Wednesday, December 29, 2010

"Understanding Love"

Too many miss what it means to love. Many speak of an "unconditional" love which I agree with but to take it to the idea that someone will love you no matter what kind of person you are can be spiritually destructive.
To love someone with a godly love means that you want them better, to be better, to live better and involves discipline when needed. If loving someone doesn't bring this intended result the love shown is missing a vital ingredient. Reaching out to your children and doing everything for them or pandering to them while they live a life that is irresponsible or ungodly is not godly love at all. That is keeping them and encouraging them to continue in their sinful ways and in the end they will lose their soul! I have known parents in dealing with their grown children speak without saying a word: "I don't care about your goodness or right behavior I just want..."
If we are really concerned about loving someone as God loves (which is where the cross calls us) it should lead us into a love that is about character and godliness. When someone tells me that they love me, I hope they mean that they will correct me when I am off track, guide me when my attitude isn't godly and withhold things because I am demanding or selfish! They are looking out for my soul which shows me their love. Too many are loving with little warm fuzzies!!! Too many bail out others thinking they are showing love when in reality they are just encouraging the ungodly behavior to continue. Read the prodigal son Jesus spoke about in Luke 15 and see the Father didn't bail him out but let him go! It was the only way for him to come to his senses. It was love being shown!
God's love expects something from us. Our love for our children and the brethren should expect a right character and behavior. When we read from the Lord that "Love does not act unbecomingly" (I Cor. 13:5) why do we support those who act unbecomingly? Many call that an unconditional love but God doesn't call it that. When someone acts in ways that are demeaning, lazy and without commitment they don't need to be coddled but loved with the love and God. What does God's love call for? "For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives." (Heb. 12:6) That is God's real "unconditional" love and we need to practice it! True love calls us upward into God.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

"Beware: Don't Void the Cross"

Paul had a great concern that he did not void the cross of Christ (I Cor. 1:17). He took great care in his teaching that he wasn't entertaining or cute with the gospel. Today too many are trying to be entertaining and fun in their teachings and as a result, the church suffers and shows itself in practice!
Not only being clever in speech can void the cross but there are other things Paul taught that are spiritually destructive. One can have a "form" of godliness but deny the power (II Tim. 3:5). The power comes from knowing Jesus and Him crucified. There is a major difference between possessing the power and just having a form. Just take a vase of flowers. They can have the form of reality but still be artificial! We see paintings all the time that are copies but not the real thing. What creates difficulties in the church is too many have a form and not the power. The cross of Christ has been made void in their lives. What takes hold in their life reveals much.
Read down through II Tim. 3:1-5 and look at the list. These things to be sure are in the world but Paul is speaking of in the church. Let's pick out a few of them. "Lovers of self." People in Christ who have no real concern for others but they have the form. "Lovers of money." Money becomes the focus and the drive while the Hebrew writer expresses what God is really looking for from His people (Heb. 13:5). "Disobedient to parents." How many parents in the church just shrug the actions and attitudes of their children as part of being a young person? Not to God!! "Ungrateful." There seems to be very little thanks and a lot of complaining! "Irreconcilable." Brethren who refuse to enter a treaty and unwilling to forgive another. You see this especially in martial difficulties. "Malicious gossips." It is beyond gossip. It is one who is a spreader of criticisms and accuses others. "Treacherous." One that betrays or turns on you. We have seen it where people act like they care but turn on you. "Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God." Pleasure seeking over God seeking. To them, that's what weekends are made for and you see little love for the brethren (we're back at lovers of self)!
Paul taught that he made certain he did not void the cross. People can look religious, act religious and say religious words and have no reality. They void the power by playing the game. You void the cross and you void your relationship!

Monday, December 27, 2010

"Unforgiving - Unbelief"

