BEING EATEN ALIVE

One of the most vivid pictures I can imagine is of a person or pet being eaten alive by some wild animal. Just the imagination of the pain, suffering and terror of such a thing happening is mind boggling. But the real danger in life isn’t so much of being eaten alive physically as it is of being eaten alive mentally, emotionally and spiritually. It is easy to be eaten alive with fear, doubt, discouragement and depression. I’ve known plenty of people who were eaten alive with jealousy and others with such a sense of awe or devotion to some person or cause that they can’t see any negative in anything they have to do with.

I want to be eaten alive but with the right things. Remember a story that is told in the Gospel of John and near the end of the second chapter. Jesus was just beginning his ministry and he, his mother and the four disciples he had chosen so far all went to a wedding banquet in Cana in Galilee. Jesus performed his first miracle by turning water into wine. Then he and the disciples went up to Jerusalem for the Passover. While there they went into the temple and Jesus saw how they had turned the temple of God, the place of worship, into a market place. He was enraged by what he saw and made a whip and began driving out the animals, turning over the tables and scattering the money that was being given by the money changers. He shouted, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” Mark’s account of this event adds the statement you have turned what was intended to be a house of prayer for all nations into a market. Perhaps the point was made because they were taking the area designated for the women and Gentiles and used it as the place to sell the animals for sacrifices and to exchange their money for the coinage accepted in the Temple. It made it near impossible for the people of all the nations to come to pray in such an environment.

There are two huge things that rise out of what happened that day. One is the disciples response. They watched Jesus in action and remembered Psalms 69:9 that says, “Zeal for God’s house has eaten me up.” Jesus response was to say to the people, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” They of course thought he was talking about the physical temple they were in and so answered, “It has taken us 46 years to build this temple and you can tear it down and rebuild it in three days?” But he was really talking about the temple of his body and foretelling the fact that they would destroy his body on the cross and three days later he would be raised from the dead.

Focus with me on the statement made by the disciples. They recognized he was literally having the heart described in the Psalm, so that zeal for God’s house consumed him. He couldn’t stand the thought that these people would so desecrate the temple of God that they would take what was meant as a place for people of all nations to gather and pray and turn it into a place where it’s whole purpose was to make worship for the Jews easier. They didn’t have to go anywhere to get the animals or bring them from home. They could even exchange their money for the accepted coinage there. instead of thinking about how they might have a positive effect on the nations around them if they came together to pray in this place, it was totally about making it all convenient and easy for the Jews who gathered to worship God.

What they were doing set Jesus on fire. He gave no thought to what was proper or how others would perceive him. He just knew he had to act. Can you imagine how people would react where you go to church if we had such a moment in our churches? Imagine Jesus visiting our church and seeing the people gathering around the coffee station and visiting lots with each other while ignoring those whom they don’t know who are there because they feel the need to learn about God and how He might help them in life. Imagine Jesus grabbing the Starbucks pot and throwing it to the floor and shouting at the people this is supposed to be a place of prayer and worship for all people and you’ve turned it into a fellowship hall for fellow Christians. How would the people react? How would you react?

But the bigger question is, what is it in life that consumes you? What is so important to you that zeal for it eats you up? It is easy in life to become so neutralized to everything in the world that nothing really moves us very much. We may have watched so many commercials where people are eaten up with their political ideas and dreams that we think, “I’ll never get that hot and bothered about anything.” We become so cool and calm that we can’t really remember the last time when we really got upset about something. There ought to be things, situations, and challenges in life that so move and upset us that we must act. For Jesus, it was his devotion to God and to His house. Surely, we ought to have a passion for his church and his worship and work in this world to the degree that we must act at times when we see that mission being lost. We do tons of thinking these days about the church being what people want, what certain age groups want, or what would draw this group. But what should consume us is when we stop being concerned so much about what God wants and are too concerned with what some people want.

I suspect that some will read that whole thought and respond, “But Leon, how can we know what God wants the church to be?” Well, the Frist answer to that is pretty simple. We need to actually read the Bible and believe that what God tells us, He really means for us to follow. God hasn’t changed his mind since Covid arrived. Honest, open and humble study of the Bible will change the whole world. Second, we should pray for the wisdom that God gives us so we can see what He wants us to see. Third, pray for God’s guidance to show us His will.

In this process it is extremely important to remember that the Scriptures are inspired by God or God breathed and they are profitable for teaching, correcting, instructing and rebuking so that God’s person is totally furnished for every good work (2 Timothy 3:15-17). It is based on that reality that Paul commanded Timothy to “Preach the word” whether people like it or not. God help us to be totally consumed with his house, his word and his will in everything.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

THINK ABOUT IT

It’s important to be aware of our feelings. But we need to be honest and recognize that our feelings change all the time. We can feel horribly down and something good happen or we even get a phone call from someone we dearly love and our feelings change. Also, the fact that I feel a certain way, doesn’t mean that I’m right about what I feel. I can feel guilty when I haven’t done anything wrong. I can feel innocent when I am guilty and need to change. Solomon declared, “There is a way that seems right to a person, but the end of it is death.” I’ve known people who felt God was calling them to kill someone else that they believed had wronged them. I’ve known those who were sure their husband or wife was being unfaithful to them based solely on their feeling that something just wasn’t right. Perhaps this is the reason God doesn’t command us to feel in any particular way.

