Wednesday, December 18, 2013

"Why We Assemble"

  Why do you "go to church" or not "go to church"? I use that expression because that's how the majority see what they do. They "go to church". Rather wouldn't it be better if we could grasp and think of ourselves as the "assembly"? Why do you "assemble"?
  Why do people NOT want to "assemble" to worship the Lord? That might put things in a better focus. I am gaining some insight both to myself and others in respect to this. Here is what I am discovering as I continue my studies of God's word. Lousy sermons, lousy in content, lousy in relevance, lousy from the lack of true study can be some of the reasons people do not want to "assemble" to worship God. Say what you will but people, even the good hearted people get tired of hearing "one more time" the same worn-out lessons, the same worn-out denunciations while using some kind of trivia to amuse. It truly has drastic effects on the heart.
  Some have no desire to "assemble" to worship God because of the dishonorable lives some of the brethren demonstrate and people know it! I know it is ridiculous sounding but the hypocrisy demonstrated does have a profound effect on some. They are weak and childish and have never taken an opportunity to grow so this becomes their cry. It's like going to a recital in which the someone butchers Beethoven and we walk away saying we are done with music! That doesn't make a lot of sense does it? Yet there are those who lean heavily on this defense. Yes, I have personally known preachers do things against God and His word, or someone was taking out of the offering for their personal use or different ones commit adultery but that doesn't mean the majority are like that and that Jesus is real to most of His followers.
  Some won't go because they feel the "assembly" is unfriendly or have little cliques. I must say, this is sometimes the sad truth. However, we must not put too much weight on this type of "assembly" worship. People sometimes have no awareness of how they make others isolated rather than being part of God's "assembly".
  Finally, some won't "assemble" to worship God because they simply have not and will not submit their lives to Christ. They know that's what they will be called to do if they "assemble" to worship. They will be confronted by God and they have no will to submit. That is spiritual suicide.
  Many do "assemble" to worship without fail wanting their lives to express their love and devotion to the God who bought them. Yes, there are some there who are there for a boyfriend or girlfriend or maybe establish business contacts and the like, but the majority are there for one main reason. THEY WANT TO WORSHIP GOD! Simply put: no matter what excuses anyone uses, the saved desire to worship God with God's people. The rest have their unspiritual reasons. What's your reason?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

"Sacrifces That Please"

  As we read about the animal sacrifices in the OT it is interesting to find that many times the Hebrew people were offering the sacrifices as God wanted but were still rejected. Places like Isaiah 1 where the people were offering their worship in sacrifices but God plainly stated He takes no pleasure in them (Isa. 1:10-15). In fact, not only was their worship in these sacrifices worthless, their prayers were an abomination! What? An abomination? That's how God saw them. How could God feel that way about those who are worshiping His name?
  There seemed to be something greatly missing. Could it be we too are missing the same thing today? What is missing? God never accepted a sacrifice without a true and honest heart! The people thought it was about showing up with some sacrifice. God wanted a heart, a life of honesty and truth!
  In Psa. 50, the psalmist speaks God's heart in verses 7-14. It comes in this form: "Hear, O My people, and I will speak; O Israel, I will testify against you; I am God, your God." What a statement we need to remember. God was not against their sacrifices as He had seen plenty of those from the people. The sacrifices were not lacking! Just as today,  while we don't offer animal sacrifices but there are those who are together at every opportunity and the Lord has seen it plenty from some of us. What's the issue? Their (our) heart!!! God wanted a sacrifice that had meaning from the worshipers heart. God wanted from the people loving gratitude, faithfulness and people that kept their word!! Offer sacrifices that are truly thankful. Offer to God what you vow, keeping your word!
  We turn to Psa. 51 and find David speaking that God wants a person that has truth within their innermost (51:6). God wants sacrifices from hearts that are pure and clean, not tainted with sinful attitudes or deceitful (51:10). Then David concludes that what sacrifice God really wants is a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart (51:17). It's all about the heart of the worshiper! If the sacrifices offered did not come representing the worshipers heart, it was an abomination in God's sight! Even God made it clear to King Saul that it was obedience of the heart the Lord wanted and without that there would be no acceptance of a sacrifice (I Sam. 15).
  For us today, to sing without heart meaning what words we sing to His name (the words should reflect our hearts), to pray without a heart of thankfulness, even in the difficulties, to feast at the Lord's table without a heart reflecting on the offering of Jesus of forgiving me as I forgive my brother/sister as I have been forgiven, it is bringing condemnation upon us (I Cor. 11:28-29). How many times do we worship God and just mouth some words but our hearts are not engaged? How many times do we come together to worship just because it's the thing to do and not consider our hearts? How many times do we give our sacrifice offering by just tossing some money in a basket without any heart? And God asks, "Should I honor this?" Should He be pleased with us? Sacrifice, worship without heart is an abomination in the eyes of God. And speaking of Jesus offering of Himself to God as our atoning sacrifice: "After saying above, 'Sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have not desired, not have You taken pleasure in them' (which are offered according to the Law), then He said, 'Behold, I have come to do Your will.' "(Heb. 10:8-9) Jesus had a heart to do the will of God. And God saw His heart and was well pleased. What are we doing with our sacrifices we offer to God? Are they from the heart or from habit?

Monday, December 16, 2013

"Self Denial"

  It is one of the most difficult things to do but it leads to the biggest gain in ones life. It's called self-denial! It's called surrender! Jesus knew of the need in  man as three times He speaks that one needs to deny themselves if they were going to be His disciple. In fact, one CANNOT be His disciple without it! It's impossible. We speak of hope and forgiveness and they are too are bound up in Jesus but the surrendering of self to Jesus, it is when hope an forgiveness are truly found.
  Self-denial is nothing more than dethroning yourself as Lord, moving away from what you want, and giving the Lord access to change you from within. Self-denial is the choosing Jesus as Lord and dethroning ourselves. Self-denial is that inner resolve that I willingly give Him the right over my thoughts and will. Self-denial is where you stop elevating you and pursuing your will. Self-denial is where "He Himself will come to have first place in everything." (Col. 2:18) Everything!
  Self-denial is treating parents with the respect the Lord asks! Self-denial is about forgiving ANY hurts and letting them go for His name sake, not allowing the mind the dwell on them. Self-denial is about looking for opportunities to help His body move toward Him in your service. Self-denial is about becoming conformed to His image.
  One thing Jesus makes clear about self-denial, it is what leads to life! "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it."  (Matt. 16:25) We just don't believe it. We talk about it, quote the verses but believing it is another story. It's difficult because the older we get, the more we love serving ourselves, being in control of our lives. But then, that's where the hardness of heart begins to set in and our ways become stubborn. Self-denial keeps one tender and their heart is for the Lord and no other. It leads us into true life.

Thursday, December 12, 2013


  Time is an element that God created used to control man. We speak often how quickly time flies and the older we get the more it rings in our ears. Look around at the new born babies. They attract our attention and we love babies because for those few moments they take us into a realm of innocence and purity. They grow into little children and we are simply amazed  with the simplicity how they view life. No wonder Jesus used a child to show they are the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 18:1-3). The children move into adolescence and there we start seeing their first conflicts arise. Attitudes start to change and it leaves us wondering what happened. They grow and leave home and find themselves on their own, making their own decisions. Concern stays in the heart of the parents for their well-being and safety. They are completely out of your control. Marriage follows and families of their own. We sit and reflect. Time has taken us into another realm of life but that life is fading quickly.
  David saw it. "Man is like a mere breath; his days are like a passing shadow." (Psa. 144:4) James reminds us, "Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away."  (Jam. 4:14)
  What does time speak? God uses it to tell us that we are headed somewhere forever. Not for a few passing years but eternity. From the day of our birth, eternity is our destiny! We are controlled presently by time and we are headed to a spiritual realm where time does not exist. You will simply exist like God has always existed. 
  What is God teaching us? What should we be doing presently? "The conclusion, when all has been heard is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil."  (Ecc. 12:13-14)  That child in your care, what are you placing in their heart? Are you teaching them, training them for eternity? That adolescent child, do that see in you that God matters more than anything created? We are all headed for eternity.
  Take a few moments (time) today and look back over this year. What have you surrounded your life with? Have you gained spiritually (for eternity) or earthly? Is your home stronger spiritually (eternally) today than it was a year ago? If your life drawing  nearer to God each passing day? Eternity is right at the door for each of us. We are standing facing entrance to this eternal world and we need to make certain we are using time wisely in preparing. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

"Do Not Follow People"

