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Blogs I Follow

The Presidents Club

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The Surest Defense Against Evil

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The Triumph of Grace

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Contemplating God’s Sovereignty

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How Should We Then Live?

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Not a Timid Christianity

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Finishing the Race

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Because the Time is Near

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Revelation Song (YouTube)

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Where The Wind Blows

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Doing Great Things

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Recognizing a False Prophet

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The Power of Forgiveness

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Created for Relationships

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The Only Way I Know

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Faith: The Misunderstood Doctrine

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Our True Home Address

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‘Tis the Season . . . for L-O-V-E

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The Paris Terrorist Attack and the Problem of Evil

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Cherry Picking 101

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Love Sweet Love

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So Goes The Culture

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Idols of the Heart

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Divisions Are Not Always Bad

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The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

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Happy New Year 2015

Happy-New-Year-2015-red-background-1920Out with the Old Year and
In with the
New Year!

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Brothers and sisters,
I do not consider myself
yet to have taken hold of it.
But one thing I do:
Forgetting what is behind
and straining toward what is ahead,
I press on toward the goal to win the prize
for which God has called me heavenward
in Christ Jesus. ~Apostle Paul
~Phil. 3:13-14

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Forget the former things;
Do not dwell on the past.
See, I [God] am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up;
Do you not perceive it?

I am making a way
in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
~Isaiah 43:18-19

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Look at the nations and watch—
and be utterly amazed.
For I
[God]
am going to do
something in your days
that you would not believe,
even if you were told.
~Habakkuk 1:5

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 For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him
shall not perish but have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son
into the world to condemn the world,
but to save the world through him.
Whoever believes in him is not condemned,
but whoever does not believe
stands condemned already
because they have not believed
in the name of God’s
one and only Son. ~Jesus Christ
~John 3:16-18

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YouTube Video: “And That’s All I Have to Say About That” ~Forrest Gump:

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With A Little Help From My Friends

i_get_by_with_a_little_help_from_my_friendsLittle_Help_from_My_Friends_by_spacechiliJoe Cocker died yesterday (December 22, 2014) at the age of 70 in Crawford, Colorado. His “one of a kind” voice echos down through the hallways of time and takes me back to my wannabe hippie days. I was never very big on using drugs, but I did love my tequila sunrises and margaritas for a time in the hippie bars. Token’ marijuana (we called it smokin’ dope) turned me into a wallflower, and who needs that? However, I used to say I could live my life on a two-margarita high. Yeah, the buzz was just right–not enough to be drunk but just enough to take the edge off of anything that might be bothering me at the time (like all that “free-love” stuff the guys wanted–and there’s nothing free about love, especially that kind of “love”).

The birth control pill first made it’s debut in American society back in the early 1960’s, and by 1965 6.5 million women were taking it (source here). I tried it once when I was 19 but it made me sick, and I wasn’t exactly the promiscuous type anyway. Legalized abortion didn’t show up on the scene until 1973 with Roe v. Wade which opened the door to promiscuity even wider and in a really big way. Unrestrained sex had vaulted its way into mainstream American culture. I just didn’t partake as I had been told by a Sunday school teacher when I was in the 7th grade that even dancing with a boy could get me pregnant. She really did tell me that, too. Sigh . . . I knew better but that wasn’t the reason I didn’t partake. Being used isn’t fun for anyone (except maybe for the user).

Yeah, I know . . . I was raised in a Baptist-type nondenominational church and accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior at the ripe old age of ten, but life has a way of distracting us in all sorts of ways (and throughout an entire lifetime), and as I hit adolescence and entered high school (1967-1970), the hippie heydays were well underway. The Beatles came out with their Lennon/McCartney song, With A Little Help From My Friends,” on their album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, in 1967. Joe Cocker first performed the song in 1969 at Woodstock, and it’s the song he is most remembered for having sung it with “that voice” (YouTube Video below.)

I get by with a little help from my friends
I get high with a little help from my friends
Going to try with a little help from my friends

There was a lot of “gettin’ high with a little help from my friends” back then. The drug culture was no longer underground. Illegal drugs including psychedelic drugs were easily accessible and getting high was a frequent weekend event. While I was mostly a bystander at those parties where cocaine was lined up on the coffee table and LSD was frequently dropped, I usually had a drink in my hand (mostly White Zinfandel, my favorite wine). I wanted to be cool, hip, and enlightened–turn on, tune in, drop out–a phrase made famous by Timothy Leary (1920-1996), who was actually a member of my father’s generation.

Decades have now passed since those days of long ago. The death of Joe Cocker brought them back to me this morning. No matter what generation we find ourselves in, we are all searching for something. Whether we do it with drugs, alcohol, free-wheeling sex, or whatever our particular proclivities happen to be, as the song goes on to state:

Do you need anybody?
I need somebody to love
Could it be anybody?
I want somebody to love

We are all looking for love. Unfortunately, nowadays we seem to be getting it all wrapped up with money, too. In America, we live in a land of unbelievable excesses that are available to anyone who has the money for them. In fact, money might very well be the ultimate drug in America today. It’s that constant, never-ending quest for more. And money, oftentimes, has replaced love. In fact, as I’ve gotten older, it seems that many people, if they can manage to find someone who has a fair amount of it, will marry for money before they will marry for love. And what people are willing to do nowadays to get their hands on more money for themselves is oftentimes astonishing. They will betray spouses, family members and friends, and just about anyone else if there is money in it for them. And that crosses all socio-economic levels and religious affiliations. The religious among us can be and often are just as greedy as the non-religious.