He does tell us to do some things that will certainly change our feelings. For example, when he commands us to “Rejoice in the Lord” and to “Let your gentleness be evident to all” our obedience to do these things will certainly change how we feel about life. He went from that to telling us not to worry about anything but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” He promised us if we did these things the result would be that “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” It would seem to me that the greatest feelings I could possibly long for would be to have joy in the Lord and to have His peace that is far beyond anything we can imagine to stand guard over my heart.

But, notice God led Paul to take another step before stopping this discussion. This is in Philippians 4 beginning in verse 4 and going through verse 7. He then concludes the thought in verses 8 and 9 thusly: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

I would love to live everyday filled with the joy of the Lord, having peace from the inside out and praying regularly to God as he blesses and guides me. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to live without worry, no matter what happens to us? I don’t know about you but worry comes easy for me. I can very easily sit down and worry about family, about children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. I can easily worry about the future of the church or of the country or a thousand other things in life that I have little or no control over. I can certainly pray about them. I do know that God not only controls the future but can change it at any time. It has always amazed me that Jesus in the greatest sermon ever preached, the Sermon on the Mount, would take a rather large segment of the sermon to talk about worry and tell the people how useless worry really is. We can’t turn one hair white or black. Our worry certainly won’t add any years to our life. His answer for what we should do instead of worry was twofold.

First, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things (things we are worried about) will be added to you.” Second, “Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Isn’t it interesting that close to two thousand years before Dale Carnegie made famous the idea to “Live one day at a time” Jesus had said the same thing. Paul, led by the Holy Spirit, added one more answer that we could call the third response and it was to pray about everything, with prayer, supplication and thanksgiving to let our request be made known to God. His fourth point is to THINK about the right things.

How can we get our minds focused so that we think on the right things all the time? Surely we would all both like to think on the right things and see the value of doing so. But it is near impossible to think on things that are noble, right, pure, admirable and praiseworthy if we are spending lots of time on social Media watching and listening to all the grips that people have in the world. I love some people who post positive, godly and caring kinds of things and build you up, but they are rare. It is near impossible to watch the news that runs 24 hours a day and hear every horrible thing that goes on in the world and keep our minds on the right things.

So, how can I really focus my mind to think about these things and not be carried away with all the troubles that surround us? It is vital to follow God’s lead in how. Remember his lead was to not focus on things and worries of life but to seek before everything else his kingdom and righteousness. That is even before Covid. Then, live one day at a time or as Carnegie said, “live in day-tight compartments.” Rejoice always in the Lord and pray about everything. When we follow that plan of action, it suddenly becomes the natural thing to think on the pure, noble, truthful, lovely, admirable and praiseworthy.

What if we all followed that plan? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to sit down and talk with fellow followers of Jesus and talk about all the things that are good in the world? I suspect it would lead to a complete change of focus and our fears would fade away like darkness as the sun rises each day.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

HOW CAN I KNOW IF ITS FROM GOD?

How many times in your life have you felt sure that God was leading you to do something only to have it turn out horribly and for it to become obvious that it wasn’t really from God at all? It is pretty common to hear folks in church talk about how God has led them in particular directions. it may be an age thing, I’m not sure, but I’ve been around the block more than once and the truth is I’ve had people declare that God or the Holy Spirit has led them to do some horrible things that obviously didn’t come from God. One that stands out was a man who had left his wife and children to move in with another woman. He sat across the desk from me in my office and declared that this was from God. He had been praying about it and God was leading him to leave his family and small children to go to the other woman who made him feel more needed. When I was unconvinced that this was really from God and said that he was being led by the devil instead, he became quite upset.

it is certainly possible to believe God is leading us in a direction when it isn’t God at all. Think about something God tells us in 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12. “The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason, God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.” It is interesting how this fits with I John 4:1-3 after John had told the people that one way they could know they were right with God was by the Holy Spirit given to them. But immediately he turned to say, “But test the spirits to see whether they are really from God, for many false teachers have gone out into the world and there are many adversaries.” He pointed out that these false teachers were really antichrist because they were teaching that Jesus didn’t really come in the flesh at all.

The Holy Spirit is at work in our lives and in our world. He leads us and guides us. He opens doors for us and helps us in our weaknesses. He strengthens us in the inner man so Christ can dwell in our hearts through faith. God is constantly at work in the lives of His children to guide them in the right way. But, Satan is also extremely active and what is often amazing to us is that Satan often works in the heart of a Christian by offering something that looks very much like what God offers. He leads us away from the right way with counterfiets that are so close to the real thing it takes God to show the difference. When we lose our love for the truth and for what is right that leads to our salvation God will send us a STRONG DELUSION or WORKING OF ERROR so that we will BELIEVE THE LIE AND BE CONDEMNED.

