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Blogs I Follow

The Presidents Club

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The Surest Defense Against Evil

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The Triumph of Grace

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Contemplating God’s Sovereignty

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How Should We Then Live?

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Not a Timid Christianity

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Finishing the Race

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Because the Time is Near

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Revelation Song (YouTube)

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Where The Wind Blows

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Doing Great Things

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Recognizing a False Prophet

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The Power of Forgiveness

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Created for Relationships

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The Only Way I Know

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Faith: The Misunderstood Doctrine

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Our True Home Address

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‘Tis the Season . . . for L-O-V-E

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The Paris Terrorist Attack and the Problem of Evil

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Cherry Picking 101

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Love Sweet Love

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So Goes The Culture

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Idols of the Heart

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Divisions Are Not Always Bad

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The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

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Things That Matter

THIS DOESN'T MATTER

STARBUCKS RED HOLIDAY CUPS FOR 2015 — NOT ON THE LIST OF 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)
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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 ChildrenSermons.com:

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:

Photo #1 credit here
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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?GotQuestions.org 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? GotQuestions.org 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:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

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 Bibleornot.org,” 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 spriritual 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 (Lacrae 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. Vocabulary.com 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 Dictionary.com, 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 Christianity.com 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.

Fourth_of_July_fireworks_behind_the_Washington_Monument,_1986

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.

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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:

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God Always Has A Purpose

TransformedBack on June 22, 2013, I wrote a blog post titled, The Problem of Evil–Habakkuk Revisited.” It opened with the following paragraph:

Where is God in the midst of injustice, suffering, and evil? That question has echoed down through the ages and is still being asked today by both skeptics and believers alike. The skeptics point to it as some sort of proof that God doesn’t really exist, and the believers ask it because they don’t understand where God is in the midst of great tragedy, injustice, and evil.

We don’t have to look very far to see that evil is exploding all over our world today, especially in the Middle East right now. However, God did not create nor does He sanction evil. In fact, He cannot look on evil nor can He be a part of it. However, it is clear that evil exists. So let’s start off by defining evil. GotQuestions?org defines evil in contrast to good as follows:

Goodness has existed as an attribute of God from all eternity. While God is perfectly holy and just, He is also perfectly good. Just as God has always existed, so too has goodness as it is a facet of God’s holy character. The same cannot be said for evil. Evil came into being with the rebellion of Satan and subsequently entered the physical universe with the fall of Adam. As Christian apologist Greg Koukl has said, “Human freedom was used in such a way as to diminish goodness in the world, and that diminution, that lack of goodness, that is what we call evil.” When God created Adam, He created him good, and He also created him free.

However, in creating Adam free, God indirectly created the possibility of evil, while not creating evil itself. When Adam chose to disobey God, he made this possibility a reality. The same scenario had previously played out when Satan fell by failing to serve and obey God. So it turns out that evil is not a direct creation of God; rather, evil is the result of persons (both angelic and human) exercising their freedom wrongly.

While evil is certainly real, it is important to recognize that evil does not have existence in and of itself. Rather, it only exists as a privation (or a parasite) on the good. It exists in the same way that a wound exists on an arm or as rust exists on a car. The rust cannot exist on its own any more than cold can exist without the existence of heat or darkness can exist without the existence of light.

Despite the horrible effects of evil on our world, the Christian believer can take comfort in the words of the Lord Jesus Christ recorded for us in the Gospel of John, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). More importantly, we look forward with great anticipation to our home in heaven where the ultimate evil, death, will finally be destroyed along with the “mourning, crying and pain” which it inevitably produces (Revelation 21:4). (Quote source and complete explanation available here.)

Dictionary.com defines evil as:

1. morally wrong or bad; immoral; wicked: evil deeds; an evil life.

2. harmful; injurious: evil laws.

3. characterized or accompanied by misfortune or suffering; unfortunate; disastrous: to be fallen on evil days.

4. due to actual or imputed bad conduct or character: an evil reputation.

5. marked by anger, irritability, irascibility, etc.: He is known for his evil disposition.

