Thursday, July 22, 2010

"Break Time"

It's that time of year. This will be my last post until Aug. 9. We are headed to the cool mountains of Colorado for some serious rest and camping. It is a wonderful opportunity for me to spend in prayer and reading of God's word just to reflect and meditate. I always look forward to it each and every year.
We have a good group of others that will meet us there. I believe at last count there will be some 21 others joining us as they too have realized it's the place to be in the middle of summer and the great enjoyment of such beauty.
If anyone has any questions about the Bible that you would like me to address, please, drop me a note and ask. I will do my best to answer it. I enjoy hearing from those who read. Last week I heard from a fellow in Nigeria that reads this blog daily.
I pray that you will keep steadfast in prayer, listening to His word and submit with all your heart to the Lord's will. May God richly bless each of you.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

"The Glory of God"

All glory belongs to God. It always has and always will. But we as people do a poor job sometimes in our glorifying God. We love the praise of people, the accolades poured out on us by others and recognition for our accomplishments. Too many, especially preachers, think of themselves in a high minded way and everything depends on their abilities and insight. That's why some try to be so witty in the pulpit.
Years ago, I had written some lessons that I thought were just great. I was sharing them with a friend of mine and pouring out how wonderfully written they were and if people would pay attention, it would change their lives. As I continued speaking so highly of my accomplishment, my friend humbly and quietly spoke: "If they are so great and life changing, why aren't you the Lord?" It hit me between the eyes. I needed to hear that.
Paul, drawing from the prophet Jeremiah, brings into focus for us that glory, all glory belongs to God (I Cor. 1:31/II Cor. 10:1). Jeremiah heralded about the Lord: "Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and lot not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness of earth; for I delight in these things." (Jer. 9:23-24)
Too many in the church are bringing glory to themselves, our accomplishments and outreaches. We rob God of what only God possesses in His power, love and righteousness. It is by His own graciousness that we are anything. At our best we are sin defiled! When are we going to learn? It is by His doing that we are in Christ Jesus! We are righteous, holy and a child of God because of His greatness, not ours.
Our lives should be lived simply glorifying the Lord and Him alone. Our works are to result in God being exalted, not ourselves and not the church. The other afternoon as I sat looking out a window with my granddaughter, a group of long stem flowers had grown up before the window. My granddaughter called, "Look grandpa, a butterfly! Isn't it beautiful? Look at it! Look at it!" Here was this large butterfly, with its beauty and short life doing one thing, what God intended for it to do...glorifying the Maker!
"Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing." (Rev. 5:12) It's impossible to glorify God when we show ourselves as something when we are nothing. That's a self deceived person!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"Coming Short of God's Grace"

We face many obstacles in our lives. Sometimes things weigh on us and after a while, we want to just give up. What many fail to recognize is the activity of the devil! He is looking to take people down. He uses any means he can and things we aren't even aware of. Too many people are too bold when it comes to the devil! "I just tell him to leave me alone and get out of here!" are words that are spoken. They might sound right but we are dealing with a spiritual force of darkness.
One of the easiest ways for the devil to gain access to our heart is through bitterness! The Hebrew writer warns of such: "See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled." (Heb. 12:15) One can halt the grace of God just because of bitterness. Someone hurts us (maybe even our mates) and that hurt hits our hearts. We have all felt that sting. The devil is a schemer! He wants us to focus on the hurt so our minds start thinking of how we have been treated. The grace of God is slowly traded for bitterness. A little resentment and now the root has sprung forth. Another wrong by the same person and now the root starts sprouting more until it manifests itself in an outer display or outburst at an individual.
It springs up and causes trouble and what is worse we believe we are right in revealing our bitterness toward them! The one outburst reaches and defiles others around us, even to those who are innocent. We begin talking to others how we were mistreated and it causes them trouble. It defiles them. Your words have pained them. They view the individual you speak about through the eyes of your bitterness! Bitterness in the heart will open the door to all sorts of evil actions and attitudes, even to the point of refusing the Lord's way to forgive! This is the complete scheme and accomplishment of the devil!!
We need our hearts guarded and the power to overcome when we have been wronged. We need to take our concerns to the Lord, laying them at His feet so His peace, which is beyond human understanding will guard our heart and mind in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:6-7). The Lord has to set up the guard and that comes through our surrender and holding to Him. We must depend on the Lord's defenses so we won't fall prey to the devil and his wiles (Eph. 6:10-17). We need to put over our heart His righteousness so it can't be hit by wicked spiritual forces and the Lord's righteousness directs us. We need the shield of faith, trusting in God when we have been wronged to let Him defend us and not allow any bitterness, resentments or anger to build from within our heart.
The very power that kept bitterness and resentments from the heart of Jesus is the same power that He makes available to us through Himself. The only question left is will we hold tightly, knowing the devil is looking for someone to devour and will use whatever means he can to accomplish his goal?