Think of a great man of God as an illustration. His name is Abraham. God had promised him a son through which he would produce a great nation and bring the Messiah into the world. But he is 85 years old and his wife is 75 and God’s promise still hasn’t been fulfilled. Sarah thought of a way to help God out on his promise. If Abraham would just go in and have sex with Hagar, Sarah’s maid, she would have a son but it would belong to Sarah since it was her idea and Hagar is her slave. Abraham thought about it and it sounded good to him. He went in to have sex with Hagar. She became pregnant and had a son. Everything seemed good. Now Abraham would have the promised son. The problem was, it wasn’t from God. Sarah had bought into the delusion and her idea would cause her problems for years to come. But move on down several years. At 100 Abraham and Sarah have a son. She was 90 and had the son they named “laughter” or “Isaac” in Hebrew. When he was a young man, Abraham’s pride and joy, Abraham had another leading from God. It was to “Take your son, your only son, the son you love and make him a burnt offering to me.” Now think about it, which of the two leadings from the Spirit seems more right or holy or from God to you. Imagine getting a revelation from God to murder your son and make him an offering to God. He knew it was from God so he got up early the next morning and took Isaac to travel to Mt. Moriah where he would tie Isaac to the altar and raise the knife to kill him before God stepped in and told him to take the ram in the bushes to make it an offering to God. God was proving to Abraham that nothing was to stand between him and God, not even his prized son.

So, how can we know if an urge, an opportunity or a leading is really from God or if it is a strong delusion leading us away from God? How can we TEST THE SPIRIT TO SEE IF IT IS FROM GOD?

Will it lead to the truth of God being held close and followed? All kinds of signs may come from the devil or the man of sin. But Satan never exalts truth that leads us to obey God fully.

Will it exalt Christ in the world? Too often our moves exalt some person or group instead of Jesus.

Will it lead to our accomplishing the mission of making disciples in the world who are obedient to the teaching of God and who go out to make more disciples in the world?

Will it lead me to a closer walk with God?

We ought to pray all along that God will lead us in the way He wants us to go and to give us a heart that is totally devoted to Him. Jesus told his disciples to “Watch and pray that they wouldn’t enter into temptation.” It is vital that I have a heart so totally devoted to God that when I do realize I’ve been led in the wrong direction I am quick to make it right and set myself back on the right course with God. It is vital that we “Trust in the Lord with all our hearts and lean not on our understanding. In all our ways acknowledge Him and He will direct our steps.”

“God please lead me in the way You want me to go. Open my eyes and heart to Your will in all things and open my eyes and heart to see when a leading is counterfeit produced by Satan to look like the real thing but will only bring wrong living. Oh, God, forgive my missteps and guide my future one step at a time. Through Jesus I pray. Amen.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

IT’S BROKEN

It was one of those days when it seemed that everything I did resulted in something bad. Linda had just bought a beautiful tea pot from an antique store and brought it home. It was all wrapped up to keep it safe and she unwrapped it and handed it to me to put upon a cabinet. As I stretched to get it in the right spot, suddenly the lid or top part of it came tumbling off and crashed to the floor. It was shattered. There was no possibility of gluing it back together. And putting it up without the top part, didn’t have that look that she was searching for. What do you do when a thing is broken, shattered and it looks impossible to put it back together again? With the teapot there was only one solution. Throw it in the trash and try to forget the whole thing. Obviously that hasn’t worked very well since it was almost twenty years ago that it happened. It’s still the case when I am about to put anything breakable up high I will either remember that occasion or Linda will remind me not to drop this one like I did with the tea pot.

God called Jeremiah to go out to visit a potter at his shop one day to teach him a lesson about what to do with the broken people in life. The story is found in Jeremiah 18:1-10. Jeremiah went down to the Potter’s house and saw him working at the wheel, forming a vase. “But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. Then the word of the Lord came to me. He said, ‘Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does? declares the Lord. Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel. If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down, and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.”

When I drop a dish or a bowl or anything of the sort, I usually watch as it crashes to the floor and shatters into little pieces. From my point of view, there is no possibility of repair or reshaping it into something else or doing anything with it other than put it into the trash and replacing it with something else that is similar. God has a totally different viewpoint. He looked at the marred pot that represented Israel and reminded Jeremiah and us that He could take a broken nation and mold it into something new and wonderful.

Brokenness is all around us. It all begins with broken people and leads to broken homes, broken churches, broken relationships, broken families, broken churches, and broken countries. It actually started a long time ago when God placed the man he had created in his own image and likeness into an amazingly beautiful garden. It was a place called Eden and it had everything right. Animals were gentle and easy to pet. In reality, even God couldn’t see anything wrong in the garden and declared it very good. But there was one thing missing. It wasn’t good for the man to be alone. God made him a helper that was suitable and fitting for him and brought her to him. Adam was astounded. “This is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. She will be called woman, and for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two will become one flesh.” It was an ideal situation. A handsome man in love with a beautiful woman living in an amazing paradise. What could go wrong here?