GoodVsEvilSince God created us with a free will, because of our human nature, we are all capable of doing or being evil to others. While we were created to obey, enjoy and worship God, in our free will we chose not to do so, and it has been handed down to every single generation since Adam and Eve (see Genesis 1-3). Our adversary before us (whom Eve met and succumbed to–as well as Adam did through Eve–in the Garden of Eden) had the same option to obey or disobey God (see How, why, and when did Satan fall from Heaven?” at GotQuestions?org, and for the skeptics among us who laugh as the mention of the mere existence of such a being as Satan, see Does Satan Exist?” also at GotQuestions?org). However, it is not a topic I’ll be addressing on my blog since much has already been written about our adversary and his existence in our world by many others including scholars. The same goes for the topic of “free will” (see answer to the question, Is God sovereign or do we have free will?” at GotQuestions?org).

Suffice to ask this question: “Do we have the option between doing right (e.g., good) and doing wrong (e.g., evil) in thought, word or deed at any give moment in time?”

Answer: Of course we do, and we choose to do one or the other all the time. Evil lurks in all of us.

Before I go further with this topic, let’s read what Hebrews 6:1-12 has to say regarding our ability to understand spiritual matters (which reflects on the choices that we make on a daily basis):

Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so.

It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.

Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are convinced of better things in your case—the things that have to do with salvation. God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

There are too many skeptics among us in the Christian world, let alone the rest of society, regarding deeper spiritual matters that clearly exist and are operating in our world. Too many people in the past several decades have said a quick and easy “Jesus prayer” in the hope of obtaining salvation without thinking anything further will be required of them beyond that point (and too many pastors and teachers nowadays don’t emphasize the need for spiritual maturity). That is not to say that salvation is gained through works (or by anything that we can do on own own). It is a free gift from God through Jesus Christ (see John 3:16-18), and we can do nothing on our own or in our own power to receive it. We must believe by faith in Jesus Christ. However, spiritual maturity and growing as a Christian is a vital part of the Christian life. Unfortunately, maturity in general has taken a hit over the past several decades in our society, not to mention in our relationship with God (for those of us who believe in Him), and it comes from our selfish desires that battle for supremacy within us, as stated in James 4:1-12:

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud
    but shows favor to the humble.”

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?

We have gained a rather flawed concept of what the Christian life is supposed to look like over the past several decades, and do not understand the ultimate purpose of God which has never changed since the beginning of time. He did not create us so that we can ask for and/or acquire all of the material possessions or money we can possibly get our hands on (although you wouldn’t know it by looking at our culture today). Read that passage in James 4:1-12 again (see above) if you think so or even tend to go in that direction. No . . . our selfish desires, greed, and accumulation of stuff is not God’s plan for us. That God gives us good things is one thing, but our cravings for more of them is quite another. And our greed for more of anything is truly evil at it’s very core.

God’s purpose from Genesis 1 through Revelation 22 is this:

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:8-9).

That’s it. It’s not about what we selfishly seek after or want more of that matters. It is about God and the salvation He has provided through Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross and His resurrection from the dead and His free gift of eternal life (see John 3:16-18) that matters. God didn’t send His Son to this earth so that we could have “bigger, better, more, more, more” of anything that we happen to crave. He is not a genie in a lamp to do our will at our whim or bidding because of our own selfish desires. We are here to do His will. And without spiritual maturity, we will never know what His will is for us, and we will keep on seeking after our own selfish desires and what we want while asking God to put His stamp of approval on it.

We often have this inane idea in America that success as a Christian is in the outward accumulation of all that looks good and acts like “success” in our society. And we erroneously think that anyone who doesn’t fit that particular model of success can’t possibly be on the right track. My guess is that John the Baptist (see John 1) wouldn’t have been welcome in many of our churches today neither by his appearance nor in his message. And what about the example of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11 who were wealthy and ended up dead? They were a part of the early church, but their motives were selfish. Our image of “Christianity” today often fits the model of the Pharisees far more then it fits what real, genuine Christianity is all about.

At this juncture, I want to make clear that I am not talking about money or material possessions in and of themselves as there is nothing wrong with either. Rather, it is the greed so many of us in America have allowed to take hold of our lives in striving for the accumulation of more money and material possessions at the expense of our relationship with God and others, and never being satisfied with what we have (see Hebrews 13:5). And that attitude has become pervasive in our culture over the past several decades, and it is diametrically opposed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This life is not about us and what we can get from it at the expense of others and our relationship with God. There is an eternity out there at the end of this life and nobody seems to be paying attention to that very clear fact. We in the Christian community are often striving for the same accolades, accomplishments, money and material possessions as the rest of our society, and we are entirely missing the point.

