Real Power


It seems appropriate at this time of the year when the month of Halloween begins and Halloween movies are out in full force that we think about another kind of Power that is out there. What brought this to mind this morning was an article I ran across written by A.W. Tozer (1897-1963), who was a pastor, author, magazine editor, and spiritual mentor, in a small volume of his writings published in 1988 titled, We Travel An Appointed Way: Making Spiritual Progress,” compiled and edited by Harry Verploegh (1909-1999).

As I read this particular article which is Chapter 33 in the book titled “Religion of the Intellect versus Religion of the Spirit,” it gave me cause for reflection considering that it was written by Tozer probably years before he died in May 1963. Keep in mind while you are reading it that it was most likely written approximately 70+ years ago. Here is what Tozer wrote (pp. 99-102):

There is a deeply spiritual and thoroughly mystical quality in New Testament religion that we cannot afford to ignore if we would be Christians in fact as well as in name.

I think it well to let our worshiping hearts decide our theological questions. After the purity of the text has been established and the mind assured that the translation is trustworthy, the best source of true light is always the Spirit-illuminated heart. A praying heart, aglow with love for God, will intuit truth, will pass behind the veil and see and hear that which is not lawful to be uttered, which indeed cannot be uttered or even intellectually understood.

It is my opinion that the real battle line in theological war today is not the line the separates fundamentalism from liberalism. That war has been fought and won. No one need be in any wise confused on the question of Bible theology versus man-conceived liberalism. Both sides have said their say boldly. Everyone can know where he stands on such matters as the inspiration of the Scriptures, the deity of Jesus Christ, salvation through the blood of atonement, death and judgment, heaven and hell. The true battle line is elsewhere.

Always the decisive conflict in religion will be where important concepts are joined in opposition, concepts so vital that they are capable of saving or wrecking the Christian faith in any given generation. At this critical juncture in church history, the real conflict is between those who hold to an objective Christian capable of being grasped in its entirety by the human intellect and those who believe that there are far-in areas of religious experience so highly spiritual, so removed from and exalted about mere reason, that it takes a special anointing of the Holy Spirit to make them understood by the human heart. The difference is not academic merely. Should the advocates of religious intellectualism succeed in setting the direction for the church in this generation, the next generation of Christians will be come helpless victims of dead orthodoxy.

In conversation with one of the better known devotees of neo-intellectualism in evangelical circles, I asked the question bluntly, “Do you actually believe that everything essential in the Christian faith may be grasped by the human intellect?” The answer was immediate–“If I did not, I would be on my way toward agnosticism.” I did not say, but might properly have said, “And if you do, you are on your way toward rationalism.” For such indeed is the truth.

One of the heaviest problems the inquiring Christian faces today is why so many good and apparently sincere religious leaders are going so far astray from the plain teachings and practices of the New Testament. Destructive elements are being innocently introduced into present-day worship and service by Bible-loving evangelicals, elements so opposed to the true genius of Christianity that the two are mutually exclusive. One or the other must go. Either these new parasitic growths must be destroyed, or they will in a short time destroy the Christian faith. Yet these deadly things are encouraged in the churches by some of the most zealous orthodox leaders. Why?

The answer is simpler than we might suppose. These leaders are depending on their brain to guide them in their religious practices. They conceive the truth to be a doctrinal deposit, a kind of a theological road map to lead them to heaven. They check the map to make sure they are going the right direction, and after that they are on their own. No Unseen Guide is necessary. If they should be attacked by doubts, they need only stop under a lamppost and reassure themselves that they have indeed “accepted” Christ. Then they get underway again with complete confidence that they are on the same road as the apostles and prophets.

The question being discussed by many these days–why religion is increasing and morality slipping, all at the same time–finds its answer in this very error, the error of religious intellectualism. Men have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof. The text alone will not elevate the moral life. To become morally effective, the truth must be accompanied by a mystic element, the very element supplied by the Spirit of truth. The Holy Spirit will no be banished to a footnote without taking terrible vengeance against His banishers. The That vengeance may be seen today in the nervous, giggling, worldly-minded and thoroughly carnal fundamentalism that is spreading over the land. Doctrinally, it wears the robes of scriptural belief, but beyond that it resembles the religions of Christ and his apostles not at all.

The mysterious presence of the Spirit is vitally necessary if we are to avoid the pitfalls of religion. As the fiery pillar led Israel through the wilderness, so the Spirit of truth must lead us all our journey through. One text alone could improve things mightily for us if we would but obey it: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5 KJV). (Quote source: “We Travel An Appointed Way,” pp. 99-102.)

The emphasis of Tozer’s article was and is on the power of the Holy Spirit, and the next generation that Tozer refers to has already arrived on the scene (e.g., it’s my generation known as the Baby Boomers–born between 1946-1964) and now includes three younger generations along with it (Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z).

With another Halloween quickly approaching, today we think nothing about all of the Halloween stuff going on all around us or even, on a larger scale, the incredible amount of evil and violence that fill so many movies in theaters and on TV, and in social media, and not just at Halloween but throughout the year. However, in today’s society if one should bring up the subject of the Holy Spirit especially in secular quarters or even among nominal Christians today, the smirks and laughter will be readily apparent, and at the very least you might be thought of as being a little “mentally unhinged.” Apparently, evil is okay, but the Holy Spirit? Seriously? That’s how far we have come in the 70+ years since Tozer penned those words above.

In a short article published in 2016 titled, The Dynamic Power of the Holy Spirit,” by Dr. Michael Youssef, Senior Pastor (Rector) of the Church of the Apostles, and the Executive President of Leading the Way, he describes the power of the Holy Spirit:

When we speak of the power of the Holy Spirit, many people–even Christians–misunderstand the meaning of “power.” They tend to define power as the world defines it.

In the world’s view, power conveys the ability to control people, events, and circumstances for our own advantage. In the world, power brings independence and self-sufficiency, with no need for God’s help or the assurance of others.

While many devote their lives to achieving this goal, this type of power can never satisfy the soul or bring joy or peace. The world’s power is temporary, leaving a person always wanting more.

In describing the power of the Holy Spirit, the Bible paints quite a different picture (see Luke 24:49Acts 1:82 Corinthians 12:9). The word translated as “power” in the English Bible is the Greek word “dynamis,” from which we get the word “dynamite.” In Acts 1:8, Jesus told His disciples that before they would be able to evangelize the world, they must receive the “dynamis” of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit possesses a dynamite-like power that works within a believer to blast out anything that is unlike God. It is not a power that exalts one person above others. It does not manipulate or control others. Instead, the Holy Spirit uses His power to break us so that He might remake us. The more we get self out of the way and yield our will to His, the more powerfully He is able to pour Himself out through us to others, and the more powerfully He is able to transform our lives. We are merely the conduits, the channels through which God’s power moves.

The Holy Spirit empowers us to be witnesses of God’s love, to live in a way that pleases God, to meet fully the demands and pressures of life, and to resist temptation. The power of the Holy Spirit is the only power that is sufficient to win spiritual battles against our own selfish desires and the wiles of Satan.

Set aside some time today to ask God to free you from the desire to control others and to lead you to become a clean vessel that can be used to transmit His power. Ask Him to do the same for your spouse, your children, your coworkers, and your friends.

Prayer: Lord, teach me about the true power of Your Spirit and grant me the willingness to submit to Your power. I confess that You alone are God. Please display Your power in and through my life today. Make me a clean and willing vessel. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen. (Quote source here.)

And consider this article written at Halloween on October 23, 2013, titled, Come, Holy Spirit,” by Neal Bowes, Director of Youth Ministries at Jesse Lee Memorial UMC:

This Thursday evening, doorbells will be ringing, and Americans will be distributing about 600 million pounds of candy while answering the call of “trick or treat” from their costume-clad, plastic-pumpkin toting neighborhood children. Today Halloween is regarded by most as simply a fun time to dress up, go out with some friends, collect candy, and maybe play a good-natured prank. The name Halloween actually comes from “All Hallows Eve,” meaning the eve of All Hallows Day, or All Saints’ Day. Christians celebrate All Saints’ Day on November 1 to remember our brothers and sisters in Christ who have died. But Halloween also corresponds to the ancient Gaelic festival of Samhain (SOW-in). The ancient people of Ireland believed that spiritual beings entered our world on Samhain and began the tradition of carving lanterns into vegetables and wearing masks to ward off or confuse evil spirits.

The idea of scaring away evil spirits may seem foolish to our twenty-first century sensibilities, but as Christians we cannot simply brush off the idea that spirits are active among us. Jesus frequently encountered evil spirits during his ministry, and many people came to Jesus asking him to deliver them from such evil spiritual forces. The apostle Paul reminds us that we are in an ongoing struggle against “forces of cosmic darkness, and spiritual powers of evil” (Ephesians 6:12). On the other hand, we have a greater spiritual presence—the Holy Spirit—on our side, equipping and protecting us.

Who Is the Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit is, like God the Father (or Creator) and Jesus Christ, one person of the Holy Trinity. Christians recognize God in three different manifestations. We know God as the Creator of all things, who reigns from heaven. We see God most clearly in the person of Jesus, the human incarnation of God, who lived with us, taught us, and sacrificed his life for us. And we experience God through the Holy Spirit, who prepares us to do God’s work and blesses us with a growing faith and an ever-increasing understanding of God.

Youth may be confused about who the Holy Spirit is and what the Spirit does. No doubt many adults are, too. It might be because the work of the Holy Spirit occurs on such a personal level that it is nearly impossible to come up with a description of the Spirit that applies to everyone. For instance, the Holy Spirit reveals God’s truth to us, convicts us of our sins, and offers us guidance and comfort. But these revelations come to us individually and we receive them differently, depending on where we are in our faith journey and what we need to hear at a particular time.

Many Gifts, One Spirit

The Spirit not only reveals God’s will but also equips us with spiritual gifts. The Spirit’s gifts are unique to each person. Some people are very comfortable talking about their faith with a complete stranger, while others are not. But those other people may have the ability to bring life to a Bible story for a group of three- and four-year-olds. Still others might be especially good at making people who are new to a Christian community feel welcome or at caring for those are sick. Some have an amazing command of Scripture; some can preach; some can organize mission and outreach projects.

Every person has a particular and personal relationship with the Holy Spirit. Despite the differences, the Spirit works in all persons for the glory of God and for the good of all people. We are incredibly blessed when we learn to recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit, come to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit, and open up our lives to God’s continual presence. (Quote source here.)

So, as we move through the month of October with all of the Halloween festivities and movies, let’s not forget about where the real source of power for the Christian comes from–the power of the Holy Spirit. For further understanding of who the Holy Spirit is, read this article titled, Who is the Holy Spirit?–5 Things You Need to Know,” at

I’ll end this post with the words of Jesus found in Acts 1:8: But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses . . .

In Jerusalem . . .

And in all Judea and Samaria . . .

And to the ends of the earth . . . .

YouTube Video: “Here I Am Send Me” by Darlene Zschech:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here


Playing Favorites

Nobody likes to be the one who is left out. Yet showing favoritism to some people while ignoring others is commonplace in this world of ours including in church settings, in the workplace, schools and colleges/universities, in the military, in politics, and in any other type of social setting including families, relatives, among friends and even strangers. And it is often done with such frequency that we don’t even give it much thought or even realize on a conscious level that we are doing it. At other times we are quite aware of what we are doing. “Favoritism is partiality or bias. To show favoritism is to give preference to one person over others with equal claims. It is similar to discrimination and may be based on conditions such as social class, wealth, clothing, actions, etc.” (Quote source here).

This evening I ran across an editorial written by A.W. Tozer (1897-1963) on this very topic of favoritism. Tozer was a pastor, author, magazine editor, and spiritual mentor from my grandparents’ generation. This particular editorial is titled, “Beware Respect of Persons,” and is Chapter 26 in the book titled, We Travel an Appointed Way (originally published in 1988 and republished in 2010), compiled and edited by Harry Verploegh (d. 1999) which contains a collection of 39 editorials written by Tozer during his fourteen-year tenure as the editor of Alliance Life,” the official magazine of The Christian and Missionary Alliance. Tozer wrote in the early-to-mid 20th Century so keep that in mind as you are reading this editorial:

Beware Respect of Persons

There is an evil which I have seen under the sun–one that grows and does not diminish. and it is all the more dangerous because it is done without evil aforethought but, as it were, carelessly and without wrong intent.

It is the evil of giving to them that have and withholding from them that have not. It is the evil of blessing with a loud voice them that are already blessed and letting the unblessed and the outcast lie forgotten.

