Month: November 2018

John 14:15 (NIV) If you love me, keep my commandments.

Photo by Hunter Haley on Unsplash

I knew a retired, thin as a rail, rather stately man who was a member of our church in Florida. He rarely said more than a few words but just sitting next to him you could tell that he was all in for Jesus. Well, we had outgrown our church building, so our pastor and elders led the way to start a building program. This gentleman was one of the volunteers to work on the new building, to help defray some of the construction costs.

I’d see him, from time-to-time, around the new building but really didn’t give it too much thought. I helped a little, but I was usually out of town. Anyway, the Sunday came when the congregation had its first service in the new building. We were all happy and excited about what God had down and had planned for our “little” church.

Before the service got underway, our pastor called this stately, string bean of a man forward. In his had he carried a small cardboard box with some hand tools in it. Our pastor formally thanked this man for saving the church nearly $100,000 in electrical costs by doing most of the electrical work himself, with the tools in his small cardboard box. The congregation exploded in applause, not to this fine man’s comfort.

It’s recording in John 14:15 (NIV) that Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” A uniqueness of Jesus is that in the Gospels He spends most of His time being with people, doing things for people, and explaining the kingdom of God to people.

Jesus doesn’t spend much time telling people to do this and don’t do that – some but not much. Instead, Jesus says, “Copy Me” (Luke 6:40). Christ’s commandments are Himself. You and I have heard preachers say that the only Bible some people will ever read is your life. It’s true. So, if you love Jesus be like Jesus.

Galatians 6:4 -Each one should test their own actions

A few years ago my wife started swimming again after a long hiatus. We had moved, and she didn’t pull the trigger on joining a gym with a pool; finally, she did. Her goal was to swim nonstop for twenty minutes three days per week. She quickly reached her goal, so she added some “in the water” exercises. That went well, so she decided to push herself a bit harder. She began swimming four or five days per week. She achieved forty minutes of nonstop swimming, on consecutive days, and was ready for more.

With physical exercises it’s easy to test ourselves and, often, we find we have a much higher capability and capacity than we expected. However, when it comes to us proving our trust in Jesus and our openness to the work of the Holy Spirit within us, we find ourselves stymied and fearful that we may “put God to the test.” (Deuteronomy 6:16)

Still, we need to know where we’re at in our spiritual life in Jesus; we do need to exercise and grow. We see this in Galatians 6:4-6 (NIV) which says, “Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load. Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.”

We need to test ourselves and to be tested, to set goals, and work to become more like Jesus. We need to learn to use the Word that Jesus has given us, not for personal gain but for us to learn obedience to the will of God.

A Godly mentor is a tremendous help with this kind of effort, but when it gets down to brass tacks, we need to know how much we truly trust Jesus and then we need to go beyond that. As my wife showed me with her swimming, my walk with Jesus should double and then double, again. Let’s not let fear limit us or laziness cause us to miss what God intends for us.

Our walk with Jesus is an adventure. Embrace it, enjoy it and always be enthralled by it. God is so good to us. Don’t miss a minute of the excitement, challenges, tests and just hard work and pain. It will all pay off and, in the process. Someday we will all learn our test scores!

Authority

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My wife and I were recently watching one of those British murder mysteries. The “team” was at the shipyard and they needed to talk to the Port Authority. That got me thinking about authority which led to Jesus being given all authority, including the port. 😉

If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a Christian during the past 50+ years it’s that I must know what I believe. There are things people have told me and things I think I believe, but it’s only the things I truly believe that I can act in faith upon.

If I think I believe something and try to act on it, well, I’m just guessing. That’s not what God wants, and it rarely turns out to be good. Faith is a funny thing. For faith to be true it must only be trust in Christ’s authority.

Faith in the authority of Jesus is the raw material that is used to make hope. And, faith is faith only when we trust God for things we can’t see, either figuratively or physically. All other faith is false and unreliable.

Yes, God’s response to our stepping out in true faith is usually “seen” through works or actions by people but be assured, all the things of God begin in the Spirit before they are manifested in this physical world.

How can you trust what I have written? You can because all I did was expound on Matthew 28:18 (NIV): “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me…’” He was confirming the completion of the vision God gave Daniel 7:13-14*.

So, presently, the ball’s in your court. You have a “binary” choice: yes or no, true or false, 1 or 0, trust in the authority of Jesus or not. As for me, God has never failed me when I gave my problem to Jesus and trusted in His authority. He may not do what I expected and He may not act when I expect. But, in His time, Jesus has always taken my cares upon Himself and brought me through each problem. How could I ask for more? I pray the same for you.