A.W. Tozer (1897-1963) wrote the following in a devotion found in the book, Tozer on The Almighty God,” compiled by Ron Eggert and published in 2004:

God Always Has A Purpose

God never acts without purpose—never. People act without purpose. I feel that a great deal of what we do in the church today is purposeless. But God never acts without a purpose. Intellect is an attribute of the deity. God has intellect and this means that God thinks; and so God never does anything without an intelligent purpose. Nothing in this world is without meaning.

God put the universe together with a purpose and there isn’t a single useless thing anywhere; not any spare parts; everything fits into everything else. God made it like that. . . .

. . .He created the flowers, for instance, to be beautiful; He created birds to sing; He created the trees to bear fruit and the beasts to feed and clothe mankind. And in so saying, these people affirm what the Holy Scriptures and Moses and the prophets and the apostles and saints since the world began have all said. God made man for a purpose and that purpose is given by the catechism; the answer is, “To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” God made us to be worshipers. That was the purpose of God in bringing us in to the world. (Devotion for November 30).

God is loveGod did not create us so that we could chase after everything that we want in this life. He created us with the same purpose He had in mind when he created our first ancestors, Adam and Eve, and that purpose is “To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” Read that last part again . . . “To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” Unfortunately, just like our first ancestors, we want what we want when we want it, and we really don’t trust God to give us what we need, and that separates us from God.

I’ll end this post with the passage from Hebrews 13:5:

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,

“Never will I leave you;
    never will I forsake you.”

We need to start believing it, and not be filled with selfish motives like Ananias and Sapphira who ended up dead because of it. . . .

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body
and nourishment to your bones.
~Proverbs 3:5-8

YouTube Video: “God of Wonders” sung by Third Day:

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What Really Matters

I’ve been forced by circumstances to live in hotels for the past seven plus months now. The first three of those months were spent in Houston, TX, looking for more affordable housing which never materialized no matter how hard I tried to find and secure it, or from those people and places I sought help from which in the end were no help at all. And the same situation has been happening for the past four plus months since I returned to Orlando from my trip to Houston.

Hotels are meant to be temporary dwellings, not semi-permanent or permanent housing. And who can afford to live in hotels on a permanent basis anyway? The current weekly rent I pay is $285/week, yet the apartment complexes where I have gone to secure an apartment for half that price tell me I don’t make enough income on my Social Security to be able to rent an apartment from them. And even if I did make enough income I have been told at every single one of them that the size of apartment I’m looking for (e.g., the smallest) isn’t available anyway and I’d have to be put on a waiting list. But then, of course, I don’t make enough income to even be put on the waiting list.

So, I’ve been stuck living in hotels for over seven months now at highway robbery prices compared to apartment complexes who won’t give me the time of day. And, you’d be surprised what I have discovered by being forced to live in them for this long. Welcome to a side of America that most folks (middle class, upper middle class, and the rich among us) never get to see or experience except from a distance if at all. I know I never expected to see or be a part of it either when I was working and I had a steady income that paid my bills. And I certainly never expected this to happen to me especially at an age when retirement was only about ten years away when I lost my job in Houston.

Life can turn on a dime, folks . . . . 

I would like to be able to say that Christianity is alive and well in America but I haven’t actually experienced it to the point of receiving actual, genuine help and not just talk or being placated when it comes to my housing situation (and I won’t even include the past six years that I have been unemployed, and I have Christian friends and colleagues who are working in my profession and some of them are in high level positions, too). And now, as if that wasn’t enough to be enduring over six years, I have been forced to live in hotels for over seven months now due to my very low income on Social Security which I never should have needed to apply for yet if I had only had a job for these past six years.

I have been discouraged by what I have seen and personally witnessed from folks calling themselves Christians over these past six years that I have been unemployed and now these past seven months while being forced to live in hotels. If this is what genuine Christianity looks and acts like nowadays in America, I’m changing my religion. No wonder Christianity is losing ground in America especially among the younger generations. What’s there to draw them in? Our love?

