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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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By God’s Spirit

Zechariah 4v6

‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty. ~Zechariah 4:6

“. . . you will receive power
when the Holy Spirit comes on you;
and you will be my witnesses . . .
to the ends of the earth.”
~Acts 1:8

Jesus Christ made this statement to his followers after his resurrection (on the third day after he was crucified), and right before he ascended to Heaven (see Acts 1:1-11), which ended his physical earthly ministry at that time.

Right before Jesus was crucified, he told his disciples the following in John 14:1-27 (NIV):

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Jesus the Way to the Father

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit

“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 . . . .”

“. . . 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 . . . .” Unfortunately, there is much misunderstanding about the Holy Spirit and how he works in the lives of those who truly trust and believe in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is the very Spirit of God, and he is one of three distinct persons (God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit) that make up the Godhead–the Trinity. The Holy Spirit also has a personality with a mind, will, and emotions (see this article, Who is the Holy Spirit? by Mary Fairchild at this link). And his attributes include the following (see page 2 of Who is the Holy Spirit? at this link):

And the Holy Spirit has gifts for each of us who believe in Jesus Christ, which are stated in I Corinthians 12:

 Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Brothers and sisters, I want you to know about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. You know that at one time you were unbelievers. You were somehow drawn away to worship statues of gods that couldn’t even speak. So I want you to know that no one who is speaking with the help of God’s Spirit says, “May Jesus be cursed.” And without the help of the Holy Spirit no one can say, “Jesus is Lord.”

There are different kinds of gifts. But they are all given to believers by the same Spirit. There are different ways to serve. But they all come from the same Lord. There are different ways the Spirit works. But the same God is working in all these ways and in all people.

The Holy Spirit is given to each of us in a special way. That is for the good of all. To some people the Spirit gives a message of wisdom. To others the same Spirit gives a message of knowledge. To others the same Spirit gives faith. To others that one Spirit gives gifts of healing. To others he gives the power to do miracles. To others he gives the ability to prophesy. To others he gives the ability to tell the spirits apart. To others he gives the ability to speak in different kinds of languages they had not known before. And to still others he gives the ability to explain what was said in those languages. All the gifts are produced by one and the same Spirit. He gives gifts to each person, just as he decides.

One Body but Many Parts

There is one body, but it has many parts. But all its many parts make up one body. It is the same with Christ. We were all baptized by one Holy Spirit. And so we are formed into one body. It didn’t matter whether we were Jews or Gentiles, slaves or free people. We were all given the same Spirit to drink. So the body is not made up of just one part. It has many parts.

Suppose the foot says, “I am not a hand. So I don’t belong to the body.” By saying this, it cannot stop being part of the body. And suppose the ear says, “I am not an eye. So I don’t belong to the body.” By saying this, it cannot stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, how could it hear? If the whole body were an ear, how could it smell? God has placed each part in the body just as he wanted it to be. If all the parts were the same, how could there be a body? As it is, there are many parts. But there is only one body.

The eye can’t say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” In fact, it is just the opposite. The parts of the body that seem to be weaker are the ones we can’t do without. The parts that we think are less important we treat with special honor. The private parts aren’t shown. But they are treated with special care. The parts that can be shown don’t need special care. But God has put together all the parts of the body. And he has given more honor to the parts that didn’t have any. In that way, the parts of the body will not take sides. All of them will take care of one another. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it. If one part is honored, every part shares in its joy.

You are the body of Christ. Each one of you is a part of it. First, God has placed apostles in the church. Second, he has placed prophets in the church. Third, he has placed teachers in the church. Then he has given to the church miracles and gifts of healing. He also has given the gift of helping others and the gift of guiding the church. God also has given the gift of speaking in different kinds of languages. Is everyone an apostle? Is everyone a prophet? Is everyone a teacher? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in languages they had not known before? Do all explain what is said in those languages? But above all, you should want the more important gifts.

Love Is Necessary

But now I will show you the best way of all [which is love–the greatest gift of all–see I Corinthians 13].

theholyspiritOften, in our fast paced society, we (who are Christian) are often too busy making a living and trying to squeeze in everything that we can to stop and consider what the Holy Spirit would have us to do. If we acknowledge him at all, it might be in his giving us the abilities that we have to make a living and provide for our families, but if we read the list of “gifts” above, those gifts are not about us what we want to get from him in this life. No . . . those gifts are given to us to expand the Kingdom of God, not the kingdom of self on earth. Those gifts include wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophesy, spiritual discernment, the gift of tongues (the ability to speak in unknown languages) and the interpretation of the same. When was the last time we gave any thought to these gifts of the Spirit as we rush through our days in an effort to secure our own place in this world, make a name and a place for ourselves, making more money, and acquiring more “stuff”? Our focus is often on us instead of God, and we need to shift our focus back to the One we claim to follow.

For those of us who truly believe in Jesus Christ, Ephesians 1:11-14 states:

In him [Jesus Christ] we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

Genuine believers are “marked” with the Holy Spirit living in them; however, as 1 Thessalonians 5:19 states, we can “quench” the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives by running our own lives in our own power and going our own way if we choose to do so. As stated in the answer to the following question on GotQuestions?org, What does it mean to grieve/quench the Holy Spirit?”:

Both quenching and grieving the Spirit are similar in their effects. Both hinder a godly lifestyle. Both happen when a believer sins against God and follows his or her own worldly desires. The only correct road to follow is the road that leads the believer closer to God and purity, and farther away from the world and sin. Just as we do not like to be grieved, and just as we do not seek to quench what is good—so we should not grieve or quench the Holy Spirit by refusing to follow His leading.(Quote source and full article at this link.)

That is not to say that we can attain “sinless perfection” in this life. “The Bible teaches that, while we are in the flesh, we will always struggle with a sin nature (see Romans 7:14-25). No one will be “perfect” (sinless) until we reach heaven.” (Quote source here.) At it’s core it is about a heart attitude, and who it is we love and want to serve–self or God.

Ephesians 4:30-31 also makes the following statement regarding our ability to grieve the Holy Spirit:

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.

So how do we know whether or not we allowing the Holy Spirit’s leading or grieving him by the way we are living our lives? I read a couple of short devotions yesterday regarding the Holy Spirit that I will share in partial answer to this question. They are taken from the book, Tozer on the Holy Spirit,” compiled from the writings and/or sermons of Dr. A.W. Tozer (1897-1963) by Marilynne E. Foster:

Am I really Converted?

As the body without the spirit is dead,
so faith without works is dead also.
~James 2:26

I believe in the deeper Christian life and experience–oh yes! But I believe we are mistaken when we try to add the deeper life to an imperfect salvation, obtained imperfectly by an imperfect concept of the whole thing.

Under the working of the Spirit of God through such men as Finney and Wesley, no one would dare to rise in a meeting and say, “I am a Christian,” if he had not surrendered his whole being to God and had taken Jesus Christ as his Lord. . . .

Today, we let them say they are saved no matter how imperfect and incomplete the transaction, with the provisio that the deeper Christian life can be tacked on at sometime in the future.

Can it be that we really think that we do not owe Jesus Christ our obedience?

We have owed Him obedience ever since the second we cried out to Him for salvation, and if we do not give Him . . . obedience, I have reason to wonder if we are really converted. (Source: Tozer on the Holy Spirit,” April 13.)

The second reading speaks to how the Holy Spirit becomes one with us:

Who is the Holy Spirit?

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit,
whom the Father will send in my name,
he shall teach you all things. . . .
~John 14:26

How shall we think of the Holy Spirit? The Bible and Christian theology agree to teach that He is a Person, endowed with every quality of personality, such as emotion, intellect and will. He knows, He wills, He loves; He feels affection, antipathy and compassion. He thinks, sees, hears and speaks and performs any act of which personality is capable.

One quality belonging to the Holy Spirit, of great interest and importance to every seeking heart, is penetrability. He can penetrate mind; He can penetrate another spirit, such as the human spirit. He can achieve complete penetration of and actual intermingling with the human spirit. He can invade the human heart and make room for Himself without expelling anything essentially human. The integrity of the human personality remains unimpaired. Only moral evil is forced to withdraw. (Source: Tozer on the Holy Spirit,” January 7.)

