used and abused

In the first part of 1 Samuel there are some very interesting stories of the Israelites during a time that hey had very little leadership as a people and the priests who had responsibility for the spiritual needs of the people were very corrupt.  Eli was the leader of the priests and yet he did not call his sons, who were the most corrupt, into accountability for their corruption.  So, the people were on their own for the most part.  We see God preparing a new prophet and priest, Samuel, early in the book.  The interesting thing to me is the attitude of the people toward God.  In chapter 4 the Israelites go out to war with the Philistines and they are defeated.  They ask, “why did the Lord defeat us today before the Philistines?”  My immediate thought is, “that is a good question.”  However, I don’t think it was truly a seeking of God to know His plan or will.  So they come up with an idea, let’s go get the ark of the covenant, we’ll take it into battle with us and surely it will save us from our enemies.  So, they sent men to retrieve the ark from Shiloh.  Two priests were with them, Phinehas and Hophni, the two corrupt priests, sons of Eli.  The ark is brought into the camp of the Israelites and everyone is excited that the ark of the covenant of the Lord is present, victory will be theirs.  Their shouts reached the ears of the Philistines, they panicked, be cause a god has entered their camp.  They had heard of this god of the Israelites and rightfully respected the adversary they were to face.  Into battle the Israelites go with the ark and they are soundly defeated.  Also, the ark of the covenant of the Lord is captured.  Eli’s sons were killed as well.  I would say that was a bad day.

Looking at what transpired we note some interesting things.  First, they did not seek God and whether they were to battle the first time, the result defeat.  Second, they decided that the ark of the covenant of the Lord would be their talisman, their good luck charm.  Again, they thought taking what was consecrated to God would obligate God to do what they wanted, defeat the Philistines.  They were not serious about their submission to Yahweh, they treated God in the same manner the Philistines did.  They knew about the God of the Israelites, but they didn’t know the God of Israel, so it was just a god.  The Israelites made spirituality about them, not God.  Third, their carelessness with the ark of the covenant spoke volumes about their current relationship with their God, it was filled with disobedience.  The result, they suffer defeat once again.

We should learn from their experience.  We cannot treat our relationship with God, the indwelling Spirit, or the body of Christ as bargaining chips to get what we want, rather than letting these important aspects of a believer’s relationship be used by God to direct our lives.  The believer must understand that our relationship with God is truly more about Him and His purposes and plans than us and our desired plans.  We must walk in surrender to His will and His Word always looking to Him for His direction through the indwelling Holy Spirit.  The young shepherd boy had it right when he faced Goliath years later –

“and this whole assembly will know that it is not by sword or by spear

that the Lord saves, for the battle is the Lord’s.

He will hand you over to us.” 

1 Samuel 17:47


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A Favorite Hymn 6

This hymn seemed to be a mainstay of worship services in Baptist churches.  It is a testimony song that every believer would sing with fervor and gratitude.  The tune is written in a flowing 6/8 meter which enabled the congregation to sing the words according to notes or not, because the lyrics conveyed the heart song of every believer who experienced God’s love through salvation in His Son Jesus.  Interestingly enough the tune is anonymous, the composer is not known, but the words were written by Frederick Whitfield.  I think the hymn is familiar to many and should be a favorite of most, “Oh, How I Love Jesus.”

 

“There is a name I love to hear, I love to sing its worth;

It sounds as music in my ear, the sweetest name on earth.
 

It tells me of a Savior’s love, who dies to set me free;

It tells me of His precious blood, the sinner’s perfect plea.

 

It tells me what my Father has in store for every day;

And though I tread a darksome path, yields sunshine all the way.

 

It tells of One whose loving heart can feel my deepest woe,

Who in each sorrow bears a part that none can bear below.

 

Oh, how I love Jesus, Oh, how I love Jesus,

Oh, how I love Jesus, because He first loved me.”

                                                                                                            – Frederick Whitfield

If you are familiar with the hymn, you couldn’t read the lyrics, you had to sing them. The hymn carries precious confidence in the love of God as demonstrated through Jesus, as well as confidence in God’s sustaining care for our challenges and our sorrows.  His great love implants a song of testimony and praise that must be sung.  It truly echoes the scripture, “We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19


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wrong army

There was a song, that was and may still be in some places, that I sang as a child, primarily in Sunday School.  The lyrics went something like this:

“I may never march in the infantry,

ride in the calvary

shoot the artillery

Oh, I may never fly o’er the enemy,

But I’m in the Lord’s army.”