Fortunately, as I read the New Testament, what I have experienced from some Christians whom I have sought help from and not received anything in return but talk and placating is not what actual, genuine, lived out New Testament Christianity looks or acts like. So where do I go to find it? I’m not saying it doesn’t exist here in America, but I’m pretty convinced it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack at this point in time. And I’m talking about one-on-one help, and not the “global” answers I’ve gotten in the past, like how Christians have built hospitals and other compassion-based organizations and sent missionaries around the world. (See article titled, What Has Christianity Done for the World?) While all of that is vitally important it still misses the point I’m trying to make when it comes down to people (individuals) actually helping other people (individuals) in their time of need and not just leaving them in their wake with a quick  “I’m praying for you” statement while walking away.

Matt. 22v37-39Christians can be just as mean-spirited as the rest of the world and that should give us (at least those of us who call ourselves Christian) pause for thought. It’s not that we aren’t human but if our Christianity makes no difference in our lives and how we treat others (all others) on a regular, ongoing basis that means something is severely lacking in it. The Pharisees were like that, too. Let’s take a look the Pharisee’s prayer in Luke 18:9-14:

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Sound familiar? There is a total lack of love in the attitude of the Pharisee. Instead, the Pharisee gloated from his own confidence in his own self-righteousness. And he looked down on others, too. And where there is no love, there’s not going to be a lot of offering of help, either. Instead, we’ll probably hear, “I’m praying for you,” while folks smile and walk away. Wouldn’t it be shocking to find out that perhaps many of our churches are actually filled with a fair number of Pharisees instead of genuine Christians? An attitude check (especially towards strangers in our midst) is all that’s needed to figure it out. If even one person enters our church and we judge them harshly for any reason (and usually without even knowing them or hearing some gossip about them from others who often have ulterior and self-seeking motives), it’s pretty clear whose side we are really on.

I used to think there were a lot of genuine Christians in America but these past six years have clearly indicated that there might not be as many as I originally surmised. Talk is cheap, and it’s easy to look and act the part when not actually being a genuine Christian. Just dress nice, look nice, act nice, say all the right words, pray properly, and hide the stuff we don’t want folks to know and, hey, we’ll be accepted by most churches today. But in the end, it doesn’t mean anything. And God isn’t fooled, either.

James 4 makes some pretty clear statements as to how we should be living with each other:

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud
    but shows favor to the humble.”

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

stop making excusesRead that last sentence again. If sinning doesn’t bother us anymore, what does that say about us? And when was the last time we actually submitted ourselves to God with grieving and wailing and changing our laughter into mourning? When was the last time we were genuinely humble before God (and not with the false humility that is so pervasive in many Christian circles today)?

In a short devotion titled, “What Really Matters?” by A.W. Tozer (1897-1963), published in Tozer on The Almighty God,” (2004) complied by Ron Eggert, Tozer states the following:

What does matter after all? . . . What are the axiomatic truths upon which all human life may rest with confidence? Fortunately they are not many. Here are the chief ones:

1. Only God is great. . . .

2. Only God is wise. . . . 

3. Apart from God nothing matters. We think that health matters, that freedom matters, or knowledge or art or civilization. And but for one insistent word they would matter indeed. That word is eternity.

Grant that men possess perpetual being, and the preciousness of every earthly treasure is gone instantly. God is to our eternal being what our heart is to our body. The lungs, the liver, the kidneys have value as they relate to the heart. Let the heart stop and the rest of the organs promptly collapse. Apart from God, what is money, fame, education, civilization? Exactly nothing at all, for men leave all these things behind them and one by one go to eternity. Let God hide His face and nothing thereafter is worth the effort.

4. Only what we do in God will remain to us at last. . . . (Devotion for September 12)

In my last post titled, Nothing is Hidden,” I quoted from a 2008 survey that stated that 76% of the adult population in America considered themselves to be Christian, yet the country is in a very sorry state of affairs. Many of those folks most likely don’t have a clue what it means to be Christian other then maybe by attending church or because their parents were Christian. Whether or not we are genuinely Christian is first and foremost stated in John 3:16-18:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son [Jesus Christ], 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.