Let a man appear in a local Christian fellowship and let him be one whose fame is bruited abroad, whose presence will add something to the one who entertains him, and immediately a score of homes will be thrown open and every eager hospitality will be extended to him. But the obscure and the unknown must be content to sit on the fringes of the Christian circle and not once be invited into any home.

This is a great evil and an iniquity that awaits the judgment of the great day. And it is so widespread that scarcely any of us can claim to be free from it. So we condemn it only with utter humility and with acknowledgment that we too have been in some measure guilty.

No observant man will attempt to deny that a vast amount of Christian money is being spent on those who do not need it, while the poor and the needy and such as have no helper must often go unnoticed and unhelped, even though they too are Christians and servants of our common Lord. (The modern church would appear to be as blind and partial as the world in this matter.)

Our Lord warned us against the snare of showing kindness only to such as could return such kindness and so cancel out any positive good we may have thought we were doing. By this test, a world of religious activity is being wasted in our churches. to invite in well-fed and well-groomed friends to share our hospitality with the full knowledge that we will be invited to receive the same kindness again on the first convenient evening is in no sense an act of Christian hospitality. It is of the earth, earthy; its motive is fleshly; no sacrifice is entailed; its moral content is nil and it will be accounted wood, hay, stubble (see 1 Corinthians 3:12-15) before the judgment seat of Christ.

The evil here discussed was common among the Pharisees of New Testament times. In chapter 23 of Matthew, Christ mercilessly exposed the whole thing, and in so doing earned the undying enmity of those who practiced it. The Pharisees were bad not because they entertained their friends but because they would not entertain the poor and the common among the people. One bitter accusation which they hurled against Christ was that He received sinners and ate with them. This they would not stoop to do, and in their high pride, they became seven times worse than the worst among the sinners whom they so coldly rejected.

In spite of our lip service to democracy, Americans are a decidedly class-conscious people. The very politicians and educators and church leaders among us who sound abroad the praises of the common man and plead for equal rights for all are in private practice as aloof from the plain people as the proudest monarch could ever be. There exists among us an aristocracy composed of famous people, rich men, social lions, public figures and headliners of one kind or another, and these are the class apart. Beneath them, standing off in wide-eyed admiration, are the millions of anonymous men and women who make up the mass of the population. And they have nothing in their favor–except that they were in the heart of Jesus when He died on the cross.

Within the church also there exists a class consciousness, a reflection of that found in society. This has been brought over into the church from the world. Its spirit is completely foreign to the spirit of Christ, utterly opposed to it, indeed; and yet it determines to a large degree the conduct of Christians. This is the source of the evil we mention here.

Gospel churches which mostly begin with the lowly are usually not content till they attain some degree of wealth and social acceptance. Then they gradually fall into classes, determined largely by the wealth and education of the members. The individuals that comprise the top layer of these various classes go on to become pillars of the religious society and are soon entrenched in places of leadership and influence. It is then that their great temptation comes upon them, the temptation to cater to their own class and to neglect the poor and the ignorant that make up the swarming population around them. They soon become hardened to every appeal of the Holy Spirit toward meekness and humility. Their homes are spotless, their clothes the most expensive, their friends the most exclusive. Apart from some tremendous moral upheaval, they are beyond help. And yet they may be among the most vocal exponents of Bible Christianity and heavy givers to the cause of the church.

Let us not become indignant at this blunt portrayal of facts. Let us rather humble ourselves to serve God’s poor. Let us seek to be like Jesus in our devotion to the forgotten of the earth who have nothing to recommend them but their poverty and their heart-hunger and their tears. (Quote source: “We Travel An Appointed Way,” pp. 73-76).

Tozer was not a man who was afraid to tackle the tough topics in the church of his day. And often his words from 70-80 years ago hit right at the heart of the matter in today’s churches, too. In another book titled, Culture(published in 2016) which contains another twenty-four selections by Tozer, the publisher’s note at the beginning of the book states, “A.W. Tozer was a man who understood his times and who knew what to do. The twenty-four selections that follow are a small sampling of Tozer’s writing on what it means to be a Christian in a world that is largely uninterested in Christ” (quote source, Culture,” p. 7). The following is taken from Chapter 15 titled, “Are We Evangelicals Social Climbing?”:

Are We Evangelicals Social Climbing?

Traditionally, Christianity has been the religion of the common people. Whenever the upper classes have adopted it in numbers, it has died. Respectability has almost always proved fatal to it.

The reasons back of this are two, one human and other other divine.

Schleiermacher [Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher (1768 – 1834) was a German theologian, philosopher, and biblical scholar] has pointed out that at the bottom of all religion there lies a feeling of dependence, as sense of creature helplessness. The simple man who lives close to the earth lives also close to death and knows that he must look for help beyond himself; he knows that there is but a step between him and catastrophe. As he rises in the social and economic scale, he surrounds himself with more and more protective devices and pushed danger (so he thinks) farther and farther from him. Self-confidence displaces the feeling of dependence he once knew, and God becomes less necessary to him. Should he stop to think this through he would know better than to place his confidence in things and people; but so badly are we injured by our moral fall that we are capable of deceiving ourselves completely and, if conditions favor it, to keep up the deception for a lifetime.

Along with the feeling of security that wealth and position bring comes an arrogant pride that shuts rightly the door of the heart to the waiting Savior. Our Very Important Man may indeed honor a church by joining it, but there is no life in his act. His religion is external and his faith nominal. Conscious respectability has destroyed him.

The second reason Christian tends to decline as its devotees move up the social scale is that God will not respect persons nor share His glory with another. Paul sets this forth plainly enough in his First Corinthians epistle:

Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. (1 Corinthians 1:25-29, NKJV)

When God sent His Son to redeem mankind, He sent Him to the home of a workingman and He grew up to be what we now call a peasant. When He presented Himself to Israel and launched into His earthly ministry, He was rejected by the respectable religionists and had to look for followers almost exclusively from among the poor, plain people. When the Spirit came and the church was founded, its first members were the socially unacceptable. For generations the church drew her numbers from among the lower classes, individual exceptions occurring now and again, of which Saul of Tarsus was the most noteworthy.

During the centuries since Pentecost the path of true Christianity has paralleled pretty closely the path Jesus walked when He was here on earth: it was to be rejected by the great and accepted by the lowly. The institutionalized church has certainly not been poor, not has she lacked for great and might men to swell her membership. But this great church has had no power. Almost always the approval of God has rested upon small and marginal groups whose member were scorned while they lived and managed to gain acceptance only after they had been safely dead several score years.

Today we evangelicals are showing signs that we are becoming too rich and too prominent for our own good. With a curious disregard for the lessons of history we are busy fighting for recognition by the world and acceptance by society. And we are winning both. The great and the might are now looking our way. The world seems about to come over and join us. Of course we must make some concessions, but these have almost all been made already except for a big of compromising here and there on such matters as verbal inspiration, special creation, separation, and religious tolerance.

Evangelical Christianity is fast becoming the religion of the bourgeoisie. The well-to-do, the upper middle classes, the politically prominent, the celebrities are accepting our religion by the thousands and parking their expensive cars outside our church doors, to the uncontrollable glee of our religious leaders who seem completely blind to the fact that the vast majority of these new patrons of the Lord of glory have not altered their moral habits in the slightest nor given any evidence of true conversion that would have been accepted by the saintly fathers who built the churches.

Yes, history is a great teacher, but she cannot teach those who do not want to learn. And apparently we do not. (Quote source: “Culture,” pp. 119-122.)

Do remember that these words by Tozer were written in the mid 20th Century. When I read them this evening I was struck by how true they still are, and maybe even more so, today.

Back in 1992, the musical group 4Him came out with a song titled, “The Basics of Life” (YouTube video is below). I’d like to end this blog post with the words from that song as they are even more relevant today:

“The Basics Of Life”

We’ve turned the page,
For a new day has dawned
We’ve rearranged what is right
And what’s wrong

Somehow we’ve drifted
So far from the truth

That we can’t get back home

Where are the virtues
That once gave us light

Where are the morals
That governed our lives

Someday we all will
Awake and look back

Just to find what we’ve lost

We need to get back
To the basics of life
A heart that is pure
And a love that is blind
A faith that is fervently
grounded in Christ
The hope that endures
For all times

These are the basics,
we need to get back
To the basics of life

The newest rage is to reason it out
Just meditate and you can
Overcome every doubt

After all man is a God, they say
God is no longer alive

But I still believe
In the old rugged cross

And I still believe
There is hope for the lost

And I know the
Rock of all ages will stand

Through changes of time


We’ve let the darkness
Invade us too long

We’ve got to turn the tide
Oh and we need the passion
That burned long ago

To come and open our eyes
There’s no room
For compromise

Lyrics compliments of

Those words speak truth to us today. May we be willing to listen . . . .

These are the basics . . .

We need to get back . . .

To the basics of life . . . .

YouTube Video: “The Basics of Life” by 4Him:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

The Times They Are A Changin’

I was a child of ten when A.W. Tozeran American Christian pastor, preacher, author, magazine editor, and spiritual mentor, died in 1963 at the age of 66. And it was the very next year in 1964 that Bob Dylan, an American songwriter, singer, artist, and writer who has been influential in popular music and culture for more then five decades, composed his famous song, The Times They Are A Changin’”. Back then I was too young to know who either of them were, but decades later when I stumbled upon some of Tozer’s writings, I could see just how much the times have changed since his day. And, of course, Bob Dylan, born in 1941 and who is now 75, is a cultural icon who has just recently been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature (see article at this link.) And who doesn’t like a good Bob Dylan song where the message transcends the music?

And how the times have changed since then, too . . . .

Life is ever changing regardless of how we may perceive it to be on a daily basis. And we live in such a fast paced time with all of it’s technological wonders that it is all we can do to keep up with today, but the winds of change still blow. And there are some things that never change–like death, taxes, gravity, the laws of thermodynamics, the love of a good man or woman (my preference is for a man), and real friends who stick around when times are rough. But most things, over time, change.

I was reminded again this morning just how much things change when I read a devotional that I get in my email from by A.W. Tozer (1897-1963). However, the devotion is on a spiritual principle that never changes, even if it isn’t a topic that is addressed much anymore:

Irreconcilable Hostility

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.Ephesians 6:12

In the early days, when Christianity exercised a dominant influence over American thinking, men and women conceived the world to be a battleground. Our fathers believed in sin and the devil and hell as constituting one force, and they believed in God and righteousness and heaven as the other. By their very nature, these forces were opposed to each other forever in deep, grave, irreconcilable hostility. Humans, our fathers held, had to choose sides-they could not be neutral. For them it must be life or death, heaven or hell, and if they chose to come out on God’s side they could expect open war with God’s enemies. The fight would be real and deadly and would last as long as life continued here below. People looked forward to heaven as a return from the wars, a laying down of the sword to enjoy in peace the home prepared for them….

How different today. The fact remains the same, but the interpretation has changed completely. People think of the world, not as a battleground, but as a playground. We are not here to fight; we are here to frolic. We are not in a foreign land; we are at home. We are not getting ready to live, but we are already living, and the best we can do is rid ourselves of our inhibitions and our frustrations and live this life to the full. This World: Playground or Battleground?, 4-5. (Quote source here.) The rest of the chapter from which this devotion was taken can be read at this link.

Today the subjects of “sin and the devil and hell” are relegated to Halloween lore or scary movies, but in our day to day lives we mostly scoff at such topics. It’s shows just how much our culture has changed in the past fifty or so years from back when those topics were taken quite seriously. I suppose one might say we’ve been illuminated from such quackery. But have we really been illuminated?

As a child attending church, I remember singing hymns with titles like Onward Christian Soldier,” but most of today’s Christian music centers around emotions or feelings, and the idea of being a soldier in some sort of spiritual war has been totally lost to the younger generations. And, the wizardry of Harry Potter along with all the techie wonders is far more appealing. And nobody is telling them anything different, and maybe that’s because the parents don’t know anything different, either.

Back in 1979, even Bob Dylan knew there was a spiritual war going on, and he recorded an album titled Slow Train Coming,” which expressed his strong personal faith. Here’s a statement from Wikipedia regarding this album:

“Slow Train Coming” is the nineteenth studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released on August 20, 1979 by Columbia Records. It was the artist’s first effort since becoming a born-again Christian, and all of the songs either express his strong personal faith, or stress the importance of Christian teachings and philosophy. The evangelical nature of the record alienated many of Dylan’s existing fans; at the same time, many Christians were drawn into his fan base. “Slow Train Coming” was listed at #16 in the 2001 book “CCM Presents: The 100 Greatest Albums in Christian Music.”

