Joyful

June 19, 2018

Proverbs 17:22… A joyful heart is good medicine; but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

            Some proverbs are packed with life. This is like that for me. In King James, it reads, “A merry heart does good like a medicine…” There was a season of time when teachers said that if we looked to doctors for healing, we were ignoring God and the power in faith. I was young then and impressionable; so I tried to follow their advice. But I could not ignore certain evidence. Aspirin helped my head aches.

            One day, God showed me that Solomon agreed. He used joyful heart and medicine in the same sentence. He could have said, “A joyful heart is like a child playing in a mud puddle.” He didn’t. He compared it to medicine. Apparently, medicine has been around a long time. By comparison, he says that medicine can be good for what ails you. That being said, the proverb reminds us that the best medicine is a joyful heart. Have you ever considered that? A joyful heart leads you into health. It does that through joyful thoughts. What you think affects what you say and do. My wife is a joyful person. She has been called, “Pollyanna” by certain stick-in-the-mud people. I am less positive than her, but I am honest about the big picture. She rarely gets sick. Plus, relief from medicine is usually temporary. A joyful heart is like medicine, temporary. And it is not a formula. A merry heart is a condition of life, not a quick fix when you don’t feel good. People, who live with a merry heart, are more likely to feel good on a daily basis.  And, they tend to be more hopeful for others. I have watched as Karla has had hope for a seemingly hopeless situation. I have also noticed when someone negative keeps pouring water on her hope, she can lose it. Joy is like medicine… it has value when it is active.

            Have you noticed the affect of a crushed spirit? Dry bones quit producing blood. Currently, in the marrow of your bones new blood is being created and blood carries healing and life to the body. Have you heard the phrase, “bitter old man”? I have known a few and they are intolerable. A child has joy. Hang on to that joy. We enter God’s kingdom like a child… joyful and full of hope.  

Joyful

June 19, 2018

Proverbs 17:22… A joyful heart is good medicine; but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

            Some proverbs are packed with life. This is like that for me. In King James, it reads, “A merry heart does good like a medicine…” There was a season of time when teachers said that if we looked to doctors for healing, we were ignoring God and the power in faith. I was young then and impressionable; so I tried to follow their advice. But I could not ignore certain evidence. Aspirin helped my head aches.

            One day, God showed me that Solomon agreed. He used joyful heart and medicine in the same sentence. He could have said, “A joyful heart is like a child playing in a mud puddle.” He didn’t. He compared it to medicine. Apparently, medicine has been around a long time. By comparison, he says that medicine can be good for what ails you. That being said, the proverb reminds us that the best medicine is a joyful heart. Have you ever considered that? A joyful heart leads you into health. It does that through joyful thoughts. What you think affects what you say and do. My wife is a joyful person. She has been called, “Pollyanna” by certain stick-in-the-mud people. I am less positive than her, but I am honest about the big picture. She rarely gets sick. Plus, relief from medicine is usually temporary. A joyful heart is like medicine, temporary. And it is not a formula. A merry heart is a condition of life, not a quick fix when you don’t feel good. People, who live with a merry heart, are more likely to feel good on a daily basis.  And, they tend to be more hopeful for others. I have watched as Karla has had hope for a seemingly hopeless situation. I have also noticed when someone negative keeps pouring water on her hope, she can lose it. Joy is like medicine… it has value when it is active.

            Have you noticed the affect of a crushed spirit? Dry bones quit producing blood. Currently, in the marrow of your bones new blood is being created and blood carries healing and life to the body. Have you heard the phrase, “bitter old man”? I have known a few and they are intolerable. A child has joy. Hang on to that joy. We enter God’s kingdom like a child… joyful and full of hope.  

Seek Faith-filled Companions

June 18, 2018

Deuteronomy 20:8… And the officers shall speak further to the people and say, “Is there any man who is fearful and faint hearted? Let him go back to his house, lest he make the heart of his fellows melt like his own.”

            These instructions were given to an army that was heading into battle with an enemy. The first half of chapter 20 is a list of reasons to excuse a man from the fight. This one hit my heart today. When you are considering a step of faith, you need to surround yourself with men and women of faith. If you listen to a doubter and an unbeliever, you are at risk; that person could turn you away from the step of faith that you feel you ought to take.