The Lord’s army is a spiritual army of followers of Jesus Christ the Lord.  People who have given their lives on this earth to the King of Kings to serve Him.  It is not an army with the purpose of conquering and wiping out nations, rather it is an army of committed prayer warriors, frontline evangelists, and base camp disciple makers, all seeking to follow their Lord in reaching the nations for the Kingdom of God with the Gospel.  The soldiers in this army must be genuine, authentic, and singular minded to be effective in their responsibilities.  These soldiers truly honor and glorify King Jesus.

There was another group of soldiers who were trained well and dedicated to their responsibilities and to their ruler, albeit an earthly ruler.  They too, had an encounter with King Jesus.  However, their connection to the King of Kings was very different.

“Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the governor’s residence and  gathered the whole company around Him.  They stripped Him and dressed Him  in a scarlet robe. They twisted together a crown of thorns, put it on His head,  and placed a staff in His right hand.  And they knelt down before Him and  mocked Him: ‘Hail King of the Jews!’ Then they spat on Him, took the staff, and  kept hitting Him on the head.  After they had mocked Him, they stripped Him of  the robe, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him.”                                                                            Matthew 27:27-31

These soldiers were in the wrong army.  They may have been in service of the governor, but they were not in the army of the Kingdom of God.  It is easy to look at the scripture and this part of Jesus trial and crucifixion and wonder how could Jesus, the Son of man, the Son of God, God Himself could suffer through such abuse.  To this company of soldiers Jesus was a nobody.  They mocked this nobody in a manner that mocked the true identity of Jesus the King.  The staff they placed in His right hand was a gesture mocking the scepter in a true King’s right hand indicating His power over the Kingdom including the power to give life or death to people brought before his throne. They took the staff and beat Jesus on the head, they spit on Him, and mocked Him with ridicule.  What will these soldiers say when they stand before the throne of God one day?

This passage of scripture always causes me to stop and evaluate my life and testimony regarding King Jesus my Lord.  Am I a faithful soldier in His spiritual army and Kingdom?  Or am I mocking the King in the way I worship, the way I live, or the way I pray?  It is a good reminder that I must keep my eyes focused on the Lord Jesus to be a faithful and obedient soldier in His army.


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Midweek Review 5

Last Sunday’s message was on the significance of God’s enduring Word in the life of the believer.  So how about an honest examination of how significant the Word of God is to you?  Outside of a sermon or small group Bible study how often do you read or study God’s Word?  How often do you spend time in a passage meditating on what God’s Word is speaking to you?  Do you attempt to memorize scriptures for recall and application when faced with temptation, challenges, or trials?  These are just a few sample questions I think I need to evaluate my connection to God’s Word on a regular basis.  Some folks are filled with a strong desire to be in the Bible as much as possible.  My prayer is that as a church we will desire to know the Bible so that we can grow in our relationship with Jesus and be prepared to share its truth with others.

As we considered God’s enduring Word can you recall the three characteristics we examined in the passage?  First, we found the Enduring Word of God to be effectual. When we hear, read, and study God’s Word it will change our thinking, our attitudes, our behavior, and our relationships with Him and with others.  God’s Word also changes the foundation that we build our life upon.  God’s Word will accomplish what God sent it to do.  Second, we found the Enduring Word of God to be eternal.  God’s Word has been, and always will be.  The written word that God breathed through the Holy Spirit into faithful men to write down contains His unchangeable truths that give people the plan of salvation that God the Father set before the foundations of the world.  His eternal Word is also “…living and effective and sharper than a double-edged sword…”  Because it is eternal, it is also reliable.  Third, we found that the enduring Word of God is essential.  A newborn baby has a desire to have nutrient rich milk from its mother to satisfy its hunger and even more so, to grow as a person.  What a tremendous picture Peter gave believers to communicate how essential God’s Word is for growing as a believer and satisfying the desire to know God.  A believer who seldom gets into God’s Word will be “spiritually mal-nourished and weak” resulting in a susceptibility to sin and fruitlessness. But a well-nourished believer from God’s Word will be fruitful and able to resist sin.  I hope you could remember the three characteristics of God’s enduring Word.