Over the years I have known people, professed Christian's that refuse to forgive another. One time there was a Christian lady who had built up so much animosity toward me in her heart that she waited until I was out of town on a Sunday, came forward asking for the forgiveness of the congregation for her actions and then told the congregation (in a note) she would not be back here. It was a shot at me! She held so much against me that she went through all this to show her disdain for me. The brethren did not understand what was happening. To this day she still believes she and the Lord are in a good relationship!
The reason a person cannot forgive another is one simple word: UNBELIEF! When people have suffered what they think is an injustice to them, they want it to be corrected. A word I hear thrown around is: accountability! They have no faith in the Lord that the Lord will do what is right and just so they become the justice bearer! They will make the offender accountable. It's a simple matter of unbelief. Hurts are held to because the fear that the guilty party will not suffer.
God is righteous and just...always! Some professed Christian's don't believe He is, it is that simple. Paul taught in Rom. 12:17 that it is never right to pay back evil for evil. NEVER! If these are the words from God and His teaching and we don't believe in them, then pay back!! In Rom. 12:19 God teaches us that it is NEVER right to take your own revenge. Vengeance is the role of God. People say they won't take revenge but they sure take a bad, hateful attitude toward the one that hurt them. That is revenge. You want them to feel the pain that was caused and will withdraw or speak critical or whatever it takes because they want the offender to know they are upset. In reality they don't believe God! If you don't believe God's word, then take your revenge and make that your role!
Jesus taught His disciples to love their enemies! Jesus loved His enemies. Just listen to words from His heart while on the cross: "Father forgive them for they know not what they do." Listen to Stephen's words as he followed His Savior to death while a vicious crowd stoned him: "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." (Acts 7:60) Listen to some professed Christians not willing to budge or forgive because of the hurt and bitterness in their heart. "But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgessions." (Matt. 6:15) How do those words from Jesus grip your heart?

Thursday, December 23, 2010


It was at a Lectureship that I had attended. The final, main speaker of the evening was an older gentleman. He spoke softly but I heard his message. It was insightful and confronted us with God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Afterward, listening to the younger adults speak about the events of the day, the majority attacked this older gentleman with words like, boring, uninteresting, monotone and mundane. The talk turned to the enthusiastic and those who had some great emotion in the pulpit. It struck me how people had missed something of great value.
The gospel is voice of God spoken to the lost like me! The gospel is where people find freedom and help. The gospel is about the Person not another person or friend. The gospel is the truth that sets people free! Too many are getting caught up in a preacher, a teacher, a movement and the enthusiasm people give off. The power of God and the fullness of God is placed in Jesus (Col. 1:19). The gospel of Jesus Christ is about God coming to us sinful and vile people redeeming us from the power of sin and death.
That leads us to this: Is it the gospel that "fires us up" or the enthusiastic preacher? Is it the Person of Jesus Christ that motivates us or some exciting program or teaching? Is the podium the stage that motivates us or the stage of the resurrected Christ? Will our lives end with a world of barren, enthusiastic facts and no life with God?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

"Ignoring the Word"

I have received numerous personal emails after yesterdays post. I appreciate all the thoughts. I do need to address the importance of paying attention of listening to God's word and letting God lead us upward into Him. As a teacher and minister of God's word, I must try to help.
We must be a people that is focused completely at listening to the Lord and following His will otherwise we will not make it to the Lord (Matt. 7:21). Just because someone believes in the Lord does not mean they are of God. Jesus showed this plainly in John 8 when many of the Jews believed Him (8:31). Those who believed Him Jesus called them sons of the devil (8:44). Why? Because they would not listen to His word (8:43)! They believed what they wanted while ignoring other parts. Their minds were set on what they wanted and couldn't hear the words of Jesus. Those who are of God, Jesus said, hears the words of God (8:47). I would encourage you to read this chapter.
I want to follow the Lord and not some tradition of the world. We need to listen to Jesus, what He wanted His church to follow in His instructions. Before His death, Jesus proclaimed His Supper saying it was to be done in remembrance of Him (Luke 22:19). Jesus gave them bread to represent His body and the cup was a reminder of His new covenant in His blood (Luke 22:20). That's what He asked them (and us) to remember. The apostle Paul saw this so important that he taught extensively the church at Corinth how they were corrupting the "rememberance of the Lord." (I Cor. 10:15-22/11:17-34)
Prior to the Lord's ascension back to the Father, Jesus called those apostles together and told them to go into all the world with a gospel message and they were to proclaim that message (Mark 16:15-16). What is the gospel message? His death, burial and resurrection (I Cor. 15:1-4)! That is what they were to proclaim. It was His death, burial and resurrection that was the "good news" (that's what the term 'gospel' means). It was the Lord's death, burial and resurrection that the Lord's church was born out of. The power of God to save anyone is placed in the gospel and nowhere else (Rom. 1:16-17). The gospel is what gives hope to a lost world and reveals His grace (Col. 1:5-6). This gospel was not to be ignored or tainted in any form without severe consequences (Gal. 1:6-9). People will build faith and find salvation ONLY through the gospel or Jesus lied to those apostles and us!
Upon revealing this, we cannot just gloss over the warnings given by Christ's apostles about being taken captive by traditions of men (Col. 2:8). The teachings of the apostles are to mean something to Christ's church, His people. The apostle John warned that those from the world listens to the world while those from God listen to the apostles (I John 4:5-6). We need to be careful that we aren't formulating our beliefs off what the world tells to believe. When there are verses that teach us what to watch for, we can't just ignore them like the don't exist. We have to deal with them in an honest heart.
I pray those who read realize I am not trying to attack anyone. I am trying to help us think, putting the word of God in front of us to deal honestly with it in our heart and not ignore the teachings like they don't mean anything. Our world has set up things the Lord Jesus never set up and to jump on board and say its good to follow the world and their ideas of God that directly contradict the Scripture is to ignore the Lord and His word. Where does that put us?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"Re-visit Christmas"