            First a disclaimer: Not every step of faith is for you to take. You need to hear the voice of the lord telling you what steps to take. Some steps of faith are actually steps of presumption if God is not in the step. Here is a proverb in today’s reading.

Proverbs 16:9… The heart of man plans his way, but the lord establishes his steps.

            We talked about this last night with our dear friends, Bill and Penny. God will light the path right in front of us but not way ahead. When God lights the next step you ought to take, you have to trust him for the end of the matter. 34 years ago, when Karla and I got married, we knew we were to move to Eugene, Oregon. We were living in Spokane, Washington, at the time so it was a bit of a step to go to Eugene. 7 years after we got there, I was let go from my position as worship pastor at the church we knew we were to be part of. Through a series of steps, that I did not foresee, we ended up in Springfield… Eugene’s sister city. Then we planted “the branch”… a church. That step was also not previously in view. Currently, we are in phoenix, Arizona. This was a step that God had not shined light on until about 2 years ago. 34 year ago, God did not say, “Eugene will be a temporary assignment; I plan for you to be in Phoenix.”  I possibly would not have known how to proceed with the steps needed. God orders our steps. Trust Him; He can see the future as clearly as the past and the present. Be content with “baby steps.” Learn to trust God. Listen for Him… obey Him.  

Fruit of Righteousness

June 17, 2018

Proverbs 13:2… From the fruit of his mouth a man eats what is good, but the desire of the treacherous is for violence.

            The first half of this proverb hit me this morning. Our words are like seeds and from those seeds we get plants which produce fruit. James, in the 3rd chapter of his letter addresses the negative effects of words, cautioning us to be careful what we say.

James 3:5b-6… How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire. And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness.

            Our words, inspired by our worldly desires, cause harm and evil. But, according to Solomon, they can also provide us with good fruit. In the same manner that our words can cause a fire that burns things up, they can also cause fruit that is good for us. The first time I read James, I thought a man would be better off mute; I thought I would. But, with our words we plan our future. How do you speak about yourself? I have a bad habit of putting myself down. I speak, belittling myself, probably to appear humble. Now, there is a rabbit trail. “Appearing humble” is not the same as being humble. There is no Biblical command to appear humble. If you are caught, as I have been, in that lie, here is a verse to quote daily.

Ephesians 2:10… For, we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

            You were created intentionally by God. (read Psalms 139) You are here now, to do His good pleasure.

Philippians 2:13… For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

            The first thing I notice about this verse is that according to one’s will, he works. God works in us to will and to work. God will not work into us selfishness. I suspect there are people with evil intentions, but I don’t think I know any. Speak of yourself as God’s child and let those words turn into a tree in your life from which you can eat fruit. Do the same for others.

 

Care for Others

June 16, 2018

Proverbs 11:24… One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.

            Solomon’s proverbs are for life; they are not just for church activity. In fact, the whole Bible was written as a reminder of God’ love and God does not love us more on church days than any other day. One thing the Bible teaches, clearly, in the historical stories of the Old Testament and the teaching of the New  is that God does not activate His love only when we are good. His love is not driven by favorable circumstances. We, humans, have trouble identifying love by God’s expressions.

            The proverb above is about giving. It includes, but is not limited to, giving in the church. Are you a giver? When you see someone, or hear of someone, in need… what is your first thought? Do you try to figure out why they are in need? Or, do you try to figure out how to help? It makes sense to be prudent and not give to someone who squanders gifts or wastes them on evil things. But, even on your best day you might not be able to ascertain the reason for need. I speak not only about money; we also give of our time and talents. I have found, in my lifetime, that God is not upset with me if I help someone who doesn’t deserve it. He is watching my heart. He so loved the world, that, even though we did not deserve it, He sent His Son to die for all people. Giving is an expression of love, or it is selfish. Steer clear of giving when you see a benefit to yourself. Human nature readily benefits self.  Giving is contrary to human nature. We just moved to Arizona. When we were packing up I realized I am a hoarder.  I have never really thought about it that way. but I had so much stuff that was not really necessary for life.  Karla, who does not always share the same priorities that I do, asked me, “So, honey, how many nails does a person really need?” Since I was a builder, I had boxes of nails. Do I need them now? They are heavy and take up space. I thought about a young man who could use them and I gave them to him, along with all the tools that are needed to use the nails properly. That was a liberating experience. My friend, Chuck, came and helped me get rid of tools. He said, “This is rusty” I said, “Yeah, but it works.”   