The hippie generation, with their claims of being non-materialistic and their message of peace and love to all, grew up to become one of the most materialistic and greedy generations to date in America (in general and not specific to all individuals in that generation). While the drug culture has not abated much since the hippie heydays, materialism and greed have grown exponentially. Money is, indeed, the latest drug to come along and entice just about everyone. Of course, the greedy have always been among us (and in us). Starting with the deregulation of Wall Street in the 1980’s, greed has become legal in massive quantities. And that constant quest for more is a vicious cycle with a very high price tag at the end (e.g., enabling the two biggest Wall Street crashes in history–2001 & 2008). In the movie, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010) starring Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko, he states: “Money is a bitch who never sleeps, and if you don’t keep an eye on her, then you wake up in the morning and she’s gone” (quote source here). It’s no surprise that I Timothy 6:10 states, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” Unfortunately, we usually don’t believe that until it’s too late.

Regarding the issue of love, genuine love has nothing to do with money. When money rules, love is gone. When love rules, money is put in it’s proper place and it is not the “all-consuming” focus of our lives. With genuine love (see I Corinthians 13 for the definition of genuine love), others become the focus of our lives and we become far less narcissistic. As Jesus stated in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Unfortunately, we often try to do both in ways we don’t often recognize as money is such a huge focus in our society.

truly great friendshipsThe original theme of this blog post has to do with friendships, and friendships come and go throughout our lifetime. But what does true friendship really look like? Here is a good definition of what true friendship looks like from GotQuestions?org:

The Lord Jesus Christ gave us the definition of a true friend: “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:13-15). Jesus is the pure example of a true friend, for He laid down His life for His “friends.” What is more, anyone may become His friend by trusting in Him as his personal savior, being born again and receiving new life in Him . . . .

The principle of friendship is also found in Amos. “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3). Friends are of like mind. The truth that comes from all of this is a friendship and a relationship that is entered into by individuals, and it is only as good or as close as those individuals choose to make it. Someone has said that if you can count your true friends on the fingers of one hand, you are blessed. A friend is one whom you can be yourself with and never fear that he or she will judge you. A friend is someone that you can confide in with complete trust. A friend is someone you respect and that respects you, not based upon worthiness but based upon a likeness of mind.

Finally, the real definition of a true friend comes from the Apostle Paul: “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:7-8). “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13). Now, that is true friendship! (Quote source here.)

Genuine friendships do not have ulterior motives. As stated above, “Someone has said that if you can count your true friends on the fingers of one hand, you are blessed. A friend is one whom you can be yourself with and never fear that he or she will judge you. A friend is someone that you can confide in with complete trust. A friend is someone you respect and that respects you, not based upon worthiness but based upon a likeness of mind.”

“Based upon a likeness of mind,” and I’d like to add that a true friend is also one who will never use you to get ahead, financially or otherwise, and is not jealous of you for any reason. This is, no doubt, another reason why the statement above is true when it states, “if you can count your true friends on the fingers of one hand, you are blessed.”

Proverbs 18:24 states, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Yes . . . there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother, and his name is Jesus Christ. He is a loyal friend like none other, and he sticks with us to the very end (see Hebrews 13:5). He is an ever present help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1), and a never-ending source of encouragement even in the toughest of times (see John 16:33 and an additional source of encouragement at this link at GotQuestions?org). He is a friend we can always count on to be there for us and go through anything that comes our way. In John 16 Jesus encourages us to not fall away and to be aware of the fact that tribulation in this world is the norm (unfortunately, we don’t hear this very often from today’s pulpits). And in the last verse (33) he states, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Joe Cocker sang about friends in this world of ours. However, when the hard times come and those friends vanish, there is, for those of us who believe in him, a Friend (Jesus Christ) who sticks closer than a brother, and who gave up his own life on our behalf (see John 3:16-18). And he’s right there going through everything we go through, and if we only ask he will give us the guidance we need on a moment-by-moment basis. We are not promised a palace on this earth of ours, and this life is not about our material wants and what we can get while we are here. As the apostle Paul reminds us in Philippians 4:19, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” And there’s a vast difference between “wants” and “needs.”

As of this writing, Christmas is only two days away. Many folks will be spending it with family and friends, but there are just as many who might be spending it alone for a variety of reasons. If you happen to be one of them, like I am, if you know Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, you are never alone. He is, indeed, a Friend who is always available to give you the encouragement you need no matter what you might be going through.

While the world is singing, “I get by with a little help from my friends,” those friends might not be around to help in your time of need. And if that is the case, remember that “God is our refuge and strength; a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1) . . .

And run to Him–he’s the greatest Friend you will ever have . . .

In this world . . .

And the next . . . .

YouTube Video: “With A Little Help From My Friends” (John Lennon & Paul McCartney) sung by Joe Cocker:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit here

The Perfect Gift for Christmas

giftHere’s a reblogged Christmas post of mine from 2013 that’s good to go for this year, too. Enjoy! And Merry Christmas!!!!!

The Perfect Gift for Christmas (or Anytime)

"Simeon's Moment" by Ron DiCianniChristmas is definitely in the air, whether you live in a cold and snow-filled place or a warm, sunny, tropical location like I do in Florida. And, it’s only ten days away now. The hustle and bustle of buying gifts is everywhere, but at least the agony won’t hit until sometime in January with that first credit card bill that keeps on giving for several months into the new year.

Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year whether I spend it alone or with others. I love walking into stores and heading for the area filled with Christmas decorations, or driving around and looking at all the houses festively decorated. Here in America Christmas is highly commercialized and, unfortunately, the true meaning of Christmas gets lost in the shuffle of Santa Claus and Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, and gift-giving, and parties, and that frantic search for the “perfect gift” for everyone on our list. Yet the real gift of Christmas won’t bring a headache in the mail in January or any other time of the year, and this most perfect gift has no bill attached yet it cost God everything when He sent His only Son as a baby to this earth. And it is this very Gift that Simeon waited a lifetime to see at the time of Jesus Christ’s birth (Luke 2:25-35):

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”

The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Luke 2 contains that first Christmas story of the birth of Jesus Christ and the account of Simeon who was in the temple at the time of the purification rites required for all firstborn males by the Law of Moses, and he saw with his own eyes God’s plan of salvation when Jesus was presented. “When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, ‘Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord’), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: ‘a pair of doves or two young pigeons’” (Luke 2:22-24). And at that point Simeon told his mother, Mary, “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too” (vv. 34-35). Simeon spoke of the cross that was in Jesus’ future.

The cross of Jesus Christ“a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength” (I Corinthians 1:23-25). Let’s read the surrounding verses in I Corinthians 1:18-31:

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things— and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

The greatest giftGod’s plan of salvation, born in a manger, dying on a cross, and resurrected to give us (those who believe) eternal life“a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Stripping away all the commercialism and festivities of this time of the year–the story of Jesus Christ is the real message of Christmas.

The most perfect gift available in this world is available at anytime, in any place, and not just at Christmas. A Pharisee named Nicodemus found it in John 3 in his conversation with Jesus, succinct in three verses (John 3:16-18):

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

In the hustle and bustle and frenetic activities that accompany Christmas every year, let’s not forget the real reason for Christmas–the reason the Prophet Isaiah foretold thousands of years ago when he said in Isaiah 9:6-7:

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

“Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end.” Jesus stated in Revelation 22:12-13, Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” And the invitation is given in verse 17,The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.

“The free gift of the water of life” . . .

Available now, this Christmas, and at anytime . . .

Don’t miss it . . . .

YouTube Video: “Mary Did You Know?” sung by Kenny Rogers and Wynonna Judd:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

The Door Is Not Closed . . . Yet

Hebrews-11-1“Seeing is believing” is an idiom that we hear a lot. As defined by The Free Dictionary, it is something that you say which means you can only believe that something surprising or strange is true if you see it yourself; e.g., “I’d never have imagined my parents could dance, but seeing is believing” (quote source here). And it is diametrically opposed to faith. Faith, as defined in Hebrews 11: 1, 6, is as follows:

Now faith is confidence
in what we hope for

and assurance about
what we do not see . . .

And without faith
it is impossible to please God,

because anyone who comes to him
must believe that he exists
and that he rewards those
who earnestly seek him.

Too often,  we (the believers among us) don’t really believe what we cannot see or have not personally experienced, even though we may say otherwise. We may say we believe in God, but until some tragedy comes along to test that faith that we claim we have acquired, we may actually be believing in our own skills or paycheck or connections/contacts to get us by instead of God who operates way beyond anything we can see or do on our own, or accomplish on our own or with our connections. Way beyond . . . as in “out of the ballpark” beyond.

Hebrews 11 is filled with people who lived out their faith by believing in God and what He could (and can) do without seeing the results beforehand. That list includes Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Sarah. Regarding them and others, verses 13-16 state:

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

And Hebrews 11 continues with Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab and the examples of their faith in action. And the last eight verses of the chapter, vv. 32-40, state:

And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

Doesn’t sound too much like our “Success ‘n More” model of Christianity in many corners of our society today; however, God’s requirements have never changed and they certainly don’t change regardless of the surrounding culture with all of its temptations and excesses. Faith goes way beyond the obvious. Way beyond . . . .

In a blog post titled, The Door Is Not Closed,” by The Daily Way, the following statement is made:

Charles Spurgeon writes:

One person may say, “I cannot see how simply trusting Christ and believing God’s witness of Him would save my soul.” To which I would reply, “My dear man, are you never to believe anything but what you can see, and how are you to see this thing till you have tried it? You must believe the gospel on the evidence of God, and not otherwise, or have faith in the record God has given concerning His Son—a faith that takes God at His word. Believe, then, on the Lord Jesus Christ and you have believed God to be true; refuse to trust in Jesus Christ, unless you get some other evidence beyond the witness of God, and you have practically said that God’s testimony is not enough—that is to say, you have made God a liar.”

But God is not a liar. Within Him is all truth and justice.

Faith has it’s beginning with belief in God through His Son, Jesus Christ. That is (and He is) the foundation stone. And without faith, it is, indeed, impossible to please God. And faith requires action–“doing” what God wants us to do without question, regardless of what it looks like to others. The action part of the doing in on us, but the actual “doing” is totally on God. For example, Moses didn’t part the Red Sea in his own power, but it was his belief that God would do it that exercised his faith and God did it through him. The same can be said of Noah, who for over 100 years built an ark before any rain had ever touched the earth, much to the laughter and mocking of his generation, yet it was because of his faith in God that he built it despite of all the odds and jeering of his surrounding culture, and he and his family were saved from the disaster that fell on the rest of the earth at that time.

Rahab is yet another of many examples in the Bible. She believed in the God of the Hebrews she had heard about through her association with other men, and when two Hebrews spies showed up at her doorstep, she exercised her faith (against the odds of her culture and possible imprisonment and death) and kept them safe when the men of the city came looking for them. As a result, when the city was destroyed through an act of God, she and her family escaped, and she eventually married one of the spies and became the mother of Boaz, who was the great grandfather of King David and is in the direct lineage of Jesus Christ.