Here is the continuing challenge!  Set a goal for yourself this summer in three different areas: how much of the Bible you will read over the summer (like the Old or New Testament), also select 3-5 passages to study (like Psalm 119, the sermon on the mount, or Biblical characters, like Joshua, Ruth, David, Peter), finally select 6 new verses to memorize over the next 3 months (find verses you know will help you to live out your life in Jesus).  Take up the challenge and you may discover you just have to have more.  The enduring Word of God, effectual, eternal, and essential!

 

“I have treasured Your Word in my heart

So that I may not sin against You.”

Psalm 119:11


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redefining Christianity

The last 2½ months have been interesting in different ways.  I have been instructed to wash my hands in the last couple of months more than my mother told me to wash my hands in my entire childhood.  I have gained insight int the fact that a pandemic is not named so because it is worldwide, but rather because it drives panic, and do people panic!  Most significantly, I have determined that in our culture, there are a lot of things that are essential to culture and Christianity doesn’t make the list.  Hopefully, for genuine believers in Jesus this does not hold true in any form or fashion.  Yet I am concerned that many people including many who profess to be Christians are allowing the culture to subtly redefine Christianity.  Social media has redefined “community” over the last decade and so it has been easy to slide Christianity into the same ideology through the pandemic with “together apart.”  It is not that social distancing is an evil amidst the outbreak, but it makes it very easy to accept and approve a new manner of relationships.  It may become much more pragmatic and simpler to have a dysfunctional Christianity that is convenient, than a functional Christianity that calls for sacrifice and intentionality in following Jesus.  The problem is culture becomes the guide for following Jesus rather than God’s Word.  Even as our nation does its best to resume a life of normalcy, we hear the admonitions that things will return to a “new” normal.  My resolve is that whatever that new normal may be, that my commitment to serving Jesus will remain, and the need for practicing Biblical Christianity is a must, even if it stands more notably different from the culture.  So, we are in a spiritual battle right now, this is not about buildings, or restrictions, or even about resuming worship gatherings, it is about the preeminence of Biblical application in following Jesus as authentic believers.  We must not compromise God’s truth, His commands, His ordinances, His precepts, or His principles for living in right relationship with Him and living a life that stands firm in Biblical truth.  If we are not alert spiritually, we will be caught off guard and find ourselves in the deception of compromised Christianity defined by the world and not our God!  Hold fast to our God, our Lord and Savior, and genuine belief founded on God’s unchanging and eternal Word.

“Be sober-minded, be alert.  Your adversary the devil is prowling around

like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour.  Resist him,

firm in the faith, knowing that the same kind of sufferings

are being experienced by your fellow believers throughout the world.”

1 Peter 5:8-9

“Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. Put on the full armor of God

so that you can stand against the schemes of the devil.  For our struggle is not against

flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness,

against evil spiritual forces in the heavens.”

Eph. 6:10-12


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going fishing

“Simon Peter, Thomas (called ‘Twin’), Nathaniel from Cana of Galilee,

Zebedees’s sons, and two others of His disciples were together.

“I’m going fishing,” Simon Peter said to them.

“We’re coming with you,” they told him.

They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.”

                                                                                                            – John 21:2-3

The disciples have experienced the death, burial and resurrection of their Master and Lord Jesus.  They have even seen Him a couple of times, yet there is so much uncertainty about what is happening and what they should be doing.  Jesus is alive, they believe, but different, and they’re not sure what that means to them.  They are in Galilee a familiar place for most of them present, they are supposed to meet Jesus here, but He has not come yet.  From our scripture we see that 7 of Jesus’ disciples are together and this is where Peter makes a decision, “I’m going fishing.”  Which sounds like a good idea since several of the disciples were fishermen before Jesus called them to follow Him.  I don’t think it was Peter’s thought, well Jesus isn’t here, and I could use a little down time or rest and relaxation, so I am going fishing.  I think it was more of an anxiousness on his part, it was uncertainty about what was taking place and fishing was something familiar to do.  Who knew, maybe it was what he would be doing again.  The rest of the group decided they would go with Peter.  Misery loves company they say, so all seven disciples got in a boat and went fishing.  The scripture tells us their night of fishing brought no catch of any fish.