God had planted in the middle of the garden two trees. One was the tree of life that one could eat of it and live forever. The other was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The only thing God asked of the couple was to dress and keep the garden and not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It would seem that it would be easy to carry out such a command doesn’t it? But Eve wouldn’t agree. As she stood beneath the tree the devil came in the form of a serpent and began his sales pitch on why she should eat from the tree. He questioned God’s motives for not wanting them to know the things He knew about good and evil. He said that she wouldn’t really die like God said if she took of it. She stood and looked and thought. “It is a beautiful tree and the fruit on it sure looks good. What could be wrong with me taking a bite so I can be like God and know good from evil?” So, she took of the fruit of the tree God had said not to eat and she gave it to Adam and he ate from it as well. Now the most beautiful place with the most amazing relationship with God and nature and the wonder of this happy home, was all shattered. It fell to the floor and broke into a thousand pieces.

Brokenness had entered the world and in reality it is here to stay until the Lord comes again. It was sin that brought on the brokenness in the world and it is sin that keeps it going in all kinds of forms continually. Its effects have come in the form of broken health so that we feel shattered when the news hits that we have some kind of illness that is terminal. They are demonstrated when a family is broken by the death of a child or a parent. it shows when a church struggles to get along with each other and division comes into the family of God.

From our standpoint, when something breaks, it might as well be gathered up and thrown into the trash to be carried away and all we can do is look for another one. But God looks at brokenness and offers healing. He can put the broken pot back together again in such a way that it is more valuable and more beautiful than they ever were before. He is truly the potter that takes the marred clay pot and remolds it into a new pot that is better, more beautiful and more valuable than ever before. In remolding, it always begins with the reforming of individuals who can reform relationships and change the course of life.

Truly we live in a broken world. We live in a broken nation. We likely worship with a broken church. In all of our families there is some brokenness to deal with. Every friendship goes through times of being broken. The great question is, when will we stop trying to super glue things back together and yield to the ultimate potter to reform our lives and world?

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

ONE NATION, UNDER GOD

What a noble concept! It is far too easy to point to those times and circumstances when the concept was left laying in the dust because of the failure of people to really be submissive to God and his lead in life. Like every other nation that has ever existed, the United States of America has tons of flaws. I’ve had the privilege of traveling to several other countries through the years and seeing what other nations have to offer in comparison to what we have seen in this nation. I’ve not had the privilege yet of seeing that perfect nation or government. Think of the fact that the one Nation set up by God Himself is the nation of Israel. Yet, if you look back over the history of Israel, it is far from a perfect nation. Like other countries it has had leaders that were corrupt. People have been put down, mistreated and abused because they weren’t of the chosen people. Their wickedness led to God allowing enemies to come in and utterly destroy their cities, their capitol, the temple and tear down the walls around the city of Jerusalem. If a nation established by God and given the rules to live by, directly from God, can’t keep things perfect and always heading in the right direction, why on earth would we expect to be able to develop a country without flaws on our own.

Oh, I know there are those who believe that the United States is the new Israel that is chosen today by God, but there is certainly noting in the Bible that would ever give such a notion. Here is what is true. God did set up civil governments of all sorts. In Romans 13:1-5 we have one of the greatest teachings with regard to government ever written. “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong by afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.”

Notice some extremely important points in what God had Paul to write in these verses. First, it was written during the time when Rome ruled the world with an iron hand and the particular ruler on the throne at the time Paul wrote this was a man named Nero, who was one of the worst, most ungodly leaders Rome ever had. Yet, God’s teaching wasn’t for the Christians to start a march or riot against the government, even when it was killing people because of their faith in Jesus.

Notice that God declared that He was the one who established governments. He set them up for a purpose. They were to be there to bless those who did the right thing and to punish those who did evil in the world. Has government ever strayed from the God given purpose? Certainly, they have and were doing so at the very time Paul wrote these words. Yet in the midst of such evil when Roman rulers were actually setting themselves up as gods to be worshiped, God still had Paul to write for us to submit to the ruling authorities. Notice he said when we rebel against the authorities, we are rebelling against what God has instituted and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.

But, what are we to do when government isn’t doing what we believe is right? How are we to stand against what we consider evil and still be obedient to what God tells us to do as citizens of His kingdom? First, we are to live right, holy and godly lives in the world so that our lights shine for the good and may serve to lead others to God. Does that mean we will always be treated right? Absolutely not! Paul, who wrote these words was later beheaded by Nero whom he told people to submit too. He did continue all the way to the end to be the man God called him to be and refused to seek revenge against those who were doing wrong.

Second, we are blessed in this country to have the right to vote for the candidates we believe best fulfill the role of leader that will lead the country in the best way. So, we should go and vote what we believe is the right thing. But, what if I vote one way and the other candidate or party wins? Be a Christian and pray for that new leader every day that God will lead them to make the right moves and be a blessing to the country. Be the godly citizen all the time. Speak up for godliness, for truth and right. But demonstrate the heart that will reach across the aisle to help the ones you disagree with. If our party affiliation stands stronger in our minds than our loyalty as a citizen of the nation and our devotion to God then we are in trouble and need to repent.

