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May 2018
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The Presidents Club

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The Surest Defense Against Evil

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The Triumph of Grace

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Contemplating God’s Sovereignty

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How Should We Then Live?

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Not a Timid Christianity

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Finishing the Race

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Because the Time is Near

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Revelation Song (YouTube)

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Where The Wind Blows

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Doing Great Things

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Recognizing a False Prophet

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The Power of Forgiveness

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Created for Relationships

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The Only Way I Know

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Faith: The Misunderstood Doctrine

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Our True Home Address

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‘Tis the Season . . . for L-O-V-E

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The Paris Terrorist Attack and the Problem of Evil

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Cherry Picking 101

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Love Sweet Love

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So Goes The Culture

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Idols of the Heart

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Divisions Are Not Always Bad

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The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

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Be Bold For Change

I read a short article (actually, a devotion) on a blog last night and I said, “I must share it!” Not only is it short (most folks like short articles) but, as is the case with so many of my blog posts, it is written by someone who is famous and a lot more knowledgeable then I am, and he’s also a friend of mine. He was a pastor for 25 years, and he is a radio talk show host (among other things), and he’s written many books over the years, too. In fact, I’ve written about two of them previously on these two blog posts: Three Free Sins–Say What?” (published on August 5, 2012) on his book titled, Three Free Sins,” and True Colors (published on April 29, 2016) on his last book titled, Hidden Agendas: Dropping the Masks that Keep Us Apart.” And, he’s currently working on a new book, too.

His name is Dr. Steve Brown (but don’t call him doctor; call him Steve), and if you know him or have listened to him talk in a myriad of venues including his radio program, you know that he has a very deep voice and a delightful sense of humor. He’s also honest to the bone. And, he is, without a doubt, one of a kind. Steve is a former pastor and professor emeritus, founder of Key Life Networka Bible teacher, and he is a frequent and much sought-after speaker at conferences and in other settings.

Steve writes a regular devotional on his KeyLife website, and I want to share the devotion that was just published on March 27, 2017 as it speaks to an issue that is so prevalent in our society and world today. It is titled, The Problem with Religion,” and here is what Steve has to say on the topic (quote source: KeyLife):

The Problem with Religion

Do you sometimes grow tired of religious people? Do you ever want to just grunt, scream and spit? I know I do.

Sometimes I just want to say something shocking. And once that’s done, I’ll think, “There, I did it and I’m glad!” I try to stifle those feelings because, of course, no real Christian would even think such things. That is what I thought until I read Christ’s words in Matthew 6:1-8 and 16-18.

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. . . . And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

The fact is, you can always tell when someone is religious . . . but you can’t always tell when someone is a Christian. One of the most dangerous things we do in the church is to confuse sanctimony with saintliness. That is the problem Jesus addresses in Matthew 6.

So we need to be careful.

Watch Out For Religious Exhibitionism.

Someone has said that true religion is what you do when no one sees.

Jesus makes the point that if you don’t do it privately, for God’s sake, don’t do it publicly. If you don’t believe it in your heart, for God’s sake, don’t do it in your life. If it isn’t real to you when you’re by yourself, for God’s sake, don’t say it is real when you’re with others. Sometimes the more the outward piety, the less the inward reality. That is why you have to watch those who say and do religious things.

Are you sometimes intimidated by the religious folks who do so much religious stuff? They are always faithful, they memorize Scripture all the time, they talk only about God and they know the creeds backwards.

Watch Out For Religious Words.

There is a direct correlation between the reality you know and the number of words you have to use to communicate that reality to others. The more words, the less the reality.

You should have heard all the religious clichés that surrounded my father on his deathbed. In contrast, the doctor who led him to Christ was very brief and very clear. He said, “Mr. Brown, you have cancer and three months to live. We’re going to have a prayer and then I’m going to tell you something more important than what I just told you.” They prayed and then in a very simple way that doctor led my father to Christ.

It takes many words to keep a sinking religious ship afloat. Most of us have a problem with keeping quiet . . . I know I do.

Are you sometimes intimidated by those who know so much and make it sound so complex?

Watch Out For Religious Condemnation.

You can tell how guilty a person is by asking how guilty you feel in that person’s presence.

How surprising of God to sanctify the tears of the thief and judge the silent condemnation of the religious judge. How surprising of God, in the midst of proper worship, correct theology and strict Sabbath keeping, to simply leave the building.

Do you sometimes wonder if you’re the real thing because you get so much wrong and they point it out?

Watch Out For Religious Solemnity.

Sometimes I get tickled at the seriousness of the church. If there weren’t a God, I would understand. But last time I checked, God was still there and had not, as yet, gone into a panic.

When Jesus is present, there is joy, freedom and release. Under the watchful eye of a sovereign God, we can rejoice in the laughter of the redeemed.

Do you ever get the giggles in the wrong place, are criticized and then question your salvation?

I’ve got some good news for you.

Jesus says twice, “They have their reward.” When people tell me that I’m spiritual, it often worries me. I would rather receive my reward from God than from them.

I have a friend who says that the difference between believers and unbelievers is that Christians know the rules and how to play the game. Therefore we can fake it better.

In Luke 18 Jesus told a story about a Pharisee who knew the rules. He went to the temple to pray and looked down on the tax collector who was also praying. The Pharisee rejoiced before God that he was not like the tax collector.

The Pharisee told God that he was not like other men. The Pharisee told God that he wasn’t an adulterer . . . and he wasn’t. The Pharisee told God that he wasn’t a tax collector who stole money from God’s people . . . and he wasn’t. The Pharisee told God that he fasted twice a week . . . and he did. The Pharisee told God that he tithed all of his possessions . . . and he did.

The tax collector, on the other hand, barely looked up. Instead, he pled for desperately needed mercy . . . and received it.

The rest of the story? When the Pharisee left the temple, the religious folks told him how much they appreciated his help in building the temple. After all, he was a benefactor. The religious folks went on to admire him for his fasting, praying, purity and commitment. As a result, the Pharisee felt good about himself.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t begrudge him.

According to Jesus, that’s all he got.

Time To Draw Away

Read Luke 18:9-14 Romans 8

Are you intimidated by religious folk . . . so much so that you begin to doubt your salvation? Don’t let that happen. You belong to God. So rest and relax in his love, mercy and grace. It’s already yours. (Quote source: “The Problem with Religion” on KeyLife).

I titled this blog post, Be Bold for Change,” as we who are part of the Church (see definition at this link) need to be far less religious and far more loving. We need to be far less self-righteous and far more genuine about our concerns for others (as in all others). We need to be far less concerned about materialism and far more concerned about those in need. We need to be far less judgmental and far more understanding of others. And we need be far less concerned about our “legacy” and far more concerned with trusting God and not ourselves and our own resources.

If we want to know just how “religious” we are at any given moment, just think about someone we don’t like very much. That’s all it takes. The example of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Jesus’s story quoted above in the devotion says it all. As Steve wrote:

He [the Pharisee] went to the temple to pray and looked down on the tax collector who was also praying. The Pharisee rejoiced before God that he was not like the tax collector.

The Pharisee told God that he was not like other men. The Pharisee told God that he wasn’t an adulterer . . . and he wasn’t. The Pharisee told God that he wasn’t a tax collector who stole money from God’s people . . . and he wasn’t. The Pharisee told God that he fasted twice a week . . . and he did. The Pharisee told God that he tithed all of his possessions . . . and he did.

The tax collector, on the other hand, barely looked up. Instead, he pled for desperately needed mercy . . . and received it.

And we all do it, too . . . judge others (and ourselves) according to our own measuring stick. That is why Jesus made it so clear that we should not judge others (and he knew our proclivity to do just that very thing, too) in Matthew 7:1-5 when he stated:

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

The Pharisee paid no attention to “the plank in his own eye.” He thought he was righteous before God in the things that he did (or didn’t) do. He justified himself; whereas the tax collector humbled himself before God and acknowledged that he was a sinner, and asked for (and received) mercy. The difference between the two is huge.

It’s far too easy to play a religious game and miss the whole point of who Jesus really is. And it’s too easy to point fingers at others and mock or make fun of those we don’t know or understand–we do it all the time whether outwardly or in our thoughts (and God knows our thoughts even if others don’t). As Steve said about a friend he knew in the devotion above:

I have a friend who says that the difference between believers and unbelievers is that Christians know the rules and how to play the game. Therefore we can fake it better.

And we can fake it so well, too (or at least we think we fake it well). It’s often why some people leave the church and never come back. They can smell fake a mile away.

The answer? It’s found in Micah 6:8:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly  with your God.

And that’s as simple as it gets . . . .

Act justly . . .

Love mercy . . .

And walk humbly . . .

YouTube Video: “Speak Life” by TobyMac:

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The Jesus We Can’t Ignore

contend-for-the-faith_jude 3“What you think of Jesus Christ will thoroughly color how you think about everything else,” writes Dr. John MacArthur on the back cover of his book, The Jesus You Can’t Ignore” (What You Must Learn From the Bold Confrontations of Christ), (Thomas Nelson, 2008). “This is a critical truth in the life of every believer. Our view of Jesus affects the way we view God, the world, ourselves, and every one of our decisions” (continued from back cover).

In our postmodern world that has invaded much of Christianity today, we all just pretty much want what we want when we want it and to “get along” with everyone as much as possible and leave the truth up for grabs. If fact, that is at the core of the problem . . . the Truth. We don’t much like it as it has a tendency to turn our world upside down if we take it seriously. Postmoderns like to say that truth is relative and that there is no absolute truth.” It makes for a convenient (and selfish) way to live and it puts us in charge instead of God. And it doesn’t work although many folks (false teachers, actually) will try to convince us otherwise. We are not the center of the universe even though we have a tendency to live and act that way, and there are many, many false teachers out there today who will tell us what we want to hear so we can go on living any way we want.

False teachers have always been around. Jesus, Paul, Peter and Jude warned us about them and Jesus specifically stated that they would increase exponentially in the “last days” and that many would follow after them (see Matthew 24:10-13). And Paul describes clearly to Timothy what the “last days” will look like in 2 Timothy 3:1-5:

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—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

That reads like front page news today. Paul also wrote to Timothy what to watch out for regarding false teachers in I Timothy 6:3-10:

If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

And Paul tells Timothy (vv. 11-12) to “. . . flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”

The problem with us today is that we don’t do any “fleeing” from anything, nor do we really pursue “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.” No . . . we take it all in–everything our society has to offer us–and there are plenty of false teachers out there who will cater to our whims (and it’s made some of them very rich, too). And the fight we fight most often is “looking out for #1” (but we’ll never admit it).

As A.W. Tozer stated in Knowledge of the Holy,” (in the preface): “The low view of God entertained almost universally among Christians is the cause of a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us. A whole new philosophy of the Christian life has resulted from this one basic error in our religious thinking.”

Fight-the-Good-Fight-of-Faith“A hundred lesser evils” surround and engulf us today because we have a low view of God and Jesus Christ. We don’t “fight the good fight of faith” because we don’t use the faith we have to fight off temptations because we give in to them so often that we don’t even recognize them as temptations anymore, and our conscience is seared. And that’s a deadly place to be. We are greedy, and we lie, cheat, steal, covet, envy, gossip, slander, seduce (that list has no end) with the best of them and don’t think twice about it and then go to church on Sunday (if we attend church) to hear a “sermon” centered around us and how we can get “more” from God and Jesus Christ.

As John MacArthur asks (on the back cover of his book cited above), “Do you have any idea who Jesus really is?” Well, do we? Be honest, folks. What do we really know about Jesus Christ except for what we want to get from Him? MacArthur continues by stating: “These days, Jesus is often portrayed as a pacifist, a philanthropist, or a docile teacher. He strikes a plastic–and sometimes pathetic–pose in the minds of many. Some prefer the meek and mild Jesus who heals the sick, calms fears, and speaks of peace and goodwill. These things do represent a portion of the Messiah, but tragically, too many have never been exposed to the rest of him. They have never seen a full 360-degree view of the Savior. Until now.” (Quote on back cover.) [The book, The Jesus You Can’t Ignore, by John MacArthur is available through Grace to You (click here) and also at (click here).]

Much of American Christianity is about an inch deep and a mile wide. We don’t really know who Jesus Christ is, and as a result, we follow after a lot of “false Christs” (e.g., false teachers) who tickle our ears and tell us what we want to hear. We can’t claim to know Jesus Christ if we are living our lives any way we want.

As MacArthur states in the Introduction of the book (pp. xviii-xix, hardcover edition):

It is the very height of irrationality and arrogance to call Christ Lord with the lips while utterly defying Him with one’s life. Yet that is precisely how multitudes live (Luke 6:46). Such people are even more preposterous examples of self-contradiction than the atheist who imagines he can deny the Source of all that’s good and yet somehow be “good” himself. But the hypocrite is not only more irrational; he is almost more contemptible than the out-and-out atheist, because he is actually doing gross violence to the truth while pretending to believe it. Nothing is more completely diabolical. Satan is a master at disguising himself so that he appears good rather than evil. He “transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works” (2 Cor. 11:14-15).

It is no accident, then, that Jesus’ harshest words were reserved for institutionalized religious hypocrisy. He wages a very aggressive public controversy against the chief hypocrites of His era. That conflict began almost as soon as He entered public ministry and continued relentlessly until the day He was crucified. In fact, it was the main reason they conspired to crucify Him. So Jesus’ campaign against hypocrisy is a prominent, if not dominant, emphasis in all four gospels. It is the very theme we’ll be surveying in this book.

But our starting point is a truth that should be self-evident: it really does matter whether we believe the Bible is true or not; and it likewise matters whether our faith is earnest or not.

So what do we really believe? If we say we believe in Jesus Christ, do our lives and our actions and our attitudes regarding how we treat others show it on a consistent and regular basis? Do we consistently “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Phil. 2:3-4)? Or do we “go for the gusto” and “look out for #1 and fill our lives with greed and selfishness most of the time?

If the only time Jesus crosses our minds is on Sunday morning or when we are in trouble or want something, there is something seriously wrong with our view of who He is, and we need to get to know Him . . . now. And if your pastor’s sermons rarely mention His name or keep Him on the sidelines with a cursory mention now and then, find another church to attend. However the bottom line is this . . . it is our responsibility to develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and no pastor can do that for us.

Jesus says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me” (Revelation 3:20). Won’t you accept His invitation?

The days are dark and the time is growing short . . .

Do it now . . . .

YouTube Video: “Hail to the King” by Shannon Wexelberg (on her CD, “Faithful God,” 2007):

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