Monday, July 19, 2010

"What Do We Possess?"

There seems to be two different perspectives on salvation. First, there are those who throw around the term 'grace' as if they could never lose their salvation. That's a dangerous mind set. Secondly, there are those who claim salvation by the grace of God but work their way to God. That too is just as dangerous. People are either working their way or 'free flying' their way. Both are abusers of God's grace.
The Galatian brethren were warned if they added the Law to their being right with the Lord, they would be severed from Christ and fall from grace (Gal. 5:4). Right there we are taught that once saved always saved does not exist. Peter speaks to those who have escaped defilement's by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior and turned back to those defilement's are in worse condition than before they heard the way of righteousness (II Pet. 2:20-22).
There are those who seem to 'guilt' others into their relationship and they always seem to be working for the security. The relationship of the Lord Jesus Christ is based on faith in His blood and has nothing to do with us making some legal response. It is completely God's gracious act and work reconciling us to Himself through the work of Jesus taking our place. God draws us to Himself in Jesus to love and believe in Him. The work of Jesus on our behalf creates a relationship with Him! It is a relationship that captivates our hearts and minds.
Anytime we try to make the relationship with the Lord something we do, that makes it a work system like the Jew's. "But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace." (Rom. 11: 6) This is why so many have difficulty accepting baptism as part of salvation because many have turned baptism into a work. Baptism is faith responding to the grace of God (Col. 2:12). Baptism is faith trusting in God to raise us from the dead. It is not meritous. It is simply faith in the grace of God, depending on God to do as He said He would do through the work of Jesus Christ.
The Lord is trying to assure us of our salvation and we should be. Christ not only took our death but He lives our life! What we aren't to God, He is for us! He is our holiness, our perfection, our strength and power. All that is asked of us is to follow with all our heart, trusting in His redeeming blood through our uniting with Him. If we are in Christ, we aren't just there by the skin of our teeth. We are saved to the utmost (Heb. 7:25)! That should touch our hearts to pursue His life, His righteous and holiness in our lives. Not to be saved but because we are saved! That's what saved people do. That should make us all pause and look closely at what we really possess in Christ Jesus.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

"The Term 'Believe'"

Most people do not realize the purpose of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. I hear often people say they are the same events told in a little different way. These writers are not just merely repeating something.
Matthew is written to the Jewish Christian to prove that Jesus is the Messiah and quotes extensively from the OT Scriptures.
Mark is written to the Jewish Christian showing Jesus was the Son of God by stressing His miracles.
Luke is written to the Gentile Christian showing Jesus the Savior of all mankind.
John is written to the church to increase their faith in Jesus.
As a result of the above, John tries to help those in Christ to develop their faith and uses the term believe many times. This is where many get tripped up. Matthew uses the verb believe 10 times. Mark uses the verb believe 10 times. Luke uses the verb believe 9 times. John uses the verb believe 99 times.
In John 20:31, John reminds the church that they may "believe" (trust in Jesus) and that "believing" brings life. That is a present tense, active participle which means it is not a one time act to be saved (as many claim) but a continuing and increasing faith.
Too many are claiming that just "believing" in the Lord Jesus will save someone without understanding the nature of believing. To believe has three elements to it. (1) A conviction that starts in the heart which brings about confidence. (2) A trust and complete reliance upon. (3) Obedience by a willingness to follow and respond to His word. These three elements are seen in Heb. 11. It takes all three elements to produce a faith that brings one into life. Many people profess to believe in the Lord but it never takes them into His life. Let me illustrate. We believe in Abraham Lincoln and the facts about his life. He lived but we don't take a confidence and conviction about him or a trust and reliance on him to obey him.
Jesus said in John 5:24: "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life." One has to hear His word and believe, make a response to what you hear and continue. That's what brings one into life.
When Jesus sent those apostles into all the world to preach the gospel, those who believe are to make a response in that belief. They were called to be baptized (Mark 16:15-16). They are the saved. They come into the life of God. How? By believing! The faith in the individual was placed in the words of Jesus and they trustingly responded. Those apostles preached that first time after the ascension of Jesus and they called to the multitude that Jesus was the Messiah, showing by signs and wonders He was who He claimed He was. Some were moved in the heart to draw a conviction of faith (Acts 2:37). Peter calls on them for their faith to respond to which 3000 did (Acts 2:38). God's word tells us that they received the word (Acts 2:41) and were baptized (faith responding). They willingly (believed) obeyed. There were no arguments about what baptism meant and the apostle Peter didn't try to convince them otherwise. It was faith being built and they believed in Jesus by responding to the word!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"Is Feeling Part of Faith?"