Third, I can be the citizen that will make this nation stronger and more godly all the time. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we actually met the dream of being “One nation, under God?”

I know nations rise and fall and I certainly don’t know how long this nation will stand. I also know that whatever happens to the nation, the kingdom of God will still stand and Jesus will still be the king over his kingdom, the head over his church, and the high priest over his people. If the nation stands, we can live for God every day in it in such a way as to be the salt of the earth and light of the world. If it falls we can live for God every day as the salt of the earth and the light of the world. I hope and pray that our nation stands as one nation under God. But my loyalty is to the citizenship I have in heaven, not the one I have on this earth.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

WHO IS KING IN YOUR LIFE?

The noise during election seasons is almost overwhelming. it is much louder in these years when a new president is being elected. I started thinking about all the presidential elections I’ve been able to see and participate in. The first election I remember was of Eisenhower and truthfully I don’t remember any noise with his election. The election that first caught my real attention was when John F. Kennedy was running for president. His inaugural speech when he said, “Ask not what your country can do for you but ask what you can do for your country” is still one of the most powerful statements made by any politician I’ve heard. Elections come and go and at the time every one of them seems important and in many ways they certainly are. But one thing that needs to stand out in the minds of every Christ-follower is that we are electing a president but we already have our KING. Our loyalty mustn’t ever be tied to any human. I always want it to be the case that who I vote for is largely determined by how their stands on things related to what my king stands for. If they have the greatest and most charismatic personality ever witnessed and their positions go against the things that King Jesus teaches us, then it is obvious that I can’t support that person.

Too often in life we manage to make an amazing split in our lives and our thinking. We take our faith and devotion to Christ and put it on one side of our life and take our day to day life, whether it relations to politics or to our jobs or even our hobbies in life and place them on the other side of us so that the two parts never come together. We see our spiritual life and devotion to Christ as something we do on Sunday’s and in meetings or services done by the church. And we see our regular life as something we do through the week that is ruled by a whole different king. Sometimes in that regular part of life we actually set ourselves up as king. When we perform such a split in our lives the result is we become a classic HYPOCRITE.

When I anoint Christ as king in my life, it is about my whole life, not about some section of my life. Can you imagine Paul changing his statement in Philippians 1:21 where he said, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” to say, “For me to live my church and spiritual life is Christ, but my regular life in the world is my own?” One of the reasons the teaching of the New Testament on baptism being immersion in water rather than just sprinkling some water on a person or even pouring some water on them, is that it is about our whole being. When one is baptized they are buried with Christ and raised with Him to live a new life (Romans 6:3-4). Can you imagine a person being baptized who said, “I want to be immersed in water with Christ and raised with him but I want to keep my social media accounts and my bank account all out of the water?” I’m afraid there are far to many people who are baptized to make that commitment to Christ who are leaving different aspects of their life out of the water so that it isn’t committed to Christ.

Picture Paul’s writing to the church in Colossi. In chapter one, verses 13-14 he said, “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.’ It is impossible to have part of us in the dominion of darkness and part of us in the kingdom of the Son God loves. God won’t leave us half way in each. He rescues us from that kingdom of the dark world and its rule or dominion or kingship in our lives. He translates us into the reign or kingdom of Jesus where the rulership belongs to Jesus Christ. He is the king. There aren’t any elections in four years, forty years, four hundred years or any other period of time when we can choose a new king. Since he lives forever, his rule never stops and never changes.

Since Jesus is king, and I am under his rule if I’m a Christian, it means that I am striving to follow Him and do His will in every aspect of my life, including elections. Listen, I haven’t had any revelations from Jesus on who to vote for. I’m not expecting any. I do know that I am to look for as many things about what a candidate believes and what their platform is and how it relates to God’s teaching for us and his call for us as His children when I’m deciding how to vote.

When you vote, know that others are also voting and someone will win and someone will lose, but Christ will still be sitting on his throne and be our king. When the election is over and the votes are counted, my job will be to be a good, godly citizen of the country and pray regularly for the leaders of the country that they might lead in a way that we might have peace and that there may be tons of open doors for the preaching and teaching of God’s word because he wants all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.

I bow to only one king who has all my allegiance and that is King Jesus.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

IF I COULD JUST DO IT

Two of the most powerful verses of Scripture in my mind are found in Matthew 6:33-34. “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Jesus had been talking to them about not worrying in life and pointed out that constant worry about what was going to happen next leaves us without faith and hope in the world. We live as the heathen when we build our life around worry. So, Jesus is giving us the cure, the solution, and the answer to the worries of our lives. When we seek above all else in life the kingdom and righteousness of the Lord we can know that God will take care of the physical needs we face in life. God’s promise is that he will throw in for us things like food, clothes, and shelter if we just seek his kingdom and righteousness first in life. What an astounding promise and it comes from the very lips of God. If we really believe Jesus’ words and we know we are truly living our life where the kingdom and righteousness of the Lord have the priority in our lives, there is no reason to worry about anything. We should be able to live one day at a time with ease without thinking about what will happen to us tomorrow or next week or next year. But, as good as it sounds, it is still difficult to live life without worry, stress, and concern about what the future holds for us.