Walk in Integrity

June 15, 2018

Proverbs 10:9… Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.

            I have always loved the word, “integrity”. It speaks to me of honesty. I made up a definition for my own use: “Integrity means doing the right thing when nobody will find out.” Many people will do the right thing to avoid punishment or loss; that is not what integrity is about. For the purpose of my definition, I don’t know the integrity of another person. God knows integrity and we may know ourselves… that’s it.

            In the past 10 years or so, there has been a strong Christian teaching about walking in the favor of God. If you have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus, you walk in God’s favor. We can’t change what God has done, but we must answer the question, “Considering what He has done, how are you going to act?”  Will you walk in integrity or will you walk to be liked?  I know it is not that simple, but it is a starting point.

            “But, he who makes his ways crooked…” This is given as the contrast to walking in integrity. The first thing to notice is who is responsible. Flip Wilson, an old TV personality made this statement famous and many people have used it… “The Devil made me do it.” According to Solomon, that is blame-shifting and not a valid excuse. Some Christians, in an effort to look pure, blame the Holy Spirit for all of their activities and choices. With the Holy Spirit living in us and guiding us, He must be responsible for every road we walk down. Right? That is another form of blame-shifting; not taking responsibility for one’s own choices.

Accept your responsibility for making choices. You are not a puppet on a string. You are a created being… created with the ability to make choices. Each choice has consequences. Consider them. When a man decides to build a house, if he is wise, he will consider the cost to see if he will be able to finish it. (Luke 14:28) Your choices will set your course. Always remember, they are your choices. So, then, what is the activity of the Holy Spirit in my life? He gives you thoughts and dreams and visions to help you with your decisions. He may use a human to talk to you. He guides us to walk in integrity.           

Ask Questions

June 14, 2018

Proverbs 9:8-9… Do not reprove a scoffer or he will hate you; reprove a wise man and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man and he will increase in learning.

            These verses are not speaking about a smart man or a rich man; they speak of a wise man. The first chapters in Proverbs are about our relationship to wisdom.  I wrote about that yesterday morning. Wisdom is not identified by the accumulation of knowledge or the smart use of knowledge. Wisdom is a gift from God. We don’t get it by diligent work. It comes only from God. A wise man is such because of His relationship with God; that’s it. A wise man is different from a smart man. We have tests to identify smarts. And we have formulas for getting it. Learning centers are for increasing smarts. Don’t miss-associate learning and wisdom. I will say here that I am not putting down learning; I am only saying to not exchange learning for wisdom.

            I just had a picture of a guru sitting atop a high mountain. That is one of our pictures of a wise man. People climb to the top of that mountain to gain wisdom and insight. I have never heard it asked, “Why is a wise man sitting alone, in a hard to reach place, without any shelter or sustenance?” We relate to him as wise because he has advice, or maybe because he has a long beard.

            Solomon gives us, at least, one test of wisdom.  A wise man will receive instruction and become even wiser. That has been one of my tests of a leader: “Is he, or she, teachable?” in fact, it has been a test of humans in general… not just leaders. When I hired people to work on my construction crew, I listened to their praise for themselves and what they knew, but I listened even more to the questions they asked. Their questions often revealed their willingness to learn. I did not hire “know-it-alls” because in a rough place they would sometimes rely on their own knowledge rather than my leadership. I made decisions based on the big picture… the end of the matter. They often made decisions based on the immediate benefit.

            Knowledge sometimes swells our heads. Wisdom is teachable. It is humble. Jesus knew all things, but He still asked many questions.

Wisdom and Understanding

June 13, 2018

Proverbs 8:12… I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion.