How is devil is having a 'hay-day' with people! If he can twist us with some temptation or help us put our faith into something that is false, he will make entrance back into our lives. That's what he is trying to do to those in Christ. One of his most devious ways is to get people to believe their feelings and their faith go hand in hand! Sometime back, while in another state, I was asked, "Aren't our feelings a gauge of our faith?" That's what they wanted to believe and they felt really good that day! That's the problem. They wanted to believe it. To feel good about yourself and life and calling that a measuring stick for our faith is playing right into the hand of the devil. What does it mean when difficult days come if that's our gauge? When people have a trusting relationship with the Lord, they will feel pain, disappointment and discouragement. Our trust, our faith in God doesn't exempt us from these feelings at times in our lives. I know many of you have heard preachers or read books that say differently and they slide in a verse here and there, but not in a proper sense. Faith, a real trusting, saving faith takes one to the presence of God during difficulties, holding to Him for a place of refuge and strength.
Here was Habakkuk, preaching to God's people before they are taken into Babylonian captivity. Habakkuk is speaking to God awaiting God's reply. I can almost hear someone coming up to him and asking, "How are you feeling today, Habakkuk?" His reply? "Just awful!" The one asking responds, "But why? This is such a beautiful and wonderful day!" Habakkuk had just heard a word from the Lord and here is his response upon hearing: "I heard and my inward parts trembled, at the sound my lips quivered. Decay entered my bones, and in my place I tremble. Because I must wait quietly for the day of distress, for the people will arise who will invade us." (Hab. 3:16) I can hear one of our preachers/teachers or members, "Oh, I thought you trusted God!"
Faith is what takes one into the hands of God when things are difficult. Faith is what makes us respond to God with a proper and right attitude when things weigh on us so heavily. Faith is what motivates us to get up and move forward at the bleakest of times. We aren't faithless when we encounter pain. We are faithless when we encounter pain and drown in a self pity, poor me, bad attitudes and depressed state rather than reach to God!
As Jesus went to the cross, His heart was heavy and his fears were intense. But he reached to His Father and responded by faith. We have been called to help one another, to carry others burdens but that burden carrying is to help one deepen their trust in the Lord! A trusting faith doesn't take pain out but it gives one the ability, because of God to rise above what is felt. Just listen to the final words of Habakkuk: "Yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds feet, and makes me walk on my high places." (Hab. 3:18-19) Now that's a saving faith!

Monday, July 12, 2010

"Keep silent?"

I wish I knew. Have you ever had one of those times where you wish you knew what to say or how to encourage someone? You wish you knew if you needed to say something or keep silent? I am at one of those day. I am about to find the answer in this writing.
Preaching/teaching really makes my heart ache sometimes. First, I don't like the title of 'preacher' or 'minister' or even 'evangelist.' I realize Paul told Timothy to do the work of an evangelist (II Tim. 4:5). I am well aware that the Lord placed evangelists in the church to equip the saints for their work of service (Eph. 4:11-12). It is the title! I don't like titles. I am simply a man, who happens to preach/teach God's word and strives to get people to see God and not himself. Preachers get too much credit and praise! Others are way over-paid!!!
Why am I saying this today? It's because of what I hear from preaching and other preachers when I travel to other places. It really hurts my heart. I am not sure that preachers even know what is expected from the Lord. Sometimes they are more concerned with what another preacher thinks of them than the Lord. It is Christ Jesus, the judge of the living and the dead that will determine the faithfulness and the content of what is preached. I hear preachers that are actually 'robbing' others of faith. They have done it so long, they are unaware. They have no clue how to put the heart and faith of the people into the hands of God. I want so badly to preach the truth! I want others to see the majesty, the grandeur and power of God. I want to stay out of the way and not distract another's faith. It was Paul who proclaimed to the Corinthian brethren that their faith should never rest on the wisdom of men but the power of God. Yet, I hear more and more about the wisdom of man, what someone has written, what a commentator says rather than simply God. I want to help but with no appearance of arrogance or self righteousness. I simply want to help. But that brings me back to my original thought...should I say something or keep silent? I know the answer and it is to keep silent because the Lord hasn't opened any doors for me to speak. That's a relief. "Cease striving and know that I am God." The Lord knows what we need, when we need to do something and being still and not doing it our way is always better!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