There_are_no_COINCIDENCES_by_JasonRashWe hear a lot about “coincidences” when a “remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection” takes place (quote source here), but in God’s economy, there are no such things as “coincidences.” Nothing happens by chance, and God uses everything–good and bad–to accomplish His purposes. As in the story of Job, whose life took a very sudden and tragic turn yet was used for his good in the end to bring about absolute and total dependence on God and His ways, we must remember that we have a powerful adversary at work in this world and in our own lives in ways we cannot imagine just as it was in the case of Job (see Job 1). It was not a question of what Job did wrong to bring about the tragedy that happened to him (as he had done nothing wrong). It was about bringing Job into total submission to the will of God, and his understanding of just how big and omnipotent God is, and how small he was in comparison (see Job 38-42). When Job realized this, he responded with the following words (Job 42:1-6):

Then Job replied to the Lord:

“I know that you can do all things;
    no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
    Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
    things too wonderful for me to know.

“You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
    I will question you,
    and you shall answer me.’
My ears had heard of you
    but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I despise myself
    and repent in dust and ashes.”

God uses the person who is humbled–not haughty, or prideful, or full of him or herself. In Job 32:1-2, we discover that Job was righteous in his own eyes and justified himself instead of God. It was not a question of whether or not Job did anything wrong in the beginning that caused his tragedy as from the information given to us he did not do anything wrong before tragedy struck, but he did have a problem with self-righteousness (see article on Job, Self-Righteousness, and Humility at this link). And God has His ways of bringing that to the attention of any of us who believe in Him but who try to justify ourselves instead of humbly submitting to God.

In Chapters 38-41 God speaks to Job, and at the beginning of Chapter 40 there is this brief dialogue between God and Job before God continues with his last statements to Job:

The Lord said to Job:

“Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him?
    Let him who accuses God answer him!”

Then Job answered the Lord:

“I am unworthy—how can I reply to you?
    I put my hand over my mouth.
I spoke once, but I have no answer—
    twice, but I will say no more.”

It is an enormously humbling experience to be humbled by God. We often don’t even realize how self-righteous we have become because it is so easy to hide it behind a veil of false humility (a lot of “churchiness” is a part of this veil). We can even fool ourselves into believing we are humble when we are not, and this was the case with Job. He had not done anything wrong before tragedy struck him, but God sees the heart, and He knew what was in Job’s heart that even Job was not aware of. And it was not good and needed to be dealt with in ways only God knows how to bring about. The response, of course, was up to Job (and up to us, too), and Job offered the right response when he realized his grave error and humbled himself before God.

The story does have a happy ending (see Chapter 42). After Job humbled himself before God, we are told what happened in Job 42:10-12:

After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.

The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part . . . .

Once Job saw the truth about himself, he took the right path and humbled himself before God. In our world today and especially in America where we take pride in so much and often give the credit to others or ourselves instead of God, God is calling out to each of us to acknowledge Him and not to hide behind a self-righteousness of our own, no matter how “spiritual” it may look to others. God knows our heart, and he knows how to set in motion circumstances and events that must take place in order for us to be made aware of the fact that we have veered down the wrong path, no matter what we may look like or act like on the outside (e.g., pastor, lay person, missionary, Christian celebrity or successful business person, our careers, our families, etc., and all the other “trappings” in our society that point to us instead of to Him). We may go on for years without recognizing it for what it is, but just as suddenly as it happened to Job, circumstances can suddenly and dramatically change the course of our own lives in order to get our attention.

Nothing happens by chance. God is orchestrating our lives around His mission statement and timing as stated in 2 Peter 3:9-10:

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.

The door is still open for use to come to Him and repent of our self-righteous ways, but there will come a day when it will close forever. Second Corinthians 6:2 states:

For he says,

“In the time of my favor I heard you,
    and in the day of salvation I helped you.”

I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.

The last words of Jesus Christ stated in the New Testament are recorded in Revelation 22:12-21:

“Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.

Let’s examine ourselves to make sure we are right before God . . . .

Now is the time of God’s favor . . .

Now is the time of salvation . . . .

YouTube Video: “God is God” by Steven Curtis Chapman:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

‘Tis the Season . . . for L-O-V-E

Tis-the-seasonRight before Christmas two years ago I wrote a blog post titled, No Greater Love.” The message is a good one to remember, especially at this time of year, so instead of coming up with something new, I’m posting something old–from two years ago.

No Greater Love

305398_429242660480779_383150247_nMost folks are familiar I Corinthians 13 as it is considered to be the greatest chapter on love found in the entire Bible. However, the verses we most often quote are verses 4-7 and you’ll no doubt recognize them right away–“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast. It is not proud. It is not rude. It is not self-seeking . . .” etc. They are spoken many times in marriage ceremonies. However, we have a tendency to skip over the first three verses which state (I Corinthians 13:1-3 MSG):

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Think about those words for a moment. If we say, believe, or do anything–ANYTHING–without doing it from a heart of love, it means nothing. Nothing! And we are bankrupt. Bankrupt! Without love, what we say means nothing, what we believe (or say we believe) means nothing, what we do means nothing.

Those are serious words. They give me pause for thought. It gives a whole new meaning and weight to the words that follow in those most familiar verses that we quote so often . . .

“Love is patient” (So just how patience are we? Do we get impatient waiting in a fast food line because the line isn’t moving fast enough?)

“Love is kind” (How often do we show kindness to those we don’t know or know well–for example, the homeless, the hurting, or even the clerk who was rude to us or someone we’ve heard some gossip about?)

“It does not envy” (Who or what are we jealous of, and who or what do we envy and why?)

“It does not boast, it is not proud” (How often do we seek acknowledgement from others or boast about something we have accomplished, hoping to look good in the eyes of others in order to elevate ourselves?)

“It is not rude” (How do we respond to someone who is rude to us? Are we rude back? What’s your first reaction to someone who cuts you off in traffic?)

“It is not self-seeking” (How did we feel when someone else got that promotion we thought we deserved? And how did we treat them afterward? When we think about money or material possessions, is it primarily to serve ourselves or to also help others?)

“It is not easily angered” (Are we quick to react in anger when something doesn’t go our way? Are we easily offended? Are we quick to judge?)

“It keeps no record of wrongs” (This is a very tough one. Do we have a tendency to constantly nurse grudges against those who have offended us, whether they are aware of it or not?)

“Love does not delight in evil” (Evil takes many forms. Do we take delight–in secret or with others–when someone–especially those we aren’t fond of or are jealous of–falls or fails in some way, privately or publicly? Do we gossip about others behind their backs? That is delighting in evil.)

“Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (Do we protect others and not just family and friends but those who are helpless–widows, orphans, the homeless, the less fortunate among us? Or do we just protect ourselves and look the other way? What about trust, hope, and persevering during hard times instead of complaining?)

Love is action and not just words we say to each other without doing anything that proves it out. If we “talk it” but don’t “walk it” it means nothing. Read those first three verses above again and let them sink in . . . really sink in.

Here are a few action steps to think about to start living out this life of love if we are really serious about it:

(1) When someone tells us about a need they have, instead of just saying, “I’m praying for you,” and walking away, see if there is something we can actually do to help them is some tangible way, and then do it. It could be as simple as giving them a hug or inviting them to lunch, or giving them a $20 bill if they just lost their job (that happened to me after I lost my job and I can’t tell you how much it meant to me–not so much because of the money but because I knew it was a real sacrifice for the person who gave it to me and it was her way of showing me how much she cared about the situation I was in). Show genuine concern for the person and what they are going through.

(2) Start putting ourselves in the other person’s shoes. For example, if a clerk is rude to you, don’t automatically be rude back or grumble under your breath. Instead, say something kind. After all, you have no idea what that clerk has gone through that caused him or her to be rude. His bank might have just foreclosed on his house or her husband might have just lost his job or asked for a divorce. Don’t just react to the rudeness, but act with kindness.

(3) Work is usually a hotbed area where little love or kindness is shown. Many folks are constantly “looking out for #1,” and gossiping behind other’s backs. Stay away from the gossip. Do the best job you can for your employer, even when someone else gets the promotion you expected to get or the boss is nasty to the bone. And congratulate that person who got the promotion over you (and do it with sincerity). God is still in control, even in the worst of situations. You never know what is going on “behind the scenes.” And God may have spared you from something worse that you can’t see or understand. Or He has something better in store for you down the road.

(4) Don’t always be self-seeking. Think about others and how you can help them. Be “other” focused. And don’t gossip.

Well, you get the idea . . . . Love, real love, is always focused on others and not just on ourselves. By doing that one thing (focusing on others) the rest of the list will start to take care of itself. We will be more patient, and we will be more kind; we won’t envy, and we won’t boast about how great we are by seeking the attention and accolades of others. We won’t always be “looking out for #1″ (which is pride in it’s ugliest form). We’ll stop being rude and self-seeking; our anger will start to dissipate and be replaced with “a peace that passes all understanding” (Phil. 4:7) towards others and ourselves; We won’t delight in evil anymore (like gossip) but genuinely care about those we don’t know or understand (and without judging them, too).

If we want this world to be a kinder place, we can’t wait for others to do it. It starts with us.The next time you’re tempted to react negatively to a negative situation, which could be in the next few minutes, stop before you react and think about what is really going on. It’s not easy as we’ve been so used to reacting to situations instantly (and sometimes with great regret later on–we’ve all been there). Instead, count to ten internally (and say a quick prayer for God’s help). If someone just cut you off in traffic, instead of flipping them the finger or swearing at them in your car, say a quick prayer of thanks that you didn’t get in a bad accident, and pray for them, too.

Christmas is just a few days away. The very best gift we can give anyone (family, friends, or complete strangers) is genuine love. And it starts with us (and no, we don’t wait for them to love us first–we could be waiting forever if that is the case). In fact, genuine, authentic love started with Jesus Christ. He is our example. He laid down his very life for us on the cross at Calvary. How can we not extend that same love to others if we truly follow Him? After all, in John 15:12-14 Jesus said, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.”

And here’s the gift I want to leave with you this Christmas from the Apostle Paul in Phil. 4:8-9 (MSG):

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.

And let’s start living life . . .

As if everything is a miracle . . . .

YouTube Video: “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher,” sung by Rod Stewart on his 2009 CD, “Soulbook.”

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 
credit here

Seizing the Day

Seize the Day1In the movie, Dead Poets Society (1989), starring Robin Williams as John Keating, a new English teacher at an “all boys” preparatory school, Welton Academy, in the northeast United States in 1959 (source here), Keating makes the following statement:

We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be? (Quote source here.)

“The human race is filled with passion” . . . and, obviously, Keating was speaking about the positive side of passion when he states, “poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.” And he quotes Whitman regarding the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these?” And the answer, of course, is “That you (meaning us, too) are here–that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.” And the question for us to consider, and consider seriously, is this . . . “What will your verse be?”

What will our verse be? At one point in the movie when he is talking with his students, he tells them, “Boys, you must strive to find your own voice. Because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all. Thoreau said, ‘Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.’ Don’t be resigned to that. Break out!” (Quote source here).

“The longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all.” For those of you who might be closing in on my age range or older, do you think it’s too late? Well, listen up! Grandma Moses (1860-1961), an American folk artist, lived to be 101 years old and she didn’t start painting until she was 78. 78!!!

In looking at some of the the well known Biblical characters who were used by God in dramatic ways in their older years the list is remarkable. In the Old Testament there is Noah, who was quite old when he started building the ark (see the entire story in Genesis 5:32-10:1). Abraham was 75 when God told him to “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (see Genesis 12). Sarah, his wife, gave birth to Isaac, God’s promised child, when she was 90 (see Genesis 21). Moses and Aaron were 80 and 83 respectively when they led the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt (the account of the Exodus starts in Exodus 1); and it was Joshua and Caleb, both in their 80’s, who led the Israelites into the land of Canaan (the Promised Land–the account starts in Joshua 1). And Daniel was 80+ at the time he was made one of three governors over Babylon, endured the lion’s den, and then prospered under Darius and Cyrus (see Daniel 5-6). He also received a series of visions (including an end times vision) in Daniel 8-12.

In the New Testament we have Zechariah and Elizabeth, who at a very advanced age became the parents of John the Baptist (see Luke 1); and Simeon and Anna, who were both quite old at the time they came to the temple where the infant Jesus was brought to be circumcised, and both had spent years waiting (in Anna’s case, many years praying and fasting in the Temple) to see the birth of the promised Messiah (see Luke 2:22-40). Of course, one of the most famous people in the New Testament is the apostle Paul, who was a Pharisee before his conversion on the Damacus Road in his early 30’s, and who spent the next several decades of his life serving Jesus Christ and writing several of the books in the New Testament (see Acts 9-28).

PrintIn all of these cases, it is not the size of the task or the length of time involved that was the most important issue, although what they each accomplished dramatically changed the course of events in their lifetime. What mattered most was the attitude of their heart and the wholesale giving over of their lives to what God would have them to do. It’s not that they were perfect (after all, no one is), but that they were willing–even if at times they appeared to be somewhat disbelieving, like Sarah, Abraham’s wife, who first laughed when she heard that she would be giving birth to a son a year later (after all, she was 90 at the time and well past childbearing years).

Due to a certain “success” mentality in our culture today that permeates much of what we try to accomplish in our own lives, we often become too focused on the “outward” signs of success and ignore the inward calling of God (often unintentional as there is much to distract us at every turn). The celebrity status of many well known Christians in America today leads us to head in that direction or at least following in their path, and even if we don’t attain their same level of success (and most of us won’t and don’t), we still want the outward signs of success such as high paying jobs, fancy career titles, upward mobility, and the accolades that go with it to include a nice big house in a popular suburb and hobnobbing with other Christian “up and comers.” After all, nobody wants to be a nobody. And we forget that without warning, life can turn on a dime. We just don’t think it will happen to us.

As of this posting, the National Debt Clock shows that the current US National Debt is chiming in at over 18 trillion dollars. That is unsustainable over the long haul to any nation, and that certainly includes us. The total US debt is over 59 trillion dollars, with a per citizen debt of $186,231, and a per family debt of $729,368. These figures, which are constantly changing, are available here. If we are constantly putting our efforts into acquiring The American Dream,” which is “a set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward social mobility achieved through hard work” as stated back in 1931 (quote source here), that ideal is fading fast, and the facts are clearly before us. And appearances are deceptive.

The attributes Keating assigned to passion and “seizing the day” back in 1959 at the fictional Walton Academy included “poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.” Nowhere stated in his comment to his students is the quest for material possessions or running after “The American Dream.” He was talking about elements that are timeless; that won’t run out when the National Debt Clock finally stops ticking.

God calls us to look beyond the material to the eternal. “Seizing the day” doesn’t mean trying to keep hold of our houses or our jobs or our status in society. It means letting Him have everything that we own, everything that we think we want in our lives, everything we hope to become, and laying it at His altar. If we do this without holding anything back, He will give us what He desires for us, and use us in ways we cannot imagine; and it might not look like anything we think it should look like from our “Americanized” viewpoint on life.

If we look over the list above of the Old and New Testament folks who made a impact on their world, it wasn’t by their own choosing. It was by God’s choosing. And it wasn’t in the “outward trappings” of their societies, but in a heart devoted to God. Often in Christian circles in America we live with a divided heart–what we want versus what God wants for us. And at some point the two will collide, just like at some point the National Debt Clock will finally stop ticking.

“Seizing the day” has nothing to do with “The American Dream” or what we can get in this life. It’s focus is outward and not inward; it looks for the good in others and not just focusing on self. In Galatians 6:2-10 we are encouraged to:

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load. Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Keating instructed his students to “find their own voice.” As Christians, our voice is tied in with God’s voice. We are His instruments in this world, and we should be seeking His will and not our own. If we are constantly striving for the things in this world, we will miss what it is God wants us to do. And the longer we put off listening to Him, the less likely we will ever hear His voice at all . . .

Don’t let that happen to you . . . .

Seize the Day . . . .

YouTube Video: “Seize the Day” (A Tribute to Robin Williams) by Melodysheep:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

No Sin Is Private

Rahab-bannerLast week I wrote a blog post titled, We Travel An Appointed Way,” from the Palace Inn in Humble, Texas, where I stayed for three weeks during my time here in Houston. This week I am staying at a different hotel a few miles down the road. Both of the rooms (from last week and this week) were/are very spacious; however, the room this week has a partial wall partition with an opening in it between the sofa area in the front of the room and the bedroom area in the back. Also, a distinct difference between this room and last week’s room is the number of very large mirrors in this room (a total of five–and the three largest mirrors are located in the bedroom area). In fact, they are so large that it is hard not to see an image of myself at every turn.

Since I personally have no desire to constantly see an image of myself at every turn, I covered two of the largest and most obvious mirrors on the walls with bed sheets (one on the wall to the left of the bed and one on the wall facing the foot of the bed). At least now I don’t feel like I am surrounded by images of myself all the time. There is also a very large headboard on the king-sized bed that is also a mirror, but that one isn’t quite as obtrusive as the other two. I’ll leave any assumptions regarding the mirrors and their specific placement in the room unstated. The ceiling in the room is painted with a nice blue sky with fluffy white clouds scene, and a ceiling fan hangs over the bed (and I’m glad it’s not another mirror).

I had to laugh as I settled in for my first night’s stay as I thought about those mirrors and their purpose. With me staying in the room for a week there will no doubt be a lot less activity than is normal for a room with so many mirrors. While I haven’t lived a particularly sheltered life (at least not since I was a child before my parents’ divorce when I was very young), I am mostly an observer to even the seedier side of life that is a part of all cultures and not just here in America. I try not to make judgments; after all, Rahab (a Canaanite prostitute who ended up marrying one of the two Jewish spies she protected–see story at this link) is in the lineage of Jesus Christ which just goes to show us that God doesn’t play favorites in his plan of redemption as we often find ourselves doing–especially regarding strangers in our midst and those with backgrounds that we hold in disfavor. After all, we have a big tendency to hold some sins as much worse than others and have no problem showing our disdain even if it is often shown nonverbally (as in facial expressions and gestures).

However, this morning I ran across a chapter in a book titled, The Size of the Soul,” by A.W. Tozer (1897-1963), and available online at this link, titled, No Sin Is Private.” While I have little doubt that “secret” rendezvouses (and perhaps some legitimate ones like honeymoons) have most likely taken place in a bedroom full of mirrors in a hotel, none of them are private, at least not to God. The timing of my discovery of Tozer’s essay couldn’t have been more perfect. So without further ado, here it is:

No Sin Is Private

by A.W. Tozer

No sin is private. It may be secret but it is not private.

It is a great error to hold, as some do, that each man’s conduct is his own business unless his acts infringe on the rights of others. “My liberty ends where yours begins” is true, but that is not all the truth. No one ever has the right to commit an evil act, no matter how secret. God wills that men should be free, but not that they be free to commit sin.

Sin is three-dimensional and has consequences in three directions: toward God, toward self and toward society. It alienates from God, degrades self and injures others. Adam’s is the classic example of a secret sin that overflowed to the injury of all mankind. History provides examples of persons so placed that their sins had wide and injurious effect upon their generation. Such men were Nero, Napoleon, Hitler and Stalin, to name but four. These men dramatized the destructive social results of personal sin; but every sin, every sinner injures the world and harms society, though the effects may be milder and less noticeable.

When Sigmund Freud’s mother rubbed her sweaty hands together, her curious son noticed how little pellets of dirt rolled together and fell to the floor. This rather disgusting sight is said to have started the young Sigmund thinking in directions that finally led to his world-shaking theories that turned certain time-honored concepts of human life upside down. Someone with a bit of imagination has wondered where popular psychology would be today if Mrs. Freud had kept her hands clean!

Have you ever wondered what the world would be like today if Napoleon had become a Christian when he was in his teens? Or if Hitler had learned to control his temper? Or if Stalin had been tenderhearted? Or if Himmler had fainted at the sight of blood? Or if Goebles had become a missionary to Patagonia? Or if the twelve men in the Kremlin should get converted to Christianity? Or if all businessmen should suddenly turn honest? Or if every politician should stop lying?

Only God could reconstruct the world and allow for such reversals of fact; but anyone can tinker at it theoretically. Had Hitler, for instance, been a good and gentle man, six million Jews now dead would be living (making allowance for a certain few who would have died in the course of nature); had Stalin been a Christian, several million Russian farmers would be alive who now molder in the earth. And consider the thousands of little children who died of starvation because one man had a revengeful spirit; think of the millions of displaced persons who wander over the earth even today unable to locate mother or father or wife or child because men with hate in their hearts managed to get into places of power; think of the young men of almost every nation, sick with yearning for home and loved ones, who guard the empty wastes and keep watch on frozen hills in the far corners of the earth, all because one ruler is greedy, another ambitious; because one statesman is cowardly and another jealous.

To come down from the bloody plains of world events and look nearer home, how many wives will sob themselves to sleep tonight because of their husband’s savage temper; how many helpless, bewildered, heartbroken children will cower in their dark bedrooms, sick with shock and terror as their parents curse and shout at each other in the next room. Is their quarrel private? Is it their own business when they fight like animals in the security of their home? No, it is the business of the whole human race. Children to the third and fourth generation in many parts of the world will be injured psychologically if not physically because a man and his wife sinned inside of four walls. No sin can be private.

Coming still closer, we Christians should know that our unchristian conduct cannot be kept in our own back yard. The evil birds of sin fly far and influence many to their everlasting loss. The sin committed in the privacy of the home will have its effect in the assembly of the saints. The minister, the deacon, the teacher who yields to temptation in secret becomes a carrier of moral disease whether he knows it or not. The church will be worse because one member sins. The polluted stream flows out and on, growing wider and darker as it affects more and more persons day after day and year after year.

But thanks be to God, there is a cure for the plague. There is a balm in Gilead. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). (From The Size of the Soul, Chapter 17–Available online at this link.)

7-deadly-sins“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9). Unfortunately in our enlightened age how often do we even admit our sins, let alone confess them to the only One who can forgive and purify us from them? No; more often than not we (e.g., those of us who claim to believe in Jesus Christ) justify our sins as being something we just can’t stop doing but that surely he will understand. Indeed, our faith has no “actions” to prove it is even real (see Hebrews 11). And faith without action is no faith at all (see James 2:14-26).

Shortly before his death and resurrection, Jesus Christ spoke these words to his disciples:

“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

“All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:15-27).