            Many proverbs were written with wisdom in the first person. This is one of them. This one messes with my interpretation. When my interpretation is called into question by a verse, I have to look at the whole Bible, the whole counsel of God, and learn whether the verse is in fact part of His whole counsel, or if it stands alone and must be considered in the light of the whole counsel but in and of itself, it is not representative of the whole counsel.

            That last sentence sounded crazily philosophical. I am not… so just read it slowly and learn what it says. My interpretation has said that wisdom is the proper application of facts and understanding in a situation. Today’s verse says that wisdom finds knowledge and discretion. Wisdom is not the proper application of knowledge and discretion. Wisdom directs us to them. If you are thinking, “Jim is straining at a gnat”, let me say this. I think one of the strongest deceptions of the enemy in our day is the one that says we can, by use of our intellect, make right choices. That feeds into humanism which says that humans are the pinnacle of God’s creation and therefore have all that is needed to understand and live life. The most important understanding that a human can gain is to know that he or she is not the center of the universe. We are spinning around God like all matter. Humanism fuels the false concept of evolution because evolution does not need God. Humanism is built on the “me-first philosophy. Wisdom is not known by applying our intellect. Wisdom is a gift from God.

James 1:5… If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

            We don’t get wisdom by thinking; we get it by asking. It is greater than anything we can muster up with our minds. It is above our capacity to grasp. Wisdom will find knowledge and discretion. If you lack knowledge, ask God for wisdom, and let His wisdom lead you to the proper understanding.

            Wisdom is like a personal friend to us.

Flowery Persuasion

June 12, 2018

Proverbs 7:24-27… And now, oh sons, listen to me and be attentive to the words of my mouth. Let not your heart turn away to her ways; do not stray into her paths, for many a victim she has laid low, and all her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death.

            Solomon compares Wisdom and foolishness with proper thinking and the seductive nature of a prostitute. A prostitute offers delight and comfort but cannot deliver anything lasting. With a father’s love and wisdom, he tells sons to watch out for the seductive tempting of a prostitute, which lead not to constant pleasure, as promised, but lead to death chambers. The teaching is a warning against sexual sins but it is also a warning about worldly wisdom. Listen to Jesus’ words.

Matthew 7:13-14… Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

            Jesus, without using the analogy of a seductress, says that the way to destruction is easy and has a wide, easily entered, gate. In my mind, I have a picture of this. I see 2 gates up ahead. One is large the other is narrow. The large one is standing open with neon signs pointing the way. The narrow gate is closed with a gate keeper standing in front of it. With close inspection I discover that Jesus is the gate keeper. Beyond the narrow gate I can vaguely see a narrow, rough, uphill, path… not lit by neon. Left to my senses, I will not go to the narrow gate; I will walk with the masses through the wide gate. Another thing my vision tells me… Friends are standing just beyond the opening to the wide path, calling to me to come with them. Asking Jesus to open the narrow gate goes against everything natural in me. It is only when He extends His hand to me that I experience the faith to do it.

            Let’s return to Solomon’s analogy. The prostitute is like the world.

Proverbs 7:21… With much seductive speech, she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him.

            As Paul said, “Fight the good fight of faith.”

Playing With Fire

June 11, 2018

Proverbs 6:27-28… Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can he walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched?

            The book of Proverbs is a book of snippets… snippets of wisdom. A modern snippet that probably comes from these is: “If you play with fire you will get burned.” If we notice the context of Solomon’s writings at this point in the letter, we find that he is writing about sin. One cannot dabble in sin and not be tainted by it. This is old world wisdom. We ought to listen to it.

            We have an understanding that some lies are what we call “white lies.” That is an unfortunate human interpretation.  In keeping with today’s verses I suppose we could call a lit match a white fire. Have you ever held a lit match up to the back of your hand? It singes the hairs and fries the skin. It hurts. If you dabble in sin, you will get hurt. Avoid it… even what you might call “white sin”.

James uses the same analogy when warning about the use of the tongue.  

James 3:5-6… How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.    