Before we progress with their situation.  Let’s take a look at our own.  The corona virus has caused people to question all that is taking place in life.  Believers are included in the mix.  To control or diminish the spread of the disease we have closed our gathering together as the body of Christ.  We have experienced a shakeup of the norm we knew.  Now is the time to face a new challenge, what do we do next?  We can decide to go fishing, that is, trying to do what we were doing before.  However, like these disciples it may not be profitable or productive at all.

Jesus was not physically with them when they decided to go fishing, but after their long night of doing what they thought they should do Jesus invites them to fish with Him, His way, and then have breakfast with Him too.  The result was a huge catch of fish and fellowship with Jesus once more.

We may not know how things will work out as we move forward through all that is happening in the world.  But what we do know is that whatever the future will look like we desperately need Jesus in our midst.  We don’t see Him physically, but spiritually we need His presence in our hearts, His direction in our decisions, and His assurance that He has a plan for us.  If we keep our hope and trust in Him, we should be able to be productive in our fishing for men.


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me

Even though I am a pastor, have 36 years of full-time vocational church ministry experience, have been a believer since 1966, I am still learning how to follow Jesus and live differently.  The current sermon series challenges me in my own relationship and walk with Jesus each week to live life differently.  All my life has been associated with followers of Jesus, the Bible, the church, missions and so many tremendous blessings.  Yet through all of these good things in my life I am still discovering and attempting to make application of spiritual truth in every part of my life.

I recently confronted one of my most damaging enemies in my relationship and walk with Jesus.  It was not shocking, but it was very convicting and humiliating.  I came face to face with the reality that my worst enemy is me.  I know that I must surrender my life to Jesus on a daily basis, that I need God’s Word and prayer to keep me in the right spirit, heart, and mind in order to truly and sincerely follow Jesus.  But my enemy, me, is the part of my conditioned way of relating to everything that happens around me that elicits reactions or responses.  If me is led by God’s Spirit then most often I have a Spirit led response to things that happen around me, however, if me is lax in my spiritual walk with Jesus then I easily react to things around me in the flesh, which is never consistent with the Holy Spirit’s leading in my life.  As I have thought and prayed about this conditioned way of relating, I have probed into my own mind and spirit to find out why me has this conditioned way of relating to things. 

What the Holy Spirit showed me is that my perception of things in life conditions how I relate to them.  The things that I deal with in life, me, makes a perceptive judgement as to whether these things are just, righteous, and fair.  That doesn’t sound bad at all, but the problem is that too often me judges these things according to if it is just, righteous, and fair for me!  If me does this then I react to situations in the flesh, dishonoring Jesus.  If me is Spirit controlled it will judge these things according to God’s truth, according to His work in the circumstances and according to how I can testify for Jesus, even if, it isn’t fair for me, even if, it isn’t right for me, even If, it isn’t just for me.  Me is not important at that moment, but Jesus and His reputation is, and since me is an ambassador for Christ then me needs to be most concerned in me’s perceptions of Jesus and His purpose in me.  This is humbling but freeing, because me relinquishes more of who me is to Jesus.

No doubt, me still needs to learn, but if me is to be my best asset rather than my worst enemy then me must learn to surrender me’s perception fully to the Spirit that indwells me to help me overcome the deceptions of wrong perceptions.  I am thankful that me has been exposed so that I can continue to grow in the grace and knowledge my Lord Jesus Christ.

“For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate…For in my inner self I joyfully agree with God’s law.  But I see a different law in the parts of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and taking me prisoner to the law of sin in the parts of my body.  What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this dying body?  I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Romans 7:15, 22-25a

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us.  We plead on Christ’s behalf, ‘Be reconciled to God.’ He made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:20-21


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A Favorite Hymn 5

There are tremendous hymns of faith and trust that are born out of tragedy.  Here is an excerpt of one such hymn.

Two years after the devastation of the Great Chicago Fire the Spafford family planned a trip to Europe. Late business demands (zoning issues arising from the Fire) kept Spafford from joining his wife and four daughters on a family vacation in England where his friend D. L. Moody would be preaching.

On November 22, 1873, while crossing the Atlantic on the steamship Ville du Havre, the ship was struck by an iron sailing vessel killing 226 people, including all of Spafford’s daughters. His wife, Anna, survived the tragedy. Upon arriving in    England, she sent a telegram to Spafford that read “Saved alone.” As Spafford sailed to England to join his wife, he wrote “It Is Well with My Soul.”