And it is then proved out by how we live our lives. Anybody can call themselves Christian and it doesn’t mean a thing unless it is followed by action and with genuine and sincere love for God and for others. Nothing else matters. Christianity often gets a bad rap in America because many people calling themselves Christian haven’t a clue what it really means nor do they live any differently then the rest of society. However, in John 13:35, Jesus stated “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

And what does genuine love look like? 1 Corinthians 13 states:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking,
It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes,
Always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

And just in case you’re wondering why there are apparently so many “fake” Christians claiming to be Christian, GotQuestions?org provides a comprehensive answer to that question Why are there so many fake Christians? at this link. Here are two paragraphs from the article:

This question is certainly a legitimate one in the minds of many people. And this is likely due to the behavior of some Christians; however, it is also likely because of the behavior of many who think they are Christians or profess to be Christians, but who are not. The reasons many believe they are true Christians when they are not are many and varied. The false teaching that is so prevalent these days is certainly one reason. When churches eschew teaching sound doctrine, the end result will be congregants who do not know the truth of God’s Word. How can they keep in step with the Spirit, when the Truth is not in them?

Also, some believe their recitation of a prayer or responding to an “altar call” alone may have turned them into a Christian. Many believe their religious traditions, such as being baptized as an infant, secured a spot in heaven for them, or that their plentiful good works alone have put them in good standing with God. And, of course, some believe church attendance alone guarantees salvation. The point is that many who profess to be Christians are not Christians at all. Yet they complacently remain convinced that all is well with their soul. Sadly, many will live their entire lives believing they were Christians only to one day hear these words from Jesus Christ: “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:23). (Quote source and read more at this link.)

In short, two commandments clearly state in a nutshell how we should be living our lives as Christians. In Matthew 22:37-39, Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” 

That’s it . . . .

Everything flows from it . . .

And nothing else matters . . . .

YouTube Video: “Testify to Love” by Avalon:

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Nothing Is Hidden

Nothing is hidden from God

“According to the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) of 2008, 76% of the American adult population identified themselves as Christians, with 51% professing attendance at a variety of churches that could be considered Protestant or unaffiliated, and 25% professing Catholic beliefs” (quote source here). With such a large percentage of the American adult population identifying themselves as Christians, given a cursory look at the state of our nation today gives one pause for thought as to why our society is in such turmoil with an apparent “anything goes” mentality running the show much of the time. Most of the time it has to do with the way we live our lives on a daily basis.

In an article titled, A Critical Look at Situation Ethics,” the author, Wayne Jackson, opens with the following statement:

Basically, there are three schools of thought regarding human moral responsibility. First, there is nihilism. Nihilism argues that there is no God, hence anything one wishes to do is permitted. There are no rules—absolutely none—for human conduct; according to this ideology, every person is a law unto himself.

Second, there is relativism. Relativism contends that all conduct is relative to the circumstance. Thus, each individual must decide what is moral or immoral in a given situation. Ultimately, every man is his own judge of the matter. [Relativism is more commonly known as situation ethics.]

Third, there is absolutism. This concept affirms that there is an absolute, objective standard of right and wrong (grounded in the holy nature of God himself), and this code of moral conduct is set forth in the Bible—reaching its zenith in the New Testament. (Quote source here).

It is the second item listed–relativism–also known as situation ethics–that has played a major role in our society for the past several decades. Dictionary.com defines situation ethics as follows:

view of ethics that deprecates general moral principles while emphasizing the source of moral judgments in the distinctive characters of specific situations. (Quote source here.)

Situation ethics is squishy, dicey, and allows a way out of any moral dilemma we face that we don’t want to adhere to given the set of circumstances we find ourselves in, and, over time, it often replaces the moral dilemma altogether. For example, it’s like saying that we are adamantly against abortion until our unmarried teenage daughter becomes pregnant and our reputation within the community is now at stake, so in this particular situation we allow for it (without letting the neighbors know, of course). Affairs often fall under the same category . . . we say we believe in marital fidelity until someone catches our eye and we head on down that road towards adultery. Or, let’s bring it even closer to home with something that has become so pervasive in our society today that we do it without even blinking an eye–lying–as in being deliberately untruthful and deceitful, often for some type of personal gain at another’s expense or to ruin someone’s reputation (see blog post titled, The Truth About Lying). Gossip is a big one that falls under that category.