            Have you ever said something like, “Nothing is going right?” Perhaps it is time to consider your words. Are you burning up in the fire of hell, which started by words from your mouth? I don’t know a quick fix but, as with all sin, the Bible fix is repentance. Stop your evil ways. Quit:

1.     Talking about other people in a negative way.

2.     Talking about filth and debauchery.

3.     Talking about yourself in words other than the ones God has given you.

Ah, that hurt. I have noticed lately that I keep seeing the verse “You are fearfully and wonderfully made. “ Everywhere I turn, there it is,  sometimes only on the walls of my mind, but there nonetheless. I have a bad tendency to put myself down. It might be for good reason: To avoid pride or to avoid praise, but if I am speaking against what God says, I am guilty of playing with fire. The smallest flame can start a huge fire.

Sow to Unity

June 10, 2018

Proverbs 6:16-19…There are 6 things which the Lord hates, 7 that are an abomination to Him:

1.     Haughty eyes

2.     A lying tongue

3.     Hands that shed innocent blood

4.     A Heart that devises wicked plans

5.     Feet that hast to run to evil

6.     A false witness who breathes out lies

7.     One who sows discord among brothers.

Look at the above list and decide if you are guilty of any of the things listed. Years ago I heard a man claim that God doesn’t hate so he didn’t even consider the rest of the verses. On that subject I refer you to

Psalms 5:5. But that is not what I am writing about today so look again at the above list and see if you fit anywhere. I just did, and I realize that I have, on occasion, had a lying tongue, which could make me guilty also of being a witness who breathes out lies. Rather than bragging that 2 out of 7 isn’t bad, I must notice that God hates all of them and I must be humble enough to repent of that which I am guilty of.

            At the basic level, we learn that God expects change. When we are redeemed by the blood of Jesus, we ought to act differently than we did before. That is a theme that is repeated and developed as we read the Bible. Solomon uses a literary device that draws attention to the 7th one.

There are things which God hates; among them is one that He hates particularly… One who sows discord among brothers. Modern style would say, “brothers and sisters”. That is not a modern interpretation; it is a cultural realization. Writers of the Bible, in the original language, often used the male words to represent mankind. When God created Adam, He made Him male and female. He then separated them and brought Eve out of his side. Man was originally both male and female. But, again, that is not the focus of this writing, so consider whether or not you sow discord.  

The saved wre previously not saved

June 9, 2018

Titus 3:3-8a… For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly, through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who believe in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works.

            In the opening sentence of this paragraph, Paul describes life without God. This was not just about the worst of the worst; this also describes the best of the worst. Life without God is not just a life without knowledge of right; it is life without the breath of God… He, who made life.  Recently, I heard a pastor attempt to describe the Battle of Armageddon. He talked about God gathering the enemy together for the battle. That brings up a question… Why would God gather the armies of the enemy together for the battle with Jesus? The pastor put forth the proposition that God wanted the final battle between good and evil to in fact be the final battle. In God’s mind, this will not be a battle at all but a defeat of evil. He is positioning evil to be completely annihilated. Some years ago, God showed me the mental state of the forces of darkness. They are ruled by the first sentence at the top of this page. Demons are foolish and disobedient, passing their days in malice and envy. Demons are jealous of one another and hate one another. Can you imagine organizing a great battle with those generals?

            For us, everything changed when God, by His grace and mercy, saved us. And He did it in His own way. Knowing the insidious influence of evil, He did not trust us with the job of earning our own salvation; He justified us through the sacrifice of His own Son. You are a sinner saved by grace.

Purity

June 7, 2018

Titus 1:15… To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; both their minds and their consciences are defiled. They profess to know God but they deny him by their works. They are detestable and disobedient, unfit for any good work.

            “Both their minds and their consciences are defiled…” An unbeliever is incapable of discerning purity. He can only think in terms of relative purity. Relative purity is not purity in God’s world.

            “They profess to know God but they deny Him by their works.”

Once again, as I have noticed often in his letters to Timothy and Titus, Paul denounces the practice of living by confession(profession) and not by works.

I guess it has always been a problem… living by confession in Christ, but without changing. That practice is a bad mark against Christianity. The outside world looks at it and decides that Christianity doesn’t work.