Horatio G. Spafford was a man of faith, he served as a Presbyterian Elder.  It faith became most evident in the writing of the lyrics of this great hymn in the face of tragedy. “It is Well with My Soul” has long been a favorite hymn to sing by believers.  The hymn communicates that it is God, His presence, His purposes, His deliverance, the blood of Jesus, the cross, His forgiveness and His return are the reasons one’s soul can be at peace and well regardless of the circumstances.  In a time like our present, we as believers, of all people, should be able to sing in testimony that it is well with our souls.  
 

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll;

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,

It is well, it is well with my soul.
 

My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought!

My sin, not in part but the whole,

Is nailed to His cross, and I bear it no more,

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
 

And Lord haste the day, when the faith shall be sight,

The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;

The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,

Even so, it is well with my soul.
 

It is well (it is well),

with my soul (with my soul),

It is well, it is well with my soul.

– Horatio Spafford


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the high place of serving

The disciples of Jesus were ordinary Jewish men who were called to follow an extraordinary man.  One day a fisherman the next day a fisher of men.  These men followed Jesus in the most intensive three-year training plan for changing the world that has ever been.  Their training consisted of observation, listening, and doing hands-on assignments that dealt with people.  There were the Jewish religious leaders, there was the woman at the well, and the one caught in adultery, there were tax collectors, lepers, blind men, demon possessed people, crowds of people wanting to see Jesus do a miraculous work, all of which these ordinary men experienced God and His work through the One called Jesus.  The amazing thing about these men is they had to learn and grow to become the chosen instruments Jesus would use to carry the Gospel to the lost world.  They struggled with issues in life as they walked with Jesus.  What they truly believed about God was challenged and tested. We are blessed to see their journey with Jesus, and we are wise if we learn with them as we read and study the Gospels.

One day the mother of two of the disciples along with the disciples approached Jesus with a request.  A request that seemed out of place for these men in training as world changers.  Interestingly, their mother made the request for the two disciples to sit at Jesus right and his left in His Kingdom.  Jesus response queried whether they would endure and drink the cup Jesus was going to drink.  Jesus was speaking of the suffering and death He was about to experience.  The disciples said they were able to do so.  Jesus affirmed that indeed they would drink the cup, but it was not His place to give such a request, because His Father would determine those things.  The other disciples were put out by the request and resented the prideful request of the two.  Jesus called them together for another training session.  Here is the lesson:

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those in high positions act as tyrants over them.  It must not be like that among you.  On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28 It was not long after this that Jesus taught them the same truth and practice with the towel and the basin.  Believers, when in the church and when outside of the church, are not to seek to be served by others, they are not to let pride drive them to do so, rather they are in humility to serve others.  They are to be like Jesus.  Titles, positions, authority never outrank humble servitude, especially when servitude brings glory to Jesus.  I am not looking to have some eternal position of honor in heaven, you probably are not either, it will be more than enough to join all those who trust Jesus as Savior and Lord around the throne to worship the One, who gave His life as a ransom for many.  So, I’ll join you in serving, just like Jesus served!  


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Midweek Review 4

It is Wednesday once again and time for the weekly review of the last Sunday’s message.  Our series in 1 Peter is all about living differently, that is living a life totally surrendered to Jesus’ Lordship.  Last week we had three requirements for living different by living holy.  Can you recall the three requirements?  Here they are:

          Living holy requires intentionally looking forward

          Living holy requires consecration

          Living holy requires surrender of the past

These requirements as found in 1 Peter 1:13-21 are important to living in holiness.

The intentional looking forward is about our minds being ready for action and sober-minded.  To remind a follower of Jesus that they must be intentional and serious about following and obeying Him in their minds, emotions, and behavior would not seem to be necessary.  After all a commitment to Jesus Christ would entail a priority desire to live like Jesus.  But life even as a follower of Jesus can be affected by distractions, obstacles, trials, temptations, failures, and losses.  The key is intentionally focusing on our eternal goal, “set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  (V13b) Our need is to be spiritually sensitive to how our life in Christ should focus on eternal matters.  If we are serious about this, then our hope of completed salvation, when we meet Jesus, will help us live differently.

We hear of people being sold out for some purpose, or totally committed to a sport, a project, or endeavor and marvel at their effort and focus.  Who is the last believer you marveled at because of their consecration to the Lordship of Jesus?  Consecration to the Lord is the full focus of surrender and obedience to His life plans and control.  When a believer consecrates themselves to Jesus Lordship, they embark to be holy, not in their merit, but in the spiritual empowering through the Holy Spirit to like Jesus.  Our heart, our mind, our spirit, all are zeroed in on thinking and acting like Jesus, so that we will “be holy in all your conduct.”  (V15b) This is only possible when we let the Spirit of God control our lives.  We are to, “Be holy, because I am holy.” (V16b)

When believers deal with their past it can be encouragement for the present or it can be bondage that is discouragement in the present.  When a person comes to Jesus Christ in faith, they find themselves born-again into a new life.  This new life is spiritually focused following Jesus in the present.  The enemy of believers seeks to discourage, disparage, and bring doubt into the believer’s thinking because of the past.  If the believer is wise, he looks more intently to Jesus knowing his past is surrendered to Jesus and cannot affect his relationship with God nor His obedience to the Spirit in the present.  “For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things like silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ”  (V18-19a)  Since we have had our lives redeemed by Jesus, we need to leave our past with Him as well.

The last part of verse 21 summarizes, why we practice these requirements – “so that our hope and faith is in God.”  Live holy to live differently!


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wind

As I start the day today the wind is already blowing, the weather forecast said it would be breezy.  It’s a matter of definition I guess as to which is more accurate.  But it occurred to me that the virus is less effective in our state because the wind moves it all to Kansas and Nebraska.  So, I praise God for the wind.  Okay so that is probably not very factual at all, but hey, I’ll praise God for the wind anyway!

When I think of wind in the Bible, I think of Jesus calming the wind in the storms that rose against the disciples as they traversed the Sea of Galilee.  The Old Testament has many references to the wind, often being used by God like in Jonah, or with God’s dealing with Elijah.  But for the most part, I think about Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus.  Jesus told Nicodemus that He must be born again.  In John 3:7-8, Jesus said, “Do not be amazed that I told you that you must be born again.  The wind blows where it pleases, and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going.  So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”  The interesting thing about the words “wind” and “spirit” is that they both translate the Greek word pneuma.  Jesus told Nicodemus that he does not know where the wind comes from but that he could hear it, and observe it’s effects with the trees, dirt, or sand, but where its ultimate destination would be is unknown.  Then Jesus says it is the same with everyone born of the Spirit.  Today with all the meteorological science there is a lot known and understood about the wind, but the understanding was not the same in the first century.  For Jesus to make the statement about the Spirit and believers carried the idea of the wind not being understood, but primarily heard by people.  So, the one who is born again or anew by the Spirit is something that could not be seen but the effects of the new birth were observable to others.  Even today we cannot see the Spirit of God, we sometimes can see where he is at work in people’s lives, but we don’t always see how He is at work in people.  However, when the Spirit of God draws a person into new life and relationship with Him it becomes visible through the changed attitudes, behaviors, priorities, and values that come from a person’s very being.  All because the Spirit convicts them of sin, convicts them of the truth about Jesus, and calls them into a new born-again relationship with God the Father through His Son Jesus Christ.  The Spirit then indwells the new believer to guide them into truth, holiness, and a growing relationship with Jesus.  The Spirit continues to work today, moving like the wind, to bring people into relationship with God through the new birth.  I praise God for the moving of His Spirit and lives being born-again.


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only hope

“When Jesus left there, He withdrew to the area of Tyre and Sidon.

          Jesus was always on the move and this time went toward to cities that were       considered very wicked and deserving of God’s wrath.  It is where the lost were.

“Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came and kept crying out, ‘Have mercy on me, Son of David!  My daughter is severely tormented by a demon.’

          A Canaanite, a non-Jewish woman apparently knew of Jesus the miracle worker and yet using the title Son of David recognized Him as the Jewish Messiah.

“Jesus did not say a word to her.” 

          Jesus did not respond to the cries of the woman.  He was silent.

          How often do we cry out to God or Jesus and He is silent?  It seems God’s silence is always interwoven with His purposes.