In the middle of this past century (20th), A.W. Tozer (1897-1963) made the following statement in The Knowledge of the Holy (see preface) which sums up our apparent apathy towards any moral dilemma we happen to face:

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.

With our loss of the sense of majesty has come the further loss of religious awe and consciousness of the divine Presence. We have lost our spirit of worship and our ability to withdraw inwardly to meet God in adoring silence. Modern Christianity is simply not producing the kind of Christian who can appreciate or experience the life in the Spirit. The words, “Be still, and know that I am God,” mean next to nothing to the self-confident, bustling worshipper in this middle period of the twentieth century.

This loss of the concept of majesty has come just when the forces of religion are making dramatic gains and the churches are more prosperous than at any time within the past several hundred years. But the alarming thing is that our gains are mostly external and our losses wholly internal; and since it is the quality of our religion that is affected by internal conditions, it may be that our supposed gains are but losses spread over a wider field.

The only way to recoup our spiritual losses is to go back to the cause of them and make such corrections as the truth warrants. The decline of the knowledge of the holy has brought on our troubles. A rediscovery of the majesty of God will go a long way toward curing them. It is impossible to keep our moral practices sound and our inward attitudes right while our idea of God is erroneous or inadequate. If we would bring back spiritual power to our lives, we must begin to think of God more nearly as He is. (Quote source here.)

“It is impossible to keep our moral practices sound and our inward attitudes right while our idea of God is erroneous or inadequate.” And how did our idea of God get this way?

Sometimes while I’m driving down the road I’ll be listening to a Christian radio station playing modern Christian music. While I appreciate many of the words the song writers have written, I’ve come to realize that much of the Christian music of our day focuses on us, and what God can give or do for us. Our concept of God is often wrapped around us except perhaps during Sunday morning worship at church. Rarely do we seek God at any real depth for who He is apart from what we want or need, and we have succumbed to a “light and easy” Christianity that pales in comparison to actual New Testament living. And a hundred lesser evils (e.g., “idols”) in our culture have taken up the space in our lives that should be reserved for God only–things like money and material possessions, and, of course, all the “situation ethics” we allow for in our own lives, like lying because it’s easier then living out the truth we know we should be living. And excuse-making has become all too common among us.

And it’s called idolatry . . . .

Throne-of-GraceMany of us who call ourselves Christian rarely take the time on a daily basis to “be still” (see Psalm 46) before God and seek His face and His will for our lives for the day. We rarely meditate for longer than a five-minute devotion (if we even do that) but still expect God to carry us through the day. I wasn’t raised to believe that way many years ago but it has become so common in our day today and for the past several decades, too. We just expect God to be there for us whenever we need him without really giving him the time of day. And the power and wisdom that come from God is lost to us because we don’t seek him first.

Hebrews 4:12-16 states the following:

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. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

It is the word of God, the Bible, that is alive and active. We must take the time to read and meditate on it so that it has a place in our lives and guides us in how we should respond to everything that comes our way in life. We cannot receive God’s wisdom and truth without it, and it penetrates our actions and attitudes. Without it we are like ships without an anchor. James 1:19-27 states:

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

“A tight rein on their tongues” is not just a matter of not swearing, but it also includes gossip and slander, deceit and lying, and using prayer as a way to communicate gossip about others or make ourselves sound or look good (like the prayer of the Pharisee–see Luke 18:10-13). God sees and knows our heart attitude, no matter how nicely we may try to cover it up to others. And in the end, it is only God’s view that matters.

I have always maintained that my blog posts are written in the spirit of “considering our ways.” We have let go of so many of the essentials that make up the core of Christianity (and many of the young people among us today don’t even know what they are) in our daily walk with God in our society, and a myriad of “things” have taken his place, from smartphones to material possessions to lying just to get ahead. I write them as much to remind myself as to remind anyone else. None of us are outsiders to the human race.

I’ll end this post with the words of King Solomon (the son of King David and Bathsheba) who was the wisest man who ever lived. Those words are found in Ecclesiastes 12:11-14:

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.

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

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

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