            “They are detestable and disobedient, unfit for any good work.”

Paul doesn’t pull any punches in his evaluation. Professing to know God works against us if we don’t have good works that back up our confession. We are hypocrites. But good works are also misleading. Many people have gotten involved in causes like “save the whales” but don’t believe in God. They may be interpreted to be good people, but the end of their days might end in hell.

            One cannot please God without believing His Son and living for Him.

Believing God ought to result in good works. Not believing God results in an inability for good works. Confessing God is either honest or dishonest. When honest, good works will follow. When dishonest, good works will not follow. It is an example of sowing and reaping, cause and effect. Be cautious when you are evaluating someone. Look carefully and honestly at your own life. Do you confess God, but without good works? Do you seek good causes but not God?

            Based on Paul’s evaluation at the top of this page, this can’t be left unaddressed. You are either a Christian or a non-believer. Know who you are; know God. Don’t leave your relationship with Him up for grabs.

Servant of God

June 6, 2018

Titus 1:1-3… Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of God’s elect and their knowledge of the Truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in His word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by command of God our Savior.

            Paul writes really long sentences and puts a lot in them. I have found him to be a very purposeful writer. Not everyone appreciates him. I have heard some people complain that he rambles on. One could say that about today’s sentence but I find it most revealing.

            First, he defines himself according to his relationship to God, not his success as a tent maker which he did to pay the bills at times. He was a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ. He put those in proper order. If you claim to be an apostle of Jesus, but you are not a servant of God, you are a fake and could be trying to make money from a title. First and foremost, we are all servants of God. Then, after giving those credentials, he tells why he is writing this letter… “For the sake of God’s elect and their knowledge of the Truth.” That reminds the reader of the value of knowledge… proper knowledge. He goes on to describe the knowledge of the Truth… “Which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began…”        The knowledge of the Truth accords with godliness. It occurs to me this morning that we are quick to apply that to other people but not as much to ourselves. We judge people by their grasp of Truth according to our interpretations.  I wonder if people are predisposed to judge. That seems to be a natural response to life. If that be true, then part of the transformation is that we compare ourselves to the Truth, rather than other people. Transformation is from worldly understanding to Godly understanding. One emphasized teaching in the Bible is that God relates to us as individuals, not just as parts of a group. We have a tendency to hide behind group participation. We pride ourselves in “belonging to a certain church”  or “helping a certain ministry” or any involvement that we are proud of. Jesus asks, simply, “Do I know you?” 

With ALL your heart

June 5, 2018

Proverbs  3:5… Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

            In the last 7 years the Lord has impressed this verse on my heart. I have been aware of it most of my life, but it has become more real lately. If you find that a certain verse is alive in your heart, treasure it. It could be the Holy Spirit reminding you because of upcoming importance.

            When we started the branch in 2011, I had hope and vision for growth and prosperity. I speak not of personal financial prosperity; I hoped for a prosperous, thriving church. Things did not always go smoothly and I was disappointed in myself. At that moment, I was reminded of the verse I am quoting today. I was leaning on my own understanding… God was saying, “Trust me.” The recent move to Arizona has been because of failure, (my own understanding) or, it I was following the Lord, trusting Him. Today’s verse helps me to hope in the future and not dwell on the past. Hope encourages me to face today with anticipation… not regret.

            Are you plagued with regret because things have not turned out the way you expected or wanted? Perhaps your expectations were based on your own understanding of how things should be; trust God. Let go of the rope that you tied around the past and let God lead you into the future without that baggage.

My friend says that this verse has been real to him lately and the word “all” has become important. Our tendency is to trust in the lord with the leftovers of our hearts. We trust so many things to watch over us: things like savings accounts, insurance, education, health, accumulation of worldly goods, and “real” estate. With what is left in our divided hearts, we trust in the Lord. God is patient. We can start there, but His desire for us is to trust Him, only. That is not His desire for His sake; it is His desire for our sake. He will care for us better than all the stuff of life that we trust in.