In looking at the story of Rahab, a Canaanite prostitute and the first Gentile convert recorded in the Bible, GotQuestions?org states the following:

Spiritually, Rahab was not in an ideal circumstance to come to faith in the one true God, the God of Israel. She was a citizen of a wicked city that was under God’s condemnation. Rahab was part of a corrupt, depraved, pagan culture. She had not benefited from the godly leadership of Moses or Joshua. However, Rahab had one asset—she had heard from the many men she came into contact with that the Israelites were to be feared. She heard the stories of their escape from Egypt, the crossing of the Red Sea, the wanderings in the wilderness, and their recent victory over the Amorites. She learned enough to reach the correct, saving conclusion: “For the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below” (Joshua 2:11). It is this change of heart, this faith—coupled with the actions prompted by faith—that saved her and her family.

It is often said that Rahab, while being a true historical person, also serves as a symbolic foreshadowing or “type” of the church and Gentile believers. She was, in fact, the first recorded Gentile convert. There are many ways in which Rahab depicts the church. First, she was part of a pagan world system, a prostitute, who by her conversion was enabled to become a legitimate bride. In like fashion, Israel was the first chosen people of God, but they were set aside temporarily so the Gentiles could be brought into the kingdom of God, and the church is now considered the bride of Christ (Romans 11Ephesians 5:25-27). Second, Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was saved because of her faith in “God in heaven above and on the earth below” (Hebrews 11:31). Likewise, Christians are saved through faith in Jesus Christ. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).

Third, although Rahab and Christians are saved by an act of grace through faith, true faith requires and is exemplified by action (James 2). Rahab had to put the scarlet cord out of the window. Christians must accept Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord and then go on to live in a manner that verifies that our faith is real. Fourth, Rahab could have indicated the location of her home in any number of ways. But the only way that she could be spared was to follow the directions given to her by the Israelite spies. The world tells us that there are many ways to God and salvation, all equally valid. But the Bible tells us, concerning Jesus Christ, that “salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Fifth, Rahab’s faith enabled her to turn away from her culture, her people, and her religion and to the Lord. Commitment to a true faith in God may necessitate setting priorities that are contrary to those of the world, as we are exhorted to do in Romans 12:2.

Finally, once we come to Christ, our pasts no longer matter. The slate is wiped clean for all who believe and accept the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross on our behalf. Rahab was no longer viewed as an unclean prostitute, but as one worthy by grace to be part of the lineage of our Lord Jesus Christ. Just as she was grafted into the line of Christ, so we become children of God and partakers in His inheritance (Romans 11). We find in the life of Rahab the inspiring story of all sinners who have been saved by grace. In her story, we learn of the amazing grace of God that can save even the worst of sinners and bring them into an abundant life in Christ Jesus (quote source here).

Rahab’s life was forever changed by her encounter with the amazing grace of God. Her actions in helping the Jewish spies proclaimed her faith and not only did it save her and her relatives but she ended up leaving her lifestyle of prostitution and marrying one of the two Jewish spies, Salmon, (see Matthew 1:5) and they became the parents of Boaz, who was the great-grandfather to King David.

Genuine saving faith never leaves us where it finds us. Faith requires action– “deeds” (see James 2:14-26Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?” vv 15-17). Therefore, faith, by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead–nonexistent! Also, a genuine saving faith also believes that God is who He says He is (see Hebrews 11:6“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him”).

A saving faith will never excuse sin and try to justify it. Hidden sin may stay hidden to others, but it is never hidden to God. It matters not where we came from (our particular backgrounds), but everything hinges on Who we believe in (ourselves or the God we say we believe in). And our everyday actions point to who or what we truly believe in (ourselves and what we want, or God and what He wants).

No sin is private, even if it often stays secret until it is uncovered. We can fool others and even ourselves, but we can never fool God. When I first looked at this room where I am staying this week the manager asked me to take my time in looking at the room before I decided if I wanted to stay there or not. And when I first looked at it, I really liked the room but thought there was an excessive number of mirrors in it (although I didn’t give it much thought). It wasn’t until I paid for the week and got settled into the room that I understood what he was saying when he first asked me to consider the room before deciding to stay in it for a week. However, regardless of the previous activities that have taken place in this room full of mirrors, God is still in the business of redemption, and He goes where most folks don’t want to go when it comes to the redemption of human kind. He chooses the unlikely–those we tend to ignore or disdain. Am I appalled at staying in such a room? Not at all. After all, we all have secrets that we need to bring into the light of Jesus Christ to cleanse and redeem us.

now is the right timeWell, at least there is one thing I can say about staying for a week in room full of mirrors. It points out one very clear factor in my own life that I’ve had issues with for longer than I care to think about . . . and it’s time to start counting my Weight Watchers points again. The one good thing about my weight issue (not using it as an excuse, of course) is it has kept me from making far too many mistakes with men over the years since the heyday of the hippie movement back in the 60’s and early 70’s. Since we now live in an “anything goes” society since those early days of the sexual revolution; “no” is often a word we disdain as archaic and “uncool.” And I would have made a lot more mistakes in that area then I did had I not been self-conscious about my weight. Now I’m just too old to care . . .

Well, maybe not . . . .

Some sins are far more obvious then others (like weight issues); and there is no doubt that we all struggle with something. But too often the sins we struggle with just become a lifestyle that we excuse off over time. “Jesus covers it all,” we like to say. But an unrepentant lifestyle is detrimental to our relationship with Jesus Christ. And it doesn’t matter who knows or who we think we can hide it from. God sees it all.

For one week (unless I can change rooms) I’m faced with mirrors on all sides. It’s a bit daunting, but then reality can be when it is “point blank” in our face. As another new year is almost upon us once again, maybe it’s time for all of us to take some time for some serious reflection.

As the apostle Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 6:1-2:

As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says,

“In the time of my favor I heard you,
    and in the day of salvation I helped you.”

I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.

Now is the time . . .

And now is the day . . . .

YouTube Video: “Change Me” by Shannon Wexelberg:

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