His disciples approached Him and urged Him, ‘Send here away because she is crying out after us.’”

          The woman was persistent, even though Jesus was silent she continued to cry    out to Jesus, so much so, that the disciples said, ‘Send her away!’  When someone is intent on finding Jesus, they can often be seen as more of a nuisance than someone desperately seeking to find help.

“He replied, ‘I was sent to only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’”

          Jesus tells the disciples that He was sent as promised to the Israelites, that is His time in earthly ministry focused on the people of Israel.

“But she came, knelt down before Him, and said, ‘Lord, help me!’”  

          This gentile woman who was filled with so much love for her daughter cast aside all notion of pride and in humility bowed before Jesus and asked for His help for her situation.  Jesus was her only hope. Do we see Jesus as our only hope for trials and challenges we have in our life?  To the point that our heart says if Jesus doesn’t intervene, help or deliver we have nothing? 

“He answered, ‘It isn’t right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.’”  

          Jesus’ answer seems so calloused to one so desperate.

“Yes, Lord,’ she said, ‘yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.’” 

          The woman’s response was spoken in humility, truth, and wisdom.  It came from  a heart that believed only Jesus, no matter what could meet her daughter’s need.

“Then Jesus replied to her, ‘Woman, your faith is great.  Let it be done for you as you want.’  And from that moment her daughter was healed.”  Matthew 15:21-28

Jesus met her need because her faith drove her to cry out to Jesus at any cost, it caused her to persist, it caused her to humble herself before the Messiah, it caused her to fully depend on Jesus regardless.  She fully believed Jesus was her only hope.  


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continual praise

“Therefore, through Him let us continuously offer up to God

a sacrifice of praise, that is,

the fruit of lips that confess His name.”

– Hebrews 13:15

 

It is a Sunday morning once again that is a gift from God.  Although it once again will not be a Sunday when we normally share fellowship in worship with one another, it is most definitely a day to worship God through the praise of our lips, lifting up the name of Jesus Christ our Lord in exaltation and thanksgiving.

When reading the aforementioned verse we get the encouragement to perpetually be praising God through the sacrifice of praise.  We should think of sacrifice in the terms of what we give up, in this case, something freely offered to demonstrate our gratitude and thanks for who Jesus is and what He has done.  The last phrase is important in understanding the praise that we offer to God.  “…that confess His name” speaks to the praise that is continuously on our lips.  Speaking Jesus name in our conversation brings glory to God, to speak the Gospel of Jesus exalts the name of Jesus in our lives and before God, to thank Jesus openly for all good things and even the trial and challenges acknowledges the Lordship of Jesus in our lives.  It is not only the idea of phrases of praise in a worship service or in prayer, the sacrifice of praise that we offer up to God is the continuous testimony of Jesus in our lives.  To do this continuously calls for us to keep Jesus at the center of our lives, when we do this then our lips will be filled with praise.  Verse 16 encourages us in how we can keep this focus.

“Don’t neglect to do what is good and to share,

for God is pleased with such sacrifices.”

Our lives are encouraged to be lived by being like our God, doing what is good and sharing the good that He has given to us.  That encourages us to confess the name of Jesus because He is the reason for doing good and sharing.  It all boils down to your relationship with Jesus and how much He truly is at the controls of your life.  When He is, on a consistent basis, it seems that the continuous praise, “…the fruit of lips that confess His name” is continuously on our lips.

I pray that your Sunday is filled with praise, confessing the name of Jesus!  The following refrain is on my lips this morning:

“Bless the Lord O my soul

O my soul

Worship His Holy name

Sing like never before

O my soul

I’ll worship Your Holy name.”

– Matt Redman


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A Favorite Hymn 4

This hymn today once again goes back to my childhood days.  I don’t think you will find this hymn in any current hymnal; I find it in the 1956 Baptist Hymnal.  This is another one of those rousing hymns that calls followers of Jesus to move forward in mission through loyalty to Christ.  The hymn title is “Loyalty to Christ” and was written and composed by E. Taylor and Flora H. Cassel. Here is the third verse and refrain of the hymn:

“The strength of youth we lay at Jesus feet today,

‘Tis loyalty, loyalty, loyalty to Christ;

His gospel we’ll proclaim thro’-out the world’s domain,

Of loyalty, loyalty, Yes, loyalty to Christ.