Do you ever feel like that you're the only one in a situation that is disturbed about things while others around you seem untouched about what is going on? It makes you think and reflect if you are the one off base. It happens to me from time to time. This is one of those times.
I have a great difficulty understanding how people, sincere God fearing people, have allowed the Christmas story about the birth of Jesus to become the central issue this time of year. Please, please, don't take this as an attack. People are taken captive by it! I guess you cannot write something like this without getting someone upset and since this is my blog, well, I'm not trying to upset anyone but we need to seriously think about what is surrounding our lives and heart in relation to the Lord.
Christmas isn't from God. It never was. It is a man-made tradition that was tied to the birth of Jesus to make it acceptable. Just do a little research. There is nothing wrong with having a man-made holiday or tradition. But to tie something to Jesus that was never a part of Jesus, making it seem 'religious' is just not right. Paul warned the church at Colossae to "see to it" that they weren't taken CAPTIVE according to the traditions of men. It must be according to Christ (Col 2:8). That's what the holy Scriptures speak! You say something like I am writing and people get upset. Does that speak they have been taken captive? What are we trying to protect?
There is absolutely nothing wrong with gift exchanges, lights and the like but why tie it to the birth of Jesus and worship? Those gospel accounts of Jesus entering our world in His birth were to show the fulfillment of prophecy from the early years. It demonstrates the wisdom of God and the anticipation of the Messiah for the Jewish nation. That is all it was for. After those few verses penned for us, not one mention of the birth yet man surrounds a month in worship and adoring His birth. The birth of Jesus never saved one soul. The birth of Jesus doesn't confront us with our sins and seriousness of the consequences of our sins. I know there are those who take issue with me but it is not "according to Christ!" It is all man-made and it makes people "feel" religious. Listen carefully to what the apostle Paul said about things like this: "These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence." (Col. 2:23) The issue with the Lord is our fleshly indulgences. This is a self-made religion we are speaking about here and it cannot help us over-come our fleshly desires, the very thing that will cost people their souls.
Let's do things according to Christ! Let's follow with all our heart the teaching of the word. Let's worship and adore that which God asks us to worship and adore knowing it was the death, burial and resurrection that the apostles were commanded to go into all the world and preach! The risen Christ is where we will find the power to over-come our fleshly desires. The Supper we take is about the risen Lord. Our justification is the result of His raising from the dead (Rom. 4:25). It was Paul who said his boasting would be in the cross of our Lord to which he was crucified to the world (Gal. 6:14). Nothing, nothing except the tradition of men focuses on His birth and that's not according to Christ yet has take so many captive!

Monday, December 20, 2010

"Are We Mary and Martha?"

John 11 tells us that Jesus had a very special relationship with Lazarus and his two sisters. Upon hearing of Lazarus being sick, Jesus intentionally chose to stay away two more days (11:6). That might not stand to reason for a friend because when we hear of a friend being sick, we would do what we could to contact them and not stay away! The sisters must have been talking because they both couldn't understand the decision of Jesus to stay away either (11:21,32). What is more interesting is Jesus saying He was glad He wasn't there (11:15)! Why? Because Jesus knew the outcome of the whole from the beginning (11:4,15).
Upon careful looking at this real life incident, Lazarus wasn't the only dead one that day when Jesus arrived! Jesus pointed that Lazarus would live and then tells them He is the resurrection and the life (11:25). Why would He speak that? What was Jesus trying to get them to see? All of them, from the Jew's who came to console to the two sisters were all dead that day! Jesus not only made a powerful claim about Himself but asked the only question that needed to be asked: "Do you believe this?" (11:26) That's what Jesus is asking us! Do we really believe He is the resurrection and the life?
Jesus had gone over things, stated things and had gotten little response from any of them. He looks around, sees Martha weeping, Mary weeping, the Jews weeping it moved Him but it moved Him to being troubled (11:33)! Jesus wept! He wasn't moved by their tears and the situation. He was moved by their not hearing one word He said and believing Him! Jesus hurts when people refuse to listen and respond. That's one message that comes out of all this. We can see His outreach to all those that day when Martha outright tells Jesus that it might not be best to remove the stone over the tomb (11:38-39). The heartache of Jesus speaks: "Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?" (11:40)
That day Lazarus was not the only one in the graveyard. It makes me reflect and think, 'What about me? Am I Mary and Martha?'

Thursday, December 16, 2010

"Context, Context, Context"

Sometimes I just don't understand. It's probably my fault. Does it concern you how those who study the Bible, read the Bible and make applications to something seem to not keep things in context in which they were spoken? I cannot over-stress the importance of context: the one who is speaking, who is being spoken to and what is being spoken about. It is crucial in proper application of Scriptures.
Have you ever had someone say something that you said but took it out of the context about what you were speaking? I know I have! You said what they said you said but you weren't talking about what they used your statement for. It can come out destructive! We see it in our news media all the time. That should alone get our attention about the importance of context!
Recently I had someone sharing something they believed in God's word but in explaining their present standing and belief, they pulled verses out of context. They were making them say what they didn't say and used the verses to support their own personal thought process. That is what has lead to so much confusion today and varied teachings. Paul charged the preacher Timothy to make certain the truth of Scripture was handled accurately (II Tim. 2:15). One can't handle it accurately if they are concerned about presenting themselves before God with some diligence.
Please, let me encourage you, make certain before you come to a conclusion about something you see in Scripture to keep the context pure. After that, make certain there aren't verses speaking opposite of your conclusion because that too shows you have misapplied. I pray I never come across as a 'know it all' because that's not my hearts intention. I just want to teach the importance of handling God's word in the manner the Lord wants us to.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"God's Discipline"

We have become so insensitive to sin because we lived as its slave (before entering Christ) and it is all around in the lives of others. God takes sin more infinitely serious than we do but that's because of His holiness with no hint of darkness around Him. God wants to share His life with us and in order for Him to do that, sin must be dealt with. Those who put a trusting faith in Him will see the utter disgust for sin, move away from it, desiring to share this life with a holy and righteous Father.
When we become too comfortable about sin, there must be things our heavenly Father must do to help us see that our ease of sin, our attitude that can easily embrace sinful ways has to be dealt with. That's what Heb. 12 is all about. The Hebrew speaking for God admonishing the readers they haven't resisted sin to the point of shedding blood and forgotten what the Father exhorts us as sons (Heb. 12:4-5). We are children of God and that means we share in His life. He disciplines those of us who take sin lightly and it is for our own good! Sin has never affected the church for good and never will!
God wants us to live! Some just don't believe that. God wants us to share in His life! Some think that quoting some verses and attacking every misstatement is how they share in His life. That can really be arrogance and sin! We need a better vision of what God is trying to do for us and in us. God must bring pain to us when we wander off into sin and are unrepentant. That's because He cares for us as His children. I did it to my children, didn't you? Discipline is in store for those who wander into the world God redeemed us from. Sometimes discipline can be a gentle reminder and other times, there must be a consequence to help us see that our attitude or actions were improper. Why does God do all this? Because He loves us? Yes...but that's not the whole of the matter. Listen carefully: "...but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness." (Heb. 12:10) God wants us to live and share His holiness. One thing will hinder that...sinful practices and attitudes. Think about share in the holiness of God! What a desire on the part of God. What a lack of desire sometimes on my part but thank God for discipline.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"Help With I Cor. 13:8"

I have had two emails asking about what I Cor. 13:8 means. "Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away." Let me try to help today.
Let's look carefully at each of the verbs: "will be done away" and "will cease." The prophecy and knowledge Paul says "will be done away." They are indicative, future passive verbs. That means God will end or cut off these two miraculous gifts that were given to the first century church. They will come to a abrupt halt! In saying "will cease" speaking about tongues, it is an indicative, future middle voice verb. That means they will just fade away as time goes by. Tongues would lapse into complete silence and would go away completely over a period of time. I know what some teach today about tongue speaking but that's not Biblical tongues. Tongues were languages known. They were meant for unbelievers and not believers (I Cor. 14:22). How else were brethren and the apostles going to reach all the nations with the gospel without God giving the gift of tongues so they could hear in their language? What's more amazing is the gospel was preached to all creation by 62 AD! Yes sir, the apostles were commissioned to go into all the world to preach the gospel and Paul said in Col. 1:23 all creation had heard it! God gave them the gifts of tongues to reach those with other languages. Today, what many are calling tongues are nothing more than babbling slurs! Tongues, all miracles and signs were to confirm the truth of the word that was preached (Heb. 2:1-4).
In contrast, love will never end. It will continue and time will have no bearing on love. It was the love that the Corinthian brethren were missing. They thought the spiritual gifts were what made them special and spiritual but Paul said not so! It's rather amazing that Paul didn't teach the Ephesian brethren about the miraculous gifts. In fact, Paul showed them how they were to come to a full understanding of the mystery of Christ. "By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ." (Eph. 3:4) Paul instructed them to read! Nothing more or miraculous. Just read!

Monday, December 13, 2010

"Once Saved Always Saved"

Do you ever wonder how people come up with some of the doctrine taught today? One doctrine that has always been dumbfounding is the doctrine of "Once saved, always saved!" Years ago there was a couple I was studying with. The lady believed in this doctrine. When she was converted to Christ she revealed it was always a great doctrine to believe in and follow because she could do as she pleased (and she did) and couldn't ever be lost! There was no fear of God before her eyes. There was no trembling at His word. Just a life of fun and frolicking in sin and in the end you're saved. Today that lady is so grateful to the saving grace of Jesus because of her unbelief in ignorance.
Too many believe that one cannot fall from grace. I have some books written by scholarly minds but believe in the doctrine that one cannot fall from grace. No one takes into account that the majority of the nation of Israel was lost because of sin. I know that's Old Testament but it shows that just because one belongs at one time doesn't mean they are a shoe-in! What about Judas? A hand-picked apostle of Jesus Christ yet the best he offered was 30 silver coins rattling in his pocket and later in the temple and suicide! And what of Demas? Paul said he loved the present world too much and deserted him (II Tim. 4:10). When you read the book of Hebrews it is completely devoted to warning against leaving Jesus. Those Hebrew Christian's weren't "once saved always saved." What all this means is one can't be protected from themselves in spite of themselves! One can come but they can also go. Christianity is a life, not a one time happening.
Walking in the Light is just that...a life lived in the Light. To say one has fellowship with the Lord and walk in sin, they lie and do not practice the truth (I John 1:6-7). The Galatian congregations were warned that those who turn back to the law for their justification are severed from Christ, fallen from grace (Gal. 5:4). People don't fall from works or law. They fall from GRACE!
Fear the Lord! Hold fast to the name of Jesus! Humbly walk with the Lord with a whole heart trusting in His grace. And His grace will lead us home!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

"House Rules"

I was playing ping-pong at a friends house. During the final point, my friend returned the ball and it hit the ceiling, bounced off the light fixture and landed on my side of the table. "Game!" he stated loudly. "House rules are in order here!" In other words because we are playing in his house it is his rules and he won.
That made me think how more and more people today are using "house rules" in their approach to God. Many have an idea about how they want to approach God, worship God and run with it. Because they are sincere in their heart, they believe it is completely acceptable. Recently I had an elder at a congregation tell me that "our ideas of worship are out-dated" and we need a new, fresh approach so they brought in things that were, well, appealing to people and the community. "House rules!" I hear more and more talk of what moves us and what makes us feel closer to the Lord. I hear little talk about what is acceptable to the Lord. "There's nothing in the Bible that says it's wrong!" is the argument of many. I guess that means "House rules"!
It was Jesus who said that not everyone who says Lord, Lord will enter God's kingdom but only those who do His will (Matt. 7:21) Heaven and fellowship with God is God's place! Being in fellowship with God is what He allows because of His mercy and grace. That means His "house rules" and He sets the standards, not man. We seem less and less concerned about His will and more and more involved in our will. If we are going to be pleasing, have an edifying worship, who determines what that is and acceptable? Remember Cain offered his ideas of what was acceptable to God and God rejected him. God determines what is acceptable. When are we going to learn?
Paul understood it is God's "house rules" that matters. He understood that to cause a brother or sister stumble was a terrible offense in the eyes of God. Paul went as far as saying if it is food that causes my brother or sister to stumble he would never eat meat again (I Cor. 8:13). How many have that kind of heart for the will of God today? How many times do we see that depth of love practiced? To sin against brethren when they are weak, you sin against Christ (I Cor. 8:12). Paul knew something about reverence for the Lord and awe to his God. That's what many are missing today. What we are seeing in the church is dividing up into two separate congregations while one group worships their way allowing the other to worship another. How close is that to the will of God? Does it promote unity and oneness in the Lord or create division? What does the voice of the Lord want? What we are speaking of in each of these cases, "House rules!" and it's not about God's house from heaven we are addressing.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

"Sin Creates Death"

We are way too careless with our attitudes toward sin and in our lives at times. The love of God is spoken so often (which is right) but we seem to miss the seriousness of sin in God's love. I had an elder in the congregation where he served tell me that we "accept anyone who comes to us. We just love, love, love! What more is there?" It shook me a little so I had to inquire further to which I found out what I thought he was saying. They were looking for numbers and no matter what in the life of an individual, they were made to feel warm and accepted. The real question is does God accept them? Yes, but based on Him and His righteousness and not us.
How many times have we heard or quoted, "The wages of sin is death!" (Rom. 6:23)? Death...death...DEATH! Sin is a horror to God. Simply stated, you sin, you die spiritually. You don't just continue to live in a loving relationship with the Lord in unrepented sin. You don't just 'slide' in and have fellowship with God. Because people accept you, pat you on the back, embrace you and tell you how much they love you doesn't take away the reality that the blow of sin has dealt in your life. Sin separates one from God! Let me repeat: sin separates one from God! Not kinda...not just a little mistake but death encompasses the soul and the heart senses are dulled because sin has an eternal impact on the human. If we would only look seriously at the cross there we would see the impact of sin. The horrific scene that sin was out to destroy everything of God. The agony, the immense struggle, the pain staking in the heart of God because sin kills humans and Jesus death shows that.
You sin, you die! That's the fact. To just embrace everyone without their heart turning to the Lord and embracing Him leaves one in death. To tell people we love them without their whole heart turning to the Lord because their heart was touched by the price paid for their personal death keeps them in death. They may act alive and say they believe but death is theirs to the fullest and only by coming to Christ can one have life (I John 5:12). If we continue just embracing people without their heart turning to the Lord, we end up with a congregation of...DEATH! (And those very ones that are 'loved' without their heart turning use the brethren to the fullest! That's another outreach of death.)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

"Grace At Work"

Our service to the Lord must be from our love because of God's grace, not duty. Too many cheapen God's grace because they want to perform a favor so as to repay. You have heard the people, "You owe me one!" when they did you a favor. That's repay not love.
It was Jesus who was trying to open the eyes of the people (and ours) when He taught that when you give to help the needy, don't sound it out there so others will know (Matt. 6:2). People want to know who is giving what and some just want credit for what they do! That's not love because of grace, that is seeking merit!
But it goes further than that. Jesus said in Luke 6, "But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you." (v.27) "Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." (v.28) "Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back." (v.30) "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful." (v.36) "But is you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount." (v.32-34)
Please think love the Lord is not about our goodness to Him. Remember Jesus died for us when we were His enemies (Rom. 6:8). Any effort we put forth to compensate God for His gift to us will cheapen His grace toward us. Our service to the Lord should be completely 100% love and gratitude while being devoted to Him because of His grace to us. Our works, our offerings to God are the result of being born anew, from an enemy to an adopted child, not the cause of it! Too many feel acceptable because of what they do for the name of the Lord. It is out of their sense of "good works" that make them feel acceptable. That eliminates the love and grace aspect. Paul said we are created in Christ Jesus for good works (Eph. 2:10). Who created us to be new? Was it because you were good and showing your goodness or by His grace 100%? No wonder so many are miserable with little zeal. No wonder many in the church want to "do" something and demand something be done because the Lord commands us. They simply feel the need to work. But work done in love is a completely different element. It is not to show or feel like something needs to be accomplished but a love that reaches to the heart and follows without anyone demanding or knowing. They simply love the Lord because His grace is sufficient and it is seen in their humble service!

Monday, December 6, 2010

"I Am Barabbas"

Could he have heard the cries of the crowd? In the deepest of dungeons he sat waiting his time. It wouldn't be long before the Roman soldiers would come for him. His family surely couldn't figure out what went so wrong in his life to deviate so far from the right path. It was one of the most horrible deaths ever devised. It was lingering pain, sometimes lasting a full day. There was no mercy and little by little the life's blood would drip from the body. The Roman Crucifixion was reserved for the worst of criminals. It was death by suffering!
The noise of soldiers walking down a hallway preparing to open the cell door. His chains stopped rattling for a moment as he paused and waited. His life had made a journey to which he was about to face the consequences. The door opens and the men approached. The commander reaches out and says, "We have come to set you free!" It stunned him for a moment. Maybe they were toying with him? Just another dig in him to advance what was about to take place. "The governor has signed the authorization to set you free. Your sentence has been commuted!" Was this a dream? What was going on? The confusion set in. Here he was an insurrectionist, having tried to over-throw the government and he had committed murder in the process. How he must have hated the established authority yet they were setting him free.
In the background, the raising of voices, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" His thoughts were trying to figure all this out. We know nothing about what happened to his man or where he went but he was set free and someone had taken on his death sentence. I don't know if he ever met Jesus or heard anything about Him but one thing I know, Jesus was substituted in his place to die his death and the multitude of people witnessed this horrible death. This crowd crying out had just let an insurrectionist and murderer go free. They loved a murderer more than Jesus! Maybe the next time we bow in prayer, or sing a song of praise or worship with the others, we need to introduce ourselves to the Father and Savior of us all, "I AM BARABBAS!" The just for the unjust. And we can't see the Father's love?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

"Just Thank God"

Life is filled with disappointments and can break our hearts at times. Many times it seems such a great struggle just to move forward. Every time you look for an opportunity, the door is shut. Sometimes our spouses are hypercritical or maybe our children are so ungrateful for all that is done for them. Whose kids are these that are so disrespectful? We face illnesses and life threatening situations and they seem to suck us dry.
Along comes this inspired writer James and he pens for the saints, "Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials." (Jam. 1:2) Right there, from the throne of heaven we are told to thank God for our disappoints and struggles. The loss of a loved one or the gut wrenching heartache over your child and heaven speaks, "Just thank God!" It makes no sense in our weak and wandering hearts. But we seem to miss God at times. We don't know our heavenly Father very well and at times do a poor job at trusting Him. Our attitudes wain and our demeanor turns sour and we still hear, "Just thank God!"
But then if we would look more closely, it is through that great struggle, that heartache that God calls, "I'll use the horror, the dread and hurt for your betterment!" God doesn't cause the problem but does something in us because of the battle at hand. Maybe our lives get a little too comfortable or we get a little too independent and God uses these times to speak to us to draw near, come back! People can use things to harm us but God uses them to help us. Each and every thing we face will make us and mold us into something we lacked if we would "Just thank God."

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


The last two verses in II Peter 3 encourages to be careful we aren't carried away by the error of others. How can we make certain we aren't carried away? By growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord. "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen." (II Pet. 3:18)
Pay close attention to what Peter tells us. Grow in grace and knowledge. Grace, the unmerited favor of God. Grace saves and instructs! "For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age." (Titus 2:11-12) Grace is a teacher! Grace is not careless and carefree! Grace leads us to avoid wrong and enforces that which is right. Grace gives us the ability to say "no" instead of following the desires of others. Grace changes lives!
Many have a lot of Bible knowledge but not true knowledge. Many can define grace but not understand its power or purpose. We are to grow in grace along with knowledge. Let me see if this helps: first, tell people what God has done before anything else. Point people to God's grace in Christ Jesus. Let them see grace, this unmerited favor extended through the dying Lord and Savior. Secondly, tell them the response God is looking for because of His grace extended. Too many seem to tell the response without the grace and you end up with a lot of fleshly, dead lives that never learned or grasped salvation. To these, salvation is spoken because that's the religious thing but the reality is not found.
Grace cost heaven everything that heaven had! Grace costs us all we have! Grace is free but not cheap. Cheap grace is grace without commitment. God's grace calls us to Himself, to deny ourselves and live a life of dedication and commitment because of the freedom that was extended to us in Christ. Your failures were died for! Your silent, heavy sins paid! The guilt you live with, exchanged in the blood of Christ! Reach out and take hold of grace. Let it teach you, instruct you and move you toward God and away from you. Grace over what we sweet the sound!