  The king of Judah was frozen with fear and it was spreading to the people. Syria and Judah had entered a pack to take down Judah. Assyria, the world power, also was headed their way. Fears from all sides and elements hit them and it was the talk of the people. Everywhere they were talking about what was coming and fear dominated their lives and thinking.
  Isaiah comes along and God, however He did it, spoke with "mighty power" and told Isaiah, "not to walk in the way of this people!"  (Isa. 8:11) God was sending a message to Isaiah that you cannot and must not get carried away by the hysteria of the people and their fear. "And you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it. It is the Lord of hosts whom you should regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, and He shall be your dread."  (Isa. 8:13) If you are going to be in dread of anyone, it is the be the Lord God, the Almighty!
  We look around us and there are so many things that make us fearful today. Health issues, political issues, financial issues and it seems the list is added to daily. Wouldn't it be wonderful if there were this 100 foot person, muscles bulging, looking undefeatable coming to us and saying, "Do not fear!"? But we know God is Spirit (John 4:24). All Isaiah had was some word of the Lord and it created within him faith. God speaks telling Isaiah that those who had faith in Him heeding His voice, "He shall become a sanctuary." (Isa. 8:14) For others, the Lord would be of no aid or help.
  Why do many today, who claim faith in God go so easily into a panic mode? I can see that through those faithless and have no clue about God but what about those of us who claim faith in God? I know its not hard to be carried away by some dread or fear when everyone around you is speaking in that tone. People are anxiety-driven, or depressed, or become pathetically shallow when all they pay attention to is fear and dread from some source of man. This should help us see that we as God's people should not follow the way of the populace. It's times of fear and dread that we could do some the best work for the Lord making it crystal clear that He can always be trusted!
  God knows how things look and He is aware of how people react to what they feel and hear when things seem to be flying into pieces. God knows how difficult it is for His children to be easily led into paths away from Him. But that's just it, He doesn't pat us on the back telling us to continue our path. He speaks through His word to us: "Do not follow the way of this people!" Heaven rules! God rules! The question is do we believe it?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

"Spiritual Malnutrition"

  The appeal for help came as an ad asking for help in those third world countries and their malnutrition. Pictures of children are shown with bloated stomachs and gaunt faces. It pulls at the heart which is exactly what they are trying to do.
  Another ad comes on and it is about the mistreatment of animals and the faces of starving, hurting animals that need our help. Face after face of animals are put in front of our eyes to appeal for help and have some compassion.
  We see shows that show us prisoners of war, especially in Germany in the death camps and we wonder how such men could have ever survived being completely skin and bone. Some look like walking skeletons with skin stretched over their frame. It upsets us to see that man could treat man in this manner allowing people to basically starve to death.
  But then we turn to the malnutrition spiritually. People who each week attend some sort of religious service having no clue why they are there and have nothing to offer. Maybe out of duty or habit but there is little there to feed them and they offer little back. Their lives too are in the state of malnutrition. People seem very unconcerned. "Just as long as you believe, that's all that matters." A host of people march off into eternity believing that lie starving to death.
  The Hebrew writer speaks, " have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food." (Heb. 5:12) We need teaching what the word of the Lord is really about. We don't need psychology, entertaining stories, fun tidbits, moving testimonies and philosophical approaches. We need the word of the Lord. The church is poorly 'nutritioned' in many places and is slipping more and more into the worlds approach. Teachers teaching that know little about what they speak but they are good at saying a lot of words! Preachers preaching that can hold the attention because they are polished but no sustenance from heaven. The Word of God is not upheld and if it is, many times it is used only as a reference. Without the food from heaven, weakness, misguided lives and skinny spiritual bones will begin to be exposed. Division will occur. There will be no standard but all will look the same and think the same. Yes, it is shocking to see ads for help in the lives of people and animals but what if we could look into a mirror on our spiritual side, what would we see? We have that mirror and it's called the Word of God if we would use it honestly and desire the Lord's truth with all our heart.

Monday, December 9, 2013

"Where's My Faith?"

  Paul stayed out of the way in his teaching/preaching. He made certain Christ wasn't presented in some 'cleaver' way (I Cor. 1:17). Paul made certain that he (or any other man) was not promoted in the eyes of the hearers (II Cor. 4:5). He made certain that he wasn't just peddling the word of God but spoke in the very sight of God (II Cor. 2:17). Why? So that the hearers faith would not rest on ANY of man's wisdom but on the power of God!! What about us? When we do things for others, do they clearly have their faith looking to the power of God, which is Christ Jesus (I Cor. 1:24), or do they listen to the wisdom that man offers and drawn to man in some form?
  In the church, how many have really placed their faith on the power of God? That power that overcomes and pushes one toward Jesus? How do we know our faith rests on the power of God? I think a few simple illustrations will help. Have you ever been offended because someone in the church didn't shake your hand or speak to you? The offense sets us off and there have been some who claim they would never return because of this. Where is their faith set? What about the one who loaned another some money and they weren't paid back? It ends up that the one owed will not return and sit in the same place where the 'thief' sits in their hypocrisy. Where is their faith set? What does that have to do with Jesus?
  If our faith is set on the power of God, Jesus and Him crucified, how did Jesus treat those who harmed Him? How did Jesus respond to those who were hypocritical and betrayed Him (as seen in Judas)? There is where faith in the power of God begins to present itself. Faith on the wisdom of men will divide, be offended and not return! Faith in the power of God brings one forward, moving ever so closely to helping. Faith in the wisdom of men will divide while faith in the power of God gives one the power and ability to reach beyond man and act like Christ, even to those who have offended. Faith in the power of God helps people toward salvation. Faith in the power of God will love (sacrificially) those who have hurt us and offended us. Faith in the power of God seeks the unity of the faith. Faith in the wisdom of men, well, man's wisdom killed the Lord Jesus (I Cor. 2:8) and man's wisdom will always lead one into confusion and selfish-ambition (Jam. 3:14-16). Faith in the power of God does not complain and grumble but knows God is working even when things don't go our way. Where does your faith rest?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

"Give In To The World?"

  Here was the nation of God's people facing a major problem that another nation has promised to either destroy all the people or they could surrender and they would have peace and be spared. Look at their track record. So far there has not been one nation able to stand against this brutal nation and you will be no different. Isaiah, the prophet of God, assures God's people that God is with them. God speaks: "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!" (Isa. 43:1)
  When we hear God speak of such in the midst of a difficulty, do we trust Him? Where is our faith in His promise and attachment to us? That would make a great song for a Sunday assembly, wouldn't you say? That would make a great sermon at a lectureship filled with those wanting to hear lessons. But what about the wife whose husband has walked out leaving her with three kids and a lives to set in order? What are they to do with such? What about the one brutalized during a camp at Auschwitz? What are they to do with such? How is the one to cope with that lost child in an accident?
  Yet here we have God speaking to His people to give assurance that all would be well. Isaiah speaks many times for God in ways above yet they don't seem to do much for us (and it didn't do much for them). We read that in Christ, "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."  (Rom. 8:28) What are we to do with that when our lives are broken by a lost job, lost home and no direction on what to do? Or that little baby that is sick and is going to die, what are we to do with such words from God? The person(s) going through suffering and loss are to find themselves under the redemptive outworking of God? The answer is yes!
  Jesus faced death. He came to earth for one purpose...a cruel death in order to redeem those who have faith in Him. It cost Him His life so we could have life. He came to die at the cruel hands of man. Too many times our faith never takes us to the big picture, eternity! We look only at the here and now. That's walking by sight. What do many who claim a faith in Jesus do? They give in and sell out what faith they have. Give in to the world, other faiths have! Give in to the world so you won't starve and struggle, that only seems logical! Give in to the world because the whole world is offered before us and there are wonderful things to be gained! Give in to the world because you can't beat it so you might as well join it! That's what many do and we preach many times in our psychology filled lessons.
  Jesus didn't give in to the world, He overcame the world. When we face great obstacles, suffering of any kind and it looks like things are at their bleakest, listen to God. He has our best interest at heart and that interest is redemptive in bringing us close to Him and setting our lives for eternity! Just as God was committed to His redeemed people in the past, He is just as committed to us today. God had this all written down to show His faithfulness and purpose. Faith grasps that and will not give in to the world!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

"Holy Behavior"

  Why don't we know much about the holiness of God? Peter speaks to the Christian that "like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior." (I Pet. 2:15) Holy behavior. What comes to your mind? Perfection? That's where most go when speaking of holiness.
  God is holy, the Holy One. Anyone who claims to stand in relationship to Him should have in their heart holy behavior. David speaks in Psalm 15 asking who may stand in the presence of God, dwell on His holy hill? The answer: those who walk (live) with integrity. A person of integrity is concerned for right and wrong and what is true. They speak truth in their heart. Read the Psalm and you will see those who may stand in God's presence.
  But holiness reaches even further. At the heart of a person of integrity (and God) we find discernment. They distinguish between what is common and what is not common. All mankind is common, made the same. But those who have come to Jesus, finding their sins wiped away, given a new self made in the likeness of God, they are no longer common. They belong to God and they know it! They know others who stand in this same relationship are not common either. They treat the church as God's holy ground. It has an effect on their attitude, their actions and speech. They live a life of holy behavior.
  Many wonder how to attain that kind of holiness. Look to Jesus! Jesus is the holiness of God in the form of man. He lived with God, for God, desired God's truth and lived by that truth. That's not common! That's holiness. When we find that God desires us to be conformed to the image of Jesus (Rom. 8:29) then there has to be the power and ability to attain to that or God lied. The problem lay is most do not put forth any effort to come to know Jesus. They only want to know facts. It becomes a life of head knowledge rather than a life of holy behavior. Holy behavior has discernment at its core. Many cannot discern what is proper and improper. They can when it comes to BIG sins or issues but no discernment in living their lives and what they involve themselves in.
  Here we find ourselves first, presenting ourselves back to God because of His mercy toward us. Show yourself alive to God by offering your whole being back to God as a living and holy sacrifice. Your body, you life is no longer common ground. It's God's ground! Here is where many fail. If there is no offering back, there will be no progress from this point. Integrity will not mean much. There will be little discernment. The result? No transformation into the image of Jesus because the mind is not being renewed from His word. We will at best hit and miss on being holy in our behavior. The bottom line is holiness is found in Jesus which should be found in us who claim Him!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

"Don't Shut God Out"

  It comes from a lot of different things that happen in our lives. I'm speaking of bitterness. When one becomes bitter about something, that bitterness makes it way into the heart and as long as that bitterness resides there, it skews the way we look at everything and everyone from that point. All our assessments and the way we deal with others are seen through bitter eyes.
  Someone feels slighted by an individual or the elders didn't take my needs into account or didn't do something the way I thought it should have been done. The stage is set. Choices will be made and we choose bitter! The heart is tainted and through those bitter eyes we begin to make our assessments about that individual and the situation. It might not be expressed at first but eventually it will. Another situation arises and the bitterness from the past arises in the heart. We begin to express our dissatisfaction of the present and then suddenly, the past bitterness that has settled in the heart begins to flow out of the mouth. We begin speaking about this injustice that we believe was perpetrated upon us. Angers flare and the more we speak, things continue to spiral downward. This is the reason that bitterness will cost your soul!
  The Hebrew writer speaks that bitterness is the one thing that will make one come short of God's grace (Heb. 12:15). Bitterness allowed to fester in the heart will stop God's grace toward you and leave you alone in your bitterness. Then that bitterness begins to defile and cause trouble, many times upon the innocent because you want them to hear. One act of bitterness and the defilement has spread to others. That's the way it works. Bitterness shuts out God! We are left with our own misery and powerless!! The situation that made us bitter now begins to be rearranged in the mind and heart to justify our actions and attitudes. It is to make us feel better about being bitter but in reality, it shuts God out!
  No wonder God calls us to put away all bitterness and wrath, all anger and clamor (railing against another), all slander and malice. (Eph. 4:31) Instead we are to be kind, tender-hearted and forgiving just as God HAS forgiven us in Christ Jesus. (Eph. 4:32) If you are forgiven from the Lord, what should your heart embrace? If you aren't forgiven, what will your heart embrace? Why is this so important? So the grace of God toward your life won't be shut out! 

Monday, December 2, 2013

"Job and Us"

  Job is a wonderful book that many refer to when suffering unjustly. But what about this book and the man Job? It's easy to say we think of Job but do we really realize how he went about things? Do we go about suffering the same way? How many times do we say, "'Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?' In all this Job did not sin with his lips." (Job 2:10)
  When Job was put on the spot by Elihu, God stepped to the front and answered Job. What a frightening experience it must have been for God to answer Job from a whirlwind and then a storm. How did God sound? I don't know. But this we do know, God exposed Job's ignorance about this world by asking questions that Job had no clue about. Even more, God did not explain anything! It makes us think that when God steps in a suffering life, God exposes our ignorance and asks us to if we are qualified to challenge the righteous God governing this world. Job heard the Lord loud and clear.
  Job railed at God in responding to his friends. Job wanted a face to face with God and he got it. It was more of calling God into account and demanding the Lord of heaven and earth give an account to 'dust' made man! Job was putting God under his beckoning call and control, or at least he thought so.
  God stepped in, making Job tremble and asked Job unanswerable questions. God did not approach Job in a quiet hour, putting His arm around Job's shoulders, patting him gently saying, "There, there now. Do you feel a little better? It will all be alright!" No, God pointed out to Job that the human world is filled with creatures beyond the control of man! Not only is there a world of creatures beyond man's control there is also 'wild' humans that man cannot control! And man wants to try to govern God? Man wants to try to figure God out or demand of God answers as to why things are the way they are in our lives? What do we learn? When suffering in this life, we need to realize that we too are in the presence of the Lord God Almighty! He is aware of every hurt and question that comes into our feeble minds. It's then we need to realize we're ignorant, powerless and need to be humble before the Lord. It's not about figuring things out or demanding answers. It's about submission to Him who is above all, controls all and just one word from His lips will change everything. Above all, we need to remember since Christ our Lord has come, we have more reason than ever to trust in the Lord with all our heart and not to lean on our own understanding! Somewhere we must put faith in "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of our faith produces endurance." (Jam. 1:2-3) Yes, as sovereign Lord, God can govern this world any way He sees fit and we need to trustingly bow before His righteousness in our suffering knowing that Jesus is still ours in the midst of the trial. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

"A Brief on Love"

  Too many times we associate the wrath of God with loveless, don't we? When God's wrath is kindled against the sinfulness of man, is that the absence of love? God is love (I John 4:7-8). God can never act loveless. The wrath of God is the form of love when He must chastise man! Just think about your own children. When they did things that were sinful and destructive to their lives or harm of others, did you chastise them because you were loveless? No! The chastising was your love for them to get their attention so they would change their attitude and heart. And so it is with God.
  If we keep defining love as all embracing and never correcting, we have a very distorted view of love. We will have a distorted view of God! Didn't we learn that love never rejoices in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth (I Cor. 13:6)? Love always goes after righteousness. When it comes to brethren, sometimes we must chastise them if the continue in their walk of rebellion or godless behavior. Sometimes my brother or sister might want to revile others in the church. That must be stopped for the sake of love! It involves all. Sometimes a brother or sister might be a swindler or a coveter. Love deals with that. Too many in the church seem to think that we can't say or do anything against anyone because we don't want to hurt them or get them upset! Love is concerned for the eternal destiny! Love moves to chastisement to help them turn away from whatever it is they are practicing.
  We need to stop making love out as some sort of 'touchy, feely' embrace that we all get along while turning our eyes away from the practice of sin. After all, if we correct someone and they are such workers in the church and that's the basis on which they are right with God, what does that reveal about our understanding of love? What does that say in our understanding of God?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

"God Confronts"

  It's hard to imagine that God 'hungers' to be in fellowship with us. We see it from the beginning of creation, to the building of a tabernacle in the presence of Israel while they wandered in the wilderness. We see it especially clear in the Lord Christ Jesus as our offering.
  But in all this, there is another message sent to man. In the garden, when man sinned, one cannot have fellowship with a holy God while in sin. Man was sent away from His presence because of sin. In the tabernacle, while God dwelt among them, there were two veils that stood between man and God to indicate that sinful man cannot stroll into the presence of God. Man has no right to do so. This separation was a reminder that fellowship with God was a gift, not a right! And we come to Jesus. The death of Jesus is a reminder that He alone stands between us and God because of our sins. We have no right on our own to approach God. Jesus is God's gift! Yet many today think they have this right to approach God, do things as they please, with their own concepts and teachings and God is thrilled. People like this never understand the holiness or the love of God.
  God takes sin, our sin seriously. What seems to be missing in our teaching/preaching is people are no longer confronted by God in our sinfulness. Congregations fight and quarrel about who knows what. God wants to confront us because that is wrong. People are offended because of this or that. Rather than try to heal and remove the barriers, they gossip and slander behind backs while God is trying to confront us in our sins that if this continues, you will lose it all! Our sins are 'homegrown'! In other words, we are the cause and no one else.
  What are we to do? Not forgive yourself, that's for sure!! We have no capability to do that. God confronts us in our sins to humble our hearts before Him that if we are to make any progress spiritually, it will be by His help, not ours! God looks for humble and contrite hearts and those who tremble at His word (Isa. 66:2). Too many are self-righteous, thinking they are self-made. God speaks that we must be willing to confess and reach for His forgiveness, moving us away from our self-destructive attitudes and responding to His grace for us in Christ Jesus. In all, God will not allow anyone to wallow in their sin and have fellowship with Him. It just won't happen. We must be willing to listen, heed and respond from the heart so God can do the work in our lives that shape us into the image of His Son. God confronting us in our sins is not to push us away but a life-giving way to bring us into His holy presence, with a holy sacrifice creating a holy life knowing it isn't us, it's all Him!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

"My Thoughts On Shrinking"

  Yesterday I was sent a link to look at a blog titled: "Why Are Churches of Christ Shrinking?" I was asked to give my thoughts on the article. Sometimes things like this are of little value because there will always be a debate about which is right and wrong. Saying that, I will say little but give a brief thought from my view because I was asked.
  In the article it concludes by giving what needs to be done differently in order to reach people. Basically the writer of this blog tells people that we need to be more consumer friendly. Use videos, a three projection screen, dim the lights, use testimonials, making preaching/teaching applicable and culturally relevant, use music before worship, engage body, soul mind in worship, and emphasize community. These were the conclusions on how to start the path to growth. There are several more parts to the series that I did not read but let me make one observance both from what I read and through my many travels and speaking engagements.
  Too much of the conclusion sounds like becoming "world" friendly to me. That's just my thinking. I'm not trying to tear down the writer, please understand that. To become more like the standard of those around is not the way to go about things. The Lord speaks that we are to be converted to Him which means there must be a change in heart and mind. The Lord calls everyone to repentance which points to a changed heart and mind of people. We are not a people with a few minor flaws. We are sinful, steeped in our lusts. The Lord is calling us into fellowship with Him and trying to get us to drop our lusts. That's why when one is immersed into Christ Jesus, not only are their sins washed away but they are to put on a new self, "which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth." (Eph. 4:24) A new self. That's what everyone needs and only in Christ can that come about. It's not about catering to the lost around, no matter what kind of experience the younger are looking for. The Lord calls us to change by the power of God and not some cultural calling or change. If anyone is going to be saved, it will be by being transformed and not conforming (Rom. 12:2). This is why growth is stopping. The message is no longer being preached or many don't know what message to preach so that makes us gear to being consumer friendly. Paul went into a Gentile world steeped in all sorts of worship experiences and idols but he had a message and didn't adjust to them but called man adjusts to God if they were to be saved.
  There is another side to this. You have those who that all they want to do is keep preaching/teaching the same old stuff that could not and did not create faith in the Lord. It was called defending the faith when all it was doing was making people dull in hearing. The legalistic side of working your way to the Lord and a relationship with Him. The legalistic side of music and why we are right and everyone else is wrong. This too is just as bad and is killing the Lord's church is many areas.
  Here is a great example of what I am saying. A preacher came and asked me how we continue to grow and what I preach after being in a place so long. I said Jesus and Him crucified. There's the power! He said he would start doing that. About 3 months later, he came back to me and said he had exhausted all the lessons on Jesus and Him crucified. Right there told me that he had no clue what that means. The word from beginning to end is about Jesus and Him crucified. I haven't stopped preaching the cross for the 21 years I have been here!
  My take, for whatever it is worth. We have lost sight of the Lord Jesus Christ! We have no message for the lost. We have no confronting our sins and sinfulness. Our preaching/teaching are not about creating faith, but stories and things that cannot help. We spout psychology, encourage to think like the world in what we embrace and believe. When I opened God's word this morning, it still said the gospel is God's power to save everyone who believes it! (Rom. 1:16) It was Paul who spoke to the church at Corinth that had wandered away that he wanted to know nothing, nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified (I Cor. 2:2). If the gospel is God's power to save, and we are shrinking, maybe we have moved from His powerful message?

Monday, November 18, 2013

"God's Word"

  The prophets claimed over and over that God gave them words to speak and write. Just read Isaiah and Jeremiah. When John came on the scene, he proclaimed that the word given to the prophets must be fulfilled. Jesus came speaking that the written word of the prophets MUST be fulfilled (Luke 24:25). The apostle Peter stated plainly that all the prophecy of Scripture didn't originate with their own personal interpretation of the spiritual and moral situation in the world. They wrote and spoke because they were moved by the Holy Spirit speaking from God (II Pet. 1:20-21) Paul informed Timothy that the OT Scriptures were "God-breathed" (II Tim. 3:16). Paul spoke to the Corinthians that the word they spoke were Spirit given (I Cor. 2:13). Peter said the same (I Pet. 1:12). The central point in all this for man is: God's sovereignty and man's submission if anyone is to be saved. In order for man to get the message, each situation was approached from God's word to give the hearer the best opportunity to accept these God inspired messages.
  The Samaritan woman was wanting to know where to worship and Jesus had to show her location wasn't the issue in worshiping God (John 4:20-22). Jesus made it clear that true and acceptable worship is not orchestrated but involves truth and spirit (from within the person). That's the spoken word of God!
  The scribes and Pharisees had to be more direct from God's word. Jesus used plain and straight-forward words of God to show how they had become so corrupt in their attitude and approach to the word of God and their blindness couldn't see anything else but what they wanted to see and teach. Jesus was teaching these "church-goers" that they needed to be warned because their heart had corrupted themselves that straight-forward is the only way to try to help them see their destiny.
  The lady was caught in adultery (John 8). Jesus took God's word and spoke so tenderly which bewildered the crowd. Jesus spoke God's word patiently with His disciples over and over. Jesus spoke passionately on behalf of those exploiting others (John 2:13-17). But no matter how God's word was conveyed for the need of the moment, it was always truthful and not manipulated. What do you learn from all this? I'll let you apply it today for  your need in your life!

Thursday, November 14, 2013


  Sometimes we hear words and we have an image that comes into mind. For instance, we hear the word "worship" and many think of a building. They associate the two. We hear the word "justice", what would you associate with that? Maybe a court hearing or trial? That's how we mainly use the words. When you hear the word "righteousness", what comes into your mind? That becomes a little more difficult to connect because it's not a word we use often in our language. It is a word that many link with perfection and morals.
  When looking at God and hearing these words, we find that in His "righteousness" we see God's holiness. The holy God is seen in being righteous. In other words, you can count on God doing and acting in ways that are right. We see this thought conveyed in Isa. 5:16. Many times love and righteousness are used together in speaking of God. They seem to be companion words that express the qualities of God and His actions. One example is found in Psa. 36:10. Other words that seem to speak of the character of God and are linked together many times are "truth" and "faithfulness". They stress stability and trustworthiness.
  When one looks closely at Rom. 3:3-7, Paul is laying out the failure of the OT Jewish nation, we find the words of "faithfulness", "truth", "righteousness" and "justice" all revealing the character of God in one section.
  In all these words, we see the character of God and they were revealed openly to man in Christ Jesus! In relationship to Christ, we find God's faithfulness and His being just. Christ is the height of truth and righteous. In all these, our union with Christ has brought these elements of God to us and we need to learn to trust Him and His character no matter what we face in life. We have a running history that God has never been anything less than who He is. Who is He? A God of faithfulness and truth. A God of love and righteousness. A God that of justice in dealing with us. And if we belong to Him, what should be characterizing our lives? "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." (Rom. 12:2) Transforming into the character of God, that's what a true child of God becomes!!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

"It's Not About Winning"

  Winning the arguments! When we are challenged by some notion of false teaching, immediately we want to show and win the argument against such falsehood. But that's just it. It's about winning on our part, or so it seems many times. I'm not saying we shouldn't stand against falsehood. We should and the Lord wants us to. It's the way we stand against it. Sometimes smug and with an attitude above we will win. That's what our flesh wants. Our flesh likes to argue and win the argument. Everything around us in this world tells us to win, win, win!!!
  Several years back, a young preacher stood up in front of the brethren and stated that he was going to have a debate with a denominational preacher over instrumental music in worship. He announced it and was rallying the troops. The things he said "puffed" up many and the time to meet with this was set. I asked one simple question: "If you show where they did not use it in the first century church, and you can, they drop their instruments in worship, are they saved?" His reply was this was a starting point. My next statement was such: "If we got every single denomination to drop their instruments in worship, would that save them?" Silence fell loudly!
  Here's my point. It's about the gospel. Bring people to Jesus and the other things will take care of itself. It's not about winning an argument and making one feel superior. It's about saving. It's all about saving. God is about saving. The power of God for salvation is found in the gospel (Rom. 1:16) and nothing else. Jesus wanted His disciples to preach the gospel. Paul taught Timothy that the Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome (II Tim. 2:24). What are we to do? Realize what is at stake in the soul of another. The key in this is God at work, not you or me. Gentleness is needed when people are in opposition because it boils down to one thing and one thing alone: "With gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth."  (II Tim. 2:25) God must grant repentance!!! We need to help soften their heart with gentleness and not with argument. We need to soften their heart when we correct false notions without blasting them or making them feel inferior. Quarrels create a sense of superiority! Gentleness creates an atmosphere where the heart can soften and allow God to grant the repentance so they can come to their senses (II Tim. 2:26).
  Listen, this is all about God, not us! God calls us to Himself. God is One who brought about salvation through Jesus. God is the One who justifies. Salvation is from God, has always been from God and is always about God. We need to humble ourselves and be willing to allow Him to grant what He grants. We need to make certain we aren't making things more difficult. Just a thought.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

"Can You Believe It?"

  Life is difficult at times. Things hit us and overwhelm. To some, the difficulties send them reeling into depths of despair and a sense of hopelessness. What if each day we read from God's word? And let's not read just to be reading thinking we accomplished something. Let's not read to be a daily bible reader so we can raise our hands on Sunday! (Some places do this.) Let's read with a heart of faith and conviction by responding to what we read. Accept and move in the direction of what you read. Here's a great start...
"What shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril or sword? Just as it is written, 'For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.' But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us." (Rom. 8:28)
  Having a difficult time in your life? Put some faith right here. The Lord speaks loud and clear. Enough said! God's blessings.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

"The Sabbath"

  Why the first day of the week to worship God? Why Sunday? We know that it is the day of the week Jesus arose from the dead. But there is more to it.
   God brought about the Sabbath and in His commandments said, "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy." (Ex. 20:8) We know that well but listen to the rest: "Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work...For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy." (Ex. 20:10-11) The seventh day God rested. God took pleasure in His creation and rested in satisfaction. "God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good." (Gen. 1:31) As the Lord Jehovah gave His purpose and instruction, He wanted Israel to enjoy the blessings from Him from six days of their labor and enjoy the seventh as a rest. That seventh day was a reminder that God had provided everything thing they needed that week and there is nothing to be added! It shines as a reminder that man is completely dependent on God and not ourselves.
  We turn to the present. Our society is filled with debts and wanting more. We rush to this and that and all week we work hard to make our way, just to pay for the great debts we have accumulated. We work every hour we can for money. The weekends are filled with more debts of spending and pleasures so we go back the next week to pay for it all. The cycle is killing us. We need the message of a Sabbath rest.
  Jesus arose from the dead. It declared Him as God's Son and  He was raised for our justification (acquitted of the charges of sin). This speaks that we are not self-made or self-maintained. It takes Jesus to bear our sins. It takes God to provide our needs. It takes the promise through Jesus from God that He will provide our EVERY need if we would seek Him first. That first day of the week, that day we call Sunday is a day that we need to learn how to enjoy the blessings that came our way from God. That first day is a day where we need to reflect, praise and honor the One who has brought us into the presence of a holy and righteous God. It takes Jesus to intercede for us, to stand in our place, to sanctify (make us holy) us, to keep us blameless and beyond reproach and assure us of eternal life. We need this day to come in peace and turn loose our thoughts of control, fears of not making it both physically and spiritually. We need to reflect on God, fellowship His Son in His Supper, praise His promises, adore His faithfulness and allow His peace to surround us. While we have lost sight of all this and what it means, we continue our hustle and bustle thinking God needs us! We seem to loose sight that God is our adequacy and Jesus is the ONLY hope we have in this life and especially the life to come. We need this "Sabbath rest" and seem to have forgotten what it means!  

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

"Sin Is About God!"

  It isn't enough that we sin. We turn ourselves into tragic figures in our sin by stating that we feel completely and utterly useless in the sight of God. Some speak in their sin as if they are 'fated' to condemnation. Sin stays with us. We know we do wrong, we want to do better but somehow we think that God will have nothing to do with us, especially if we have sinned the same sin over and over. Our faith starts faltering and we become discouraged. We cannot speak to another because if they ever find out the depth of your sin(s) they would be appalled and not have anything to do with you. There becomes the double edged sword. God won't have me and people won't have me! Doomed for eternity and the guilt just builds and builds one block at a time.
  Why are we this way? Because what sin does to us is make us very self-centered! The more self-centered one becomes the more difficult it becomes to penetrate the heart. Listen, our sins stand between us and God but instead of turning ourselves into this pathetic person (and sometimes we are) we need to be turning to God. It's not about us!! It's about God and His holiness. God is holy and so pure that He cannot look upon sin....BUT....God is also love and He will not allow sin, any sin(s) to stand over us if we want to be rid of it! God doesn't want us wallowing in our weaknesses. God doesn't want us to quit when sin has penetrated into our lives. God wants to come and offer forgiveness through His Son, whom He sent, who sits at His right hand with His own blood, interceding on our behalf! Do you believe that Jesus is your sin bearer? We tire and struggle and sometimes even find ourselves drifting with the current of sin. We might feel like quitting or speak that the Lord would want nothing to do with us! STOP IT! That's what the Lord would speak. Of course we are not worthy of Him but His love won't let us go easily! We might speak the words, "He couldn't want me. Not me!" Why do we keep telling ourselves these lies? Is the only reason we speak such or think such is because we love sin too much?
  God wants us! His holiness will not fellowship sin but His offering for our sins speaks of His love that He will not let you go easily! God will not allow us to walk away with a lie on our lips without trying to get you to stop focusing on you and look, listen to His Son on your behalf. Then we speak, "It's just I can't forgive myself!" That's foolishness and pride on our part!!!! That's nonsense. We speak as if forgiveness lay with us and not with God. Once again, another form of self-centeredness. The holy, righteous and faithful God willingly forgives every speck of unrighteousness when we confess (I John 1:9). But we seem to be more focused on our sin than Him. If you continue to wallow in your sin(s), to feel that He pushes you away, that He would not want you, maybe the real questions needs to be asked: "Why don't you want to be forgiven? Why do you want to remain free from the Lord? Do you enjoy your drifting away from the Lord?"

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


  This previous week has been one of the most strangest of weeks I think that I have ever seen. Strangest in the sense of the number of people that passed away in just a few days of each other that effected so many in our own congregation. My wife Resa was one of those who was affected. Her brother passed away and we traveled to Texas for his memorial.
  As I was driving home reflecting, it struck me about our lives and being prepared. It made me ask are we living as if our lives were going to be here forever? Are we living for the now and doing little to prepare for eternity?
  One thing that seems to ring clear from the word of the Lord is being ready! Death can come at any time to anyone. When we are reminded, we know that but why does it take us by such surprise? I understand about the shock of something but where are we placing eternity in the heart and mind of our lives? Every man and woman, every child on this earth, our lives are headed to one event under heaven and that being a date with eternity. Just as we need food and water to sustain us, we need Jesus in our eternal date. We all have the same appointment with death unless Jesus comes before. In knowing this, in believing this, we need to be making preparations for that date. We are told by God that it is appointed for everyone to die once (Heb. 9:27). Yet we live as if this isn't a reality and our lives show it. We play hard and give up spiritual ground to enjoy the temporal passing of pleasures. Families forfeit the souls of their children for the things of this world pushing and prodding them into things that they will soon embrace and love with all their heart while the things of the Lord fall into the background. Truth is not sought and the love of God is not the foremost thing sought. Parents just exist for their children. It's all part of the whole that gets obscured that one day, one day in the near future, we have a date with eternity and there will be only one thing that matters from that point and our lives will be set FOREVER!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

"Are We Messy?"

    We seem to know a lot about Abraham but do we really? The Scripture speaks of him as the father of the faithful. But what about his blunders? His mighty blunders? God had promised him that he would father a child by Sarah and he would become a father of a great nation. But beyond that, he would be the father of a multitude of nations. All the promises of God yet what did he do? He placed his wife Sarah to be placed in a position of an Egyptian harem! This wasn't a one time sin. He did it a again!! It took a Philistine, an outsider that rebuked him for his mistreatment of his wife. Abraham created a mess spiritually!
  We turn to Heb. 11 and call it the "hall of faith" chapter. Abraham is listed in this. It's all true and wonderful. But have you ever wondered why the Lord left out all the messy details about Samson, David, Jacob, Gideon and many others? Their faith was intact and genuine and it was genuine despite the fact that they stumbled and severely failed, some even into old age. They all created some very messy spiritual situations for themselves. We think of David and his horrid failures yet if you were to ask a ruler of Israel about their faithfulness of their ruler ship, the answer depended on if they clung to God as their father David had! 
  Step up to the mirror. See who is looking back at you. You might wince but if you are honest in heart you would admit that there is some serious fine tuning that needs to be done. We are reminded of our failures yet here we are standing in fellowship with our loving Creator and Redeemer, who is working on bringing us home. The Lord called us to Himself and as long as we hold to our faith in Him, trying with an humble heart, He promises to finish in us what He began! What does that mean? There is coming a day when there will be no more messy details in our lives because of God's grace combined with our faith.  

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

"Grace Is For the Weak"

  The Hebrew writer reminds us that our heart needs to be strengthened by grace, not by foods (or keeping any food laws). (Heb. 13:9) Strengthened by grace! God's unmerited, undeserving favor toward us, the weak and sinful. Sometimes we know so little about grace though we speak of it. We define grace but seem to miss the point.
  "Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Heb. 4:16) Our Lord Jesus can help with our weaknesses. He alone knows the pressures and strength it takes to not bend or give into sin but stand in the righteousness of God against the forces of evil. We do not know that. We crumble. We give in too easily. We know well our failures and sense the guilt. We need to know the blood of Jesus is to cleanse us in our conscience from guilt (Heb. 9:14) and the grace is God is for our WEAKNESS!
  There is too much talk about winners from our perspective. We hear how 'Christians are winners!' But what does that do to us? What does talk like this do to God's grace? Being winners makes us strong many times in our own eyes. I know we don't say that openly. We speak our reliance on God but it seems there are those who are on a endless track that because of being a winner tied to God, there is little weakness within. The grace of God is for weakness!! Christianity is for weak people! Salvation is for the helpless and ungodly!
  Jesus taught: "...for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Matt. 9:13) "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." (Matt. 11:28) "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." (II Cor. 12:9) Grace is for weakness. Grace isn't for the elite, powerful, successful, positive thinking like there are no problems and why can't you rise up above everything attitude people. Grace is for the weak and ignorant, the unwanted and despised, the down-trodden and helpless. The church is full of such people. Jesus is the Savior of the helpless, suffering and fear-filled person. We fail!! We need mercy for our failure! Sometimes things hit so hard and it seems to push us down into despair while we look to the Lord God for help. His grace is there at those times to help and help it does!
  No wonder we can sing "amazing grace how sweet the sound". His grace is for me, in my weakness and failure. Are you hurting? Draw near with some confidence because Jesus went before you to make atonement, making you holy so you can draw near to the throne of grace and find help in your time of need. That's not me or anything from me. It's all from the grace of God. Maybe we need to pray the Lord forgive us for our personal strength thinking and self-reliance!

Monday, October 28, 2013

"Can We Hear?"

  It must have stung in the mind of the Jew's that had believed Jesus. Yes, they believed Him but were still not part of Him. Jesus said they were of another father, the devil (John 8:44). Jesus spoke the words, "Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word." (John 8:43) Therein lies the problem. They weren't physically deaf. They heard every sound of every word. What made them separate and apart from Jesus was they refused His word as truth! That is what happens to so many today.
  I don't hear many today seeking, looking for the truth. I hear a lot of people listening to whatever anyone speaks that sound good and reasonable in their mind but little about truth. And when we speak of truth, it is generally in a little box that we have made and tied a bow on it! That too is just as bad. We need to hear the word of truth and that comes by a willingness to listen and accept, even when it goes against your personal stance.
  If a person believes the truth and seeks the truth, they cannot or will not received anything else as truth. They will compare what they hear with what is revealed. They cannot hear anything else but truth. That's where seeking comes into play. If a person cannot hear the word of the Lord, in the context in which in was spoken and the purpose for which it was spoken, there is no way that you can make them hear. All the speaking that  you do will never persuade them to hear anything different than what they want to believe.
  We need to listen to Jesus. We need to be prayerful that when we read the word of the Lord and study His word that we are willing to hear His word. Then comes the words of Jesus to our hearts: "If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself." (John 7:17)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

"Final Meeting"

  It's one more time. I am off for my last speaking engagement of the year, this time to Hidgen, Arkansas. I look forward to speaking with them about the Lord and His truth. I also will get to spend some time with a dear friend and his wife. That is a double blessing.
  I want to encourage each of you that read this, please spend time in the word and prayer. Those are the two vital ingredients in your growth. Allow the word of God to speak and not insert your ideas or thoughts. Give God complete allowance and access to your heart. Listen with a heart of faith, ready to respond immediately to what you read. That's how faith is grown. May God richly bless you in your walk with Him!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

"That's Love?"

  I was watching a program on television about the declining family values in America. When I listen to people and their views placing them up beside what God speaks, it is rather alarming how distorted the thinking has become.
  In one segment they were interviewing a man on death row for murdering his wife. The man spoke of their lives together, their children and then his wife began running around on him. He confronted her but to no avail according to his account. Then he spoke the following words: "I loved her so much that if I couldn't have her, no one could!" What a distorted view of love! That's not love. It's called jealousy, a fit of rage and ungodliness but it's certainly not love!
  The next segment focused on a young mother who was trying to turn her son against his father. Their marriage had failed and she called her ex-husband useless and couldn't stand the sight of even seeing him. Then she spoke the following words: "I love my son so much that I don't want any harm to come to him, especially from his father!" Afterward they spoke with the boy (about 10 years old) and asked him how he felt and he said he was mixed up because his parents seem to hate one another and he couldn't understand why. The mother calls this love. That's not love. It's called hate, anger, bitterness and ungodliness but it's certainly not love!
  I've heard parents say they love their children to much to discipline them whether it's from spanking or some other form. That's not love. "He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently." (Prov. 13:24) It's called laziness, uncaring to be bothered but it's certainly not love!
  Have you heard people in the Lord's body tell you they love you or someone else only to speak evil of them behind their back? That's not love. It's called gossip, slander and ungodliness but it's certainly not love!
  Have we lost the meaning of true love? Have our lives become so distorted that we cannot recognize what God's love pursues and looks like? "We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren."  (I John 3:16) That's love! Harming others or speaking against others or not bringing up your children in the discipline of the Lord is not love. "If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen."  (I John 4:20)
  God is love. Read I Cor. 13 and see love responding. God gave, endured and committed Himself to our well being at all cost to Him. That certainly IS love!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

"Guilt and Shame"

  They were down and depressed. Their past seemed to haunt their lives. They had made some terrible choices and they paid a great price. People had told them that they needed to learn to forgive themselves! When they came into my office sharing this with me, I asked, "How does one forgive themselves? If we  have the ability to do that, we don't need Jesus!"
  Guilt does terrible things in the heart People have so much difficulty with their past and it is affecting their present, even their health. Recently speaking with a psychologist that lives in town (I've known them for years and ran into them at a store), she made the most startling statement: "I like it when guilty people come see me. They make me a lot of money!" She knows about the lives of guilty people and she teaches people how to control their guilt while living with it and never how to overcome it! She doesn't know how.
  We need to realize that we are spiritual being. We have a body, a soul and spirit (I Thes. 5:23). It's the soul and spirit side where everything takes place. Our conscience is on our spirit side (Rom. 2:15). We are created in the image of God, who is Spirit. If we could realize that all defilement takes place on our spirit side, that's the part of our being we would take care of. But many live for the body side which is passing away. Our memories (conscience) are from the spirit side of us and that's why guilt cannot be escaped because it happens on the spiritual side. When guilt raises its head, people try to find things to keep them busy on the physical side so their mind cannot be occupied with the feeling of guilt and shame. They avoid any situation that might make them think of their guilt. The final thrust of guilt is one cannot serve the Lord in guilt!!
  What's the answer? The death of Jesus on our behalf. Faith in the death of Jesus will solve all guilt problems. Does God know we have failed? Sometimes miserably? Jesus went to a cross bearing my sins and the shame of my sins. We need to place our faith in the cleansing blood of Jesus. The Hebrew writer speaks: "How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God."(Heb. 9:14) The blood of Jesus is to cleanse the conscience from dead works. When one is guilty, the works they perform are from death because they are trying to alleviate the pain. You see it when people say they will study more, pray more and attend services more just to find freedom from guilt. Jesus' blood is the cleansing agent and faith in His death on your behalf is the answer.
  How did Paul, who murdered so many innocent people in the name of God, find the ability to move forward in his life? Through the death of Jesus! How did Peter, swearing he would die for Jesus only to end up walking away from Him, even using profanity that he didn't know Jesus, find the forgiveness to overcome? It was through the blood of Jesus.
  Guilt is on our spirit side and if we are going to overcome, it must come from spiritual answers. "And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you, not the removal of dirt from the flesh but an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ." (I Pet. 3:21) The inner cleansing is upon baptism. Baptism wasn't removing dirt from your flesh. It was to cleanse you internally. You and the blood of Jesus came together in baptism as you appealed to God through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. You want freedom from guilt and shame? It can be found only through Jesus! 