 

‘On to victory! On to victory!’ Cries our great Commander: ‘On!’

We’ll move at his command, We’ll soon possess the land,

Thro’ loyalty, loyalty, Yes, loyalty to Christ.”

 

Many of the hymns that I remember from my childhood are songs of motivation and exhortation for believers to live boldly in Jesus.  In my mind I hear this song being sung by a Baptist congregation lifting their voices together without any concern of how they sounded or who else may have been listening.  The lyrics are simple and carry the idea of a people like the Israelites proceeding boldly into the promised land.  The theme of the song quite obviously is loyalty to Jesus.

Loyalty doesn’t seem to be a priority in the way of the world, especially in the corporate world.  The word itself means, “a strong feeling of support and allegiance.”  Most times when we hear of or think about loyalty it is in reference to a beloved pet. I think about what loyalty means as related to Christ, is it simply a feeling a believer should have because believers should be loyal?  Or is it a personal conviction of commitment, allegiance, and dedication to Jesus that is strengthened when shared with other believers who share the same loyalty to Jesus?  The Bible’s use of loyal and loyalty is confined mostly to the Old Testament, one use stands out that is found in 1 Samuel 13:14 and talks about David.  It is significant in that Paul in a message found in Acts 13:22 references David and his loyalty to God.  Two things come from both passages. First, in 1 Samuel David’s loyalty is literally “a man according to God’s heart.”  Second, in Acts, Paul describes David’s loyalty to God as “who will carry out My will.”  These are two God defined characteristic of a loyal follower of God.  Maybe this is what the church needs, loyal believers, those who will seek after God’s very heart and will carry out His will faithfully.  In loyalty to Christ we can move on to victory, on to victory!


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judgement?

Since the pandemic has come and reorganized how people live day by day, the dialogue between believers about God’s judgement being pronounced upon the nations, and this nation in particular, has been discussed with varying opinions.  The question at the center of the discussion is whether it is God’s judgement being implemented through the disease or not.  Personally, I don’t see it as judgement as much as I see it as God patiently using the virus as a wake-up call to men to turn from their self-oriented morality and powerless religious practices and seek the eternal God of the Bible.

We know that the Bible says in 1 Timothy 2:3-4, “This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.”  The character and nature of God is mercy, love, grace, and deliverance.  But He is also the righteous judge and His judgement is with condemnation and wrath.  The Bible says that believers and followers of Jesus experience trials and testing to develop their endurance and perseverance.  So how do we distinguish the difference between what might be judgement or what might be trial and testing?  God will do whatever He has determined to do with men to draw them to Himself.  He will do whatever He has determined to do to discipline and grow His children to be conformed to the image of His Son Jesus Christ as in Romans 8:29, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;”.  In the OT God is constantly disciplining His chosen people when they rebelled and pursued other gods so that they would repent and return to their covenant relationship with God.  Listen to these words by the prophet in Jeremiah 2:13, “For my people have committed a double evil: They have abandoned Me, the fountain of living water, and dug cisterns for themselves – cracked cisterns that cannot hold water.”  When I first read this verse, I thought this was a picture of the U.S. today and our nation could easily find itself experiencing God’s judgement.  But looking again, it says, “For my people…”. I don’t know that the U.S. ever was a Christian nation, but it certainly has been a nation of Christians.  But those who are Christians have compromised through apathy and complacency the rightful rule of Jesus as Lord in our lives and communities, we have abandoned drinking only from God’s well, the fountain of living water, to find pseudo satisfaction from our own wells that are flawed and cannot hold water of any kind, especially the only water that can truly satisfy, Jesus the living water.  Will God judge men, yes, He will, and it will be righteous and just. But believers today need to hear a different wake-up call from our God, that calls us to return to His well of living water and drink from it only.  Even more so, we must leave the complacency of man’s twisted religiosity that is subtly becoming norm and return to an uncompromised holy relationship with God through Jesus.  I don’t think we are experiencing judgement, but judgement is coming.  We need to avoid the direction the Bible says people will go and are going, “But know this: Hard times will come in the last days.  For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, demeaning, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the form of godliness but denying its power.  Avoid these people.” 2 Tim. 3:1-5 God may be graciously disciplining His children to be His uncompromised people of truth and light to a nation that is going the wrong direction.


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