I suspect the problem goes back to the very beginning of the statement. Worry becomes so natural in our lives. I often think back to my sweet mother who was one of the most gentle and caring women that God ever made. Her challenge in life was worrying about her children, grandchildren and beyond. While she loved the Lord with all her being and was devoted to her family, she always worried about whatever struggles her offspring were dealing with and needed to check on them often. The problem with that is that some of her children, including the one writing this, tend to follow the same pattern. We don’t just worry. We want to fix the problems. Sometimes, we get in the way of God trying to fix things before He is allowed to work in the situation.

When you have lived a long time and have developed a pattern of worrying about things in life instead of living one day at a time and trusting God to move in the different situations, how do you change? I want to be the one that trusts my Lord totally. I want to live my life in such a peace that it truly passes all understanding. These verses from the lips of Jesus hold the answer. So the problem in my life and maybe in yours as well isn’t a head thing. It isn’t that we don’t know the right things to do. It’s more of a heart issue.

Is it that I’m not seeking his kingdom first in my life? I suspect that there are times when God’s rule in my life is the challenge. Instead of thinking about what the Lord wants in my life, I’m thinking about what I want. If his kingdom is first in my life it will mean that I put him in charge of all circumstances and situations. He must sit on the throne of my heart day and night and every hour of that day or night. The problem too often is I face situations when I want to take the rule back and handle those problems myself and then when I face one that is too big for me I want to put God back on the throne to let Him handle it. We’ve all heard the question “What would Jesus do?” We may even have worn the bracelet WWJD. But there is a better question for us to use. Instead of what would Jesus do, we should ask “What does Jesus want me to do?” His reign in my life must be constant and consistent.

Beyond that, he not only challenged us to seek his kingdom but his righteousness so that all the other things could be added to us. Jesus walked through life in a constant attitude of “Not my will but yours be done.” He constantly declared, “I didn’t come to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.” Being righteous involves a right relationship with with God. Of course, I must remember, “There is none righteous, no not one. All we like sheep have gone astray, even to his own way.” Jesus was able to live right with the Father all the time.

The marvel of being a Christian is that we have the righteousness of Jesus placed on our account with the Father. So, why do I still need to seek righteousness? I’m not seeking the imputed righteousness of the Lord but I am seek to live the right kind of life that looks more like him all the time so my light may shine in my world.

The more I seek to have Jesus rule as king in my life and the more I seek to live in that right relationship with God, the more I can live trusting God to take care of my needs in this world and the more I can live one day at a time without worrying about what the future holds. Whatever happens in the future, God is still in control and his word will still be trustworthy. Change in this life will always be there, but I know that there is more than just this life. We are headed toward home all the time! God please, help me and all who read this to not get off the road that leads home but to keep traveling one day at a time. God, please take my worries and fears away and fill my heart with trust in You to handle all the challenges in front of me.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

THE RIGHT CONFIDENCE

Do you think of yourself as a confident person? Have you ever thought about what makes a person confident? It is interesting to me that it makes all the difference in the world when dealing with people where their confidence meter really lands. We’ve all been around people whose confidence meter went through the roof. They were so over-confident in themselves that they didn’t see any area of their life that needed to be improved and nothing about themselves that needed to grow or change. If you are like me when you are around someone like that you long to get away from them as quickly as possible and hope to never have to be around them again. I remember a time when I was in the Real Estate business and was interviewing people to hire. One person came in that I’ve had trouble forgetting. I think they were the most over-confident person I’ve ever been around. This person was dead sure they could sell anything and would have a hundred listings of property within the first three months. The more they talked about how great they were and how well they understood the market and that they could sell anything they wanted to, the more convinced I became that I didn’t want any part of having this person around. Needless to say, they were totally shocked when I told them “Don’t call me, I’ll call you if I want to talk anymore.” Like most people with such an abundance of confidence, they did get a job selling real-estate but didn’t last even for a year. Of course, it wasn’t their fault they couldn’t sell but the market, their company and the people they had to work with.

But, we’ve all seen tons of others whose confidence meter is so low that it hardly gets off the bottom to even move. They really don’t believe they can do anything right. They’ve been told their whole lives how they can’t do anything right and they have come to believe it. Unless something happens to turn them around they will never be able to accomplish much of anything.

One of the greatest challenges we face as parents is to develop in our children a sense of confidence that they can do things right, learn the things they need to learn and do the things they need to do, without giving them over-confidence that leads them to believe they already know everything and don’t need any help or training to do better. That balance that is there that makes one see that they have abilities, but need help to grow all the time and need correction when they mess up is extremely valuable.

In Philippians 1:6 Paul laid down a huge principle on the topic of confidence that makes all the difference in getting our mindset right. It was in the middle of a prayer. Look at the whole prayer. “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, BEING CONFIDENT of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Self-confidence is important. God confidence is vital. God confidence keeps our balance right all the time.