I’ll end this post with the words from Galatians 5:13-26, which tell us how to live by the Spirit:

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness . . .

Faithfulness, gentleness and self-control . . .

Against such things there is no law . . . .

YouTube Video: “Testify to Love” by Avalon:

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Right Thinking About God

Tribute-to-Tozer-012The following article is taken from FaithGateway.com and was originally posted by Fred Bittner quoting A.W. Tozer. The original article can be found at this link. I have cut and pasted it below:

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Hebrews 13:8 reminds us that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. But has our view of God changed throughout the generations? A.W. Tozer (1897-1963) offers a thought provoking challenge to the modern church of the past several decades. The following article is from the book, Knowledge of The Holy, Chapter 1, published in 1961.

Why We Must Think Rightly About God

by A.W. Tozer

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.

The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.

For this reason, the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. This is true not only of the individual Christian, but of the company of Christians that composes the Church.

Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God, just as her most significant message is what she says about Him or leaves unsaid, for her silence is often more eloquent than her speech. She can never escape the self-disclosure of her witness concerning God.

Were we able to extract from any man a complete answer to the question, “What comes into your mind when you think about God?” we might predict with certainty the spiritual future of that man. Were we able to know exactly what our most influential religious leaders think of God today, we might be able with some precision to foretell where the Church will stand tomorrow.

Without doubt, the mightiest thought the mind can entertain is the thought of God, and the weightiest word in any language is its word for God. Thought and speech are God’s gifts to creatures made in His image; these are intimately associated with Him and impossible apart from Him. It is highly significant that the first word was the Word: “And the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” We may speak because God spoke. In Him word and idea are indivisible.

That our idea of God corresponds as nearly as possible to the true being of God is of immense importance to us. Compared with our actual thoughts about Him, our creedal statements are of little consequence. Our real idea of God may lie buried under the rubbish of conventional religious notions and may require an intelligent and vigorous search before it is finally unearthed and exposed for what it is.

Only after an ordeal of painful self-probing are we likely to discover what we actually believe about God.

A right conception of God is basic not only to systematic theology but to practical Christian living as well. It is to worship what the foundation is to the temple; where it is inadequate or out of plumb the whole structure must sooner or later collapse. I believe there is scarcely an error in doctrine or a failure in applying Christian ethics that cannot be traced finally to imperfect and ignoble thoughts about God.

It is my opinion that the Christian conception of God current in these middle years of the twentieth century is so decadent as to be utterly beneath the dignity of the Most High God and actually to constitute for professed believers something amounting to a moral calamity.

All the problems of heaven and earth, though they were to confront us together and at once, would be nothing compared with the overwhelming problem of God: That He is; what He is like; and what we as moral beings must do about Him.

What God is looking for in a personThe man who comes to a right belief about God is relieved of ten thousand temporal problems, for he sees at once that these have to do with matters which at the most cannot concern him for very long; but even if the multiple burdens of time may be lifted from him, the one mighty single burden of eternity begins to press down upon him with a weight more crushing than all the woes of the world piled one upon another. That mighty burden is his obligation to God. It includes an instant and lifelong duty to love God with every power of mind and soul, to obey Him perfectly, and to worship Him acceptably. And when the man’s laboring conscience tells him that he has done none of these things, but has from childhood been guilty of foul revolt against the Majesty in the heavens, the inner pressure of self-accusation may become too heavy to bear.

The Gospel can lift this destroying burden from the mind, give beauty for ashes, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. But unless the weight of the burden is felt the Gospel can mean nothing to the man; and until he sees a vision of God high and lifted up, there will be no woe and no burden. Low views of God destroy the Gospel for all who hold them.

Among the sins to which the human heart is prone, hardly any other is more hateful to God than idolatry, for idolatry is at bottom a libel on His character. The idolatrous heart assumes that God is other than He is – in itself a monstrous sin – and substitutes for the true God one made after its own likeness. Always this God will conform to the image of the one who created it and will be base or pure, cruel or kind, according to the moral state of the mind from which it emerges.

A god begotten in the shadows of a fallen heart will quite naturally be no true likeness of the true God.

“Thou thoughtest,” said the Lord to the wicked man in the psalm, “that I was altogether such as one as thyself.” Surely this must be a serious affront to the Most High God before whom cherubim and seraphim continually do cry, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth.”

Let us beware lest we in our pride accept the erroneous notion that idolatry consists only in kneeling before visible objects of adoration, and that civilized peoples are therefore free from it. The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him. It begins in the mind and may be present where no overt act of worship has taken place.

“When they knew God,” wrote Paul, “they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.”

Then followed the worship of idols fashioned after the likeness of men and birds and beasts and creeping things. But this series of degrading acts began in the mind.

Wrong ideas about God are not only the fountain from which the polluted waters of idolatry flow; they are themselves idolatrous. The idolater simply imagines things about God and acts as if they were true.

Perverted notions about God soon rot the religion in which they appear. The long career of Israel demonstrates this clearly enough, and the history of the Church confirms it. So necessary to the Church is a lofty concept of God that when that concept in any measure declines, the Church with her worship and her moral standards declines along with it. The first step down for any church is taken when it surrenders its high opinion of God.

Before the Christian Church goes into eclipse anywhere there must first be a corrupting of her simple basic theology. She simply gets a wrong answer to the question, “What is God like?” and goes on from there. Though she may continue to cling to a sound nominal creed, her practical working creed has become false. The masses of her adherents come to believe that God is different from what He actually is; and that is heresy of the most insidious and deadly kind.

The heaviest obligation lying upon the Christian Church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of Him – and of her. In all her prayers and labors this should have first place. We do the greatest service to the next generation of Christians by passing on to them undimmed and undiminished that noble concept of God which we received from our Hebrew and Christian fathers of generations past. This will prove of greater value to them than anything that art or science can devise. (Source for this article can be found here.)

You can see God from anywhere Tozer

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YouTube Video: “Revelation Song” sung by Phillips, Craig & Dean:

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Five Vows for Spiritual Power – A.W. Tozer

breaking-newsAs you know by now, Dr. A.W. Tozer (1897-1963) is a real favorite of mine and his sermons and writings have stood the test of time. He was thought of as a prophet in his time and could cut to the quick on any type of compromise that stood against the truth of the Bible. It is also said that he had a splendid sense of humor.

I ran across the following article online titled, Five Vows for Spiritual Power,” by Tozer (it is also available for purchase as a 24-page booklet with the same title) and decided to cut and paste the article below. It is excellent and so vitally needed in our churches today (by clergy and congregation alike). So without further ado, here it is:

Five Vows for Spiritual Power

by A. W. Tozer

Some people object to taking vows, but in the Bible you will find many great men of God directed by covenants, promises, vows and pledges. The psalmist was not adverse to the taking of vows: Vows made to You are binding upon me, O God; I will render praises to You (Psalm 56:12).

My counsel in this matter is that if you are really concerned about spiritual improvement–the gaining of new power, new life, new joy and new personal revival within your heart–you will do well to make certain vows and proceed to keep them. If you should fail, go down in humility and repent and start over. But always keep these vows before you. They will help harmonize your heart with the vast powers that flow out and down from the throne where Christ sits at the right hand of God.

A carnal man refuses the discipline of such commitments. He says, “I want to be free. I don’t want to lay any vows upon myself; I don’t believe in it. It is legalism.” Well, let me paint a picture of two men.

One of them will not take vows. He will not accept any responsibility. He wants to be free. And he is free, in a measure–just as a tramp is free. The tramp is free to sit on a park bench by day, sleep on a newspaper by night, get chased out of town on Thursday morning, and find his way up a set of creaky stairs in some flophouse on Thursday night. Such a man is free, but he is also useless. He clutters up the world whose air he breathes.