Monday, October 14, 2013

"Spiritual or Unspiritual?"

  It seems to happen more and more. I hear people speaking of congregations they worship with saying how "dead" or "unspiritual" the congregation is. I know things might not be what we expect and there may be those who have no clue what it means to walk with the Lord and love the Lord but to condemn the whole, that is walking on dangerous ground.
  When you inquire further of what an unspiritual congregation is like, many relate to some experience they had with another congregation they thought was spiritual. They begin a comparison.  But what they relate most of the time is the activities and programs that are being done. People relate spiritual with externals many of the time. It makes me wonder if those who call a congregation unspiritual or dead really knows what spiritual means?
  Here's what we need to understand. If one is calling a congregation unspiritual, who might really be the unspiritual in that case? Would the spiritual condemn the whole? Would the spiritual speak against leadership knowing the word of the Lord says not to do that? Would the spiritual take an attitude with others?
  Spiritual brethren help those who are not as spiritual! "Now we who are strong ought to bear with the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves." (Rom. 15:1) Spiritual people are not out to please themselves. A self-pleaser will have an attitude but not that of Christ Jesus. "Wherefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of the Father." (Rom. 15:7) There's what a spiritual person would do! Jesus dealt with unspiritual men called apostles and they took His message to a lost world loving the Lord's body! Jesus didn't quit or take an attitude toward these men when they failed. He accepted them to God's glory!
  Let's think of it this way. How would you react if you were at the church in Corinth? Here is what you would call an unspiritual congregation with so many problems. Fighting over preachers, adultery, law suits, complaints, comparing people with others, abusers of those who had little, inconsiderate, loveless and abusers of God's spiritual gifts. For those who complain about a dead congregation, how would they fit in at Corinth? They would quit!! What did Paul do with these brethren? "To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling..." (I Cor. 1:2) Paul addresses them as God's church, as those sanctified in Christ Jesus and they were saints!!! In fact, just read the first nine verses of chapter one and you will see a spiritual man viewing God's people with all these problems. Everything depends on whose eyes you are looking through: Jesus' or self! A spiritual person will do what they can to help and help mold attitudes to those of Christ Jesus. An unspiritual person will complain, carry a chip on their shoulder, do little to lift a finger or even quit. Would that be a fleshly move or spiritual move? Are you spiritual or unspiritual?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

"Walk In Love"

  God speaks to us through His word that we are to "walk in love, just as Christ also loved you." (Eph. 5:2) Walk in love. Live your life as Christ loved you. Let your attitudes and manners be directed by the love of Christ. How many times have we heard this yet people who claim the Lord as theirs walk by their own feelings, their mind being upset at this one or that one and allow that to act out in their lives? How much impact does the love of God, the word of God have on our lives?
  The term "love" is agape. This love is not a feeling type of love. It is not a special feeling you have toward others because they are your friend or family member. Agape is not an impulse from any feeling. Feelings will always limit a person how far they will go for another. Love, God given and God acting love is a sacrifice, doing the best for another at all cost to you. That's the love Christ had for you. Love seeks others, not self!! Feelings seek self! To walk in love as Christ loved us can only be seen through ones actions. Agape has God as the primary object and can act on behalf of another because God is at the heart of your life! Self love is when you refuse to act on behalf of another because maybe you have a disagreement with them or you feel they took advantage of you so cold shoulder them. Cain killed his brother because he loved himself (I John 3:12). People who never come to the love of God will pursue things that pleases them and when things don't go the way want, they get upset and refuse from that point.
  Jesus told His disciples that all will know that they are His because they have love for one another (John 13:35). Agape makes an impact on the lost world around because they have never seen or known the love of God. When God's people do not act off of His love, seeking the highest good of others but instead speaking down to others, suspicious of others, not caring about one another, that's the level of love the see in the world. Why would they want to follow Jesus if they can get the same from the lost?
  The cross speaks to us and show us a sacrificing love. Will we walk in that love? "The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love." (I John 4:8) Those who don't know God will pay the price of eternal separation away from the presence of the Lord (II Thes. 1:8-9). Where does this leave you?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


  We go to the doctor for tests. We want to know the truth if there is anything wrong. Our children in school need to know the correct answers in order to receive good grades. We take prescription medicines and want to know the side effects and proper dosage. In all these things, we want one thing: TRUTH!
  We've known situations that come up where there are two opposing sides. One side sounds truthful but if one is really concerned for the truth, they need to get both sides as an offended or hurt person might be looking from a distorted view. 
  Isn't it interesting when it comes to God and His word that truth is not what is sought? The majority seek religion and something they feel comfortable with. Truth is not at the heart many times when it comes to God. They want something about what they believe so they can feel good.
  Jesus spoke: "I am the way, the truth and the life." (John 14:6) Jesus spoke of the Spirit that would be sent back after His ascension to the Father as "the Spirit of truth" (John 14:17;15:26). Paul instructed the Ephesians "speaking the truth in love" (Eph. 5:15). The Colossians were instructed in "the word of truth" (Col. 1:5) and they understood the grace of God "in truth" (Col. 1:6). The true church of the living God is "the pillar and support of the truth" (I Tim. 3:15). John writes that one can know "the spirit of truth and the spirit of error" simply by who we listen to for our information (I John 4:5-6). It comes from the world sources or the apostles who got it from Jesus.
  TRUTH! We need to not only seek it but love it. We need our hearts so set that we want the truth from God no matter what. To not have a love for the truth put one in a dire predicament. They are sent a deluding influence to take them further down the road of falsehood (II Thes. 2:11-12). That should be enough to put a godly fear in anyone seeking the truth. How intent are you looking at the truth? Are you afraid to put your belief up against the whole teaching of God's word? Too many take bits and pieces which leaves us with partial truth which is not the truth that Jesus is part. He is not only the way and life, He is the truth.

Monday, October 7, 2013

"A Better Home Life"

  There is a clear indication in our present day that people are looking for a better home life. The lectureships and marriage enrichment series that are promoted seem to be in record number. Videos are available  and books written on the home are just too many to count. The other day while walking down the religious section of a bookstore, I counted at least 36 different books that dealt with something about home life. Let me say that I am not against anyone wanting to improve their home and marriage relationships. What concerns me is all the so called "expert" advice given, sprinkled with a little bit of God's word and the suffering and decline of the home still prevails. What is being missed?
  Everything God has granted to those in Christ Jesus is "everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence." (II Pet. 1:3) We have given to us from God EVERYTHING PERTAINING TO LIFE AND GODLINESS. God's ways improve our lives and will lead us into His holy conduct. That's the true knowledge of God! People are missing the key ingredient. Submission to the Lord and listening to His voice! Many are trying to improve their marriages without submitting to the Lord. Many are attempting to train their children without submitting to the Lord and their children learn nothing of submission. Listen to two ideas spoken by the Holy Spirit and written by the apostle Paul: "Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord." (Eph. 5:22) Why is that so difficult? Why do we not accept, "as to the Lord."? "Husbands love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her." (Eph. 5:25) Why is this so difficult? Why do we not accept, "just as Christ loved"? Too many focus on the externals rather than a heart to hear and submit. A love for the Lord with all our hearts is what the Lord calls us to. A submissive spirit and a humble heart toward the Lord is what determines things. "Children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right." (Eph. 6:1) Why is this so difficult? Why do we not accept, "in the Lord"? "And fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." (Eph. 6:4) Why is this so difficult? Why do we not accept, "the discipline and instruction of the Lord"? All answers to marriage and the home are found in one's submission to the Lord. When one departs from a heart that desires the Lord and His ways, you will be reduced to man's "expert" advice because we are getting nothing from the Lord. For many, they move from one idea to another while remaining unhappy and frustrated in their homes. If a wife, husband or child would work on their submission to God from their heart, loving Him, where do you think God would take them? What kind of marriage would you have?
  Sometimes we read the above verses so many times and heard lessons on them that we have become dull in our spiritual senses and that's a tragic mistake. God speaks and says here is the way to a happy, fulfilling marriage and home: to the Lord! But when the word submission is mentioned, to love like Christ is mentioned, in the Lord is mentioned ears suddenly block anything else and the heart grows cold. In all this, it is the Lord's way. Have you ever wondered why there is little written on the home other than like the verses above? The Lord is speaking to us and yet many would rather have man's advice other God's. And look at the homes in failure, especially in the body of Christ!!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

"Another Journey"

  Here I find myself heading out to speak for the Lord! The brethren here in Jefferson City are so gracious to me in allowing me to do this. There is much work in my home city as well as other places. Preaching/teaching are in such high need as the truth needs to ring loudly with all the religious tones that are being presented. Lines have become blurred and in places, the church is losing ground because God's people are led into a false sense by listening to everyone while the word of the Lord is basically set to the side. Instead of the word of the Lord being the guide, many use man as the guide and the word of the Lord has become a reference to back up man's thoughts. This is so backward.
  As I journey this next week to spend with the lovely brethren in Kennebunk, Maine, please pray for them. Pray for me. I will be back writing on Oct. 7. Read God's word. Trust Him at His word. Put your faith in what you read and draw some convictions. Gain some discernment as you put into practice what you read. May the Lord give you understanding as you follow Him. God's blessings to all!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

"The Little Word 'For'"

  It should touch us deeply in our hearts: "For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly." (Rom. 5:6) The ungodly. The ungodly. The ungodly! That is you and me. To be ungodly is to lack reverence and respect for God. It's not about some that are irreligious that want nothing to do with God. It's about all of us! To be ungodly we are speaking of ways and thoughts that oppose God's attitudes and desires. Maybe we aren't truly convinced that we were so hateful to God? "For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures spending our time in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another." (Tit. 3:3) This is a good description of ungodly living. Those things listed are normal, everyday lives lived!
  No matter what we think, the verdict of God stands: "For the wages of sin is death..." This is a spiritual death that finds us on our own, separated from God. In this state of death, if one enters eternity separated from God, that death (separation) continues to which we find: "Where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched." (Mark 9:44) Those are the very words of Jesus. That's the plight of the wages earned from our sins, our ungodly behavior. Nothing in common with God, no help from God and all alone to face consequences of our ungodly behavior.
  Christ died for the ungodly! But within ungodliness we find helplessness. Nothing that is within us, nothing that we can do on our own will change our condition and the outcome of our ungodly ways. Goodness that we try to show does not change our condition. Our attempts at goodness do not cancel the bad we have done. The very best we have done is still death! That's being helpless.
  Sounds bleak doesn't it? It should and we need to get back to listening and heeding the words of the Lord. Too many think their acts of goodness, their being at church every time the doors are open is what brings us into a relationship with the Lord. That's deception! We need Someone greater than ourselves to help in order to find life and fellowship with God. Let's look at one word found in the introductory verse: "For".  This little three letter word placed between "died" and "the ungodly" means "in the place of" or "on behalf of." Christ died "in the place of", "on behalf of" the ungodly. That's help for the helpless. He paid your wages, your debt! We only earn wages. With Jesus our wages are paid to remove the burden of shame and guilt! Our guilt was sent into death! Our life came to us from God's love.
  Don't be afraid of God's love for the ungodly. Don't hesitate to take hold and flee to the side of Jesus. People play too many games trying to free themselves from the shame and guilt in their lives. They use artificial means to try to prop up their ungodly lives. Christ died for the ungodly!! Why are so many in the Lord's church living miserable and strained lives? What are we doing with Jesus?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

"The Soul"

  It is amazing the millions and millions of Bibles that exist in our country yet so many are ignorant of God. Bibles floating all around, easily available and people are wondering how this world came into existence. Many turn to Science for proof of things. God speaks to man through His word and says that world came into existence from Him (Heb. 11:3). There is little faith in God.
  We come to man. We are a three part being according to I Thes. 5:23. We have a body, a soul and spirit. I've had some in the church tell me you cannot distinguish between the soul and spirit. God's word says they are not the same (Heb. 4:12). Jesus came to man from God to help man see the depths and insight to the truth of God. That means we must trust God at His word!
  God created man in His image. We know that. God took dust and formed man's body. From that God breathed into man His breath and what happened? Man became a living 'soul' (Gen. 2:7). Some versions say "being" but the Hebrew word for "being" is soul. The soul is the living, eternal part of man. The breath of God united within the dust created this living soul within us. Our soul is that part of us that thinks, feels and is aware of the deep things of us. Job found his soul miserable and bitter (Job 3:20-21). His soul was longing. The soul is what people feel tormented when things are bad. The soul responds to the things around you.
  God has a soul (Lev. 26:11)! God's soul can reject man if they don't follow His word. Man can reject the commandments of God and that rejection is within the soul (Lev. 26:15-16). If God abhors one because they refuse to listen, He will utterly destroy (Lev. 26:30).
  Jesus, being made in the likeness of man, speaks of His soul being deeply grieved as He faced the cross (Matt. 26:37-38). He feels what man feels and is aware in His soul. What does all this mean? We put too much emphasis on the physical dust called the body. We don't realize that our soul can be lacking and hurting. As Jesus pointed out that we need to make certain that we don't fear those who can only kill the body but the One who can destroy both body and soul (Matt. 10:28). Jesus' life and death were to point us to take care of our souls because as sin wears on us, the wearing is on the soul, that life within that is eternal. Taking hold of Jesus will give rest to the soul (Matt. 11:28-29). Jesus came to save the soul of man! The body will return to the dust. The spirit of man (where we get the animation for our bodies) will return back to God as His breath (Eccl. 12:7) but the soul, the eternal person of you that will exist forever will continue to live after death and that's the part Jesus came to save! Take care of your soul. Feed your soul, not your body!!!

Monday, September 23, 2013

"All Wrongs Will Be Righted"

  We seem to live in a time where sin is not taken seriously, even in the church of our Lord. The love of God is spoken about (and we should). The mercy of God is explained (and we should). The grace of God is revealed. But then we come to another point and that's the holiness and righteousness of God.
  Moses pleads with God on behalf of the His people in Exodus 34 after the golden calf. Moses calls upon the name of the Lord and God speaks: "The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin..." If we stop right here, we all know this about God. We shake our heads knowing His compassion and forgiveness. But God doesn't stop there! "...yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generation." (34:6-7) God speaks similar words in keeping with the second commandment in Exodus 20:5-6.
  Quickly we embrace the forgiveness side and love of God extended to us the sinner and we should. As God revealed Himself and even more so in Jesus Christ, mercy and grace are extended and yet there is a justice of punishment for the impenitent transgressor. If there is anything that our world needs to hear us teach, embrace and live out it is this: ALL WRONGS WILL BE RIGHTED! That's the righteousness of God revealed. We look at the murders, the drugs users and alcoholic abuse, the child molesters and the list goes on and we don't want a God who just 'yawns' and winks at man and speaks, "There, there now, I know you didn't mean to do any of that!" We need to take God seriously and see who He really is. He is full of compassion, mercy and grace to those who are hit in the heart that their sins will be held accountable!
  Justice matters to God! Look at the beginning in the garden. Touch the tree and you will die! We see God's righteousness in the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, in Korah, Dathan and Abiram's rebellion, the captivities of God's people by the Assyrian's and Babylonian's and the destruction of Jerusalem three times. These speak of God's holiness and justice. Then we come to the cross of Jesus Christ, His Son and God makes things real clear that sin is taken seriously and ALL WRONGS WILL BE RIGHTED! And this message should hit the heart of His own people!
  God has spoken His nature. He is love! He is merciful! But He is just and righteous and sin will be dealt with. It's wonderful to sing about the grace and compassion of the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (and let's praise God it is true) but we need to remember that it is spoken from God that "He that spared not His own Son but delivered Him up for us all..."
  And why did He do that? To show man that ALL WRONGS WILL BE RIGHTED whether it is in Jesus or we bear our own punishment. And this is seen over and over as uncommitted people, who once seem to care no longer care and stopped believing the very words of God!