Compare the difference between Self confidence and God confidence. In Luke 18:9-14 Jesus told the story of a Pharisee and a tax collector who went down to the temple to pray. Luke tells us Jesus told the parable to some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else. The Pharisee prayed, standing by himself. “God, I thank you that I am not like other people – robbers, evil-doers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.” On the other hand the poor tax collector stood at a distance and wouldn’t even look up. He beat his breast and said, “God, be merciful to me a sinner.” What is amazing is that Jesus said it was the tax collector that went home justified while the self-righteous, ungodly Pharisee went home believing he didn’t need any justification.

God wants us to believe in our abilities when we have Him working with us and through us to accomplish the good works he wants us to accomplish. He began a good work in us at the point of our devoting our lives to him. He will continue to work in and through us as long as we live upon this earth. He has work and a plan that he wants us to accomplish. Paul demonstrated the essence of this God-confidence in chapter 4 and verse 13 in Philippians when he declared, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Interestingly the topic that led to this declaration was learning to be content in whatever situation he faced. It is a massive challenge to be content during the good and bad times alike. What a huge difference it is between simply believing “I can do all things” and “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

It is important with this point to notice one other verse in Philippians that ties it all together. In chapter two, verses 12-13 Paul challenged the Philippians to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling. If he had stopped with that statement it would have left us discouraged. How can we work out our salvation? It would actually be better understood as “Give your salvation a workout” since they were already saved, people. But even that would be tough if he didn’t go ahead to say, “for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” We have work to do. But we don’t work alone. God is constantly working in us and through us to accomplish his purpose. It should give us tremendous confidence knowing we aren’t alone and that God of heaven is at work in us regularly.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

BE HOLY

Have you noticed when reading the Bible that it talks far more about what we are to BE than about what we are to DO? Yet, it seems in our thinking or even our preaching and teaching we tend to think more about what we are to DO rather than on what we are to BE. Look at one of the great illustrations of this point in I Peter 1:13-16. “Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.”

What do you think of you when read that God is holy and that we are to be holy in our lives? I think most of us have some interesting visuals come to mind when we think of someone being holy. Many, I think, see some monk in the desert who lives as a hermit having little to no contact with the world as someone who is holy. I think others see holiness only in terms of moral purity. If one isn’t involved in some adulterous relationship then they must be holy or if one doesn’t watch pornography on their computer they are holy. I suspect it would be very interesting if we could get people generally to share with us what their mental image is of someone living a holy life. The word translated “holy” literally means to be separate. It is the same word that is translated “saint” or “sanctified.”

To ever grasp the concept of being holy in the world, we must start with the point that “God is holy.” It is vital to see that the command for us to be holy in life is so closely tied to God declaring, “As I am holy so you be holy.” God’s holiness is tied to His uniqueness. He is totally different and separate from the gods that so many set up for themselves in life. One of the most common sins talked about in Scripture and that still haunts us constantly is the sin of Idolatry. When the statement “Be holy as I am holy” was first uttered it is in Leviticus 11:44,45. It was in a time when it was common for people to mold their gods of gold, or even of wood, was formed into some kind of image, perhaps like the golden calf that the Israelites had made in the desert. The idols that people established or gods that so many worshiped were usually more like an over-stressed form of the people who made them. They had gods of all kinds from the goddess of sex to the gods of war. Remember when the story of one of the emeries of Israel came out to fight them and met on the hills around them for the battle. Israel was victorious in the battle and the enemy went away with the explanation that “their god is the god of the hills.” Their plan was then that they would plan a battle when they met them in the valley so their god wouldn’t be so powerful. God wants us to know that He is totally different and separate from any such god that people may come up with.

God made us to be people of worship so it is common for those who don’t know God at all to come up with some kind of god they can worship. Often, in our time the god we make to worship is MONEY. Paul declared that covetousness is idolatry. So, tons of people really worship the money, the property, the stocks and other investments that they make as the real god in their lives. I think that is the reason that God tells His people to give of their income to Him. He doesn’t need our money since everything belongs to Him. But if we remember that He is the giver of all blessings by taking the very first things that we make and giving them to Him then we keep ourselves from the idolatry of covetousness.