            So, set your goal to trust in him with your whole heart. If you are like me, human, you will find that there are lifelines that you need to let go of. Let go; He doesn’t need any help. He is fully trustworthy.

Live for Jesus

June 4, 2018

2 Timothy 3:12… Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

            I wrote this and then I thought about whether or not I had ever been persecuted.  If I think about someone trying to persecute me, I really can’t think of anything. But when I think about people unintentionally causing me grief because of my love for God, I can think of many instances.

            Living a godly life in Christ Jesus is intentional. It includes denying the flesh; and that is not popular with the masses. People might feel judged by your intentions. That is not our problem; that is the Holy Spirit.

1 John 5:10… Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning His Son.

            We are living proof that God is Truth. Our testimonies are in us. We don’t wake up and decide to be a testimony. We are testimonies because we believe.

1 John 5:11…  And this is the testimony… that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.    

            When you walk into a store, you don’t have to announce that you are alive; the fact that you are breathing and walking is proof enough. When you are living in Jesus, you don’t have to announce it; it should be evident to all. That sentence convicted me. Do people know I am living in Christ if I don’t have my “Jesus Saves” t-shirt on? T-shirts and bumper stickers may be our quick fix for our lack of real faith. Ouch…

            At the root of all this is the question: Do I believe, or do I not believe?  Settle that, and live life fully in Him. Life is so much more than confession. We confess, “I am a Republican.” That gives people fodder and warning. If they could see you in a voting booth, they would know. God sees you in voting booths; He knows. He also sees you live every day with the knowledge of His love; He knows. We are supposed to serve Him… not the people around us.

            If you say, “I am a Christian.” Is it a surprise to people? It is not supposed to be. Your life, not just your testimony, ought to convict the non-believer.

Promises AND Curses

June 3, 2018

Deuteronomy 4:26… I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that you will soon utterly perish from the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.

            This is the curse to the people of God who disobey His commandments. God freed them from captivity in Egypt and that was no small task. He promised to take them to a land where they could dwell in safety and abundance. The Land that He promised them was the Land of Canaan. If they obeyed him, He would lead them into the Land. That promise has been quoted often. And it should be, but it should also be noted that it came with strings attached. The people were to obey God. Disobedience resulted in the curse rather than the promise.

            We have been promised a Land, of God’s choosing, where He will dry every tear and He will comfort the downtrodden. As has always been His pattern, He gives this to us in covenant. Covenants are two sided. He does his part; we respond with ours. Our response is to be obedience. Disobedience on our part changes the outcome of the covenant. Instead of receiving the promise, we receive the curse. The magnitude of the curse as given at the top of this page is huge… “Heaven and earth are against us.” With heaven against us, where are we going to turn? We have seen people turn to actors, talk show hosts, alcohol, and vacations for relief from the pains of life. In Deuteronomy, this curse followed a specific disobedience:

Verse 25… When you father children and have grandchildren, and have grown old in the Land, if you acted corruptly by making a carved image of anything, and by doing what is evil in the sight of God your God so as to provoke him to anger…

            God is invisible. He wants us to know him as He is. When we make an idol of something visible, we offend Him and ignore His desire. When we teach our children to love visible things, we lead them away from God. That is the disobedience that God rewards with the curse. He does not have a vending machine with everything we could ever want; and for which he gives us coins.  

Truth is Constant

June 2, 2018

2 Timothy 2:18(b)-19… They  are upsetting the faith of some. But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His” and “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”

            The Truth is a firm foundation and no one can change that. Even if someone teaches other than the Truth, it will not falter. What can change is our faith in the Truth. Rather than face that honestly, some teachers will teach lies and try to persuade us that the lies are true. What is critical about the above sentences is that God  knows those who are His. It is not what we claim or profess; it is what God knows. Be certain that your faith is founded on the Truth and not on the persuasion of eloquent teaching.

            At times, in my life, I have prayed that I believed certain things, but I gave God permission to change what I believed as He saw fit. He did and I saw the future more clearly, with the pitfalls of my errors. We don’t have the tools to determine Truth. We are called to know God and in that relationship, we will learn the Truth.  If prayer is real and if it works, we should be able to trust Him to respond to our requests, never compromising the Truth. We think that because we hear something in a church building, it must be Truth. Develop the habit of asking God to confirm His Truth.