Let’s look at another man–maybe a president or prime minister or any great man who carries upon himself the weight of government. Such men are not free. But in the sacrifice of their freedom they step up in power. If they insist upon being free, they can be free, just like the tramp. But they choose rather to be bound.

There are many religious tramps in the world who will not be bound by anything. They have turned the grace of God into personal license. But the great souls are ones who have gone reverently to God with the understanding that in their flesh dwells no good thing. And they know that without God’s enablement any vows taken would be broken before sundown. Nevertheless, believing in God, reverently they took certain sacred vows. This is the way to spiritual power.

Now there are five vows I have in mind which we do well to make and keep. The first is: Deal thoroughly with sinSin has been driven underground these days and has come up with a new name and face. You may be subjected to this phenomenon in the schools. Sin is called by various fancy names–anything but what it really is. For example, men don’t get under conviction any more; they get a guilt complex. Instead of confessing their guilt to God and getting rid of it, they lie down on a couch and try to tell a man who ought to know better all about themselves. It comes out after a while that they were deeply disappointed when they were two years old or some such thing. That’s supposed to make them better.

The whole thing is ridiculous, because sin is still the ancient enemy of the soul. It has never changed. We’ve got to deal firmly with sin in our lives. Let’s remember that. “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking,” said Paul, “but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). Righteousness lies at the door of the kingdom of God. The soul that sins, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4, 20).

This is not to preach sinless perfection. This is to say that every known sin is to be named, identified and repudiated, and that we must trust God for deliverance from it, so that there is no more sin anywhere in our lives. It is absolutely necessary that we deal thus, because God is a holy God and sin is on the throne of the world.

So don’t call your sins by some other name. If you’re jealous, call it jealousy. If you tend to pity yourself and feel that you are not appreciated, but are like a flower born to blush unseen and waste your sweetness on the desert air, call it what it is — self-pity.

There is resentfulness. If you’re resentful, admit it. I have met people who live in a state of sputtering indignation most of the time. I know of a preacher who acts like a hen thrown out of the nest. He keeps running in all directions clucking and complaining — somebody is always doing him wrong. Well, if you have got that spirit, you must deal with it now. You must get that out of you. The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin. Instead of covering it up and trying to find a Greek marginal rendering somewhere to hide it under, call it by the right name, and get rid of it by the grace of God.

And then there is your temper. Don’t call it indignation. Don’t try to christen it by some other name. Call it what it is. Because if you have a bad temper you will either get rid of it or it will get rid of much of your spirituality and most of your joy.

So let’s deal with sin thoroughly. Let’s be perfectly candid. God loves candid people.

Now the second vow is: Never own anything. I do not mean by this that you cannot have things. I mean that you ought to get delivered from this sense of possessing them. This sense of possessing is what hinders us. All babies are born with their fists clenched, and it seems to me it means: “This is mine!” One of the first things is “mine” in an angry voice. That sense of “This is mine” is a very injurious thing to the spirit. If you can get rid of it so that you have no feeling of possessing anything, there will come a great sense of freedom and liberty into your life.

Now don’t think that you must sell all that you have and give it to charity. No, God will let you have your car and your business, your practice and your position, whatever it may be, provided you understand that it is not yours at all, but His, and all you are doing is just working for Him. You can be restful about it then, because we never need to worry about losing anything that belongs to someone else. If it is yours, you’re always looking in your hand to see if it’s still there. If it’s God’s you no longer need to worry about it.

Let me point out some things you’ll have to turn over to God. Property is one thing. Some of the dear Lord’s children are being held back because there’s a ball and chain on their legs. If it’s a man, it’s his big car and fine home. If it’s a woman it’s her china and her Louis XIV furniture and all the rest. Take that vase for instance. There it stands, and if anybody knocked it off and broke it the poor owner would probably lose five years from her life!

The third vow is this: Never defend yourselfWe’re all born with a desire to defend ourselves. And if you insist upon defending yourself, God will let you do it. But if you turn the defense of yourself over to God He will defend you. He told Moses once, in Exodus 23:22: “I will be an enemy to your enemies and will oppose those who oppose you.”

A long time ago the Lord and I went through the 23rd chapter of Exodus together and He gave it to me. For 30 years now it has been a source of untold blessing to my life. I don’t have to fight. The Lord does the fighting for me. And He’ll do the same for you. He will be an enemy to your enemy and an adversary to your adversary, and you’ll never need to defend yourself.

What do we defend? Well, we defend our service, and particularly we defend our reputation. Your reputation is what people think you are, and if a story gets out about you the big temptation is to try to run it down. But you know, running down the source of a story is a hopeless task. Absolutely hopeless! It’s like trying to find the bird after you’ve found the feather on your lawn. You can’t do it. But if you’ll turn yourself wholly over to the Lord He will defend you completely and see to it that no one will harm you. “No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper.” He says, and And every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. (Isaiah 54:17).

Henry Suso was a great Christian of other days. Once he was seeking what some Christians have told me they are seeking–to know God better. Let’s put it like this: you are seeking to have a religious awakening within your spirit that will thrust you farther out into the deep things of God. Well, as Henry Suso was seeking God, people started telling evil stories about the man, and it grieved him so that he wept bitter tears and had great sorrow of heart.

Then one day he looked out the window and saw a dog playing on the lawn. The dog had a mat, and kept picking the mat up, tossing it over his shoulder, running and getting it, tossing it some more, picking it up and tossing it again. God said to Henry Suso, “That mat is your reputation, and I am letting the dogs of sin tear your reputation to shreds and toss it all over the lawn for your own good. One of these days things will change.”

And things did change. It was not very long before people who were tearing his reputation were confounded, and Suso rose into a place that made him a power in his day and a great blessing still to those who sing his hymns and read his works.

Next vow; Never pass anything on about anybody else that will hurt him“Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). The talebearer has no place in God’s favor. If you know something that would hinder or hurt the reputation of one of God’s children, bury it forever. Find a little garden out back–a little spot somewhere–and when somebody comes around with an evil story, take it out and bury it, and say, “Here lies in peace the story about my brother.” God will take care of it. “For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged” (Matthew 7:2).

If you want God to be good to you, you are going to have to be good to His children. You say, “That’s not grace.” Well, grace gets you into the kingdom of God. That is unmerited favor. But after you are seated at the Father’s table He expects to teach you table manners. And He won’t let you eat unless you obey the etiquette of the table. And what is that? The etiquette of the table is that you don’t tell stories about the brother who is sitting at the table with you–no matter what his denomination, or nationality or background.

Our next vow is: Never accept any gloryGod is jealous of His glory and He will not give His glory to another. He will not even share His glory with another. It is quite natural, I should say, for people to hope that maybe their Christian service will give them a chance to display their talents. True, they want to serve the Lord. But they also want other people to know they are serving the Lord. They want to have a reputation among the saints. That is very dangerous ground–seeking a reputation among the saints. It’s bad enough to seek a reputation in the world, but it’s worse to seek a reputation among the people of God. Our Lord gave up His reputation, and so must we.

Meister Eckhart once preached a sermon on Christ cleansing the temple. He said, “Now there was nothing wrong with those men selling and buying there. There was nothing wrong with exchanging money there; it had to be. The sin lay in their doing it for profit. They got a percentage on serving the Lord.” And then he made the application: “Anybody that serves for a commission, for what little bit of glory he can get out of it, he is a merchant and he ought to be cast out of the temple.”

I go along with this. If you’re serving the Lord, and yet slyly–perhaps scarcely known to you–you’re hoping to get just a little five percent commission, then look out! It will chill the power of God in your spirit. You must determine that you will never take any glory, but see that God gets it all.

Now the easiest possible thing is to give a message like this. The hard thing is to make it work in one’s own life. Remember that these five vows are not something you write in the back of your Bible and forget. They’ve got to be written in your own blood. They have to be made final, irrevocable. If it only comes off the surface it’s no good. Much of our promises come off the surface. No, no. Let is come out of the depths of your heart, the deep depths of your spirit.

Theses vows cut against the old human nature. They introduce the cross into your life. And nobody ever walks back from carrying his cross–nobody, ever. When a man takes his cross he’s already said goodbye. He’s pulled the roll top shut on his desk and said farewell to his wife and children. He’s not coming back. The man with the cross never comes back. When you make these vows, remember: They introduce the cross into your life, they strike at the heart of your self-life and there is never a place to go back to. And I say, “Woe to the triflers!”

In America–and maybe in other places, too–so many people are saying, “Try Jesus, try God!” Triflers, experimenters, tasters they are. Like a rabbit with a half dozen holes so if one is stopped up he can flee to another! No! From the cross there is no place to flee. You don’t “try” Jesus. He’s not there to be experimental with. Christ is not on trial. You are. I am. He’s not! God raised Him from the dead and forever confirmed His deity and sealed Him and set Him at His own right hand as Lord and Christ. Turn everything over to Him and you’ll find your life begin to lift. You’ll blossom in a wonderful way.

Now, if you happen to be one of those on whom God has laid His hand for a deeper life, a more powerful life, a fuller life, then I wonder if you would be willing to pray this kind of prayer: “O God, glorify Thyself at my expense. Send me the bill–anything, Lord. I set no price. I will not dicker or bargain. Glorify Thyself. I’ll take the consequence.”

This kind of praying is simple, but it’s deep and wonderful and powerful. I believe, if you can pray a prayer like that, it will be the ramp from which you can take off into higher heights and bluer skies in the things of the Spirit. (Quote source here.)

~Nobody says it quite like Tozer~

YouTube Video: “Revelation Song” sung by Phillips, Craig & Dean:

Photo credit here

Divisions Are Not Always Bad

unity and division

Church divisions and splits are, unfortunately, all too common in our day. In addressing the issue of church splits, GotQuestions?org states, “Church splits distress and dismay mature believers, disillusion new believers, cause havoc in the lives of pastors and their families, and bring reproach upon the name of Christ.” (Read entire article at this link.) Near the end of the article is this statement: “The causes of divisions in the church are many, but ultimately the main reason for a church split is that someone has taken his focus off of Jesus Christ and begun to use the church organization for his own ends.”

One of the definitions of unity from Dictionary.com is “oneness of mind, feeling, etc., as among a number of persons; concord, harmony, or agreement; absence of diversity; unvaried or uniform character.” The Bible states the importance of unity within the fellowship of believers, and Ephesians 4:11-14 speaks to the issue of unity:

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.

Unfortunately, too often today unity is stressed for the sake of unity in and of itself. In an article titled, Preaching Unity for Unity’s Sake,” the author, Anthony Wade, Minister with the Assemblies of God and Owner/Founder of 828 Ministries, addresses this very issue in the following statement:

It has become in vogue in the modern church to preach unity for unity’s sake. Scripture does clearly indicate that it is God’s desire for there to be unity within the body of Christ. Unfortunately what is often overlooked is what we are to be unified by and for.

Today’s verse [Ephesians 4:13 NLT] makes the point very clear. Our unity is supposed to be in our faith and the knowledge of God’s Son. Not about a religion. Not about a denomination. Not about a church. Our agreement is to be firmly rooted in our faith in God not man. It is to be firmly rooted in the Word of God, not the latest fads. Today’s verse also makes it clear that there is a goal for the unity. It is so that we can all become mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. That may sound like a tall order but that is the point about unity. Together we can strive more effectively towards the goal of becoming more Christlike. If we are unified by striving to be more Christlike then we avoid the politics of man and the religiosity of this age. By doing so, those walking in darkness will want the light they see in us. That is the point of being unified.

If someone I care about is driving off of a cliff, it is not my responsibility to hold their hand on the way down and tell them everything is going to be ok. It is my responsibility to help them avoid going off the cliff to begin with. Unity rooted in agreement of personality is not unity at all. Unity rooted in agreement of doctrine is what strengthens faith and knowledge of God’s Son. It is what matures us. I possess no absolute truth on my own — only through the Word of God. Let us celebrate that today. Let us unify behind that. (Quote source here.)

GotQuestions?org also gives us a picture of what true, biblical unity looks like in the following statement (full article is available at this link):

The secret to unity begins with how we view ourselves within the body and how we view others. The key verse that addresses this is Philippians 2:3: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” All disunity in a church can be traced back to the simple truth that too often we act selfishly and consider ourselves better than others. Paul goes on to explain further in the following verse: “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Sadly, churches that experience disunity and are in conflict and turmoil are generally filled with people looking to their own needs, their own desires, and their own ambitions. Such behavior is characteristic of unbelievers, not those with the mind of Christ. Worldliness, not godliness, is the hallmark of the disunified church, as Paul reminded the Corinthians: “For you are yet carnal. For in that there is among you envyings and strife and divisions, are you not carnal, and do you not walk according to men?” (1 Corinthians 3:3).

But Paul tells us that we are to consider others’ needs before our own. In all modesty, humility and lowliness of mind, we are to “be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2). A church filled with such people cannot help but have peace, unity and harmony. The truly humble person sees his own faults in light of the perfections of Christ; he does not seek to see the faults of others, but when he does, he speaks the truth in love and desires their sanctification so they will be built up in the image of Christ. He sees his own heart and the corruption that lies hidden there, along with impure motives and evil ambitions. But he does not seek to notice the errors, defects, and follies of others. He sees the depravity of his own heart and hopes charitably in the goodness of others and believes their hearts are more pure than his.

Most importantly, as Christians, we are to see one another in the light of the cross . . . (Quote source and full article at this link).

one-in-christDr. A.W. Tozer(1897-1963), also addressed this same topic regarding the issues surrounding division and unity and when it is appropriate to unite and when to divide in a chapter titled, Divisions Are Not Always Bad,” (Chapter 9), in his book, God Tells The Man Who Cares,” The chapter is available online from Apologetics Index at this link and is stated below:

Divisions Are Not Always Bad

by A.W. Tozer

When to unite and when to divide, that is the question, and a right answer requires the wisdom of a Solomon.

Some settle the problem by rule of thumb: All union is good and all division bad. It’s that easy. But obviously this effortless way of dealing with the matter ignores the lessons of history and overlooks some of the deep spiritual laws by which men live.

If good men were all for union and bad men for division, or vice versa, that would simplify things for us. Or if it could be shown that God always unites and the devil always divides it would be easy to find our way around in this confused and confusing world. But that is not how things are.

To divide what should be divided and unite what should be united is the part of wisdom. Unions of dissimilar elements is never good even where it is possible, nor is the arbitrary division of elements that are alike; and this is as certainly true of things moral and religious as of things political or scientific.

The First Divider

The first divider was God who at the creation divided the light from the darkness. This division set the direction for all God’s dealings in nature and in grace. Light and darkness are incompatible; to try to have both in the same place at once is to try the impossible and end by having neither the one nor the other, but dimness rather, and obscurity.

In the world of men there are at present scarcely any sharp outlines. The race is fallen. Sin has brought confusion. The wheat grows with the tares, the sheep and the goats coexist, the farms of the just and the unjust lie side by side in the landscape, the mission is next door to the saloon.

But things will not always be so. The hour is coming when the sheep with be divided from the goats and the tares separated from the wheat. God will again divide the light from the darkness and all things will run to their kind. Tares will go into the fire with tares and wheat into the garner with wheat. The dimness will lift like a fog and all outlines will appear. Hell will be seen to be hell all the way through, and heaven revealed as the one home of all who bear the nature of the one God.

For that time we with patience wait. In the meanwhile for each of us, and for the church wherever she appears in human society, the constantly recurring question must be: What shall we unite with and from what shall we separate? The question of coexistence does not enter here, but the question of union and fellowship does. The wheat grows in the same field with the tares, but shall the two cross-pollinate? The sheep graze near the goats, but shall they seek to interbreed? The unjust and the just enjoy the same rain and sunshine, but shall they forget their deep moral differences and intermarry?

To these questions the popular answer is yes. Union for union’s sake, and men shall be brothers be for a’ that. Unity is so devoutly to be desired that no price is too high to pay for it and nothing is important enough to keep us apart. Truth is slain to provide a feast to celebrate the marriage of heaven and hell, and all to support a concept of unity which has no basis in the Word of God.

The Spirit-illuminated Church

The Spirit-illuminated church will have none of this. In a fallen world like ours unity is no treasure to be purchased at the price of compromise. Loyalty to God, faithfulness and truth and the preservation of a good conscience are jewels more precious than gold of Ophir or diamonds from the mine. For these jewels men have suffered the loss of property, imprisonment and even death; for them, even in recent times, behind the various curtains, followers of Christ have paid the last full measure of devotion and quietly died, unknown to and unsung by the great world, but known to God and dear to His Father heart. In the day that shall declare the secrets of all souls these shall come forth to receive the deeds done in the body. Surely such as these are wiser philosophers than the religious camp followers of meaningless unity who have not the courage to stand against the vogues and who bleat for brotherhood only because it happens to be for the time popular. 

Wise Sheep

“Divide and conquer” is the cynical slogan of Machiavellian political leaders, but Satan knows how to unite and conquer. To bring a nation to its knees the aspiring dictator must unite it. By repeated appeals to national pride or to the need to avenge some past or present wrong the demagogue succeeds in uniting the populace behind him. It is easy after that to take control of the military and to beat the legislature into submission. Then follows almost perfect unity indeed, but it is the unity of the stockyards and the concentration camp. We have seen this happen several times in this century, and the world will see it at least once more when the nations of the earth are united under Antichrist.

When confused sheep start over a cliff the individual sheep can save himself only be separating from the flock. Perfect unity at such a time can only mean total destruction for all. The wise sheep to save his own hide disaffiliates.

Power lies in the union of things similar and the division of things dissimilar. Maybe what we need in religious circles today is not more union but some wise and courageous division. Everyone desires peace but it could be that revival will follow the sword. (Quote source here.)

“Unity is no treasure to be purchased at the price of compromise . . .” And peace gained at any price is no peace at all. As Tozer stated above, “The wheat grows in the same field with the tares, but shall the two cross-pollinate? The sheep graze near the goats, but shall they seek to interbreed?”

“Power lies in the union of things similar and the division of things dissimilar.” “Loyalty to God, faithfulness and truth and the preservation of a good conscience are jewels more precious than gold of Ophir or diamonds from the mine.” Our loyalty is to God, first and foremost . . . .

And our unity is not found in the things of this world . . .

Our unity is found in Jesus Christ. . . .

YouTube Video: “United We Stand” by Hillsong:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Christless Christianity

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Christianity without Christ–sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? Yet with increasing regularity much of what we do in the Church-at-large today is man centered and/or works centered and not Christ centered, although it is often disguised as such. I remember reading the term, “Christless Christianity,” for the first time in a biography on Bonhoeffer. It was of great concern to Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) before his death by hanging at the hands of Adolf Hitler (who committed suicide a scant 21 days later) at Flossenberg Concentration Camp two weeks before the American liberation of the camp, and three weeks before the end of World War II.

In Bonhoeffer’s book, The Cost of Discipleship,” he states the difference between “cheap grace” (which is man centered), and “costly grace” (which is Christ centered) which is part of what is at the core of Christless Christianity:

Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks’ wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices. Grace is represented as the Church’s inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price; grace without cost! The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing. Since the cost was infinite, the possibilities of using and spending it are infinite. What would grace be if it were not cheap?…

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.

Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God. (Quote source here.)

We don’t hear much about this kind of grace today–grace that is costly. As Bonhoeffer stated above, “It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because if justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son . . . Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”

Dr. A.W. Tozer (1897-1963), who was also a contemporary of Bonhoeffer’s era, made the following statement regarding Christless Christianity in Man: The Dwelling Place of God,” Chapter 29,How to Try the Spirits”:

Christless Christianity sounds contradictory but it exists as a real phenomenon in our day. Much that is being done in Christ’s name is false to Christ in that it is conceived by the flesh, incorporates fleshly methods, and seeks fleshly ends. Christ is mentioned from time to time in the same way and for the same reason that a self-seeking politician mentions Lincoln and the flag, to provide a sacred front for carnal activities and to deceive the simplehearted listeners. This giveaway is that Christ is not central: He is not all and in all. (Quote source here.)

Dr. Michael S. Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California, in his book, Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church (2008), makes the following statement regarding Christless Christianity in Chapter 1:

Christless Christianity. Sounds a bit harsh, doesn’t it? A little shallow, sometimes distracted, even a little human-centered rather than Christ-centered from time to time, but Christless? Let me be a little more precise about what I am assuming to be the regular diet in many churches across America today: “do more, try harder.” I think that this is the pervasive message across the spectrum today. It can be exhibited in an older, more conservative form, with a recurring emphasis on moral absolutes and warnings about falling into the pit of worldliness that can often make one wonder whether we are saved through fear rather than faith. Heaven and hell still figure prominently in this version. Especially on the “high holy days” of the American church calendar (that is, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Father’s Day, and Mother’s Day), often complete with giant American flags, a color guard, and patriotic songs, this sterner version of “do more, try harder” helped get the culture wars off the ground. At the same time, more liberal bodies could be just as shrill with their “do more, try harder” list on the left and their weekly calls to action rather than clear proclamation of Christ.

Reacting against this extreme version of fundamentalist and liberal judgmentalism, another generation arose that wanted to soft-pedal the rigor, but the “do more, try harder” message has still dominated—this time in the softer pastels of Al Franken’s “Stuart Smalley” than in the censorious tone of Dana Carvey’s “Church Lady,” both of Saturday Night Live fame. In this version, God isn’t upset if you fail to pull it off. The stakes aren’t as high: success or failure in this life, not heaven or hell. No longer commands, the content of these sermons, songs, and best-selling books are helpful suggestions. If you can’t get people to be better with sticks, use carrots.

Increasingly, a younger generation is taking leadership that was raised on hype and hypocrisy and is weary of the narcissistic (i.e., “me-centered”) orientation of their parents’ generation. They are attracted to visions of salvation larger than the legalistic individualism of salvation-as-fire-insurance. Yet they are also fed up with the consumeristic individualism of salvation-as-personal-improvement. Instead, they are desperately craving authenticity and genuine transformation that produces true community, exhibiting loving acts that address the wider social and global crises of our day rather than the narrow jeremiads of yesteryear.

Despite significant differences across these generations and types of church ministry, crucial similarities remain. The focus still seems to be on us and our activity rather than on God and his work in Jesus Christ. In all of these approaches, there is the tendency to make God a supporting character in our own life movie rather than to be rewritten as new characters in God’s drama of redemption. Assimilating the disruptive, surprising, and disorienting power of the gospel to the felt needs, moral crises, and socio-political headlines of our passing age, we end up saying very little that the world could not hear from Dr. Phil, Dr. Laura, or Oprah. (Quote source here.)

what are you listening to“The focus still seems to be on us and our activity rather than on God and his work in Jesus Christ.” And just as Horton stated, we tend “to make God a supporting character in our own life movie rather than to be rewritten as new characters in God’s drama of redemption.” Often we do this on an subconscious level because this type of attitude is pervasive in the church today. In fact, in our way of thinking it is almost heresy to think otherwise, and yet it is this very heresy that is at the core of much of what is done in the church. We tend to live our lives letting God know what we want or being active in the church because we think it is the right thing to do (a works-based salvation which is no salvation at all) instead of turning to him in repentance and seeking what he would have us to do with our lives every moment of every day. The genuine Christian life is a crucified life . . . it is not about us and what we want; it’s about God and Jesus Christ and what he would have us to do through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Just as the focus of cheap grace is on us, so is the focus of Christless Christianity on us–what we do, what we want, what we can get from God. Becoming “a new creation in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:17) is often the last thing on our mind in our relationship with Jesus Christ.

In a summary article by Martin Downes, Minister of Christ Church Deeside (North Wales, UK), on Horton’s book, Downes states the following:

“Christless Christianity” is anti-gospel error with a smile. It has enough truth, or perhaps words associated with the truth, to maintain plausibility, and enough error to pander to the cravings of our sinful hearts and minds. Our ability to obey is massaged, our spirituality is pampered, but our sins, true guilt, total helplessness, our need for Jesus Christ and his substitutionary death are neglected, ignored, and replaced.

Horton writes:

So much of what I am calling “Christless Christianity” is not profound enough to constitute heresy. Like the easy-listening Muzak that plays ubiquitously in the background in other shopping venues, the message of American Christianity has simply become trivial, sentimental, affirming, and irrelevant…I think our doctrine has been forgotten, assumed, ignored, and even misshaped and distorted by the habits and rituals of daily life in a narcissistic culture (p. 21).

Instead of a gospel that is grace all the way down, “Christless Christianity” is “moralistic, therapeutic deism” (p. 40). Even though it may try to distance itself from the old legalism of the fundamentalists, it is in fact a gentler form of legalism with an irrepressible confidence in human ability. It is law, and not gospel. . . .

“Christless Christianity” leaves no orthodox doctrine untouched. God is reduced to our fellow sufferer, our sympathizer. Sin has become bad feelings and poor self image. Christ has become our example and our teacher. Eternity has become time, the world to come eclipsed by the here and now. Scripture becomes a self-help manual. The true biblical world-view has been inverted. God’s holiness no longer stands in such stark contrast with our sin, and therefore his justice and our eternal condemnation no longer remain our most pressing issue. By this route, atonement and justification need not be denied because, frankly, they are now irrelevant.

Let me end this review with a striking passage that I think encapsulates the reason why evangelical church life is so desperately faddish, frantically pursuing a boom and bust cycle of spiritual experience:

Similarly today, the preaching of the law in all of its gripping judgment and the preaching of the gospel in all of its surprising sweetness merge into a confused message of gentle exhortation to a more fulfilling life. Consequently, we know neither how to mourn nor how to throw a real party. The bad news no longer stands in such sharp contrast with the good news; we become content with so-so news that eventually fails to bring genuine conviction or genuine comfort but keeps us on the treadmill of anxiety, craving the next revival, technique, or movement to lift our spirits and catapult us to heavenly glory (p. 63). (Quote source here.)

More often then not, our current brand of Christianity often resembles a religious version of the “feel good” psychology that is so prevalent and holds us captive in our society today. As Horton states at the end of Chapter 1 in his book:

My aim is not to target any particular wing, movement, person, or group. We are all victims as well as accomplices in our captivity. In fact, my sense of urgency is motivated by my impression that “Christless Christianity” is pervasive, crossing the conservative-liberal spectrum and all denominational lines. In fact, when I wrote up some of the thoughts in this book for an article in a magazine recently, a Catholic editor exclaimed, “He’s writing about us!”

Actually, I am writing about “us”—all of us who profess the name of Christ both as ministers and witnesses. It would be easier if we could identify one particular writer, circle of writers, or movement as an isolated nemesis. However, no tradition is free of this captivity, including my own, and no person, including myself. There is therefore no position of antiseptic purity that I can pretend to occupy, from which I can mop up the rest of the floor. The most that any of us can do is to say with Isaiah, as he beheld a vision of God in his holiness, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5). (Quote source here.)

I’ll end this post with one final brief statement from Horton in Chapter 1 of his book:

I think that the church in America today is so obsessed with being practical, relevant, helpful, successful, and perhaps even well-liked that it nearly mirrors the world itself. Aside from the packaging, there is nothing that cannot be found in most churches today that could not be satisfied by any number of secular programs and self-help groups. (Quote source here.)

And Jesus Christ is lost in the shuffle. . . .

The solution is found in Revelation 3:14-22 in a statement by Jesus Christ to the Church in Laodicea:

I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

He who has an ear . . .

Let him hear . . . .

YouTube Video: “Lose My Soul” by TobyMac:

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Not Negotiable

Not negotiableWe live in a world of “anything goes” and we hold back nothing if it brings us any amount of personal pleasure and/or we can afford it. “Go for the Gusto!” is our motto. “If It Feels Good, Do It!” we yell as we keep on “rockin’ down the highway” of life. Fifty Shades of Grey sure beats “all or nothing/black and white” thinking with all of its confining and self imposed restraints. Even modern psychology tells us that. And rules? They are meant to be broken, right? 

Right?

The truth is that some things are not negotiable. Death and taxes, for example.

Once again in a blast from the past–the dead speaking to the livingA.W. Tozer (1897-1963) speaks volumes to us as we continue to tolerate absolutely anything but the truth nowadays. The following is taken from Tozer’s book, Man: The Dwelling Place of God,” specifically Chapter 38 titled, Some Things Are Not Negotiable.”

Some Things Are Not Negotiable

by A.W. Tozer

WILL ROGERS ONCE OPINED that a sure way to prevent war would be to abolish peace conferences.

Of course Will, as usual, had his tongue in his cheek; he meant only to poke fun at the weak habit of substituting talk for action. Still there is more than a little uncomfortable truth in his remark.

This above all others is the age of much talk. Hardly a day passes that the newspapers do not carry one or another of the headlines “Talks to Begin” or “Talks to Continue” or “Talks to Resume.” The notion back of this endless official chatter is that all differences between men result from their failure to understand each other; if each can discover exactly what the other thinks they will find to their delight that they are really in full agreement after all. Then they have only to smile, shake hands, go home and live happily ever after.

At the bottom of all this is the gluttenous, one-world, all-men-are-brothers philosophy that has taken such hold on the minds of many of our educators and politicians. (The hardheaded realists of the Communist camp know better; maybe that is why they are making such alarming advances throughout the world while the all-men-are-brothers devotees are running around in confusion, trying to keep smiling if it kills them.)

Tolerance, charity, understanding, good will, patience and other such words and ideas are lifted from the Bible, misunderstood and applied indiscriminately to every situation. The kidnapper will not steal your baby if you only try to understand him; the burglar caught sneaking into your house with a gun is not really bad; he is just hungry for fellowship and togetherness; the gang killer taking his victim for a one-way ride can be dissuaded from committing murder if someone will only have faith in his basic goodness and have a talk with him. And this is supposed to be the teaching of Jesus, which it most certainly is not.

The big thing now is to “keep in touch.” Never let the dialogue die and never accept any decision as final; everything can be negotiated. Where there is life there is talk and where there is talk there is hope. “As long as they are talking they are not shooting at each other,” say the advocates of the long palaver, and in so saying they forget Pearl Harbor.

This yen to confer has hit the church also, which is not strange since almost everything the church is doing these days has been suggested to her by the world. I observe with pained amusement how many water boys of the pulpit in their effort to be prophets are standing up straight and tall and speaking out boldly in favor of ideas that have been previously fed into their minds by the psychiatrists, the sociologists, the novelists, the scientists and the secular educators. The ability to appraise correctly the direction public opinion is moving is a gift not to be despised; by means of it we preachers can talk loudly and still stay out of trouble.

A new Decalogue has been adopted by the neo-Christians of our day, the first word of which reads “Thou shalt not disagree”; and a new set of Beatitudes too, which begins “Blessed are they that tolerate everything, for they shall not be made accountable for anything.” It is now the accepted thing to talk over religious differences in public with the understanding that no one will try to convert another or point out errors in his belief. The purpose of these talks is not to confront truth, but to discover how the followers of other religions think and thus benefit from their views as we hope they will from ours.

It is a truism that people agree to disagree only about matters they consider unimportant. No man is tolerant when it concerns his life or the life of his child, and no one will agree to negotiate over any religious matter he considers vital to his eternal welfare. Imagine Moses agreeing to take part in a panel discussion with Israel over the golden calf; or Elijah engaging in a gentlemanly dialogue with the prophets of Baal. Or try to picture our Lord Jesus Christ seeking a meeting of minds with the Pharisees to iron out differences; or Athanasius trying to rise above his differences with Arius in order to achieve union on a higher level; or Luther crawling into the presence of the pope in the name of a broader Christian fellowship.

The desire to be liked even if not respected is a great weakness in any man’s character, and in that of a minister of Jesus Christ it is a weakness wholly inexcusable. The popular image of the man of God as a smiling, congenial, asexual religious mascot whose handshake is always soft and whose head is always bobbing in the perpetual Yes of universal acquiescence is not the image found in the Scriptures of truth.

The blessing of God is promised to the peacemaker, but the religious negotiator had better watch his step. The ability to settle quarrels between members of God’s household is a heavenly gift and one that should be assiduously cultivated. The discerning soul who can reconcile separated friends by prayer and appeal to the Scriptures is worth his weight in diamonds.

That is one thing, but the effort to achieve unity at the expense of truth and righteousness is another. To seek to be friends with those who will not be the friends of Christ is to be a traitor to our Lord. Darkness and light can never be brought together by talk. Some things are not negotiable.

(Article taken from Man: The Dwelling Place of God, Chapter 38)

Tozer’s advice cuts to the quick. I sometimes wonder if Tozer were still alive today how popular he would be in today’s church with his often searing advice. We certainly don’t like anyone making us uncomfortable in the way we live our lives, whether inside the church or outside of it. We might even be tempted to throw rocks in his direction and discredit him as being some sort of old fashioned religious fanatic or just plain crazy at times. We like our “anything goes” philosophy and easy believism that doesn’t require much–if anything–from us, and we abhor anything or anyone who speaks against it. After all, we like to say that grace covers every sin that there is even though our hearts are totally unrepentant and we like things just the way that they are. We really don’t want to give up anything but we do want all the benefits that comes from a relationship with Jesus Christ.

A relationship . . . ah, there’s the rub . . . .

smokescreenWe have so many distractions coming at us from all sides that there is just no time (so we say) to develop an actual relationship with Jesus. But we do want him to be there for us to help us get that new job or new car or (fill in the blank) we’ve been wanting for so long now. And what about the cross? We don’t want to go there personally but we are thankful that Jesus did take our place when he died on the cross. Too often in our modern day thinking (although this type of thinking has always been around) we consider it to be his cross and not one we have to personally bear just because we claim to follow him. However, there is a cost to us if we claim to follow after Jesus Christ (see article on counting the cost at this link).

I ran across an interesting definition this morning that fits in with this discussion. The word I looked up was smoke screen and here is the definition given for it from TheFreeDictionary.com:

~A mass of dense artificial smoke used to conceal military areas or operations from an enemy.
~An action or statement used to conceal actual plans or intentions.

We have an adversary in this world (see 1 Peter 5:8) who closely watches our every move, taking note of our weaknesses and making sure that those things we crave take up a lot of space in our lives. And he places smoke screens everywhere in our daily walk so that we can’t see the reality of what is really going on all around us at every moment. He uses things like money, materialism, gluttony, sex, greed, self, envy, jealousy, gossip, hate (and the list is endless) to keep us off track and lowering our guard until he has captured and destroyed us with the very excesses we cling to and refuse to give over to God. Our enemy uses our every weakness, and one of our biggest weaknesses is our ego and pride. And the enemy knows us all too well . . . . Here is what 1 Peter 5:8-11 states regarding this battle we face every moment of every day:

Be self-controlled and vigilant always, for your enemy the devil is always about, prowling like a lion roaring for its prey. Resist him, standing firm in your faith and remember that the strain is the same for all your fellow-Christians in other parts of the world. And after you have borne these sufferings a very little while, God himself (from whom we receive all grace and who has called you to share his eternal splendor through Christ) will make you whole and secure and strong. All power is his forever and ever, amen! (J.B. Phillips translation)

We rarely hear much about spiritual warfare today and we certainly don’t give it much thought on a daily basis, yet we are in a battle with our adversary every single day of our lives. Ephesians 6:10-18 speaks clearly about this battle we are neck deep in:

In conclusion be strong—not in yourselves but in the Lord, in the power of his boundless resource. Put on God’s complete armour so that you can successfully resist all the devil’s methods of attack. For our fight is not against any physical enemy: it is against organizations and powers that are spiritual. We are up against the unseen power that controls this dark world, and spiritual agents from the very headquarters of evil. Therefore you must wear the whole armour of God that you may be able to resist evil in its day of power, and that even when you have fought to a standstill you may still stand your ground. Take your stand then with truth as your belt, righteousness your breastplate, the Gospel of peace firmly on your feet, salvation as your helmet and in your hand the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. Above all be sure you take faith as your shield, for it can quench every burning missile the enemy hurls at you. Pray at all times with every kind of spiritual prayer, keeping alert and persistent as you pray for all Christ’s men and women. (J.B. Phillips translation)

Our adversary’s arsenal contains weapons we rarely ever recognize and they are usually wrapped up in distractions, temptations, and our own ego and pride (see 1 John 2:16) and in others, too. People can trip us up just as easily as possessions, money, food, sex, status, etc. Some of the greatest infighting occurs between folks who consider themselves to be Christian. So can knowledge if it leads us away from the truth or incorporates itself (like yeast) within the truth. Our enemy lurks everywhere.

We must see this world for what it is as described in 1 John 2:15-17:

Never give your hearts to this world or to any of the things in it. A man cannot love the Father and love the world at the same time. For the whole world-system, based as it is on men’s primitive desires, their greedy ambitions and the glamour of all that they think splendid, is not derived from the Father at all, but from the world itself. The world and all its passionate desires will one day disappear. But the man who is following God’s will is part of the permanent and cannot die. (J.B. Phillips translation)

Unfortunately, we often see spiritual warfare as something archaic and irrelevant to our lives once we become a Christian when in reality the war has just heated up 100%. And some things in life are absolutely not negotiable, not if we call ourselves Christian. We can’t have our cake and eat it too, and don’t believe anyone who says you can have it both ways. While we may laugh at the image of a devil in a red suit holding a pitchfork, he’s much more stealth than that . . . .

And the truth of the matter is this . . . 

The reality of spiritual warfare . . .

Is no laughing matter . . . .

YouTube Video: “Overcomer” by Mandisa:

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Celebrating Purim 5775 (2015)

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Today, March 5, 2015, is the celebration of the Jewish holiday of Purim. The following blog post below was written a year ago on Purim 2014. The only changes that has been made in it from last year’s post is the updating of the date for Purim on our Western Calendar for 2015, and a new YouTube Video, Purim Song,” at the end of the post.

Celebrating Purim

Originally posted on March 12, 2014 (date changed to reflect date for 2015)

happy purimThe Jewish holiday of Purim is celebrated every year on the 14th day of the month of Adar on the Hebrew calendar and it is a celebration of victory for the Jews over their enemies. On our Western calendar, this year it started at sundown yesterday (March 4th) and ends this evening at nightfall March 5th. Here is a brief description of Purim from Wikipedia.com:

Purim (Hebrew: פּוּרִים) is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people in the ancient Persian Empire where a plot had been formed to destroy them. The story is recorded in the Book of Esther (Megillat Ester מגילת אסתר in Hebrew).

According to the Book of Esther, Haman, royal vizier to King Ahasuerus (presumed to be Xerxes I of Persia) planned to kill all the Jews in the empire, but his plans were foiled by Mordecai and his adopted daughter Esther who had risen to become Queen of Persia. The day of deliverance became a day of feasting and rejoicing (quote source here).

The entire story can be read in the Biblical Book of Esther in the Old Testament. Wikipedia.com provides this plot summary at this link:

Ahasuerus, ruler of a massive Persian empire, holds a lavish party, initially for his court and dignitaries and afterwards for all inhabitants of the capital city Shushan. Ahasuerus orders the queen Vashti to display her beauty before the guests. She refuses. Worried all women will learn from this, Ahasuerus removes her as queen and has a royal decree sent across the empire that men should be the ruler of their households and should speak their own native tongue. Ahasuerus then orders all beautiful young girls to be presented to him, so he can choose a new queen to replace Vashti. One of these is the orphan Esther, whose Jewish name is Hadassah. After the death of her parents, she is being fostered by her cousin Mordecai. She finds favor in the king’s eyes, and is made his new queen. Esther does not reveal that she is Jewish. Shortly afterwards, Mordecai discovers a plot by courtierBigthan and Teresh to assassinate Ahasuerus. The conspirators are apprehended and hanged, and Mordecai’s service to the king is recorded.

Ahasuerus appoints Haman as his prime minister. Mordecai, who sits at the palace gates, falls into Haman’s disfavor as he refuses to bow down to him. Having found out that Mordecai is Jewish, Haman plans to kill not just Mordecai but all the Jews in the empire. He obtains Ahasuerus’ permission to execute this plan, against payment of ten thousand talents of silver (which the King declines to accept and rather allows him to execute his plan on principle), and he casts lots to choose the date on which to do this—the thirteenth of the month of Adar. On that day, everyone in the empire is free to massacre the Jews and despoil their property. When Mordecai finds out about the plans he and all Jews mourn and fast. Mordecai informs Esther what has happened and tells her to intercede with the King. She is afraid to break the law and go to the King unsummoned. This action would incur the death penalty. Mordecai tells her that she must. She orders Mordecai to have all Jews fast for three days together with her, and on the third day she goes to Ahasuerus, who stretches out his sceptre to her which shows that she is not to be punished. She invites him to a feast in the company of Haman. During the feast, she asks them to attend a further feast the next evening. Meanwhile, Haman is again offended by Mordecai and consults with his friends. At his wife’s suggestion, he builds a gallows for Mordecai.

That night, Ahasuerus suffers from insomnia, and when the court records are read to him to help him sleep, he learns of the services rendered by Mordecai in the previous plot against his life. Ahasuerus is told that Mordecai has not received any recognition for saving the king’s life. Just then, Haman appears, to ask the King to hang Mordecai, but before he can make this request, King Ahasuerus asks Haman what should be done for the man that the king wishes to honor. Thinking that the man that the king is referring to is himself, Haman says that the man should be dressed in the king’s royal robes and led around on the king’s royal horse, while a herald calls: “See how the king honours a man he wishes to reward!” To his horror and surprise, the king instructs Haman to do so to Mordecai. After leading Mordecai’s parade, he returns in mourning to his wife and friends, who suggest his downfall has begun.

Immediately after, Ahasuerus and Haman attend Esther’s second banquet, at which she reveals that she is Jewish and that Haman is planning to exterminate her people, including her. Overcome by rage, Ahasuerus leaves the room; meanwhile Haman stays behind and begs Esther for his life, falling upon her in desperation. The king comes back in at this moment and thinks Haman is assaulting the queen; this makes him angrier than before and he orders Haman hanged on the gallows that Haman had prepared for Mordecai. The previous decree against the Jews cannot be annulled, but the king allows the Jews to defend themselves during attacks. As a result, on 13 Adar, 500 attackers and Haman’s ten sons are killed in Shushan, followed by a Jewish slaughter of 75,000 Persians, although they took no plunder. Esther sends a letter instituting an annual commemoration of the Jewish people’s redemption, in a holiday called Purim (lots). Ahasuerus remains very powerful and continues reigning, with Mordecai assuming a prominent position in his court (quote source here).

The story of Esther is truly one of the most inspiring stories in the Old Testament, and while the name of God is not mentioned in the Book of Esther, God is all over every page and circumstance that happens in this book. It is about a courageous young Jewish woman and her relative, Mordecai, whose faith and courage remained unwavering in the midst of a plot to destroy all of the Jewish people in Persia. And the plot was not only foiled, but the man behind the plot fell victim to the very plans that he laid out for the destruction of Mordecai.

Faith has nothing to do with how we look on Sunday morning or who we know at church or in the community-at-large. It is a total dependence on God in the midst of circumstances we cannot control. It is not looking out to the larger world to find answers, but relying on God to supply them as they are needed. It is a laying down of any personal agendas; indeed, of one’s own pride and self-sufficiency, and humbly submitting our lives to the will of God. Without this, faith is meaningless. It becomes nothing more than depending on our own resources or people we know to get us out of our trials and circumstances.

True faith leaves the circumstances and the results up to God. True faith doesn’t try to manipulate; it doesn’t fabricate; it doesn’t deceive others to get our own way. In fact, true faith isn’t about us and what we want; it’s about God and how He is working in this world of ours. And it’s about giving Him total control of the situation and following His lead and not one of our own making.

Far too often we view faith as something we want to manipulate in our own small world, yet God is at work in the entire world weaving a large and dynamic story of the history of humankind, and each of us has a role in it. It’s not about selfishly seeking for our own gain, but living daily under God’s control so that His will is accomplished through us. Second Peter 3:8-9 summarized God’s mission on this earth:

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 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.

If we take seriously the stories in the Old and New Testaments, God is not into giving us everything we want in this life so that we can have “the good life.” That is an American ideal that has no basis in Scripture. Whether as Kings or paupers, Biblical characters from Abraham, Moses, Esther, Job, David, Solomon, the Prophets, John the Baptist, Mary and Joseph, Jesus Christ (the Son of God), Nicodemus, the Disciples, Paul (and the list goes on and on), the one thing they all had in common was total submission to God and His will, not their own will. They weren’t always perfect at it but God looks at the heart attitude. And a selfish and self-centered heart attitude doesn’t know God, nor does it care about His will.

God’s will is done in each and every one of our lives on this planet of ours, make no mistake about that. Whether we acknowledge Him or not, He is still in ultimate control. Whether we submit to that control determines which way our lives will go–either self-serving or serving God. In the story of Esther, there came a point when she was Queen where she had to make a choice, and it was clear that even if she didn’t make the right choice, God would still find someone else to bring about the redemption needed to save the Jews at that time. When the plot by Haman became known throughout Persia to kill all the Jews, Mordecai sent this message to Esther (Esther 4:13-14):

Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?

We make choices daily that indicate who we really serve–God or ourselves. It shows in the way we treat others, including those we don’t like or view as our enemies. It shows in how we spend our time and our money, and what is truly important to us (e.g., status, careers, money, possessions, etc.) Every decision we make is either self-center or God-centered. We live in a society that is constantly telling us to put the focus on ourselves and what we want, and that attitude has invaded the Church-at-large. And if we are focusing on what we want all the time, we will eventually drown out the voice of God in our lives as to what He wants us to do, and He will look elsewhere to accomplish His will, just as Mordecai stated to Esther.

Esther chose right because she had a heart for God and for her people, the Jews. She wasn’t focused on being Queen, but on being God’s servant in the role He had given to her. How much do we miss today because we focus on ourselves and what we want more than we focus on truly getting to know God and what He wants? Mostly likely far too often.

The celebration of Purim stands as a monument to us down through the ages as to what one person can accomplish who is truly sold out to God and His will. Through her obedience to God, Esther’s actions saved her people, the Jews living in Persia, from total destruction.

Our challenge today is to take our eyes off of everything our society offers to us and what we want, and to spend time understanding what God would have us to do in this world of ours. We never know what circumstances might be coming our way–for example, I never dreamed I’d spend five years late in life unemployed through no fault of my own. Yet if that had not happened, my life would have still been focused on me trying to find “my best life now” and asking God to bless it instead of getting to know God through Jesus Christ and what He would have me do with my life in serving Him.

While most of us may not ever have to make a decision on the scale of Esther’s, we have no idea what the impact on others might be even in the smallest decisions we make if they are God-focused and not self-focused. God’s focus is on the redemption of humankind. And that should be our focus, too.

I challenge all of us to take some time in the next few days to consider the story of Esther and how it applies to our own life, even in the small decisions we make. Are our lives God-focused or self-focused?

Now is the time . . .

Before it’s too late . . .

Don’t wait . . . .

YouTube Video: “Purim Song” by the Maccabeats:

Photo #1 credit here
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