God is holy in that He doesn’t change from one day to the next. He is the same every time we approach him. He never leaves or forsakes us. He is always a God of amazing grace and compassion for His people. “His ways are not our ways and his thoughts are not our thoughts. As the heavens are higher than the earth so are his ways higher than our ways and his thoughts higher than our thoughts.” His power is unlimited. “He is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we ask or even imagine by the power that works in us.” Unlike us or any of the gods that we come up with, God’s love is overwhelming. As Paul described in Romans 5 that we might be willing to die for a good person, “But God commends his love to us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” Think of God’s demonstration of His heart with both Paul and Peter. With Paul, he took one that had blasphemed him, been injurious to his cause and tried to destroy Christianity, but turned him into a believer and the most determined follower, apostle, and preacher of his word one could imagine. He took Peter, the fishermen who seemed to always be up and down, saying things that were demonstrations of amazing faith and then in the next moment something that was horrendous. In one short segment of Scripture in Matthew 16, he goes from one being told by Jesus, “Blessed are you Simon, son of John. Flesh and blood didn’t reveal this to you but my Father who is in heaven.” He then promised to build the church on what he confessed and gave to Peter and the other apostles the keys to the kingdom of heaven. But then just a few verses later Jesus said to Peter, “Get behind me Satan. You have your mind set on the things of the world and not the things of God.” He denied his discipleship to Jesus three times in a row. Yet Jesus called him aside during the time between his resurrection and ascension to ask him three times, “Do you love me?” Each time when Peter answered that he did love him, Jesus responded with, “Feed my sheep” or “Tend my lambs.”

So, if God is holy in being the God who loves intensely and never forsakes us, the God who never changes and goes overboard in showing compassion, then if we are to be holy like Him it has special meaning to it. Our being holy isn’t about going off to the desert away from everyone. It’s not just about not being immoral in my lifestyle. It’s not really about what I don’t do as a follower of Jesus, but more about the kind of life I live in the world. Notice the things Peter was talking about when he challenged us to be holy like God is holy.

Being holy has to do with having a mindset that is alert and clear thinking. It’s about setting our hope on God’s grace that will be revealed completely when Jesus comes again. Think of this concept for a time. Most of my life I’ve thought of the second coming of Jesus in terms of judgment and pictures of people being lost eternally. What a different picture Peter paints for us about the return of Jesus. Instead of it being something to fear, it is about grace and hope being fully realized. It is something we should be anticipating with excitement that we will see Jesus our Lord and Savior. He didn’t just come the first time out of grace. His return as one filled with grace. Our hope rest upon that grace that we will only see completely when he comes again.

Being holy means we are obedient children of God and that we refuse to conform to the evil desires that used to be the standard for us before we came to know God. Holiness involves living a life for the Lord in the midst of people all the time. It certainly isn’t about isolation or hiding out somewhere. In Philippians 2:14-15 Paul was telling us how to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, knowing that God is constantly working in us both to have the will or intent to do right and to actually live in a way to fulfill His good purpose. “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” He said if we did this we would shine as lights in the world. Notice it is in the warped and crooked world that we are to live this life that shines for God.

Being holy is living for God daily, in regular life, with God as our standard. We live in His presence and guidance all the time. So, be holy as He is holy.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

LET’S GO FOR A WALK

It amazing how many good things in life happen during a walk. Some of my favorite memories of life with people I love happened during a walk. I remember walking along with both my dad and my mother at different times and hearing them share things about life that I suspect would never have been said if we were sitting down and waiting for a conversation. Some of the greatest memories I have of life with my wife, Linda, have happened as we walked. Even when we were dating some of our favorite times happened as we walked along the road, by a stream or even through the woods. As years have passed the times we have walked and talked about every kind of thing you can imagine, our love has grown and we have even solved a few problems along the way as we walked. Wonderful and tearful memories are there about walks with our daughters often with them telling about their dreams and sometimes about a boy they were interested in. Sometimes it was all about my efforts to explain something to them that I thought was important. Strangely the ones I remember best aren’t the ones with me trying to get something across to them.

What makes going for a walk such a powerful thing? Have you noticed how many of the stories about Jesus and his ministry on this earth center around times when he was walking. He was walking by the sea side when he saw Matthew, the tax collector and called him to “Follow me.” Matthew left the tax booth, never to return and became one of the trusted apostles of Jesus. It was as he walked along the way that Jairus the Synagogue leader came to him in a rush pleading for him to come and lay his hands on his little daughter since she was very ill. As they walked toward his home to heal the daughter, the woman with an issue of blood came up behind him to touch the hem of his garment and be healed. It was so often the case that Jesus used those times walking to talk to the apostles about some life issue that was important for them to know. Think of the fact Jesus never had a pulpit to preach from. He used the roads, the paths as his pulpit and shared the message wtih multitudes in the process. By the way, his preaching and teaching on the roadside wasn’t like some madman shouting to the crowds as they passed by. It was carrying on a conversation with people who came to him and it changed their lives.

I wonder how many people in later years thought back to those days when they took a walk with Jesus. Do you suppose those two men who were on the road to Emmaus after the death of Jesus in Jerusalem ever forgot that walk when Jesus joined them and he set their hearts aflame as he talked with them and shared the real meaning of so much of the Old Testament they had never understood correctly. It wasn’t until they sat down to eat together that they recognized him in the breaking of bread. Jesus obviously loved to walk and talk and share with people. There is even one occasion as he walked along that Luke tells us he was praying privately to the Father in the middle of a bunch of people including the apostles. He knew well how to walk and pray at the same time.

I think, many of the problems of life could be solved if we took a good walk together. Not a march, and certainly not a riot, but a gentle, unhurried walk where we lovingly shared about life. Let’s go for a walk.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment