Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"We Believe In the Lord Jesus!"

We sit in our clothed Christianity, speaking how lost the lost are, how ungodly certain people are and shocked at times over the utter horror of the practice of some people. We believe in the Lord Jesus!
We go to our work places dealing with the pressures of work, the demands of our time while many of our co-workers use slang and profane language like the air we breath. It wears on us day in and day out. We believe in the Lord Jesus!
We meet certain people, who profess no allegiance to the Lord but their lives are lived nobly and to some degree, moral and upright. It refreshes us to know of such that are outside of Jesus. No thought is ever given to turn them to the Maker and Savior. We believe in the Lord Jesus!
We attend a Bible study speaking openly of how difficult things are in life. We pass the hat on certain areas of life that we know are wrong and corrupt, condemning those who are involved. Inside we kind of 'smirk' to ourselves, knowing we aren't like them. We believe in the Lord Jesus!
And then reality sets in. We find ourselves in our homes, once or maybe twice a week we involve ourselves in some type of alcoholic beverage but never drunk! Drunkenness is condemned by the Lord! The world offers it to us and we freely accept. Hours of television each evening (or day) with little else accomplished. There is a dusty Bible over there, a few visits to an assembly or Bible class each week and our hearts deeply moved by some documentary that shows the hurt of those less fortunate or little children. We believe in the Lord Jesus!
It is a sad spectacle to see religious people with their smug religion berate the "unbelievers". It is just as sad to see unbelievers berate others with their same old tired, borrowed philosophies and putting down the things of God. Both sides hammer away, day after day. We believe in the Lord Jesus!
In all this arena of life, our life and the life of others is slipping away. Opportunities are squandered to help people prepare for their meeting with the Lord. In our world of religion, where we feel good about what we do and who we are, even though we practice things behind our closed doors that no one else may ever know, eternal consequences are being set in order. The verse comes to mind; "holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power." (II Tim. 3:5) But we believe in the Lord Jesus! Do we?

Monday, June 29, 2009

"Be Careful of Lies"

God's word warns us, "...because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness." (II Thes. 2:10-12) It is hard for many to accept that God will send a delusion to believe in a lie. Why would a holy and righteous God do such? Because people want to believe in lies rather than the truth! God gives people what they want! I cannot stress enough the seriousness of seeking and following the truth rather than someones idea or feeling. God is a God of truth and righteousness. If one accepts something as truth that is not truth, they will be deluded and live a lie.
False: "One cannot learn to love others until they learn to love themselves!" How many times have we heard this? I hear people in Christ speak this statement (or similar versions of it) in bible studies. Where did such come from? Not from the Lord! Jesus taught, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me." (Matt. 16:24) Jesus said self denial was the starting point to following Him, not loving yourself. The love of self is where our problems come in. Paul told Timothy that difficult times were going to come and one the of trademarks of the difficulties was "lovers of self." (II Tim. 3:2) It is very gratifying to follow self, to love self but it is not the Lord's way.
False: "The Lord helps those who help themselves." I recently had a member of Christ's body tell me that they believe in this with all their heart. The Lord helps those who trust in Him and not lean on their own understanding! (Prov. 3:5) Helping "self" is what got Peter into trouble. Helping "self" is what got Judas into great problems. We must follow the Lord and what He expects from us but that is not helping ourselves. Paul spoke that he was "burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead." (II Cor. 1:8-9) When one helps themselves, they trust in what they do first and then look to the Lord. When one trusts in the Lord, they listen and follow His instructions. There is a major difference.
We need to be careful of the philosophies that many quote and follow in their lives. So many sound good and promising but upon close examination, they are nothing but lies dressed up in godly-looking clothes! Be careful of lies...delusion is waiting to take hold.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

"The Eye of the Beholder"

Sincere, godly men and women of faith are a wonderful blessing in the lives of all. They desire to serve the Lord with a heart of gratitude for the great mercy and love He placed upon them. We hear the words of Jesus speak while He walked on this earth, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." (Matt. 5:8) There is something special about this kind of person.
God knows it all to well but so does Satan! When Satan approached God, God volunteered his servant Job and God placed His reputation on him. God asked, "Have you considered My servant Job?" (Job 1:8) God knew there was no one like him on earth. Job held to God with all his heart and was found blameless, upright, turning from evil and fearing God. Then the battle ensued. God saw Job as a pure, whole hearted devoted man. Satan saw Job as a hypocrite because if anything bad happens, he would turn on God. God saw in Job a man that glorified His maker. Satan saw in Job nothing but a puny nobody.
Here is what is amazing. What God sees and what the devil sees (and others) are so opposite. When Jesus walked in our world, what He saw in those devoted and forgiven was much different than what others saw. When Jesus approached Matthew, a low life tax collector in the eyes of man, He called him to follow. Jesus saw something different than what anyone else saw. The woman came into Simon the Pharisees house, known for her ungodliness in the eyes of others, poured out her heart and devotion to the Lord. Simon saw the woman, the sinner and questioned Jesus in his own mind (Luke 7:39). Jesus saw a woman forgiven, showing her love to Him who loved her. Looking through the eyes of the Lord and Creator makes a world of difference.
You hear it with many of us. We grip and complain about certain ones. The devil sees us all as failures, hypocrites and worthless. But what does the Lord God see? "For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ." (Gal. 3:27) When God looks at us, He sees His righteousness because of Christ. Wearing Christ should make a major impact on the way we live our lives and it does for many. Satan was relentless on Job and he will be even more relentless against us. We are too easily carried away by ones weaknesses and failures charging them through the wrong eyes. "Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come." (II Cor. 5:16-17)
If we could only see like God sees! We can, can't we? But that would require of us to be like God, doesn't it?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

"God's Redeeming Wrath"

Years ago I heard the story of a little girl was asked why God was harsher in the OT than in the NT? She thought for a moment and said, "That was before God became a Christian!" As I reflect on this, it reflects a lot of our preaching/teaching today.
Too many today preaching/teaching are focusing on the love aspect as all nice and pleasant. We see God's wrath and can't deny it but many go over-board on the love and hope that can paralyze the spiritual well being of many. As we see Jesus, who was the exact representation of God (Heb. 1:3), we reveal His kind and caring responses to people and almost gloss over the wrath that He demonstrated at times. (Yes, He did demonstrate it!) The problem we seem to have is many misconstrue God's wrath as the absence of His love. What a tragidy! God never acts loveless...ever! God's wrath is one face of His redeeming love!!!
If my child was repeatedly and knowingly heading the wrong direction with wrong attitudes, what will I do? Just coddle them and say nice little things to woo them back? We will take action, whatever is necessary to get them back on track, to get them to change their attitudes because if they continue down a destructive path, the end result will be horrible. We don't want our children to destroy their lives. In giving out pain to that rebellious child, is that just being wrathful or is it love?
God rescued His people from bondage. He carried them and what did they do? They sacrficed to god's of other nations to His face, they ignored His teachings and provoked Him with insults and wrong attitudes. What was God going to do? His wrath was poured out because of His redeeming love. He wanted them saved and yet when they continue to refuse, something had to be done. Today, to many preach/teach a 'mushy' and 'fluffy' God. (Just read some of the preachers blogs.) The result has been tragic. There is little respect and reverence for God's holy love. "Do as you please, have fun because God loves us all!" becomes the mind set. I am not trying to berate anyone but trying to emphasize the love of God involves His wrath.
God's wrath is not the absence of God's love but it is His love taking a form we just don't like to accept. God in His wrath is choosing to remove the sin we easily wrap ourselves around so we can come back under His tender, loving watch and care. Take some time and read Hebrews 12 and there you will see the redeeming wrath of God's love. It might open our eyes and will definately produce a greater love and respect for our heavenly Father. By the way, can you remember your parents correcting you in times past and see their love for you?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


God is love (I John 4:7-8). To know God is to know love. To not know God is to not love. That should open our eyes to our lives. Presently I am dealing with 3 marriages that both mates are in Christ Jesus and all three marriages are in trouble. If there is not some serious listening to the Lord, they are doomed to fail. Two of the three are not even aware of what is coming. Over the last 30 years, there is a pattern when people get themselves entangled in sin and its power and you can call the outcome because it happens just like the Lord said it would.
Jesus often cried out, "If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!" You can hear the frustration in Him when He was teaching, how little people were really taking to heart. I am nothing remotely close to Jesus and His preaching/teaching and I know the frustration. You speak for the Lord God, giving His word week after week and it falls on deaf ears. People, who sit and taking God's name in their mouth in songs and praise, who pray and fellowship in the Supper yet they end up 'unloving'! The word of the Lord means so little they follow their own thinking, their own emotions and desires and end up with marital problems. Sin in powerful! Sin is deceptive! The devil wants to destroy those who have put on Christ. He could care less about those outside. They already belong to him. He wants God's own children and the sad truth is how many play into his trap.
"Love never fails!" (I Cor. 13:8) Right there. God is love and those who know God love. God's love never fails. Why do marriages get ripped apart? Just put it together! Often I hear of couples speak of not having feelings anymore for a mate. That reveals how little they understand about love. They pour their emotions into a marriage (which is right to do) but somewhere they are hurt over and over and the emotion gets drained. What is revealed is how little they have poured their soul into the love of God. His love is not an emotion! It's a choice, a sacrifice! That choice, that sacrifice will never fail because God never fails! Love is faith responding! Faithless people will not choose to love. Week after week of hearing the word of God preached/taught leads them to nowhere. They simply take nothing to heart but just drift along until one day, the act on the ungodliness they have been practicing. Yes, it's ungodliness that keeps people from grasping the truth and holding it in their heart.
People become so trapped in sin they cannot see any way out. That's why the Lord tells us to stay away from sin and sinful attitudes. Sin will take you captive. It will reign over your being and drive you to do things contrary to God's will. In one of the marriages, both husband and wife think they are well off with the Lord and their relationship with Him is solid but their marriage is being torn to shreds. Something doesn't add up and we can easily figure what is missing. Love you say? No.....GOD!

Monday, June 22, 2009

"Church Shopping"

I've heard the phrase and have never really liked it. Or maybe I am leaning little more to liking it than I thought. At first I thought it was an ugly expression but now I am starting to realize it reflects what an ugly mind set our society has become. What is it? It's called "Church shopping!" I hear it often and it's a growing epidemic!
We live in a day and time where things are about "me", individualism. People are overly concerned about their "rights" which has lead to the mind set of "church shopping!" People often look for a place that they feel comfortable with or what they have to offer their children. It use to upset me when I would hear such but now...maybe I have come to grips with some things.
We need to be careful when looking for a church. There is so much free floating ideas and teachings out there. But that's not what most look at when they are "church shopping." There are congregations that use every man made idea, book and entertainment to try to move people. We need to be more concerned about the truth from God's word but that's not what most are looking at when they are "church shopping." The youth programs are becoming more and more entertaining and fun events to keep them from being bored. God's word is sprinkled here and there to make it sound good and right. We need sound, firm convictions and teachings from those in charge of our youth but that's not what most are looking for when they are "church shopping." Many jump to the denominational world, using the phrase 'non-denomination' to get their attention. They do little inspection whether the truth of the gospel is being taught or if they follow the pattern of leadership set up by God's word but that's not what most are looking for when they are"church shopping."
Today, with all the confusion and abuse of God's word, things are getting more and more complicated. What should on look for when they are "church shopping"? First, dedicated Christian's desperately need to be part of a local congregation of Christ. We aren't strong enough to make it on our own! We are part of the body and I am speaking of those who have been baptized into Christ, into His death (Rom. 6) and God placing them in His body where He desired them to be (I Cor. 12:18). Look for a congregation that focuses on the gospel of Jesus Christ! That gospel in truth will show us what the true church is and is not to be. The church of our Lord will feed you living bread from Jesus, not a bunch of 'flowery' stories or inspiring poems. The church should have teachers that are serious as teachers, knowing the Scriptures will shape all the members for the service of God in a body which is indeed the body of Christ. Listen to what is being offered in the pulpits and you will find if those preaching/teaching are parading themselves or the Master who called them. If you hear a endless "issues" oriented lessons, or endlessly asking for money to support their projects, that is something to take notice of.
If you are one to go "church shopping", be prayerful and make certain you have an understanding of what the Lord expects from His body and make certain you are seeking the things the Lord seeks from His body. If they are Christ centered, Christ focused and determined to hold to the truth of God's word and not in the entertaining business, thank God and stick to them like glue! You will not be deceived and find yourself growing into the likeness of the Savior who called you.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


The religious world speaks of God as some "good 'ole boy" that is such a good friend. He is addressed as some familiar family member that you walk in on and give Him a good slap on the back. (Just look at their worship.) Some may say that we can enter His presence easily or we don't have a real balanced view of our Lord. To saunter into His presence, hands in pocket and very casual seems to reveal we don't know our heavenly Father all that well.
When Moses encountered God in Ex. 3:6, Moses was afraid to look at God so he hid his face. Isaiah, upon mourning the death of King Uzziah, encountered God "sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted."(Isa. 6:1) His reaction? "Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips." (Isa. 6:5) He confessed his sinfulness. Here are two instances where men faced God and one averted his eyes while the other recognized his sinfulness.
What about Peter? Upon catching a record number of fish, amazement seized him and recognizing the presence of Jesus Christ, he states, "Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!" (Luke 5:8) His Lord was holy, different and Peter recognized the presence of someone much greater even though he was grateful to be near Him.
Someone may speak, "But God doesn't want us to be shy when it comes to Him. We must be bold because He is our Father!" Really? It was the Almighty that told Moses, whom He was going to use as His instrument to deliver His people, to not come any closer and get those sandals off. It was God who ordered the people to keep their distance at Sinai and clothed Himself in fire on the mountain. It was Jehovah God who put two curtains up between Him and the people in the Holy of Holies. Paul spoke to Timothy, telling him that God "dwells in unapproachable light." (I Tim. 6:16). The Hebrew writer speaks of our pursuing the sanctification (holiness) or one will never see the Lord. (Heb. 12:16) Then later the writer teaches that "let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire." (Heb. 12:28-29)
What are we learning? Should we crawl and grovel into God's presence? Is He on the verge of destroying us with a holy blow? No! The same man Moses who could not look upon and was told to keep his distance was allowed to see God's glory. (Ex. 33:18) God assured him of their relationship. But Moses was not allowed to see the face of God. There is warmth and intimacy in our approach to God but in that warmth and intimacy, there is still a holy protection. That's what many have never learned. They do not see God for who He is. Should we be afraid of Him now that Jesus has come and given us our access? Of course not! And yet...?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

"Instrumental Music"

I knew the time would come. I was asked about the "instrumental music" issue in worship and where I stand on it. I am not real certain what I write will make much difference because this debate has gone on so long in the church and continues to be a 'hot' topic. I have heard the pros and cons for years and I have heard about every angle from they "used instruments in the Old Testament" to "God doesn't say it is wrong." Some that will read this will wonder why we even bother with such a question. I bother with this question simply because someone trusted me enough to ask and I need to respond to sincere questions with the openness that is asked.
Honorable people seek to honor God. Let me share with you a couple of quick things so we won't belabor this issue and you roll your eyes as "another lesson on instrumental music." First, by being honorable in wanting to honor God, we look closely at the Old Testament temple worship. They had temple singers and trumpeters. There were harps and flutes and all sorts of instruments. However, in looking closely, none of these were used in the Holy Place or Holy of Holies in the presence of God. I just wanted us to note that. In turning to the New Testament, there is no mention of an instrument used in worship at any time. Does this give credence to the issue? Today, we want to fight and argue over every denomination that uses instrumental music, condemning them. But we miss the point. If every denomination dropped their usage of instrumental music, then they would be saved? If one is not baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of their sins, they are still outside of Christ. Being outside of Christ, they are not bound by God to any righteousness (Rom. 6:20). How they worship changes nothing! We need to be careful and sober minded.
Secondly, we find that the first usage of an instrument after the resurrected Christ was somewhere in the neighborhood of 670 AD. That's the first recorded history we have. That means it was 640 later that man introduced the instrument in worship. That tells us that instrumental music under the new covenant was a man-made tradition. "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ." (Col. 2:8) What does this say to us? Once instrumental music is introduced into the worship assembly, it cannot be taken out because people are taken captive by it! I am not trying to be argumentative and those who know me well know that about me. I am trying to help us see how easily we can be taken captive and stay captive to something that was never in existence under the new covenant of Christ. The arguments arise because "captivity" is the issue "rather than according to Christ."
There is too much division. Our society has placed on us so many different ideas of individualism that it has affected the church. Something doesn't go our way or agree with our understanding (and I am speaking of opinions, not revealed truth), we just divide. There is little acceptance and love. The devil is having a great time watching us kill each other with ideas and words, and we never seem to understand what it means to love and accept one another as Christ accepted us (Rom. 15:7). It is heart breaking. I ask us to center our minds and hearts around the heart and mind of Jesus and let's stop all the nonsense that divides us. Honor God! Honor Jesus! Division is not honorable but creates self-righteousness!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

"The Ox That Eats Grass"

Psalm 106 is a Psalm of praise. It opens with "Praise the Lord!" and closes with "Praise the Lord!" What led to the Psalmist praise is the recounting of the sinfulness of Israel and the greatness of God. The writer asks for grace to continually be extended to His people.
I just want to make one point to show us how quickly and easily we as mankind will exchange the Almighty for something silly and stupid. Remember what they had witnessed with their own eyes. They all had a "10 lesson correspondence course" when God brought the different plagues on Egypt. They should have learned something. They witnessed their exodus from Egypt, watching God be their army. They witnessed a sea be walled up so they could cross and all the food and water they wanted to survive in the wilderness. None of the clothing or shoes ever wore out because of the mighty hand of the Lord. The Almighty did so much for them, it would amaze us if we knew every detail.
Listen to verse 19-20: "They made a calf at Horeb and worshiped a molten image. Thus they exchanged their glory for the image of an ox that eats grass."In all of God's dealing with their sinful and spiteful attitudes, they exchanged their glorious God for another god. In fact, Exodus 32:5 says when they made this golden calf, Aaron declared, "Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord." trying to cover up their sinfulness of this ox as their god. Aaron saw it as a straight swap! Their god in their eyes was an image of an ox that eats grass. I wonder what we have exchanged the Almighty for in our lives?

Monday, June 15, 2009

"Approaching God's Word"

I read different blogs and bulletins. I don't take a lot of time with them but I do read some. Something that has caught my attention is how "preachers" are starting to make the word of God sound more like a 'romance' novel rather than the seriousness of the word of God.
We are talking about THE WORD OF GOD! Not a Reader's Digest or some sort of "love letters." Maybe I am missing something but that really irritates me. People seem to be reducing the words that passed the lips of God as some sort of man made idea rather than a powerful, spiritual word that will make drastic changes within your heart if you are a serious believer (I Thes. 2:13). I realize our past experiences and how we think affect how we approach and read the word. But we, in Christ Jesus, should approach God's word as seriously as our Savior approached His Father's word and will.
God takes our sin seriously! Man doesn't because we live with sin all around and at times live in it ourselves. Jesus was ever so serious as He voluntarily laid His life down, costing Him everything for our sins. The last word for us that passed the lips of God is not about sin; it's about Christ dealing with our sins. He loves beyond our imagination but let's not turn His word into some 'love letter'! Our cultural climate is not only filled with this cheap idea but too much 'sugar and spice.' All of this reduces everything in the Holy Scriptures to a wooing note or some sweet romance. The end result: people not taking God seriously and just following what they feel and want, thinking He will accept anything as long as it done with sincerity! I agree with the idea that the word is a message from God speaking of His great, unfathomable depth of love for us. To read His word any other way would cause us to miss the tender and mighty love of God. Some use the word of God as a "hell, fire and damnation" text, isolating it in which they continually rage, is the misreading and misleading of the Scriptures.
The bottom line: God speaks to us about His unceasing love but also His justice and judgment. Love involves both (Rom. 11:22)! God revealed every thing of Himself in Jesus Christ. If we would only listen to what Jesus speaks, He speaks the truth He got from God. Too many are picking and choosing what they want to hear and have Him say. That's not healthy spiritually. Just look at the product in many a congregation of the Lord. The lack of reverence, respect and humility at the word of God. Don't let some self-righteous, sour preacher/teacher tell you his side of God and don't let some 'high in the sky', fluffy duffy tell you "love, love, love." Both are detrimental spiritual. Let's hold honestly to the whole, knowing the steadfast love of the Lord will care for those who are deeply grateful, serious and lives have been touched by His substitution in our place. Open our eyes Lord!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

"Sheep Stealing"

I was walking in in the hall of a hospital after visiting a friend. While walking I heard a very faint cry. There was the normal hustling and moving by staff but I slowed down as the crying got a little louder. I came upon a room and there sat a woman, probably mid 50's. She was sitting up in a chair, looking out the window and crying. I decided to walk in and meet her to see if there was anything I could do to help. She quickly gained her composure as I introduced myself. I asked her if there was anything I could do for her. She just found out she had been diagnosed with cancer. Her husband was not there and she took the news hard. I took the opportunity to steer her mind to God's word, to encourage her heart. She said other than her husband, I was the only one that had visited her and couldn't believe as a complete stranger I came in. She had been there for ten days as they were doing all the tests to determine her problems. As we began to speak and I watched her heart lifted, a fellow walks in asking me to come into the hall. I stepped out with him and he told me that he was the Chaplin in the hospital and I had no right to come in trying to "sheep steal." He explained what diocese this lady was from and that her priest had been contacted and it was none of my business. "We just don't allow people like yourself to come in and try to steal away someone elses sheep!" he said in a stern voice. I wanted to say something but kept my tongue. As this Chaplin walked away, I went back in and the lady was thrilled I met her and I told her I would pray for her. She said her husband would not allow me to contact them for some reason I did not understand, so I gave her my number and asked her to contact me. She never did!
As time has passed by, I have often wondered what happened to this lady. I wondered why I was in that position at that time. I tried to show her Jesus. Sometimes people can't hear because their pain and difficulty makes them hear other things. It stays on my mind and heart. I know without Christ what awaits peopel and that's a reality I cannot escape in my thinking. But I can say this, I am thankful that for one brief moment I offered her refreshment and showed her that a complete stranger she didn't know (His name is Jesus) cared for her. The rest leaves me at a loss for words. May God open our eyes to the hurting and needy. They need Jesus!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

"Power of Sin"

We just don't seem to grasp what sin is. Many know what sinful acts are but not sin. Sin is the cause of sinful acts! Sin is a power that controls a person from within. That's why some live in a constant state of misery because they are controlled by sin and many times do not even realize it.
Paul spoke plainly about this in Romans 7. (He is trying to show the Law of Moses could not overcome sin.) Sin took control of him, even through the Law of God (v.7-8). The end result? Paul said he did not understand what was happening. He was utterly confused (v.15). How did he know? He wanted to practice what was right, had that desire to practice what was right but kept doing things wrongly (v.19). That's why he was confused. Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever tried really hard to do the right thing only to do the wrong thing? That can be frustrating. But more importantly, we need to understand why it happens. The harder he seemed to try, the more he failed. Finally, he came to the right conclusion: "But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which indwells me." (v.19) Right there...it was sin dwelling within the middle of his being. He wanted to do right but kept doing the very evil he hates (v.21). The mind was clear and knew what he needed to do but in his body, he was practicing something else (v.23). In fact, he agreed with the law of God that God was right and His ways were righteous (v.22). But the battle was being lost in his practice! Where did it leave him? "Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?" (v.24) He found himself 'wretched'. He was worn out. He tried and tried to do right but found himself failing and failing again. The hardest thing to realize for most is that sin is powerful and dwells within people and there is no amount of positive thinking or gimmicks that will solve this problem!
Have you found yourself in the endless battle of wanting to do the right thing but doing the wrong thing? How frustrating is it? If it continues, it will finally erode away one's desire to even try anymore. No one may ever know your inner turmoil but you do. It will finally lead you to the conclusion of, "What's the use?" People who suddenly walk away from the Lord or do something that is so 'ungodly' and it shocks us as to why. They may be an elder or deacon, a bible teacher, a preacher or what we thought as a strong member and they are gone. Why? They have finally succumb to this power called sin that has been working in their lives for a long time and it finally defeated them. People get trapped in pornography or drinking, knowing the wrongs of it and swearing to themselves they will never do it again only to find themselves doing it again. I am not speaking of accidental sin! I am speaking of being overcome over and over by the same sin, ending up in the same place every time except each time we lose something within our spiritual being. Have you ever heard someone say, "I know it's wrong but I can't help myself!"? That's the power of sin and it will deceive you and control you.
"Who will set me free from the body of this death?" That's the question we need to ask! It is a body of death. The answer: "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" Only in Christ can one find the power to overcome! First, one must be in Christ (through baptism). Secondly, one must be sincere in their walk with Him, leaning on His power to do the right thing. Too many are trying to do things by themselves, their own ability and power. Sin will take them down every time!
To grit your teeth, pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps to do what is right is not the aim in our lives! If knowing what is right were the basic issue, we would all have it made! Only in and through Christ can one overcome sins power of operating within our beings! That's why we must die (Rom. 6). How's your relationship to Jesus?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

"Do We See Jesus?"

I don't know about you but I get wearied of all the pep talking and pop psychology offered by so many when people face difficulties. It sounds good until the people going through the difficulty leave those speaking and face the reality of their struggles. If we aren't careful, we will destroy their hope because they begin to believe something is wrong with them!
Maybe what we are missing is the real, genuine understanding of Jesus, our Lord and Savior. When we look at the writings of Peter, he speaks of the salvation not yet revealed, a living hope because of Christ and a hoped-for inheritance that is imperishable and undefiled reserved for you (I Pet. 1:3-5). Peter speaks of a hopeful people looking for a new heaven and earth in which only righteousness dwells (II Pet. 3;13). And all these brothers and sisters looked forward to this simply on the basis of a promise.
What seized them that they held so strongly to what they could not see? What kept them moving forward when persecutions and struggles were theirs daily? It was their understanding and conviction of Jesus Christ! They came to love Him more than anything and the new life they had been born into was their life! Because of their Lord and what He brought them to, they were willing to be His followers, His pilgrims joyfully moving in this world as they waited for the real world to come. It was their trust in Him and love for Him that was so strong they were glad to experience whatever came while they waited for the completion of their salvation. It is true, many of them had never seen Jesus (like all of us) but "though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory." (I Pet. 1:8) They looked the horrors of this corrupted and sinful world right in the eyes, seeing it for what it is and went on living in confidence because of what they possessed in Jesus and what He has secured for them.
Maybe the vast majority of us have never been desperate enough to know the utter joy of complete dependence on Jesus Christ! I know I haven't but I am striving toward that. When we have no other props like sufficient money in the bank, a steady job, good health, a devoted family and a network of friends, that will help us discover how assuring Christ can be. All the above are blessings from God but do they work us harm spiritually? When all our props are gone or nearly gone, then we will be thrown back onto the Christ as our only, solitary means of support and then we will see Jesus for who He really is and find the joy that is "inexpressible."

Monday, June 8, 2009

"No Record of Wrongs"

It seems there are too many people that are CPAs and accountants! It's true. I am speaking of those who keep count of the wrongs of others. It seems there are marriages where each wrong is recorded on the pages of the mind or in the church where someone holds to a number of times they have reached to help someone only to be hurt by them and they recall those wrongs when necessary. We need to love enough to confront people in sin, that's biblical! We need to let things go when we are sinned against, that's biblical!
I hear people speak of grace but some of those who speak of grace, giving it definition are very graceless in their own lives. They are more concerned with operating on numbers! We seem to wear a badge of righteousness: so many good deeds done, so many evil deeds resisted. We share with others those we help, how we have put ourselves out there in situations like we are the front line of the battle against sin. In the end, our spiritual condition is easily determined by the number of points we have accumulated by what we have done. I have known of one congregation where they keep a record of the righteous deeds done by members! They have a sheet to keep tabs through the week and turn them in each Sunday.
My phone rang and a member of church was chewing on me because in their words, "That's the third time you have done this!" The sad truth of the matter, they were right!! As this person began taking my life layer by layer, I realized that three wasn't the magic number. I said little because if I responded in any other words, they would think I was denying what they thought was so bad. (In reality, it was just an oversight of something.) It grieved me and I felt badly. They were right but their spirit was graceless and wrong! "Love does not take into account a wrong suffered." (I Cor. 13:5) Love is not a record keeper of wrongs. Love does not do what this person did, even though I deserved it. Listen, those who love will rebuke our hearts when absolutely necessary but they will not keep an account of the wrongs!
What do we do with those who keep failing? Are we talking about sinners like ourselves? What do we do with ourselves? Do we urge one another to keep an account of the wrongs of others so they won't notice their own failures? When people fail us, hurt us and we isolate them because they have failed over and over you will eventually drive out the desire to live for God! We need to be more Christ centered, more grace receiving and giving because Christ sees all of us for who we really are and He is working to make us what He wishes. But here is the greatest blessing: He never keeps a record of wrongs of repented sin! NEVER, EVER!
What was that you said? "Yes, but...."?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

"Accepting the Gift"

We seem to have great difficulty accepting the forgiveness of God. Some way, some how we want to pay for the gift of being forgiven. On the other side, I hear people speak of "Jesus paid it all!" That is true but in order for Jesus to pay it all, we need to appropriate it on His terms or there is no forgiveness.
When you look at those people in the New Testament that identified themselves with the Lord Jesus, they found complete forgiveness and His life by gladly receiving the good news and took His name on themselves. They didn't earn anything. The adulterous woman in John 8 found 100% forgiveness without earning it! The apostles were forgiven over and over, never trying to earn it from Jesus. When people tried to earn it, such as the ruler who wanted to know what he "could do" to inherit eternal life (Luke 18), they found themselves on the outside, left alone in their sins.
Forgiveness and the life of which forgiveness is a part cannot be bought or earned. Nothing we offer or do can pay any part of the ransom price! Jesus paid it all! It is true that we must become His followers or there is no forgiveness but our coming to Him is not meritorious! We have no merit. We come to Him because we can't handle our own sin problem. Our obedience to His word has no buying power, no covering power or no redeeming power. "Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ." (I Pet. 1:18-19)
He was living on the streets and was looking through a window at store. He always wanted a ring to wear and each day he would come by the store just to look at his one particular ring. Across the street and man observed this poor, filthy man looking in the window each and every day at the same time. One day, this man who had observed this pauper walked over to him when he was looking at the ring and asked him what he did each day coming by and looking. The poor man said, "What a beautiful ring. I always wanted a ring like that to wear." The man asks the pauper, "Would you like to have it?" The poor man responded, "It is priceless and there is no way I have the means to buy it." The man responded, "You're right. But you can have it for nothing!" The impoverished man stated, "You don't understand. I have no money and can't possibly pay for it." The gentleman looked at this poor man right in the eyes and said, "YOU don't understand. It's already been paid for and I am offering it to you as a gift, free for your taking." The pauper searched his pockets and found three pennies. He thinks about giving the three pennies to this man but thought it might insult him, so he puts the pennies back into his pocket.
Either it is a gift that he will accept as a gift or he won't get any part of it! With his eyes shining and heart leaping full of amazement and wonder, he watches the man go in, purchase the ring, bringing it out and placing it in the poor man's hand. The poor man accepts it, not knowing what to say. Then the final words came out, "It must have cost you a lot." The man walks away and whispers, "It did indeed!"

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


I was asked by a reader to address sexual fantasies between a husband and wife, if that is sinful or not. At first, I did not want to deal with it because it is a very difficult topic but on the other hand, it is a needful topic because of what others may be experiencing in their personal lives. It is a real, legitimate question that needs to be addressed with the dignity and purity God gives to sex.
Let me first say, there is no need to apologize for wanting our intimate experiences to be pleasurable and satisfying. We want that in our recreation, travels and friendships so why wouldn't one want that in the arena of the most intimate time between a husband and wife? Let me lay some ground work. "Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." (I Cor. 10:31) All that those in Christ need to relate to the name we have taken on! "Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father." (Col. 3:17) Every aspect of our lives are to express one's relationship to Christ, that we are part of Him. This truth doesn't take the pleasure out of intimacy but gives it a real sense of meaning when understood in light of the Lord Jesus!
When things like intimacy are asked and addressed in a marriage, we need to understand the whole of marriage and not just one part. To focus on one part and ignore the whole is spiritually destructive. What hurts our relationship with God hurts our relationship with one another! With that in mind, whatever "fantasies" that goes on needs to be done through honoring one another in the marriage. To help people move to the Lord, that will determine what kind of fantasizing is off limits! There seems to be way too much influence of the world and not enough godliness impacting our thoughts and desires. For one to get "a buzz" from doing violence to our spouse (mentally or physically), or dishonoring them through some imaginary situation, is not uplifting and takes our hearts into a world the Lord never intended. Maybe the question needs to be, "What is the real driving force behind the desire?" Is it marriage or is it something else?
There is more to the actual "act" than the actual "act." The so called "experts" speak of warming things up and getting in the mood with the right settings. But I am not sure I agree with all that in light of what the Scriptures teach and speak of sex. (The Scriptures address it much more than people think.) The sexual act is much richer and broader than what all the experts speak of. We are speaking of two people, a husband and wife, that are devoted to one another and their God, finding their daily walk and routine in this relationship deepening. The intimacy becomes the great added pleasure because they are devoted to the Lord and one another in every aspect of their lives. They work and build that relationship and it reaches to the private matters that no one else is allowed in! It is never right to invite someone else into what only belongs to two. It would not be right physically or in mind to want to cherish such. Our lost and death decaying world makes sex into something God never intended. A person is not some piece of sexual equipment that we need to get some sexual "buzz" out of! To use one another as an instrument we mentally conjure up will not enrich the over-all relationship!
The bottom line, and I am speaking to those who want to glorify the things of God because of Christ, why do we need to conjure up some bizarre fantasy? As one grows in maturity together in the Lord, the intimate engagement with one another will be transformed. Getting closer to God and His intended purpose of creating us will never hurt another! I pray I have addressed this with dignity and the honor of God. Honor the Lord in every aspect of your marriage!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

"Our Minds"

We need to be careful on what we think about, allowing to fill our minds and heart. The mind of a Christian is one that needs to wrapped around and dwelling on the things of the Lord, not on the world. Just look at our society. We live in one messed up environment. There is a pill it seems for every single avenue in our lives. There are medications for our hurts and illnesses and in a day and time when everyone is speaking how far we have come in our medical technology (and we have). But here is where it is hurting many. We rely on these medicines, pills and "new" insight as to what makes us and our children tick that it is taking those in Christ away from the real need. Is it possible that we are becoming less and less reliant on the Lord and more reliant on medications to help us cope and live?
Our minds are being corrupted with all the modern medical science. People that claim Christ as their Lord and Savior are stressed over the present with the job situations. We are worried for the future and fear fills our hearts over the swine flu and stock markets. What are we filling our hearts and minds with? People watch the news shows and there is nothing but fear and anxiety that is produced from the troublesome times. There are those who listen to a steady diet of talk radio and it develops their thinking on how they view things. I have had Christian men and women trapped in the world of pornography, which has twisted their minds and damaged their marriages. People that surf the net to watch YouTube videos endlessly, looking for something new and different. I recently had a couple tell me they check the weather 6-7 times per day, always turning to the forecast. How many times is needed for a forecast? Where does all this leave us? Not with God! There is no room for Him to fill our minds and hearts with the real, powerful, sustaining bread of life!
"Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things of the earth." (Col. 3:1-2) We seek where we live!
"Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you." (Phil. 4:8-9)
Right in these teachings from God we find why we might not be making much spiritual progress and have assurances in our hearts. What's filling your mind?