"One Body"

We see them week in and week out. Some are well dressed, others are very casual. They come from other towns and in our own city. Some are eager, others are bored. There are those that are cynical and others are expecting. Some run on time while others seem not to be bothered about being late. There are the old and the young. Some are beaming with joy while others frown and don't really want to be bothered. They come with families while some come alone. Who are all these people? They gather together on the first day of the week in an assembly to pay their love and respect for their heavenly Father. But not all of them...
At different times there are different moods and different reasons. Some are just social and think it is the social thing to do. Some are there because parents make them be there. Others come because it is expected or they think it is something their children need. Sometimes people assemble to see that 'special' girl or boy. Others simply feel guilty for not being there so they show up. I guess at one time or the other, we have all shared in one of these.
Why do you assemble with the saints? Is it just a matter of 'going to church' or is there a deeper, more meaningful reason? What is so unique about all this is we do it together as the body of Christ! It's one body. We sing as Christ's body. We pray as Christ's body while one shapes our prayers for us. We listen to God's message as spoken through His servant as Christ's body. We take the Supper as Christ's body. It's not about symbols but showing us His presence. That Supper proclaims Jesus our Lord speaking, "Jesus is here in our midst." Our monies are collected to serve needs and honorable debts as one body in Christ. Some days we are blessed by seeing a trusting, repentant heart baptized into union with Christ adding them to His body. When this happens, we see the glorious gospels power to draw people to the Lord and Savior and our eyes fill with tears of joy! At other times a part of Christ's body responds out of a helplessness they cannot fulfill without Christ's body working on their behalf.
In all this, it is about ONE BODY, CHRIST'S BODY! He is our Leader, our Lord and Sustainer and He has called each one to Himself through His sacrifice. Our attachment to one another is through Jesus and His body. Sunday's coming...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

"The Majesty of God"

The holy Scripture speaks of "the majesty of God." The term 'majesty' might be a little foreign to us. It comes from a Greek word meaning greatness. When we ascribe 'majesty' to someone, we are acknowledging greatness in that person and voicing our respect for that greatness.
'Majesty' is a word used in holy Scripture to express the greatness of our God and Maker. David speaks to that in Psa. 145:5: "On the glorious splendor of Your majesty and on Your wonderful works, I will meditate." When Peter recalls the transfiguration of Jesus, he speaks of being an eyewitness of His majesty (II Pet. 1:16). The Hebrew writer speaks of Jesus after making purification for sins sat down "at the right hand of the Majesty on high." (Heb. 1:3) Jesus as our high priest has taken His seat "at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens." (Heb. 8:1)
When we read the word 'majesty' in Scripture, when applied to God, it is always a declaration of His greatness and an invitation to worship. God is so far above us in greatness and His greatness should be meditated upon and worshiped. The psalmist was right when he penned, "Come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker." (Psa. 95:6) What would lead one to do such? "For the Lord is a great God and a great King above all gods. In whose hand are the depths of the earth, the peaks of the mountains are His also. The sea is His, for it was He who made it, and His hands formed the dry land." (Psa. 95:3-5) Maybe the reason our worship is so shallow and our lives are so feeble is because we fail to see the real majesty of our God and Lord? Maybe that's why so many are looking to 'jazz' things up a little to make our worship more majestic which draws people away from the majesty of God and substitutes our gifts as majestic!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

"What About Your Children?"

I would like to share a word to our parents with children at home. When Zacharias and Elizabeth had John, the people were astonished at his name because no one in the family ever had that name. The question arose: "What then will this child turn out to be?" (Luke 1:66) Well, he would be a Jew, wouldn't he? In most cases yes but in this case he was one to prepare the way for the Messiah.
Francis Xavier, a Catholic educator states: "Give me a child until he is seven, and anyone else can have him for the rest of the time." He trained children to be Catholic.
If I were to ask you, "What kind of child will your son/daughter turn out to be?" what would you say in response? "I don't know!"? Many have no expectations of their children in regard to their spiritual well being. The influence for the Lord many times is just not there. The world can have an effect on our children but the most profound effect is found in the home, or at least it should be.
Too many homes are mere fillings stations today. People come and go, passing one another in the kitchen from time to time, lives are filled with televisions and videos and it seems to be the same day in and day out. We need hands on attention from our parents. "A wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tear it down with her own hands." (Prov. 14:1) When Joseph's brothers revealed their youngest brother was at home with their father, the brothers expressed to Joseph that the youngest ones life was bound up in the life of his father (Gen. 44:30). What a wonderful thought.
Parents work hard and sometimes over-extend themselves each week. Weekends are tied up with golf, fishing, hunting, sports, cleaning or shopping. Many children spend more time in day-care than they do with their own parents. I am not saying that having a safe, responsible place for our children to go during the week is bad but many parents seem to push away their responsibilities even further with all the entertainment, distractions and business. Titus speaks of young mothers loving their children, being workers at home and loving their husband "so that the word of God will not be dishonored." (Tit. 2:4-5) Father's are told to bring up their children in the instruction and discipline of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). What's the point? The home, the family is where the attention should be and the home should be focused on serving the Lord.
Samuel's training started as soon as he was weaned! Josiah was taught to seek the Lord as a little boy (II Chron. 34). The psalmist learned to trust God and walk with God from his youth (Psa. 71). Jesus was about His Father's business from his childhood (Luke 2). Just "going to church" will not train your children in the ways of the Lord. Time and effort spent, teaching and instructing from a father and mother, teaching their children to love the Lord, follow His ways from their 'babyhood' is what is needed. Too many are teaching their children the ways of the world and not the ways of the Lord. Pause and take note of what you are doing with your children. Let me ask you, "What kind of son/daughter will your child turn out to be?"

Thursday, July 1, 2010


There is an old saying, "If religion was a thing money could buy, the rich would live and the poor would die!" I can't remember where I heard that from or I would give credit where credit is due. Aren't we glad things aren't like that. God and our walk with Him is not based on our buying power but our learning by walking with Him, resting assured in His word even in our disappointments and hurts.
People sometimes are just tired. They are worn out emotional, which makes them worn out physically which is all tied to our being worn out spiritually. Too many can't tie their spiritual well being to their physical/emotional well being together. When our spiritually well being, our faith, heart and soul become burdened and hurt, our physical well being senses it all.
Recently while holding a spiritual meeting for several days and nights, our focus was God and His word. Each day people came and many had a difficult day with work. But something was happening within that caused their exhausting day to end with great joy and uplifting. People didn't want to see the lessons, the fellowship and gleanings from God end. Why were people, who were daily strained by everyday life finding themselves with energy at the end? There was a renewal taking place inside. A renewal that comes from God, taken into the heart, affecting the soul which translated itself into their physical beings. Paul taught the same: "Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day." (II Cor. 4:16) We need to recognize that our physical well being is directly tied to our spiritual well being. Our outer, our physical can decay but something on the inside is happening that brings about a renewal.
You see, being tied of life makes you tied "in" life. Emotionally drained comes from the fact that we are spiritually drained. If we would renew our spiritual, our inner person day by day, we would find a newness, a rejuvenation that would affect our whole being.
When are we going to believe in God and His word? Listen to how His word can and should affect us: "For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judgment the thoughts and intentions of the heart." (Heb. 4:12) Carefully pay attention that each aspect of our lives are touched by God and His word that renews us: (1) "soul and spirit" which is spiritual. (2) "joints and marrow" which is physical. (3) "thoughts and intentions of the heart" which is mental. All three aspects of our lives are addressed.
I want to encourage us, get back to God's word. Too many "skip out" on spiritual renewal and just sit stuck in the same place in their lives and attitudes. Start looking carefully at the Christ that showed us God and the sense of reality and life will start making its way back into our being and there we will find a renewal day by day that will bring us in the reality of God's presence no matter what comes.