what Scripture was saying.  Yes, the Lord can make beauty out of a broken situation; He can make an awful situation into a glorious one out of your life, but that is not what Scripture meant when it likened you and me to marred pottery.

If you read the  verses after the Bible discusses marred pottery being formed into another pot; it talks about evil, specifically disobedience.  As the Potter is forming His clay (you and me), we have the opportunity to submit to the purpose He intended for us.  This requires obedience.  But if the pot is disobedient, then the Potter has the right to re-purpose it.  The exact words are, "and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it."  This is akin to re-purposing His creations, not because of a poor decision but because of constant and willful disobedience.

Your job is to figure out what He has for you to do, not why He has created you, then do it.  He has for you to do the work in front of you, the task He has already put in front of your face.  There is no secret mystery as to what you are supposed to do; you are to be obedient in the place He has currently placed you.  Refuse to do this and He will reconsider the good He had intended for you.  There is more to the statement about the good the Lord intended for the pottery.  It isn't just limited to the good use He intended for its purpose.  It encompasses all the blessings the Lord intended for that person's life, as well, even eternity.  The Lord WANTS to bless you but cannot bless you when you live in a state of disobedience.  It is contrary to His nature.  When He is forming His creations, He has in mind all the good purposes intended for that person as well as all the blessings that go along with it.  He thought of these things with excitement when He was fashioning you in your mother's womb.  He was ecstatic when you were born, not just because you were born, but because of all the good work you would fulfill as well as all of the blessings you would receive in this life and the next.

If you are looking for a blessing in this life, then know that it must be preceded by obedience.  If you are looking for the Potter to use you for His glory, it must be preceded by obedience.  The two go hand-in-hand.  There cannot be blessing with disobedience.  There cannot be a future for you with disobedience.  The Lord wants to look down from Heaven and speak well over your life.  Don't force Him to re-purpose you and the good He intended for your life.  What if there was more for your life but you are missing it?  What if the Lord intended something completely different than the path you've allowed yourself to travel?

Don't take my word for it; look it up:
  Is 29:16, Is 41:25, Is 45:9, Is 46:10, Is 64:8, Jer 18:1-10, Romans 9:6-21, Eph 1:11, Eph 2:10

Sunday, August 30, 2015

What If, Part I of II

What If, Part I of II
August 31, 2015
Romans 9:21  "Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?"

On more than one occasion, Scripture likens the Lord to a potter, a sovereign being who forms with His hands objects for a purpose.  The Potter fashions His clay to His liking and for His intended use.  Some clay gets turned into large jars for holding clean drinking water while some get decorated with colorful paint and put on display.  Some clay is fashioned into delicate pieces used for momentous occasions while other pieces end up holding ashes of the deceased.  The Potter has all authority and sovereignty to form His clay as He desires and to use His clay however He sees fit.

This analogy of the Heavenly Father as being a potter is sometimes encouraging while at the same time frustrating.  It is encouraging to hear the wonderful words of the writer, suggesting that you and I are being formed by the Master for His use.  It is encouraging to hear the wonderful words of the writer, suggesting that the Lord actually has an intended use for us.  It makes us feel special, as if we are chosen for specificity.  These things are true, we are chosen for specificity, but what if that specificity is never what we think it is or isn't clear?  What if you never understand what your actual use was by the Potter?

We go through life saying things like, "the Lord is not finished with me yet."  We decide that today is not the final result the Potter intended.  We say things like, "the Lord has big plans for me and He is going to use me mightily for His kingdom."  We wait in anticipation of something more, a pivotal moment of magnanimity when we can be satisfied that our life was actually worth living.  But what if you're done?  What if your intended use has fulfilled its purpose?  What if you've been steadily fulfilling it all along in the simplicity of your life and that's it?  What if there isn't anything bigger for your life?  Oh, the blasphemy of the thought.  It goes against everything we put in the hearts and minds of our youth.  But what if the Potter made you to be that common cooking pot that has chips and cracks in it's side, blackened by the fire with hardened food remains at the bottom?  Sure, it is an integral piece of pottery to daily life but can you be satisfied knowing this about yourself?  What if you are the urn used as a bed pan?  Shutter the thought but Scripture is very clear the Potter has the right to fashion His clay for common use, too.

When Scripture talks about the Lord being a potter, it talks about the uses of the clay, it talks about the sovereignty of Him to fashion as He sees fit, but it never talks about how His heart feels when He is watching the clay take shape before His eyes.  If you are frustrated in life, wanting a more noble purpose you must get perspective.  It isn't just about the use or His sovereignty in making you.  It is about how He feels about you, too.  Scripture never reveals how the Potter actually feels about His creations.

My wife has a mug fashioned by one of my children in art class during elementary school.  The mug is functional for drinking coffee but the edges are wobbly making it difficult to create a perfect seal with your lips to avoid dripping.  If you drink from it in a certain spot, it might actually snag your skin from a jagged point.  The mug is uneven, certainly misshapen from perfection and the handle's appearance makes you insecure about it's ability to hold the weight of the hot liquid over your lap as you bring it closer to your face.  If anyone else but my wife saw this mug in the store on a shelf, it would never get purchased.  But to my wife, it is her most prized coffee mug, not because it is perfect but because of her relationship to the mug, her relationship with her child who made the mug with all his heart.  She looks at the piece of pottery which would be declared misshapen by anyone else, as she calls it perfection.  Her heart is warmed every time she looks at it; she gingerly uses it, and meticulously cares for it to ensure she will always have it.  It is her favorite.

You are that same piece of pottery.  Just because you think you are misshapen or possibly not the most decorated or even the most sturdy, you warm the Father's heart every time He looks at you, not because you're perfect but because you are the object of His affection.  He has the sovereignty to fashion you as He sees fit, but He does not fashion with the absence of love.  His heart beamed with warmth and light as He was forming you, loving you because He made you.  You are His favorite, despite what you think when you look at yourself.  What if you ARE completely fashioned by the Potter and what if you ARE perfect.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:
  Is 29:16, Is 41:25, Is 45:9, Is 64:8, Jer 18:1-10, Romans 9:6-21, Eph 2:10

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Valid Request

Valid Request
August 24, 2015
John 17:15  "My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one."

Praying is something that we do, most often when we want or need something.  The more a person is in need, it seems his prayers are more numerous.  The more faith a person has, also the more it seems he prays.  The converse is true, too.  The less faith a person has, the less he is willing or likely to pray.  Maybe he had a few unanswered prayers and decided to give up on prayer.  Maybe they weren't valid prayer requests.  While prayer is not just for asking things from our Heavenly Father, but for communication with Him, let us for a moment discuss the things we ask of Him.  After all, Jesus asked things from the Lord up in Heaven.

Consider for a moment where the Lord resides.  Sure, He resides in our hearts but not physically.  The Lord resides in another realm; call it a spiritual realm, whatever you'd like.  Wherever that realm is, that is the place our prayers must travel to be received by the Lord of Hosts.  Our prayers end up in another realm.  The word "realm", its derivation, does not come from the word "reality" but from the word for regime.  The word "realm" means Kingdom.  The Lord resides in another Kingdom and our prayers go to Him in that realm, that kingdom.

This was the same for Jesus; He had to pray as a human to the Heavenly Father who was in another Kingdom.  His prayer requests went to the Father for consideration, out of this world, into another realm.  Jesus had some specific prayers recorded in the Bible, many of which were not just conversations with the Lord but specific lists of requests.  In fact, of the recorded prayers of Jesus, they ALL contained requests, petitions to the Heavenly Father.  While none of this is that revelatory, it does convince me of several things.  Jesus prayed and could not command the Lord to do as He required; He had to ask with a sense of requesting permission that may possibly by denied.  It also proves that you truly have to ask the Lord, not just assume He will grant what is in your heart without a request.  If Jesus had to ask, then we have to ask.

Jesus prayed for the protection of His disciples, protection from the enemy (the devil) and He used words like "want" and "may I" and His tone was one of "please, Father". He specifically prayed for the safety of His disciples yet all of them were eventually killed, martyred.  If you look at His prayer for His disciples in John 17, it wasn't for physical safety that He was praying; it was for the spiritual guarantee of their souls, being delivered into Heaven.  Jesus was asking that the disciples would be protected from the devil's temptations to turn from their faith.  Judas had turned from that faith, being tempted away, and consequently ended up in hell.  The real prayer of Jesus was that those He brought to the knowledge of the Heavenly Father would be protected in that knowledge, that safety from the devils temptations for a guarantee to be in that other realm someday, the realm where the prayers go.

If you lack the faith to ask things from the Lord, thinking He won't give them to you, consider reading all the prayers of Jesus and at least making those prayers your own.  If Jesus had to request them, and was able to request them, then so should you.  Since your prayers end up in another kingdom, make them Kingdom prayers.  You cannot make your prayers Kingdom prayers unless you make it your goal to understand that Kingdom.  Kingdom prayers are the ones that are valid requests.  Figure out what the Kingdom wants and make your requests line up with it.  Jesus did not request anything that wasn't in line with accomplishing the kingdom's goal, but He still had to ask.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Matt 6:9-13, Matt 14:23, Luke 22:32, Luke 22:41-44, John 16:6-26

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Lord is My Shepherd

The Lord is My Shepherd
August 17, 2015
Psalm 23:1  "The Lord is my shepherd, I will not lack anything."

You have heard the famous verse quoted as, "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want."  It is a comforting verse, a pleasant verse, and a desirable verse to quote, inspiring peace and satisfaction.  It is quoted at many funerals, it is quoted when we feel we are lacking, and it is quoted when we need our hearts to rest by still waters.  But I do not believe many people understand what the verse, and immediate verses following it, really mean.  And if a few of us understand what it really means, then we don't live like it on a constant basis.  If you study the verses, you'll see it quite differently.

Just focusing on the first few verses of the full passage, the Lord is likened to a shepherd.  This first theme is inspiring of peace, suggesting the Lord is a care-giver, a protector, someone who is watching out for us.  The second theme introduced is, "I shall not want," as a state of stability, confidence in what the Lord will do for us.  The first full sentence is actually a summation of the entire passage.  "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want."  It tells us the Lord is our protector and care-giver, and we will not lack anything.  And this is precisely what most people believe the verse to suggest.  And most people would be wrong.

The passage starts out as a declarative statement.  Try reading it like this: "The Lord is MY shepherd."  The writer was making a bold statement of his relationship with the Lord.  If a person is to declare the Lord as a shepherd, and as MY shepherd, it conveys a sense of submission and a degree of ownership.  The author of this passage was saying he submits to the Lord's leadership.  This is further evidenced when the author writes in the subsequent verses, "He leads me beside still waters."  The Lord cannot lead if we are not submitted to Him fully.  In the analogy of the shepherd, the author is suggesting he is a sheep.  A sheep has absolutely NO say in where the sheep will be led.  A sheep will have absolutely no say in how the shepherd provides for it, and the sheep will not be his own, but under the protective ownership of the Shepherd.  The sheep MUST live in constant trust of the shepherd to fulfill his job.  While initially a comfortable verse, it can be quite unsettling if we want ownership of the direction for our lives.

It can be further unsettling if you, as a Christian, want to believe part of the verse but not all of it.  Read it in a modern version of the verse with emphasis and it sounds like this: "I submit to the Lord's leadership, and I will lack no GOOD THING."  If you want to believe the original "I shall not want" part of the verse, you have to submit to the fact that the second part of the verse CANNOT be true, unless the Lord is your shepherd, your leader.  Furthermore, it isn't that you will not ever be left wanting anything in this life, but that you will not lack the appropriate and healthy things in life.  You will certainly have "wants" in this world, even if the Lord is leading you, but He will not satisfy those wants if they are not healthy for you physically or spiritually.

Lastly, in order to have the peace of a sheep being led beside still waters, you must fully trust in the Lord at all times.  The Lord can lead you to rest by still waters, but if you don't trust in Him, then you can be sitting beside still waters with angst in your heart.  A sheep doesn't worry about the shepherd fulfilling his duties, so why would you worry about the Lord not doing His job if you submitted to Him?  If you still have worry in your heart, then it can mean either of two things--either you are not fully submitted to His leadership or you don't trust Him to do His job.

Let the Lord be your shepherd and you truly will have all you actually need in your life.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Ps 23:1-3, Ps 34:10, Ps 84:11-12, Matt 6:33, Romans 14:17, James 4:3

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Christianity is Divisive

Christianity is Divisive
August 10, 2015
Luke 12:51  "Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division."

Christianity is divisive.  By saying this, it alone creates controversy.  We are to love one another, have mercy on one another, and forgive one another.  But we are also taught to live in this world yet not be of the world.  We are taught to stand firm to our convictions in the Lord, never denying Him and always denying ourselves.  We are taught to follow Him and do the Lord's work despite what the world believes or does.  We are taught to follow the Lord's standards for living regardless of the world's definition of those standards.  There are many dos and don'ts described in the Bible which the world believes these are arbitrary, especially if they are not harming someone else.  The world wants to pick and choose what they believe, live for, and abide by.  As Christians, we can't do this.  This creates divisiveness between those who are Christians and those who are not.

Jesus said something divisive.  He said, "Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division."  Jesus was foretold as the one who would be bringing peace on earth to all mankind.  Yet Jesus tells us from His own lips that, "From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three."  Such dichotomy in Scripture.  Essentially, Jesus was saying there would be Christian and non-Christian.  Being a Christian would set you apart from those in this world, and your belief system would be in conflict with those around you, even in your own family.  He wasn't saying we should wage war against those in our family who do not believe as we believe, but that we must stand up for our convictions even if it means being disowned by those closest to us.  He absolutely did come to bring peace on earth for all mankind, but that peace is a state of settlement in our hearts, having our eternity secure in Heaven.  That peace is a restfulness in our relationship with the Lord, not a state of ease while living in this world.

As Christians, what we believe will be offensive to the world.  This isn't on purpose, but will naturally happen when those in the world want to live as they want to live, absent from the Lord's standards.  I was once asked about my political position on abortion and I resolutely stood against it.  To clarify the question, the questioner suggested that was my personal belief, not my political position on abortion.  Because of my Christianity, I cannot separate the two.  This creates divisiveness in the world.  My position on the physical age of those who can vote has nothing to do with my Christianity, because there is nothing in the Bible to suggest a voting age as a sin or not.  But my position on abortion is clearly spelled out for me in the Bible, therefore I cannot change that position, political or not.  This is where Christianity becomes divisive.  I will be divided against those who believe abortion is a viable option.  If it is disgusting in the Lord's eyes, it should be disgusting in my eyes.

This gives you the opportunity to evaluate where you stand.  The world famous pastor, T.D. Jakes, is quoted as saying recently that his position on homosexuality has evolved and is evolving. He said that LBGT's have a right to find their own church that fits their own belief system.  The Bible never once suggests we were allowed to pick and choose our beliefs in what Jesus taught.  You are free to make up your own religion but you are not free to make up your own version of Christianity and still call it Christianity.  We are either for Him or against Him.  There is no buffet where you get to cherry pick your verses out of the Bible.  If you stand with the Lord, you will naturally find yourself in direct opposition to the world on more than one issue.  Stand with the Lord, however; that is my recommendation, because the Lord wins in the end.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Mark 13:13, Luke 12, Luke 21:19, 1 Cor 10:12, 2 Cor 1:21, Eph 6:14

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Clean or Filthy

Clean or Filthy
August 3, 2015
Isaiah 64:6  "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away."

If you surround yourself with enough people who fill your head with what you want to hear, it will become your reality.  If you can find five people to tell you that you smell like roses, then you must clearly smell like roses, right?  What if those five people couldn't really smell anything, but you didn't know it?  Would it still be true that you smelled like roses?  There are many presumed preachers of the Lord's Word who would espouse doctrine not perfectly aligned with Scripture.  Yet, they can convince you of their truths and lead you astray.  One such teaching is that your best is good enough and the Lord will only hold you accountable if you are not doing your best.  Your best, my best is not good enough, no matter what someone might tell you.  There isn't a single human being out there who smells like roses even if someone tells you that.

Scripture teaches that there is not one righteous.  It actually says that a human's best righteousness is likened to filthy rags.  The literal translation in the Bible to those filthy rags is actually quite vulgar.  You can take a clean dish rag and scrub your pots and pans with it, turning the rag brown, but that is not what this is talking about.  Sure the rag would be dirty, but it is just lightly soiled from the dishes.  Filthy rags in the Bible's literal translation of the word, in specific context, is a woman's bloodied menstrual cloth.  In the Bible, there were specific rules regarding a woman's menstrual cycle and her relative cleanliness.  She was to go through a specific cleaning process each monthly cycle and a priest could not touch her, nor her husband have relations with her during that cycle.  The Lord was trying to prevent the spread of blood born pathogens and requiring these rules reduced infection.  Regardless of the science behind it, even today a bloodied menstrual cloth can be considered disgusting.  Our best righteousness is likened to something that is disgusting.  If you wanted to translate it today, in keeping with the vulgarity of the Scriptural reference, you might suggest that our best righteousness is like used toilet paper.  It doesn't smell like roses.

So, I would ask you a question.  If five people told you that you smell like roses, would it be true?  The Bible says no.  Your best isn't good enough.  This isn't meant to depress you but shed light on anyone who would presume to be arrogant.  If you always thought you smelled like roses, then you wouldn't need a savior.  Thankfully the Lord has provided a way for us to be made completely righteous and pure, but it requires acknowledging that our best is likened to filthy rags, being humbled enough to accept the work of a Savior.  It requires a person to deeply reflect on his or her actions, realizing there is sin in there and many flaws, imperfect regardless of effort.  You might intend to do the right thing, trying your best, but it will fall short of what the Lord would have done.

Unless you are Jesus, your cleanliness is filthy.  Please hear why I express these truths so deeply.  It is not up to you and me to determine right or wrong.  It is not up to you and me to decide what is good or bad.  Hold all your actions against the canon of the Bible.  If it falls short of those teachings, then it is clearly short.  If you cannot find a parallel in Scripture and it falls into a gray area, then realize if it is up to you to decide, it might not end up smelling like roses, despite finding five people who might agree with you.  There is no human jury that can decide righteousness, no person who can determine what is right.  Error on the side of caution and just presume to be less than perfect, even if it is your best, then accept the Savior's forgiveness for the rest.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Romans 3:10 & 23