            Lately, we have heard a great deal about false news. We might hear that a man shot an intruder. What we don’t know is, “Why?” About that, news commentators will postulate.  And we, the listeners, will draw conclusions about the various reasons offered. The truth is what it is, but we will decide what we believe about it. That is a bit like what faith does. Faith believes God, who always tells the Truth.  Sometimes the Truth is not popular with the masses. That does not change the Truth. Sometimes, Jesus is not popular. So what? That does nothing to detract from His greatness or value. God knows!

“Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”

            That is one sign of belief. Believe in God; believe God. In one of his first interactions with humans He told Cain, “Sin is crouching at the door. It’s desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” Rule the sin that is pestering you.   

Fan the Spirit in You

May 31, 2018

2 Timothy 1:6… For this reason, I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self control.

            This was in this morning’s reading and I thought it quite timely. A week or two ago God reminded me of this verse with regards to our present move to Arizona. He told me that we are going down there to fan into flame the gift that He has already put in the people we will be with. He told me that we will not need to start people as much as fan them. The phrase that doesn’t fit is, “through the laying on of my hands.” So that was not part of what He challenged me to do.

            This is a good reminder for all of us. Have you let the gift of God lie idle in you? The gift includes power, love, and self control. That is our evidence of His Spirit. We have not been given a spirit of fear. The Spirit we have from God is not fearful. If you have abiding fear, you need to stir up the gift of God. I have experienced fear because of anticipation. I fear what might happen. Mostly, what I fear doesn’t happen, so I fear for no reason. Fear is a mental condition before it is an active force. It is not always a bad thing. Sometimes fear steers us away from danger. But… we ought not to live by fear. The Holy Spirit does not live with fear driving Him. He already knows the future and He knows the power of God. And He knows the love of God. He does not fear the unknown because there isn’t any.

            Fan into flame the gift that is in you. How do we do that?  The gift that is in us is the gift of the Holy Spirit. We fan Him by obeying Him; doing what He tells us. If He is encouraging you to pray, He jumps on board when you do. If He encourages you to love on somebody, He will be with you when you do. If He stops you from saying something, you will have His peace in your heart.

            Paul also says that we will have the spirit of self control. That doesn’t need much explanation but I sure need it at work in me. Paul told Timothy to, “Fan your own gift.” You don’t need a seminar or a retreat.  

Stick with Faith

May 30, 2018

1 Timothy 6:20-21… O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it, some have swerved from the faith.

            I have, in my mind, been trying to explain the contradiction between knowledge and faith. Paul does a good job of it here. Knowledge that is not from God is falsely named. We don’t require knowledge to have faith. I just thought of an old axiom, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” For us, Christians, it is opposite that, “I’ll see it when I believe it.” Faith is our connection to the unseen world. “It is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

            Our need to understand can undermine faith. I know people who get all excited when science “proves” something that they believed by faith. Proof is not the fulfillment of faith, belief is. Are you hoping for something? Has God given you faith to see it, yet? That is the step that is needed.

            There is such a thing as false faith, too. It is more aptly named presumptuous faith. Some wild-eyed Christians imagine receiving something that God has not given them and they talk about receiving it when it has not happened. I am thinking of some who have claimed healing when it has not happened. They were told, “You are healed. Believe that, not the symptoms.”

            I am on thin ice over deep water here. I am not trying to discredit anyone; I am merely responding to the text for today. When Jesus heals us, we are healed. Sickness is often known by symptoms. When the sickness is taken away, the symptoms are too. No amount of exercising mind over matter can change that. “Some, by pursuing knowledge have served from the faith.”  Faith is our path. It is more than believism; it is evidence. I am currently being tested severely on this subject. I have a friend with cancer. I pray for him and hope for healing, but, his cancer persists. I ask myself, “Am I doing all I can?” “Is God listening?” “Am I praying correctly?” It is a serious conundrum. I don’t think I can pray wrongly when my desire is according to the will of God. I pray and watch. Waiting for God to do.