The album was generally well-reviewed in the secular press, and the single “Gotta Serve Somebody” became his first hit in three years, winning Dylan the Grammy for best rock vocal performance by a male in 1980. The album peaked at #2 on the charts in the UK and went platinum in the US, where it reached #3. (Quote source here.)

The spiritual war going on is clearly stated in the lyrics of the song, Gotta Serve Somebody” (YouTube video available at this link). Let’s take a look:

“Gotta Serve Somebody”

You may be an ambassador to England or France
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls.

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody,
It may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

Might be a rock’n’ roll addict prancing on the stage
Might have money and drugs at your commands, women in a cage
You may be a businessman or some high degree thief
They may call you Doctor or they may call you Chief.

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

You may be a state trooper, you might be an young turk
You may be the head of some big TV network
You may be rich or poor, you may be blind or lame
You may be living in another country under another name.

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes
You’re gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

You may be a construction worker working on a home
You may be living in a mansion, or you might live in a dome
You might own guns, and you might even own tanks
You might be somebody’s landlord, you might even own banks.

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes
You’re gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

You may be a preacher with your spiritual pride
You may be a city councilman taking bribes on the side
You may be working in a barbershop, you may know how to cut hair
You may be somebody’s mistress, may be somebody’s heir.

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes
You’re gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

Might like to wear cotton, might like to wear silk
Might like to drink whiskey, might like to drink milk
You might like to eat caviar, you might like to eat bread
You may be sleeping on the floor, sleeping in a king-sized bed.

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody,
It may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

You may call me Terry, you may call me Jimmy
You may call me Bobby, you may call me Zimmy
You may call me R.J., you may call me Ray
You may call me anything, but no matter what you say.

You’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

(Lyrics compliments of

stand-firmAnd that spiritual war hasn’t changed over the centuries, either. It still rages on today (see Ephesians 6:10-18). We just like to gloss over it or totally ignore it. And that’s a choice we all make on an individual basis every single day. So who are we going to serve today?

In a newly published book by Moody Publishers that includes twenty-four sections of Tozer writings titled, Culture” (2016), the publisher’s note at the beginning of the book states the following:

Like the men of Issachar, A.W. Tozer was a man who understood his time and who knew what to do. The twenty-four selections that follow are a small sampling of Tozer’s writings on what it means to be a Christian in a world that is largely uninterested in Christ.

He covers topics like truth, the meaning of the church, the veracity of Scripture, and how Christians should live in this world while maintaining their identities as citizens of another.

Tozer wrote with conviction and purpose. He held nothing back in his challenge to his fellow Christians on how to live as Christ did:

We who call ourselves Christians are supposed to be a people apart. We claim to have repudiated the wisdom of this world and adopted the wisdom of the cross as the guide of our lives. We have thrown in our lot with that One who while He lived on earth was the most unadjusted of the sons of men. He would not be integrated into society. He stood above it and condemned it by withdrawing from it even while dying for it. Die for it He would, but surrender to it He would not. (Excerpted from Chapter 7.)

While these are merely words of one servant of the Lord from many decades ago, they also represent timeless truths that ought to be heeded in our day. The context may change and the specific battles may vary, but the truth remains the same. (Quote source “Culture,” p. 7-8.)

The following comes from Section #18 titled, “Resisting the Enemy” (pp. 139-142):

Someday the Church can relax her guard, call her watchmen down from the wall, and live in safety and peace; but not yet, not yet.

All that is good in the world stands as a target for all that is evil and manages to stay alive only by constant watchfulness and the providential protection of the Almighty God. As a man or a nation may be in deepest trouble when unaware of any trouble at all and in the gravest danger when ignorant that any danger exists, so the church may be in greatest peril by not recognizing the presence of peril or the source from which it comes.

The church at Laodicea has stood for nineteen hundred years as a serious warning to the whole Church of Christ to be most watchful when no enemy is in sight and to remain poor in spirit when earthly wealth increases, yet we appear to have learned nothing from her. We expound the seven letters to the churches of Asia [Revelation 1-3] and then return to our own company to live like the Laodicean church. There is a bent to backsliding that is all but impossible to cure.

The healthiest man has enough lethal bacteria in him to kill him within twenty-four hours except for one thing— the amazing power of the human organism to resist bacterial attack. Every mortal body must fight its internal enemies day and night. Once it surrenders its hours are numbered. Quite literally it must fight or die. 

The reason for this is that the human race inhabits a fallen world which is in many ways hostile to it. Nature as well as man is fallen; and as sin is normal human powers gone astray, so disease results from microscopic creatures once meant to be useful to men but now out of hand and perverted. To live, the body must resist these invisible enemies successfully, and considering our high vulnerability and the number of our enemies it is wonderful that any of us manages to live beyond his childhood. 

The Church lives in a hostile world. Within and around her are enemies that not only could destroy her, but are meant to and will unless she resists force with yet greater force. The Christian would collapse from sheer external pressure were there not within him a counter pressure sufficiently great to prevent it. The power of the Holy Spirit is, therefore, not optional but necessary. Without it the children of God simply cannot live the life of heaven on earth. The hindrances are too many and too effective. 

A Church is a living organism and is subject to attack from such enemies as prey on living things. Yet the figure of the human body to stand for the church is not adequate, for the life of the body is non-intelligent, whereas the church is composed of moral beings having intelligence to recognize their enemies and a will to enable them to resist. The human body can fight its enemies even while it is asleep, but the church cannot. She must be awake and determined or she cannot win. 

One enemy we must resist is unbelief. The temptation is strong to reject what we cannot explain, or at least to withhold belief till we have investigated further. This attitude is proper, even commendable, for the scientist, but wholly wrong for the Christian. Here is the reason: 

The faith of the Christian rests down squarely upon the Man Christ Jesus who declares that He is both God and Lord. This claim must be received by pure faith or rejected outright; it can never be proved by investigation. That is why Christ’s appeal is directed to faith alone. The believer thinks, it is true; but he thinks because he believes, not in order that he may. Faith secures from the indwelling Spirit confirmation exquisitely perfect, but only after it is there without other support than Christ Himself. 

Another enemy is complacency “Woe to them that are at ease in Zion.” The contented Christian is not in danger of attack, he has already been attacked. He is sick and does not know it. To escape this we must stir up the gift of God which is in us. We must declare war on contentment and press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. 

Again there is self-righteousness. The temptation to feel morally pleased with ourselves will be all the greater as our lives become better. The only sure defense against this is to cultivate a quiet state of continual penitence. A sweet but sobering memory of our past guilt and a knowledge of our present imperfections are not incompatible with the joy of the Lord; and they are of inestimable aid in resisting the enemy. 

The fear of man brings a snare, said the prophet, and this enemy, too, must be defeated. Our whole modern world is geared to destroy individual independence and bring all of us into conformity to all the rest of us. Any deviation from the pattern, whatever that pattern may be at the time, will not be forgiven by society, and since the Christian must deviate radically from the world he naturally comes in for the world’s displeasure. If he surrenders to fear he has been conquered, and he dare not let this happen. 

Other enemies may be identified, such as love of luxury, secret sympathy with the world, self-confidence, pride and unholy thoughts. These we must resist with every power within us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. (Quote source “Culture,” pp. 139-142; originally published in “That Incredible Christian,” pp. 101-104.)

As Christians, the moment we let our guard down and fail to recognize that is exactly what we are doing, we have lost the battle. And somehow that message has been lost today, and it is to our detriment. As Tozer stated above, “There is a bent to backsliding that is all but impossible to cure.”

Tozer’s words can be hard to take, but sometimes that is exactly what we need. We cannot afford to just coast along. So let his words be a gentle reminder of who we are as Christians. And with those words, I will end this post with the benediction from 2 Thessalonians 3:16:

Now may the Lord of peace Himself . . .

Give you peace always in every way . . .

The Lord be with you all . . . .

YouTube Video: “The Times They Are A Changin'” (1964) composed by Bob Dylan and sung by Phil Collins:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Things That Matter


The current controversy over Starbuck‘s red cups for the holiday season 2015 has grown to gargantuan proportions on the internet; however, I’m not going to add to the discussion. In fact, I wasn’t even aware of it’s existence until this morning when I fired up my smartphone and a headline regarding the controversy over the cups was on my news feed. I Googled it to see what I had missed and, fortunately, ran into an article that pretty much sums up my feelings about the controversy, written by Laura Turner, and titled, Starbucks Red Cups, and the Internet Outrage Machine,” (published on November 10, 2015).

I would imagine that many folks who consider themselves to be Christian (and many who don’t, too) woke up this morning just like I did–ignorant of the controversy brewing (no pun intended) over some red cups that Starbucks is using for the holiday season this year. However, the whole matter does brings up the subject of what, exactly, does matter to us? And I don’t think red cups should be at the top of the list. . . or even at the bottom of it. Or, in fact, anywhere on the list.

In an ironic twist, I picked up a morning devotional book by A.W. Tozer (1897-1963) titled, Mornings with Tozer (published by Moody Publishers; 1991, 2008), which is a book I had been neglecting for a while but not for any particular reason. The devotion I turned to this morning (which actually happens to be the devotion for tomorrow but I didn’t realize it until after I read it) is titled, “What Really Matters?” And here is what Tozer had to say:

What Really Matters?

“What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun?” (Ecclesiastes 2:22, NIV)

It is all but impossible these days to get people to pay any attention to things that really matter. The broad cynic in our modern civilization is likely to ask: “What really matters, after all?”

It is our personal relationship to God that really matters!

That takes priority over everything else, for no man can afford to live or die under the frowning displeasure of God. Yet, name one modern device that can save him from it. Where can a man find security? Can philosophy help him? Or psychology? Or science? Or atoms or wonder drugs or vitamins?

Only Christ can help him, and His aid is as old as man’s sin and man’s need.

A few other thing matter to be sure. We must trust Christ completely. We must carry our cross daily. We must love God and our fellow man. We must fulfill our commission as ambassadors of Christ among men. We must grow in grace and in the knowledge of God and come at last to our end like a ripe shock of corn at harvest time.

These are the things that really matter!

Prayer: Lord, the world tells me that fitness and finances are the measure for success and happiness. But I know in my heart that my personal relationship with You is the one thing in my life that really matters!

what really mattersRed cups don’t matter, and they shouldn’t even be on the list of things that matter, either, at any time of the year. So what is at the bottom of our need to take up causes that just don’t matter, like red cups at Starbucks? We all do it from time to time and it’s not just about red cups, either, or the other “causes” that aren’t really causes except for the fact that they bring out the “thin skin” in all of us, which is not a very attractive feature on any of us . . . just sayin’ 🙂

Back to Tozer’s devotional book cited above–three pages later, on November 15, Tozer makes the following statement:

Answering God’s Call

“The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel, Samuel.” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” (I Samuel 3:10, NIV)

When will men and women realize that when God calls us out, He is completely faithful to call us into something better?

In his faith Abraham was against idolatry and idol making, but that was not his crusade. Because of his faith, God led him into a promised land, into possessions and into the lineage that brought forth the Messiah. The call of God is always to something better–keep that in mind!

God calls us into the joys and reality of eternal life. He calls us into purity of life and spirit, so that we may acceptably walk with Him. He calls us into a life of service and usefulness that brings glory to Himself as God. He calls us into the sweetest fellowship possible on this earth–the fellowship of the family of God!

If God takes away from us the old, wrinkled, beat-up dollar bill we clutch so desperately, it is only because He wants to exchange it for the whole federal mint, the entire treasure! He is saying, “I have in store for you all the resources of heaven. Help yourself!”

Prayer: What a wonderful God we serve! You are looking out for our very best. Lord, help me to loosen my hold on the things that are blocking the path of Your blessings.

And it is that “loosening the hold” on all of the things in our lives that we desperately cling to that is blocking us from receiving His blessings and the life He would have for us. We let the lust for power or prestige, reputation, relationships, money, possessions, accolades, jealousy, envy, coveting what others have that we want, etc., (that list is endless)–that we cling to so tenaciously–strangle the life out of our relationship with God. And we often try to manipulate our way to get our own blessings (as in what we want) because they mean more to us then God does.

In between those two devotions is a third devotion for November 14 titled, “Too Much ‘At Home’,” and here is what Tozer had to say in it:

Too Much “At Home”

“All these people were still living by faith when they died. . . and admitted that they were aliens and strangers on the earth.” (Hebrews 11:13, NIV)

One of the most telling indictments against many of us who comprise our Christian churches is the almost complete acceptance of the contemporary scene as our permanent home!

We have been working and earning, getting and spending, and now we are enjoying the creature comforts known to human beings in this land. You may bristle a bit and ask: “Is there anything wrong with being comfortable?”

Let me answer in this way: If you are a Christian and you are comfortably “at home” in Chicago or Toronto, in Iowa or Alberta or any other address on planet earth, the signs are evident that you are in spiritual trouble.

The spiritual equation reads like this: The greater your contentment with your daily circumstances in this world, the greater your defection from the ranks of God’s pilgrimage en route to a city whose architect and builder are God Himself!

If we can feel that we have put down our roots in this present world, then our Lord still has much to teach us about faith and attachment to our Savior!

Prayer: Lord, although I live at a local address, I pray that You will help me be a globally minded Christian and that my heart will beat with Yours for this lost world.

for God so loved with worldIf every possession we have, every person we call friend, every family member, as well as our careers and/or our retirement plans, or our homes, and whatever else it is that takes up so much of our time and efforts, suddenly disappeared out of our lives, would we still believe in and cling to God (through our relationship with Jesus Christ) as the very source of our life? Would we believe that even in the worst of times He still knows what is best for us? Or do we cling to those “things” thinking they are our “proof” that He exists and that He loves us, and that we have somehow “arrived” by the acquisition of those things or during our constant chase after those things in this life? For the Christian, this material world that we live in is not our home. And the Bible makes that powerfully clear from beginning to end.

Jesus stated in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”

1 John 2:15-16 (MSG) states, “Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity.” 

During the upcoming holiday season with all of its festivities, activities, parties, and gift buying and giving, let’s not lose sight of what really matters . . . .

And red cups don’t matter . . .

Only Jesus matters . . . .

For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him
shall not perish but have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son
into the world to condemn the world,
but to save the world through him.
Whoever believes in him
is not condemned,

but whoever does not believe
stands condemned already

because they have not believed
in the name of God’s

One and Only Son
(Jesus Christ).

~John 3:16-18

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

Photo #1 credit here (photo courtesy of Starbucks)
Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit here

Faith Beyond Reason

There is a belief that has been around for a long time that states that once we have come to know Jesus Christ as Savior, that nothing more is really required of us. And if we keep on living our lives any way we want and/or pretty much how we did before we came to know Jesus, that he will understand and it will be okay and we will still end up in Heaven at the end of our lives here on earth. I guess that is the postmodern version of salvation, but then it has always been around in one form or another down through the ages. We know it as easy believism with no requirements attached.

Jesus was both compassionate and clear in his dealings with sinners (hence, all of us, too). For example, while he showed great compassion to the woman who was caught in the act of adultery by a group of Pharisees who brought her to him to be stoned (see John 8:1-11), he did not condemn her (and he told the Pharisees that those who had no sin should cast the first stone, and they all walked away). He did say to her after the Pharisees left that she should “Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:11, NIV). He didn’t tell her it was okay to continue on in her current lifestyle. However, the choice was still hers to make.

The New Testament is replete with instructions and examples of how Christians should live in any cultural environment we might find ourselves in. Christianity transcends any culture; it does not become a part of it while existing in the midst of it, and genuine Christianity has always been this way. Three of the chief attributes that are clearly apparent when it is in operation in our lives are compassion, kindness, and forgiveness towards everyone, even our enemies. If we choose to keep on living the way we did before we knew Jesus after we claim to have come to know him, a genuine change of heart has most likely never taken place. True faith brings with it a genuine commitment to the One we believe in.

A.W. Tozer (1897-1963) wrote the following chapter (4) titled, We Must Have True Faith,” in his book, This World: Playground or Battleground (compiled by Harry VerPlouegh and published in 1989), regarding true faith and genuine commitment to Jesus Christ:

We Must Have True Faith

To many Christians Christ is little more than an idea, or at best an ideal; He is not a fact. Millions of professed believers talk as if He were real and act as if He were not. And always our actual position is to be discovered by the way we act, not by the way we talk. We can prove our faith by our committal to it, and in no other way. Any belief that does not command the one who holds it is not a real belief; it is a pseudo belief only. And it might shock some of us profoundly if we were brought suddenly face to face with our beliefs and forced to test them in the fires of practical living.

Many of us Christians have become extremely skillful in arranging our lives so as to admit the truth of Christianity without being embarrassed by its implications. We arrange things so that we can get on well enough without divine aid, while at the same time ostensibly seeking it. We boast in the Lord, but watch carefully that we never get caught depending on Him. The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

Pseudo faith always arranges a way out to serve in case God fails. Real faith knows only one way and gladly allows itself to be stripped of any second way or makeshift substitutes. For true faith, it is either God or total collapse. And not since Adam first stood up on earth has God failed a single man or woman who trusted Him. The man of pseudo faith will fight for his verbal creed but refuse flatly to allow himself to get into a predicament where his future must depend upon that creed being true. He always provides himself with secondary ways of escape so he will have a way out if the roof caves in.

The faith of Paul or Luther was a revolutionizing thing. It upset the whole life of the individual and made him into another person altogether. It laid hold on the life and brought it under obedience to Christ. It took up its cross and followed along after Jesus with no intention of going back. It said goodbye to its old friends as certainly as Elijah when he stepped into the fiery chariot and went away in the whirlwind. It had a finality about it… It realigned all life’s actions and brought them into accord with the will of God.

What we need very badly these days is a company of Christians who are prepared to trust God as completely now, as they must do at the last day. For each of us the time is surely coming when we shall have nothing but God! Health and wealth and friends and hiding places will all be swept away and we shall have only God. To the man of pseudo faith that is a terrifying thought, but to real faith it is one of the most comforting thoughts the heart can entertain.

It would be a tragedy indeed to come to the place where we have no other but God and find that we had not really been trusting God during the days of our earthly sojourn. It would be better to invite God now to remove every false trust, to disengage our hearts from all secret hiding places and to bring us out into the open where we can discover for ourselves whether we actually trust Him. This is a harsh cure for our troubles, but it is a sure one! Gentler cures may be too weak to do the work. And time is running out on us. (Quote source here.)

It’s easy to learn the outward signs of Christianity and to be accepted as a Christian with absolutely no genuine change of heart that changes our very lives from the inside out. And there are some unwritten rules in cultural Christianity and if we learn and follow them, we will be accepted, but that doesn’t make us a Christian. We can act nice and say all the right words and dress just right and still hate our neighbor without telling anyone (although our nonverbal communication might give it away). And we can feel comfortable sitting in church on Sunday morning without it affecting how we live and interact with others (especially those we don’t particularly like) during the week. And we can cover up our true feelings just by being nice on the surface but it is never hidden from God.

Yancey quoteIt’s easy to live a “fake” Christianity and not realize it here in America as so much of our culture has invaded the church and often not much is required of us. However, it’s a whole lot harder to live out a genuine Christianity as it can upset one’s whole world in ways one never imagined. Most of the conversions in the New Testament revolutionized the lives of those affected. The twelve disciples and the apostle Paul are prime examples of that dramatic and literally life changing experience that turned their lives completely around for their remaining years on earth. Instead, today we tend to attach Jesus to the lives we already have, and we often live in a “Jesus and…” world much of the time. It’s Jesus and money, or Jesus and power, or Jesus and prestige, or Jesus and materialism, or Jesus and popularity, or Jesus and career, or Jesus and (fill in the blank). And we too often give the “and” stuff primary importance in our lives instead of Jesus. And, it’s easy to do, too. So easy, in fact, that we don’t often recognize what we have done.

The real issue is that no matter how much we may claim to believe in Jesus Christ or follow him, we usually still keep “self” at the forefront. And we end up asking Jesus for what we want instead of coming to him and laying our lives at his feet and letting him do what he wants with our lives. God does, indeed, have a plan for each and every one of us. Unfortunately, we can easily usurp his plan for one of our own, and we end up asking him to bless what we plan instead of asking him what he has planned for our lives or what he would have us to do–even in the smallest of ways–like being kind to the person at work who wants our job and has made that fact known, and by not retaliating against that person in any way in return, even if we end up losing that job. That kind of response is getting at the very heart of the gospel message. The same thing goes for being passed over for a promotion we deserved by someone with less experience and qualifications, or any number of circumstances and situations that come our way in all types of settings that give us a choice in how we will response.

It is not only in the “big” decisions in life, like a career decision, or marriage partner, that we should seek God’s will and not just our own, but it is in all of the little decisions that come our way on a daily basis that require a choice even when nobody else may ever know about that choice. It is a matter of the heart, and not just the head. It is a faith that goes beyond reason and totally depends on God for guidance.

Genuine faith does not depend on sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). In answer to the question, What does it mean to walk by faith and not by sight?”, GotQuestions?org gives the following answer:

Second Corinthians 5:6–7 says, “So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight” (ESV). Other versions use the word “live,” rather than “walk.” The “walk” here is a metaphorical reference to the way a person conducts his or her life. We still use the phrase “all walks of life” to mean a variety of lifestyles or cultures.

The apostle Paul reminds his readers that followers of Christ must not build their lives around things that have no eternal significance. Rather than pursuing the same things the world pursues, a Christian should focus on the unseen realities such as Jesus and heaven. Paul goes on to say, “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:9–10). Jesus instructed us to store up treasure in heaven (Matthew 6:19–20; Luke 12:33). He promised rewards to everyone who does His will (Matthew 16:27; 1 Peter 1:17; Revelation 22:12) and punishment for those who reject Him (Matthew 25:24–46; John 3:16–18).

Walking by faith means living life in light of eternal consequences. To walk by faith is to fear God more than man; to obey the Bible even when it conflicts with man’s commands; to choose righteousness over sin, no matter what the cost; to trust God in every circumstance; and to believe God rewards those who seek Him, regardless of who says otherwise (Hebrews 11:6).

Rather than loving the things of this world (1 John 2:15–16), Christians should spend their lives glorifying God in everything they do (1 Corinthians 10:31). It requires faith to live this way because we cannot see, hear, or touch anything spiritual. When we base our lives on the truth of God’s Word, rather than on the popular philosophy of our day, we are going against our natural inclinations. Our natural instincts may be to horde money, but walking by faith says we should “give to those in need” (Luke 11:41; Ephesians 4:28). Society may say that sexual immorality is acceptable, but those who walk by faith base their standards on the unchangeable nature of God’s Word, which says any sex outside of marriage is sin (1 Corinthians 6:18Ephesians 5:3; Galatians 5:19). To walk by faith requires that we tune our hearts to the voice of the Holy Spirit and the truth of His Word (John 10:27; 16:13). We choose to live according to what God reveals to us, rather than trust our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5–6). (Quote source here.)

by-faith-hebrews-11Hebrews 11 is the classic Faith in Action chapter in the Bible and lists an innumerable number of people in the Old Testament who lived by faith and not by sight or reason. Here is Hebrews 11:

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.

By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.

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

By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.

By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.

By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.

By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.

By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.

By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and the application of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.

By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.

By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days.

By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.

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

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

Peter_walking_on_waterOne of the more well known examples of faith in action in the New Testament is when Peter walked on water (see Matthew 14:22-33, Mark 6:45-52, John 6:16-21). Here’s a cute and very, very relevant version of the story from

The disciples had a long tiring day and Jesus sent them out in the boat to go over to another town. It was a dark stormy night (couldn’t resist that line) and the wind was tossing the waves around. In the middle of the night, they thought they were seeing a ghost when Jesus came to them walking on the sea! Jesus saw they were scared and told them not to be afraid. When they were the most afraid, he told them to cheer up, he was with them! God has to take the storm out of us before He can take us out of the storms of life.

Peter must have wondered if it really was Jesus or just their imagination. He asked Jesus to tell him to come out on the water with him if this was really happening. Jesus didn’t say, “I’m sorry, Peter, but water-walking is for Messiahs only.” No, he said one simple word: Come. God calls us to do impossible things by faith. It must have taken a lot of faith by Peter to take that first step out of the boat in the middle of the wind and waves. When he did, Peter walked on water! The Bible says,

And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.Matthew 14:29, 30

Peter was doing fine until he took his eyes off Jesus. As long as he had faith, he did impossible things. He kept his eyes on Jesus and walked on water. When he looked around at the world, he started believing that the storm was going to defeat him. He lost faith. He took his eyes off Jesus, and he began to sink. If we forget that Jesus is right there to help us, we can let the storms of life cause us to sink. If we keep our eyes on Jesus, we can do mighty things for God by faith.

Then Peter uttered what is probably the shortest prayer in the Bible: Lord, save me. Everyone needs to say that prayer. We ALL need Jesus to save us. He is our only hope. Jesus told Peter he should not have doubted. When they got back in the ship, everyone on board came and worshiped Jesus, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God. Whenever we do something with God’s help we need to remember to give Him the glory for it. ~Adapted from “Keep Your Eyes On Jesus” as told by Rev. Lewis Shaffer, Son Shine Ministries International, Inc. (Quote source here.)

So let’s not be doubters but instead be people who live by faith . . . .

Fixing our eyes on Jesus . . .

The Author and Finisher of our faith . . . . ~Hebrews 12:1-2

YouTube Video: “Beyond Me” by TobyMac:

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Before The Rain

rain scene in the cityIn a blog post written by Billy March in December 2007, he starts off his post with a question retiring CIA agent Nathan Muir (played by Robert Redford in the movie, Spy Game) asks his secretary, Gladys (played by Marianne Jean-Baptiste). Muir asks Gladys, When did Noah build the Ark? March continues with the answer Muir gives and his explanation of it:

‘Before the rain . . . before the rain.’ I first heard this aphorism in one of my favorite Robert Redford movies, ‘Spy Game.’ He quoted it to his secretary near the beginning of the film as he began to make preparations for some of the foreseen obstactles and conflicts that he was about to face. Most certainly, there is much more to the story of Noah and the Flood in Genesis [see Genesis 5:32-10:1] than merely extracting this principle, but still, it is a simple, witty way of communicating the great need to be ready for anything in the Christian life.” (Quote source here.)

“. . . the great need to be ready for anything in the Christian life” . . . . But are we really ready?

I read a devotion this morning in My Daily Pursuit: Devotions for Every Day (2013), by A.W. Tozer (1897-1963), compiled and edited by James L. Snyder, that speaks to this very issue of why we are so often not really ready for the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that come our way. Here is what Tozer had to say:

It is my prayer that the evangelical church will discover that salvation is not a light bulb only, not an insurance policy against hell, but a gateway into God and into His heart.

The cults like to play this little religious game. They like to offer a form of security similar to buying an insurance policy. Unfortunately, what they offer is far less than what the Scripture offers us.

My concern is that the evangelical church has come perilously close to this sort of attitude. For some reason, the whole purpose of conversion has degenerated to this level. It is not so much what a person has been saved from, although thank God for that, but what he has been saved to.

The heaven that has been offered lately is a heaven most people want to go to. It is a place where they will have everything right; a split-level home, two cars, a fountain and swimming pool and golden streets to top it off.

That heaven does not appeal to me at all . . . heaven will be heaven because the Trinity will fill our hearts with joy without end. Here is what we must get into our heads and hearts: Jesus Christ is a full and complete manifestation of the Trinity. (Devotion for August 3rd, p. 228).

Nowadays, the heaven that Tozer described is often what we expect to get in the “here and now” before we ever actually get to heaven. It is as if this “insurance policy” mentality has given us the right to everything we want and expect now, in this life, and not just waiting for it to come around in eternity. And we too often tend to stop at the point of salvation and not move on in Jesus Christ (as in the cost of discipleship) and the life He would have us to live through Him, which in reality has nothing to do with the modern image presented to us of “successful Christian living” that often includes that split-level house with all the trimmings and personal accolades to go with it. That may or may not end up being a part of our life in the “here and now,” but we are totally missing the point if we expect it or think that that is the basis of our Christian life and what “success” as a Christian should look like. Even nonbelievers can and do acquire much if not more of what we think is our “right” as a Christian to receive. Believing in Jesus Christ is not based on our material world and what’s in it for us. And our lives often don’t look any different from those around us who don’t claim to believe in Jesus Christ.

“As it was in the days of Noah . . .” (see Matthew 24:37). Today we live just like people lived back then, living in the “here and now” and not giving much thought to anything else. In answer to the question, What was it like in the days of Noah? GotQuestions?org answers with following statement:

The biblical account of Noah begins in Genesis 6. Approximately 1,600 years had passed since the creation of Adam and Eve (Genesis 1:26–27). As the earth’s population exploded in number, it also exploded with evil. Long forgotten was the righteous sacrifice of Abel (Genesis 4:4) as “the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). Verses 11 and 12 say, “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.” However, “Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord” (verse 8).

When Jesus described the events that will surround His second coming, He said, “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all” (Luke 17:26–27). Jesus was pointing out that, although the people of Noah’s day were totally depraved, they were not the least bit concerned about it. They were carrying on the events of their lives without a single thought of the judgment of God. Noah is described as “a preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5), meaning he had spent years warning his friends and neighbors what the Holy God was about to do. No one listened.

The depravity and ungodly lifestyles of the entire world at that time were enough to cause the Lord to “regret that He had made man” (Genesis 6:6). Many scholars believe that part of the need to destroy every human being except Noah and his family was the sin mentioned in Genesis 6:1–4, when “the Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them.” As evil reproduced and overtook the world, the most merciful act God could perform was to start over.

It is interesting that God allowed Noah nearly one hundred years to complete the building of the ark. Through all that time, God patiently waited (1 Peter 3:20). Scripture seems to imply that Noah preached to the people of that time about what was coming (Hebrews 11:7). They did not believe Noah and were content with their wickedness and idolatry. Their hearts were hard and their ears dull. No one repented, and no one cared to seek God.

Jesus said that the world will be much the same before He returns to set up His earthly kingdom (Matthew 25:31–33). He warned us to “be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” Second Timothy 3:1–4 gives us a clear picture of the state of the world before Jesus comes and most likely also describes the world in the days of Noah. That verse says, “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” It is becoming increasingly obvious that, to understand what the world was like in the days of Noah, we only need to watch the evening news. (Quote source here.)

Trust and ObeyNoah spent over 100 years building the ark and everyone around him thought he was crazy. However, Hebrews 11:7 states, “By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family.” Faith doesn’t look to others but only to God. We too often are conformed by the “others” around us and what they think of us then we are by God (and that includes churchgoers, too). Romans 12:2 states, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

In our churches today we don’t hear much about having a “holy fear” of God. We hear a lot about grace and love, and we sing our worship songs, but the fear of God has lost its meaning in our daily lives (if we even understood what it is), and the way we live throughout the week often indicates this problem. In answer to the question, What does it mean to have the fear of God? states:

For the unbeliever, the fear of God is the fear of the judgment of God and eternal death, which is eternal separation from God (Luke 12:5; Hebrews 10:31). For the believer, the fear of God is something much different. The believer’s fear is reverence of God. Hebrews 12:28-29 is a good description of this: “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ’God is a consuming fire.’” This reverence and awe is exactly what the fear of God means for Christians. This is the motivating factor for us to surrender to the Creator of the Universe.

Proverbs 1:7 declares, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.” Until we understand who God is and develop a reverential fear of Him, we cannot have true wisdom. True wisdom comes only from understanding who God is and that He is holy, just, and righteous. Deuteronomy 10:12, 20-21 records, “And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Fear the LORD your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name. He is your praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes.” The fear of God is the basis for our walking in His ways, serving Him, and, yes, loving Him.

Some redefine the fear of God for believers to “respecting” Him. While respect is definitely included in the concept of fearing God, there is more to it than that. A biblical fear of God, for the believer, includes understanding how much God hates sin and fearing His judgment on sin—even in the life of a believer. Hebrews 12:5-11 describes God’s discipline of the believer. While it is done in love (Hebrews 12:6), it is still a fearful thing. As children, the fear of discipline from our parents no doubt prevented some evil actions. The same should be true in our relationship with God. We should fear His discipline, and therefore seek to live our lives in such a way that pleases Him.

Believers are not to be scared of God. We have no reason to be scared of Him. We have His promise that nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:38-39). We have His promise that He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Fearing God means having such a reverence for Him that it has a great impact on the way we live our lives. The fear of God is respecting Him, obeying Him, submitting to His discipline, and worshipping Him in awe. (Quote source here.)

Also, Proverbs 9:10 states, The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” So how is the fear of God the beginning of wisdom? states: 

The link between the fear of God and wisdom means we cannot possess wisdom if we recreate God in our own image. Too many people want to “tame” God into a non-threatening nobody. But, if we redefine the Lord as a god that makes us feel comfortable, a permissive “buddy” who exists simply to bless us and give us what we want, we will not fear Him in the way He deserves to be feared. The Lord God Almighty is far greater than that, and the fear of the Lord begins when we see Him in His majesty and power (Revelation 4:11; Job 42:1–2) The Lord shows Job (and us) a glimpse of His power in Job 38—41 when He describes His absolute sovereignty over everything. 

When the reality of God’s true nature has caused us to fall down in worship, we are then in the right position to gain wisdom. Wisdom is merely seeing life from God’s perspective and responding accordingly. Wisdom is a priority, and we are told to seek it above all else (Proverbs 3:13; 16:16). Proverbs is known as the wisdom book, and the entire second chapter gives a detailed explanation of the value of gaining wisdom. (Quote source here.)

When God told Noah to build the ark, Noah didn’t question God. He built the ark. And he didn’t cave in to the pressure to conform to the rest of the crowd nor did he pay attention to the ridicule and mocking he received from them, either. Too often we question what we don’t understand, and when it comes to God and what He would have us to do, that questioning can get us into trouble. God wants our obedience, not our questions. If we give Him our obedience, He does the rest in His way and for His purposes . . . .

It saved Noah’s life and the life of his family . . .

And it will save us, too . . . .

YouTube Video: “He Reigns” by The Newsboys:

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Until Lambs Become Lions

Rise and rise again until lambs become lions1
There is a line in the movie, Robin Hood (2010), starring Russell Crowe (as Robin Longstride a.k.a. Robin Hood) and Cate Blanchett (as Lady Marion) that is etched in Robin’s memory from childhood. Thinking that his father had deserted him as a very young child, he learns as the movie unfolds that the line was said by his father, who also carved it into a stone. Eventually Robin learns from one of his father’s now elderly friends, Sir Walter Loxley (father-in-law to Lady Marion) that his father was actually beheaded when Robin was a child of about six years old. This scene is available on YouTube at the following link. In the clip, Robin learns that his father was not only a stonemason, but a visionary, who believed that “kings have a need of their subjects, no less than subjects have a need of kings” (quote from YouTube clip). He believed in the rights of all ranks from baron to serf, and thousands took up his cause. A charter was created by his father with the signatures of many barons who believed in his cause; however, the king did not. When the king’s men showed up to get the charter with the names of the barons from him, he refused to give it to them, and he was beheaded. The following line stated by his father became the rally cry of the movement and was carved in stone:

Rise and rise again until lambs become lions.

When later asked by his comrades what it meant, Robin said that it meant “Never give up.”

As background information, a plot of the movie follows (Source: Wikipedia):

In 1199 A.D., Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe) is a common archer in the army of King Richard the Lionheart (Danny Huston). A veteran of Richard’s crusade, he now takes part in the siege of Chalus Castle. Disillusioned and war-weary, he believes the King when invited to give an honest view of the war; after Robin gives a frank but unflattering appraisal of the King’s conduct, Robin and his comrades – archers Allan A’Dayle (Alan Doyle) and Will Scarlett (Scott Grimes) and soldier Little John (Kevin Durand) – find themselves in the stocks.

When the King is slain during an attack on the castle, Robin and his men decide to free themselves and desert. They come across an ambush of the English royal guard by Godfrey (Mark Strong), an English knight who has conspired with King Philip of France to assassinate Richard. After chasing off Godfrey, Robin decides to take advantage of the situation by having his men impersonate the dead English knights to return to England. As they depart, Robin promises one of the dying knights, Sir Robert Loxley (Douglas Hodge), to return his sword to his father (Sir Walter Loxley) in Nottingham.

Upon arriving in London, Robin assumes the identity of the slain Loxley to inform the royal family of the King’s death. He witnesses the coronation of King John (Oscar Isaac), who orders harsh new taxes to be collected, dispatching Sir Godfrey to the North to do so – unaware that Godfrey will instead use French troops to stir up unrest and create an opening for Philip to invade England.

Robin and his companions head to Nottingham, where Loxley’s elderly and blind father, Sir Walter (Max von Sydow), asks him to continue impersonating his son, to prevent the family lands being taken by the Crown. Loxley’s widow, Lady Marion (Cate Blanchett), is initially cold toward Robin, but warms to him, when he and his men merrily recover tithed grain for the townsfolk to plant.

Godfrey’s actions have incited the northern barons, who march to meet King John. Speaking now for Sir Walter, Robin proposes the King agree to a charter of rights to ensure the rights of every Englishman and unite his country. Having realized Godfrey’s deception, and knowing he must meet the French invasion with an army, the King agrees. Meanwhile, the French marauders plunder Nottingham. Robin and the northern barons arrive and stop Godfrey’s men, but not before Godfrey has slain the blind Sir Walter.

As the French begin their invasion on the beach below the Cliffs of Dover, Robin leads the united English army against them. In the midst of the battle, Robin duels with Godfrey, who attempts to kill Marion and flees before Robin finally pierces him with an arrow from afar. Philip realizes his plan to divide England has failed and calls off his invasion. When King John sees the French surrender to Robin instead of himself, he senses a threat to his power. In London John reneges on his promise to sign the charter, instead declaring Robin an outlaw to be hunted throughout the kingdom. The Sheriff of Nottingham (Matthew Macfadyen) announces the decree as Robin and his men flee to Sherwood Forest with the orphans of Nottingham. Marion narrates their new life in the greenwood, noting that they live in equality as they right the many wrongs in the kingdom of King John. (Quote source here.)

There is also one other character not noted in the plot above by the name of William Marshall (William Hurt). “When King Richard died childless in 1189, William (part of the regency appointed by King Richard to govern in his absence) supported the succession of John, and once again was welcomed to the court of a one-time adversary and new king. William soon had a falling out with the new king, but in spite of this he would advocate on the side of John against the other barons in the issuance of Magna Carta in 1215.” (Quote source here.) He was also a friend of Robin’s father and was witness to his father’s beheading.

When Robin told his comrades that the saying, “Rise and rise again until lambs become lions,” meant that they should “never give up,” it immediately brought to mind what Jesus told his disciples in the Parable of the Persistent Widow in Luke 18:1-8, specifically in verse 1 which is a lead-in to the parable:

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

I found the following comment that was posted on,” from a guy (“stevec828”) who watched the movie and stated the following:

I just saw the Russell Crowe, Ridley Scott movie Robin Hood, and this quote was a transforming saying that Robin Longstride, a.k.a. Robin of the Hood, learned as a boy and remembered as a man.

“Rise and rise again until lambs become lions.” – Robin Hood the Movie, 2010

When asked by Little John and Will Scarlet what this saying meant, Robin Hood explained something akin to Winston Churchhill, and to our American founding fathers. It means never give up for the cause of liberty, never, ever give up. Rise, and rise again, until the docile lambs become conquering lions.

While this is not a quote from the Bible, there are some spiritual overtones about perseverance, and fighting the good fight. Get a little deeper and you could think about the cause of liberty and how it is worthy for one to lay down his life for it. In the movie, Robin Hood’s father died in defense of it. In the Bible, Jesus Christ lays down his life so that all mankind could be set free, i.e., set at liberty (Isaiah 61:1).

Go even deeper, and we can connect this to the salvation process of being born again, and how God remolds us and reshapes us over and over again until we become what he has intended us to be. This is especially true for those He has called into the ministry and positions of leadership within the Church. Consider the Apostles, starting out as fishermen, tax collectors, etc., little lambs following Christ for 3 years but after the infusion of the Holy Ghost, they become lions for the Gospel.

Go even deeper, yes we could go on and on, and consider Jesus Christ Himself. He was a Lamb led to the slaughter (Isaiah 53:7), who laid down His life, only to rise on the 3rd day. One day he will come again, in essence, rising again out of Heaven to bring judgment upon the earth. And in this second coming He is coming as the Lion of Judah. Rise, and rise again until the Lamb becomes the Lion (Revelation 5:5, Revelation 19:11-16).

OK. Reality check. It’s just a quote from a movie. So what’s the point? The point is that within many inspirational quotes we can find, or be inspired to find, truth from the Word of God. Even in the simplest of things, like a blade of grass, or ant walking across a sidewalk, or a line from a movie, we can find lessons out of the Word of God.

The Word of God is all around us, if we merely open our eyes to see it. (Quote source here.)

sacredseculardivideThis statement is something that I, too, have discovered especially in these past six and a half years since I lost my job in Houston. We often tend to put what we think of God inside a box of our own making. We have a great tendency to separate the sacred from the secular and while there is definitely a sacred sphere to our worship of God, He is, indeed, not limited by our own thinking and can be found, as the author of the comment above stated, “even in the simplest of things.” And in the most profound of things, too.

One of the areas that seems to rankle a number of Christians is when supposedly “secular” things are equated, or brought alongside, with things that they consider to be “sacred.” The “secular” things just don’t seem to fit in with their world of “sacred.” In other words, they divide their lives into “sacred” and “secular,” and never the twain shall meet.”  A.W. Tozer (1897-1963) wrote about this very dilemma in his classic book, The Pursuit of God,” Chapter 10:

One of the greatest hindrances to internal peace which the Christian encounters is the common habit of dividing our lives into two areas, the sacred and the secular. As these areas are conceived to exist apart from each other and to be morally and spiritually incompatible, and as we are compelled by the necessities of living to be always crossing back and forth from the one to the other, our inner lives tend to break up so that we live a divided instead of a unified life.

Our trouble springs from the fact that we who follow Christ inhabit at once two worlds, the spiritual and the natural. As children of Adam we live our lives on earth subject to the limitations of the flesh and the weaknesses and ills to which human nature is heir.

Merely to live among men requires of us years of hard toil and much care and attention to the things of this world. In sharp contrast to this is our life in the Spirit. There we enjoy another and higher kind of life; we are children of God; we possess heavenly status and enjoy intimate fellowship with Christ.

This tends to divide our total life into two departments. We come unconsciously to recognize two sets of actions. The first are performed with a feeling of satisfaction and a firm assurance that they are pleasing to God. These are the sacred acts and they are usually thought to be prayer, Bible reading, hymn singing, church attendance and such other acts as spring directly from faith. They may be known by the fact that they have no direct relation to this world, and would have no meaning whatever except as faith shows us another world, “a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”

Over against these sacred acts are the secular ones. They include all of the ordinary activities of life which we share with the sons and daughters of Adam: eating, sleeping, working, looking after the needs of the body and performing our dull and prosaic duties here on earth. These we often do reluctantly and with many misgivings, often apologizing to God for what we consider a waste of time and strength. The upshot of this is that we are uneasy most of the time. We go about our common tasks with a feeling of deep frustration, telling ourselves pensively that there’s a better day coming when we shall slough off this earthly shell and be bothered no more with the affairs of this world.

This is the old sacred-secular antithesis. Most Christians are caught in its trap. They cannot get a satisfactory adjustment between the claims of the two worlds. They try to walk the tight rope between two kingdoms and they find no peace in either. Their strength is reduced, their outlook confused and their joy taken from them.

I believe this state of affairs to be wholly unnecessary. We have gotten ourselves on the horns of a dilemma, true enough, but the dilemma is not real. It is a creature of misunderstanding. The sacred-secular antithesis has no foundation in the New Testament. Without doubt a more perfect understanding of Christian truth will deliver us from it.

The Lord Jesus Christ Himself is our perfect example, and He knew no divided life. In the Presence of His Father He lived on earth without strain from babyhood to His death on the cross. God accepted the offering of His total life, and made no distinction between one act and another act. “I do always the things that please him,” was His brief summary of His own life as it related to the Father. As He moved among men He was poised and restful. What pressure and suffering He endured grew out of His position as the world’s sin bearer; they were never the result of moral uncertainty or spiritual maladjustment.

Paul’s exhortation to “do all to the glory of God” (I Cor. 10:31) is more than pious idealism. It is an integral part of the sacred revelation and is to be accepted as the very Word of Truth. It opens before us the possibility of making every act of our lives contribute to the glory of God. Lest we should be too timid to include everything, Paul mentions specifically eating and drinking. This humble privilege we share with the beasts that perish. If these lowly animal acts can be so performed as to honor God, then it becomes difficult to conceive of one that cannot. . . . (Quote source and complete chapter are available at this link.)

Tell the World LacraeTozer, of course, died before Postmodernism (see blog post titled, Say What? As in Postmodernism) when it’s “truth is relative” message came into full swing, but his words still ring true. In an article titled, ‘Sacred-Secular Divide’ Hinders Christians From Impacting Culture, Says Lecrae (2012), published in CP Church and Ministry, Christian hip-hop singer Lecrae (Lecrae Moore) talks “about the subject of engaging American culture in a non-typical, yet Christian way in order to further the Gospel.” Here is what he had to say:

“I think we don’t engage culture because we’re scared. We don’t want it corrupting our kids. I think we’re scared because ultimately we’re still caught up in a sacred-secular divide,” said Lecrae, who is also a ministry leader, to a crowd of more than 2,000 church leaders Thursday at the Resurgence Conference (in 2012) at Mariners Church in Irvine, Calif.

“We are still caught up in the reality that everything is broken up in two and if you go too far here you are going to get messed up,” he said. “There is a sacred-secular divide that hinders us from impacting culture.”. . . . 

“We (Christians) are great at talking about salvation and sanctification. We are clueless when it comes to art, ethics, science, and culture. Christianity is the whole truth about everything. It’s how we deal with politics. It’s how we deal with science. It’s how we deal with TV and art. We can’t leave people to their own devices,” Lecrae said during his talk at the conference.

“We just demonize everything. If it doesn’t fit in the category of sanctification or salvation it’s just evil.”

Lecrae said that society in the U.S. is moving away from “this traditional, evangelical, conservative America.”

“Relativism and secular humanism permeates the world that we live in.” He asked, “How do we engage this culture? How do we raise up people to engage this culture?”

Lecrae said that in the area he lives in there are a lot of people, who because of the activity they are engaged in, many Christians would avoid altogether.

“There’s homosexuality rampant. There’s crime and all kinds of things going on around me. I take my kids to the park and there’s two men kissing, people selling drugs, and I’m grateful,” he said. “I’m not trying to escape. I want to be in the midst of that because I need to be. That’s where I need to be.”

He added, “I believe that the reason why the church typically doesn’t engage culture is because we are scared of it. We’re scared it’s going to somehow jump on us and corrupt us. We’re scared it’s going to somehow mess up our good thing. So we consistently move further and further away from the corruption, further and further away from the crime, further and further away from the post-modernity, further and further away from the relativism and secular humanism and we want to go to a safe place with people just like you. We want to be comfortable.”

Lecrae emphasized that God created many things in this world that were intended for good, but have been misused.

“I’m talking about using things that are typically used for evil and showing how they can be used for God’s glory,” he explained. “Things are not of themselves evil. It’s [about] structure and direction. God has structured things for His glory and His goodness and humanity is directing it in evil or good ways.

“If you are going to engage culture it’s about taking the things, and the things you are skilled at, and asking ‘How can I direct them in a good way?’

“I’m not saying let’s redeem the world and create this utopian planet,” Lecrae continued. “I’m saying let’s demonstrate what Jesus had done in us so the world may see a new way, God’s way, Jesus’ way–the picture of redemption that Jesus has done in us. So Jesus redeems us and we desire to go to the world and demonstrate that so that others can see what redemption looks like.” (Quote source here).

The point, of course, is that we need to look beyond our own tendencies to be short-sighted when it comes to what God is doing in our world and how He is going about accomplishing it. As stated in Isaiah 55:8-9:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

And Proverbs 16:4 reminds us that:

The Lord works out everything to its proper end—
    even the wicked for a day of disaster.

And since God can even keep track of the wicked, He can certainly keep track of what we as Christians do in accomplishing His will in this world of ours (if we will follow His lead and not our own). There really is no dividing the sacred from the secular. It all belongs to Him.

Getting back to the original message of this post, I’ll end it with these words from Jesus that should always be embedded in our minds and hearts no matter what situation or circumstances we find ourselves in, which are found in Luke 18:1:

Always pray . . . 

And . . .

Never give up . . . .

YouTube Video: “Tell the World” by Lecrae:

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

Motive Is All Important

motives2Motives . . . we all have them, and, in fact, they run our lives on a regular basis. defines a motive as “your reason for doing something” (quote source here). Google defines it as “a reason for doing something, especially one that is hidden or not obvious” (quote source here). And, of course, an ulterior motive, as defined by, is a motive that is being beyond what is seen or avowed; intentionally kept concealed.” Synonyms include “hidden, covert, undisclosed, undivulged” (quote source here).

In answer to the question, What does the Bible say about motives?”, GotQuestions?org gives the following statement:

The Bible has a lot to say about our motives. A motive is the underlying reason for any action. Proverbs 16:2 says, “All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the LORD.” Because the human heart is very deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9), we can easily fool ourselves about our own motives. We can pretend that we are choosing certain actions for God or the benefit of others, when in reality we have selfish reasons. God is not fooled by our selfishness and is “a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

Human beings can operate from a variety of motivations, often negative. Pride, anger, revenge, a sense of entitlement, or the desire for approval can all be catalysts for our actions. Any motivation that originates in our sinful flesh is not pleasing to God (Romans 8:8). God even evaluates the condition of our hearts when we give offerings to Him (2 Corinthians 9:7). Selfish motives can hinder our prayers. James 4:3 says, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” Because our hearts are so deceitful, we should constantly evaluate our own motives and be willing to be honest with ourselves about why we are choosing a certain action.

We can even preach and minister from impure motives (Philippians 1:17), but God is not impressed (Proverbs 21:27). Jesus spoke to this issue in  Matthew 6:1 when He said, “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” Those involved in ministry must stay alert to this tendency toward selfishness, because ministry begun for pure reasons can quickly devolve into selfish ambition if we do not guard our hearts (Proverbs 4:23).

So what is the right motivation? First Thessalonians 2:4 says, “Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts” (NLT). God is interested in our motives even more than our actions. First Corinthians 4:5 says that, when Jesus comes again, “he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.” God wants us to know that He sees what no one else sees. He knows why we do what we do and desires to reward those whose hearts are right toward Him. We can keep our motives pure by continually surrendering every part of our hearts to the control of the Holy Spirit.

Here are some specific questions to help us evaluate our own motives:

1. If no one ever knows what I am doing (giving, serving, sacrificing), would I still do it?
2. If there was no visible payoff for doing this, would I still do it?
3. Would I joyfully take a lesser position if God asked me to?
4. Am I doing this for the praise of others or how it makes me feel?
5. If I had to suffer for continuing what God has called me to do, would I continue?
6. If others misunderstand or criticize my actions, will I stop?
7. If those whom I am serving never show gratitude or repay me in any way, will I still do it?
8. Do I judge my success or failure based upon my faithfulness to what God has asked me to do, or how I compare with others?

Personal satisfactions, such as taking a vacation or winning a competition, are not wrong in themselves. Motivation becomes an issue when we are not honest with ourselves about why we are doing things. When we give the outward appearance of obeying God but our hearts are hard, God knows. We are deceiving ourselves and others, too. The only way we can operate from pure motives is when we “walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16,25). When we allow Him to control every part of us, then our desire is to please Him and not ourselves. Our flesh constantly clamors to exalt itself, and only when we walk in the Spirit will we not gratify those desires of our flesh. (Quote source here.)

examine your motivesIn another article on titled, What God Values More Than Motives,” the author, Matt Smethurst, makes the following statement:

Motives matter. One thing that separates biblical Christianity from almost every other religion is its laser-like focus on our hearts. Our Creator cares what we do, to be sure, but most fundamentally he cares how and why we do certain things. He’s interested in those intentions that are hidden from human eyes. He’s after our hearts.

Psalm 100:2 commands us to “serve the LORD with gladness.” This means that serving God can be an exercise in disobedience. (Yes, you read that correctly.) If our service springs from a heart that isn’t glad in God, it isn’t obedience. It’s sin.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus raises the bar even higher. Struggling with hatred? You have a murder problem. Lust? It’s adultery (Matthew 5:21–22, 27–28). And when you fast or give to the poor, Jesus says, make sure no one notices (Matthew 6:1–4, 16–18). God sees your heart, and his approval is enough.

The Maker of heaven and earth isn’t just concerned with our service; he’s concerned with our intentions. Our motivations. Our hearts. (Quote source here including entire article.)

And one more item I ran across on the subject of motives is the following very short chapter in a book titled, This World: Playground or Battleground? by Dr. A.W. Tozer (1987-1963), compiled by Harry Verploegh and published in 1989, that speaks to the issue of our motives.

Motive is All-Important

by A.W. Tozer

THE BIG QUESTION AT LAST WILL not be so much, “What did you do?” but “Why did you do it?” In moral acts, motive is everything. Of course it is important to do the right thing, but it is still more important to do the right thing for a right reason. Intention is a large part of the action, whether done by good or bad people. The man who wills his enemy dead has, in the eyes of God, killed him already. “Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Not the overt act, but the will and the intention constitute the guilt.

Any act performed for an evil or selfish purpose is a bad act no matter how good it may in itself seem. Any act done out of love is a good act, even if through ignorance or failure the outcome is not found to be good for the one concerned. A Christian mother, for instance, who rises in the small hours of the morning to care for a sick child only because she loves it and wishes it well is performing a good act even if in her ignorance she may actually harm the child by failing to care for it properly. And the mother who would rise in cold anger to look after a child she hated would be performing a bad act even if her superior skill enabled her to care for it well.

We should carefully consider our motives. Some day soon they will be there to bless us or curse us. And from them there will be no appeal, for the Judge knows the thoughts and intents of the heart.

(Article taken from “This World: Playground or Battleground?, Chapter 15 )

The Bible has much to say about our motives and here’s a link to 46 specific verses related to our motives and their consequences. Hebrews 4:12 states, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” And in I Samuel 16:7 we learn that “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Proverbs 21:1-8 also has a lot to say about how God examines our motives. Here are those eight verses from The Message Bible:

God Examines Our Motives

Good leadership is a channel of water controlled by God;
    he directs it to whatever ends he chooses.

We justify our actions by appearances;
    God examines our motives.

Clean living before God and justice with our neighbors
    mean far more to God than religious performance.

Arrogance and pride—distinguishing marks in the wicked—
    are just plain sin.

Careful planning puts you ahead in the long run;
    hurry and scurry puts you further behind.

Make it to the top by lying and cheating;
    get paid with smoke and a promotion—to death!

The wicked get buried alive by their loot
    because they refuse to use it to help others.

Mixed motives twist life into tangles;
    pure motives take you straight down the road.

Also, Jesus Christ stated in Luke 8:17,  For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.” And Jesus said it again in Luke 12:1-3, “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.”

The heart attitude–our motives–are critically important to God. We may be able to fool everybody else on the planet, but God is never fooled. Never. King Solomon, considered to be the wisest man who ever lived, understood that very real fact, too. At the end of Ecclesiastes (usually attributed to his authorship) he made the following statement:

The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails—given by One Shepherd. Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them.

Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.

Now all has been heard;
    here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
    for this is the duty of all mankind.
For God will bring every deed into judgment,
    including every hidden thing,
    whether it is good or evil.
~Eccl. 12:11-14

Indeed, motives do matter to God.

For He will bring every deed into judgment . . .

Including every hidden thing . . .

Whether it is good or evil . . . .

YouTube Video: “Gotta Serve Somebody” sung by Shirley Caesar:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Pressing On

PrintLast evening I started writing a blog post but it wasn’t coming together so I gave up on it a bit after midnight. Usually, I write my blog posts over several hours in one sitting. Actually, they write themselves as I never know what the topic is going to be or even the direction the post is going to take as I am writing it. In other words, I am “compelled” to write them. I suppose some writers might attribute it to a “muse” of sorts. I call it an unction of sorts.

It is now 3:30 a.m. and I couldn’t sleep. Well, I almost fell asleep, but this feeling kept gnawing at me so I finally got out of bed and turned on the laptop. So here I am, in the middle of the night, writing again. Fortunately, most of the time it is in the morning or early afternoon when I feel compelled to write. Rarely is it in the middle of the night, like now. However, unemployment does have a couple of “up” sides and writing at any time during the day or night is one of them. For example, I don’t have to wonder how I will get through the next day at work if I write in the middle of the night. In fact, if I was working it is most likely that I never would have started this blog in the first place five years ago. However, on to the topic at hand . . . .

In Chapter 3 of Philippians, the Apostle Paul brings up a very important item–that he puts “no confidence in the flesh” (verse 3) even though he had many reasons for boasting about his accomplishments until he met Jesus Christ. Here is what he had to say in Philippians 3:

Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh—though I myself have reasons for such confidence.

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal,but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.

Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

Paul gives us his credentials “in the flesh”–circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.” However, he tosses it all out the window when he goes on to state, But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. . . .”

Let’s think about what he is really saying here as it has a very real application to our own lives. How often do we boast about our own accomplishments? That somehow we have managed to accomplish what we’ve done on our own and we’d like to receive some accolades for our efforts. We might get promoted up the line to a very high level position with a big salary to go with it. We purchase a house in a good neighborhood to keep up with the Joneses and impress others. We climb the social ladder and accept the praise as we go higher. Appearances matter to us. So does being admired by others. And if anything happens to damage that image we’ve built, whether it is something we did or something done to us by someone else, we scramble to still try and look good. We don’t want people talking about us behind our backs. And we certainly don’t want to lose our public image that we have worked so hard to attain. If our reputation went down in flames, we’d feel like we literally died. What others think about us is of primary importance to us, as well as our socio-economic status in society.

Read Paul’s words again after he talked about his own accomplishments. What was it that he said? He said:

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. . . (verses 7 & 8).

Think about that for a moment. Would we consider losing everything we have and what we worked so hard for for the sake of knowing Jesus Christ as Lord? Paul had an excellent reputation with all the honors associated with it as a Pharisee and he lost it all once he met Jesus Christ. And he spent 30 plus years preaching Christ and being persecuted by the very people he was once a part of, in fact, a very big part of, all because of knowing Jesus Christ. Not only that, but he went on to say the following in verses 8-12:

I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.

surrenderDo we really understand what it means to follow Jesus Christ? It means giving up our pride and our ownership in anything that we do or that we have as it all comes from Him in the first place. It is not us that needs to be honored but Jesus Christ. But do we really understand what that means? So often we have it totally turned around. We climb the social and career ladder and accept all the accolades that go along with it and may even thank God for all of it, but we do like to take the glory for it, and at least to be acknowledged in the public eye for being “successful.” We’ve learned to toot our own horn as if we accomplished it all on our own and we want everyone to notice. And, of course, we want to be admired by others, too. So you ask, “What’s so wrong with that?”

First off, understand that it’s not that the things Paul had learned in the past didn’t directly impact what he did in the future after he met Jesus Christ. In fact, it was his very background as a Pharisee that gave him the education he needed to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Israelites after he met Jesus Christ on the Damascus Road, and eventually to the Gentiles, too. Without that knowledge he could not have written the New Testament books that he wrote. But he didn’t boast about his knowledge or his background or hold it over anyone as a way to make them appreciate him or follow him. No, he always pointed to Jesus Christ and never to himself. He knew he was not the focal point, but that Christ was the One to receive the glory. And he did lose everything he had to pursue the mission Jesus Christ had for him. And he did it gladly.

Let’s pick up from verse 12 through verse 14. Paul continued by saying:

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Jesus Christ can’t be Lord of our lives if we are constantly in control and seeking accolades for ourselves or looking out for our own welfare all the time. If we insist that our own reputation is more important to us than that of Jesus Christ, we are not serving Him. We are serving ourselves and what we want. We have to lose our own lives in order to gain what Jesus would have us to do with the rest of our lives. And if we don’t get that, we don’t really understand what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is all about. It’s about transformation (see Romans 12:1-2) and it’s about being “conformed to the image of God’s Son” (see Romans 8:29-30).

In March 2015, I published a post on an article written by A.W. Tozer (1897-1963) and available online titled, Five Vows for Spiritual Power.” The article is available at this link and it provides full explanations for each of the five vows listed below. For this post I’m just going to list them:

  1. Deal thoroughly with sin.
  2. Never own anything. (This does not mean that you can’t actually own anything, but rather it means the need to, as Tozer stated, “get delivered from this sense of possessing them.”)
  3. Never defend yourself.
  4. Never pass anything on about anybody else that will hurt him or her.
  5. Never accept any glory.

Humility is not our strong suit in America, in or out of the church. We like taking the credit when we think credit is due, but as a Christian that is a very dangerous position to be in. Psalm 115:1 states, Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.” 

Once Paul met Jesus Christ, nothing was ever the same again. In fact, Paul gladly counted it all as loss “because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Do we have that kind of passion when it comes to knowing Jesus Christ? If not, who do we really belong to and what do we really live for? This world? Or the next world where eternity stretches out forever.

I’ve mentioned in a couple of previous posts that we have a somewhat warped idea of what success is supposed to look like for a Christian living in America. Far too often, it looks just like our culture’s idea of success. Paul’s life before he was converted to Christ looked just like what we might describe that a Christian’s life is supposed to look like in our culture. And nothing could be further from the truth. If we will allow Him to, God determines what success looks like for each and every one of us, and it’s not according to our culture. He did that for all the people in the Bible, too, who yielded to Him and not to themselves. And many of them wouldn’t fit very well in a lot of our churches today. History records that Paul was beheaded at the end of his life (although it is not mentioned in the Bible). However, at that point his real, eternal life had only just begun. So which is more important to us?

The “here and now?” (See James 4:13-16) . . . 

Or “forever?” . . .

The choice is ours. . . .

YouTube Video: “Lose My Soul,” by TobyMac (with Kirk Franklin & Mandisa):

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Independence Day 2015

Independence Day of the United States, also referred to as Fourth of July or July Fourth in the U.S., is a federal holiday commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, by the Continental Congress declaring that the thirteen American colonies regarded themselves as a new nation, the United States of America, and no longer part of the British Empire. Independence Day is commonly associated with fireworks, parades, barbecues, carnivals, fairs, picnics, concerts, baseball games, family reunions, and political speeches and ceremonies, in addition to various other public and private events celebrating the history, government, and traditions of the United States. Independence Day is the National Day of the United States.” (Quote source here.)

Today we are celebrating the 239th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence that declared the original thirteen American colonies as a brand new nation–the United States of America. And a whole lot has transpired since that time: a Civil War, two World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq (twice), Afghanistan, and many conflicts in between and all around the globe. Besides noting the wars, there are also many great contributions that have come from the United States over past two plus centuries of its existence, to include becoming a world superpower after World War II. “To be a superpower, a nation needs to have a strong economy, an overpowering military, immense international political power, and a strong national ideology” (quote source here), and we certainly had all of that after WWII.

While I must admit that I have personally never been a history buff (well, I did take a shining to art history), I just ran across an interesting article about the U.S. Constitution (ratified in 1787) that you might find interesting titled, Perspectives on the Constitution: A Republic, If You Can Keep It,” (1998), by Richard R. Beeman, Ph.D. In the article, Dr. Beeman states:

“. . . as fragile as America’s federal edifice was at the time of the founding, there was much in the culture and environment that contributed to a national consensus and cohesion: a common language; a solid belief in the principles of English common law and constitutionalism; a widespread commitment (albeit in diverse forms) to the Protestant religion; a shared revolutionary experience; and, perhaps most important, an economic environment which promised most free, white Americans if not great wealth, at least an independent sufficiency.

“The American statesmen who succeeded those of the founding generation served their country with a self-conscious sense that the challenges of maintaining a democratic union were every bit as great after 1787 as they were before. Some aspects of their nation-building program–their continuing toleration of slavery and genocidal policies toward American Indians–are fit objects of national shame, not honor. But statesmen of succeeding generations–Lincoln foremost among them–would continue the quest for a ‘more perfect union.’

“Such has been our success in building a powerful and cohesive democratic nation-state in post-Civil War America that most Americans today assume that principles of democracy and national harmony somehow naturally go hand-in-hand. But as we look around the rest of the world in the post-Soviet era, we find ample evidence that democratic revolutions do not inevitably lead to national harmony or universal justice. We see that the expression of the ‘popular will’ can create a cacophony of discordant voices, leaving many baffled about the true meaning of majority rule. In far too many places around the world today, the expression of the “popular will” is nothing more than the unleashing of primordial forces of tribal and religious identity which further confound the goal of building stable and consensual governments. . . .

“The challenges to national unity under our Constitution are, if anything, far greater than those confronting the infant nation in 1787. Although the new nation was a pluralistic one by the standards of the 18th century, the face of America in 1998 [when this article was written] looks very different from the original: we are no longer a people united by a common language, religion or culture; and while our overall level of material prosperity is staggering by the standards of any age, the widening gulf between rich and poor is perhaps the most serious threat to a common definition of the ‘pursuit of happiness’. . . .

“If there is a lesson in all of this it is that our Constitution is neither a self-actuating nor a self-correcting document. It requires the constant attention and devotion of all citizens. There is a story, often told, that upon exiting the Constitutional Convention Benjamin Franklin was approached by a group of citizens asking what sort of government the delegates had created. His answer was: ‘A republic, if you can keep it.’ The brevity of that response should not cause us to under-value its essential meaning: democratic republics are not merely founded upon the consent of the people, they are also absolutely dependent upon the active and informed involvement of the people for their continued good health.” (Quote source here.)

In 2015 the face of America looks a lot different now then it did when this article was written 17 years ago in 1998. As Dr. Beeman noted in the last paragraph above, our Constitution “requires the constant attention and devotion of all citizens” . . . and that “democratic republics are not merely founded upon the consent of the people, they are also absolutely dependent upon the active and informed involvement of the people for their continued good health.”

In looking back over the past several decades, unfortunately–and all too often–“We the People” have neglected our own duty and left it in the hands of elected officials who often look out for themselves (not all, of course, but enough) and let them run the show. It’s not that there hasn’t been some very vocal private citizens who have marched on, but the general population has been busy securing their own personal futures rather then focusing on the state of the nation as a whole. And now we as a nation are not what we once were.

Fireworks behind the Washington Monument ,1986

Personally, I’m not sure how we can fix it or if it can even be fixed at this point in time. On this 4th of July, 2015, I want to reflect on another area we have let slide into the background while often assuming all is well (and I’m writing now to the Christians among us). Americans are known for their fierce independence and love of freedom, such as freedom of speech, but over the past several decades we have been allowing our own “security” issues, such as financial security, interfere in a big way in the life of this nation and often without even realizing it. Greed has a way of chipping away at both freedom, independence, and genuine love for others. And it often makes us selfish and myopic–often “looking out for #1” at the expense of others, and especially God.

I just read a couple of very short devotions for July 3rd and July 4th written by A.W. Tozer (1897-1963), in a devotional book titled, My Daily Pursuit: Devotions for Every Day,” (2013), compiled and edited by James L. Snyder, that I would like to share. I must admit that the first one hit me a bit hard as I was out and about yesterday going to several stores that were very crowded due to it being a national holiday, and a lot of working people were off work and shopping. My own reaction at times–fortunately not often (I’m not a fan of crowds)–was that of what I read in the first devotion below for July 3rd. And the devotion for July 4th is a continuation along that same line of thinking. Each devotion starts off with a verse.

July 3

“When they hurled their insults at him [Jesus Christ],
he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats.
Instead, he entrusted himself to Him [God] who judges justly.”
~1 Peter 2:23

I am sick in my own heart; sick about myself, about my friends and about the preachers in the ministry today. How utterly self-centered we have become, and yet we talk loudly about glorifying God, and boastfully say, “This is the glory of God.”

How do you know that you are self-centered?

This is very simple. If anybody crosses you, your hackles go up immediately because you are self-centered and self-indulgent. You are very quick to defend yourself against all so-called enemies. Just let anybody cross you, and they will know it immediately.

Christ was not like that. He gave Himself and poured Himself out without one bit of selfishness. He was reviled against but reviled not against His enemies.

Any Christian’s heart that is self-indulgent and self-centered cannot be warmed up. The Christian who is defending himself is one who will never experience a depth of fellowship and communion with God.

Christ loved us; He is our Shepherd. He is our Advocate above, pleading our cause. We are His brethren and He is our God. But the changes of fellowship and sweetness in the saints while they walk on earth are more than just technical changes.


July 4

For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written:
“The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.”
~Romans 15:3

It is amazing to me how much people allow doctors to push them around. Whatever the doctor says is gospel. Some people’s lives would drastically change if they would obey God as strictly as they obey their doctors. The doctor only influences your health; God influences all your eternity.

Many people have put their spiritual life on a budget and will not spend anything for God unless they can justify it in the columns of a “spreadsheet.” What a cheap carnal way of living, and yet many people do so.

The love of the Lord Jesus Christ was a great, passionate outpouring, causing Him to give Himself completely. He pleased not Himself.

What is wrong with the majority of Christians today is that we are self-pleasers. We live for ourselves. Even though we are saints; even though we are born again and have our marked-up New Testament, the love we have is a calculating and narrow love. It is a love that does not give itself, so how can He give Himself and fellowship with us? Our absolute surrender to Jesus Christ paves the way for Him to pour out His love on us and for us to fellowship with Him.

Over these past six plus years of unemployment I have found myself at times trying to defend myself against what happened to me at that job in Houston (as a note their stock on NASDAQ has been reduced to 7¢ a share). It has taken a very long time to get over it as it has left me unemployment for over six years now and add to it that I’ve been living in hotels for over nine months now that I can’t afford which I have explained in a previous blog post. Sometimes I think that if I just yell loud enough something will change and I’ll finally get to see some justice in my situation. It has been a very long haul, to say the least. And I have to be honest in that I have been shocked over these years to find out how unkind people (and yes, the Christians among us, too) can be when they want to be. And I’ve been shocked at the reaction by the total lack of genuine help I have found when I have sought help from the Christian community. And, I have to admit that there have been times I wanted to walk away from them when their lack of giving a crap was so apparent.

I have often said that I don’t hate anyone, and I really don’t–not even those guys who started this back when I lost that job in Houston. But I have been shocked by the lack of any genuine help over these years when I have sought it out–help in finding a job and now help with just finding a more affordable and far less expensive place to live. Talk is cheap and that’s what I’ve found most people give in abundance . . . cheap talk that goes nowhere, and very little (usually none) action and even less caring. Where is that “Christian Community” I thought would be there when I needed it to be there?

Serve God or Money? We can't do both. Matthew 6:24
Serve God or Money? We can’t do both. Matthew 6:24

This, of course, is not a condemnation of the entire Christian Community. I realize there are circumstances that I’ve been learning about over these years that are far beyond my control and directly stem from my losing that job in Houston, and that often control others who don’t personally know me. I mentioned in a previous blog post that I became aware of that fact after I interviewed for an Associate Registrar position at a “for-profit” college in Largo, Florida, back in September 2011. In fact, it came up in the conversation I had with the fellow who interviewed me for that position.

While I don’t wish to go any farther into it at this point until more is revealed to me, I do want to say that as a Christian, I realize that no one is perfect, and I am certainly not perfect, nor have I been perfect over these past six plus years. But if we are Christians (as in Community and in Christ) we should not be throwing rocks at each other or making assumptions that we have no right to make or believing gossip for who knows what motives lie behind the gossip.

And I’m here to say I’m done trying to defend myself . . . .

As has been noted by many famous people in our society over the past several decades (in fact, it was a big topic of conversation when I was in graduate school at Iowa State University in 1990-91), civility is pretty much dead, and it appears to be that way in many churches, too, when it comes to people who don’t know or like others yet judge them harshly because of information they received from whatever sources who have their own personal motives and agendas and who are spreading that gossip. The assumptions we make about others we don’t know are often so erroneous that if the truth was known it would be shocking.

With that in mind, and to the Christians in my reading audience, I would like to make the following suggestion. I have no idea how to fix the problems we have in our nation today, and I’m not sure some of them are even fixable at this point in time, but there is one thing we can fix, and we can start fixing it right now but we have to choose to do so.

We need to stop being so “independent” by always looking out for ourselves and what’s in it for us in this life and start being “dependent” on the God we say we believe in and are dependent on yet there isn’t much in our lives that proves that out. We need to stop lying and being deceitful (in even the tiniest of ways) just to fill our own pocketbooks and start reading what Jesus had to say about how we are to live, day by day, hour by hour, and stop with all the excuse-making or listening to the many “Pied Pipers” peddling their wares. If you want to know the truth, read it for yourself. The Bible is still the #1 Best Seller in the World. So get the information first hand. And don’t assume anything just because someone else said it. Let this day be our “Dependence Day” –depending on God instead of ourselves.

And if we can’t do that, there isn’t much hope for the nation or for us. Selfish people only end up destroying themselves in the end. And it doesn’t matter how young or how old one is or where they fit in the social-economic scale in society. Greed kills everybody it touches . . . .

One Nation Under God?

In God We Trust?

Prove it . . .

YouTube Video: “Made in America” by Toby Keith:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here
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