*Daniel 7:13-14 (NIV)
13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man,[a]coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

“Through the Lineage” starts in January!

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You may be familiar with the Christian radio program “Through the Bible” with J. Vernon McGee. Well, I’m not going to tackle that daunting task. However, beginning in January, I’ll start the Bible study, “Through the Lineage” which will take us from Genesis all the way into Revelation.

“Through the Lineage” carries us from the first Adam to the last Adam (i.e., Jesus). We will learn about God’s callings and the value of acting through faith. We’ll see the dangers that come with God’s blessings. We will uncover the continual, unrelenting work by God to bring His people to Himself through repentance. And, we will study many other truths as we trace the lineage of Adam to Abraham to Jacob to King David to Jesus (see Mt. 1:1) and on through the Bible to the grafting in of the Gentiles into the true lineage of God’s children.

This study will conclude in the Book of Revelation with the first Adam’s children being given the opportunity to enter into the lineage of faith. So, if you are interested, we’ll start this study on January 2’ish. And, I hope you will ask questions, and we can have some dialog as we journey along God’s ancient road.

Some important points:

  • This is a non-denominational study.
  • We will not argue. Christians are to be known by our love towards each other, not by our ability to demean others or elevate ourselves.
  • Any clarification concerning a word or words will be done through my reference to well-regarded theologians and/or Bible commentaries. As Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 2:14, “Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers.”
  • We will minimize rabbit trails. It’s okay to peek at the path but we won’t wander off into it.

Let me leave you with a few words of encouragement.

Psalms 32:10 (Living Bible) reads, “Many sorrows come to the wicked, but abiding love surrounds those who trust in the Lord.” In this context, abiding means, surrounded, compassed about.”

If we trust in God, His love surrounds us. Like thunder rolling in before a storm, we can feel God’s love and power; it surrounds us. So be at peace for Jesus has placed the Holy Spirit’s presence upon us and in us. Though chaos may reign all around us, the love of Christ compasses us about and brings us quietness and comfort.

Our citizenship is in heaven

A passport.
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Philippians 3:20 (NIV), But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,

I’m old enough to remember when being a citizen of the USA carried power behind it. When being born in America made you proud to be an American.

When I traveled overseas on business, back in those days, a citizen of America received special treatment. Even a few years ago, when meeting with my team in the Philippines most of the people I met had a positive reaction when they asked, and I showed them my American passport; it meant something.

Though American citizenship seems to have lost its uniqueness and luster lately, citizenship in the kingdom of God has not and never will lose its worth or fail to stir the hearts of us that have the Holy Spirit’s abiding presence. Every day, in God “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28 KJV)

The term “born again” has acquired a very negative connotation. Nevertheless, without being born into the kingdom of God we have no place, no standing, no right, no opportunity, to enter into the place God intended humanity to have access. The only way to be a citizen of God’s kingdom is to be born there.

To commune with God’s celestial beings, to come into the home that Jesus prepared for us, to rest in the perfection and sovereignty of God, that is our gift as God’s citizen. This citizenship is the real citizenship I cherish. I long for the moment when the Father turns to Jesus, His Son, and says, it is time.

So, “…be of good cheer…” (John 16:33) Don’t get upset, worried, or angry about institutions or family issues that seem to scream for our attention. These are important and need our attention, but don’t let them steal the peace Jesus gives. Institutions and families cannot replace what we have as citizens of the kingdom of God. Remember, thanks to the regeneration available in Jesus this world is not our homeland. We’re just passing through.

BTW: There are several very interesting commentaries on Philippians 3:20. You can find them here.

Nevertheless

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2 Samuel 5:6-7 (ESV): And the king and his men went to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, who said to David, “You will not come in here, but the blind and the lame will ward you off”—thinking, “David cannot come in here.” Nevertheless, David took the stronghold of Zion, that is, the city of David.

Notice the “nevertheless.” The verse says, “…Nevertheless, David took the stronghold of Zion, that is, the city of David.” He not only won but the city’s name was changed to the “city of David.” So don’t listen to neigh-sayers and doubters, I call these people “firefighters” because they fight against the fire God has placed in you for a work He has called you to do.

It is essential to consider the counsel of your pastor and elders; all things, especially a calling from God, should be done in a proper, respectable, and orderly way. When confirming a call from God, it’s wise to remember Proverbs 19:21 (NIV), which says, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”

So, God has called you to a work He wants you to do. Praise God, be strong and go forth in faith, strength, hope, and confidence. You accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, so now be “bids you come” (Matthew 14:28).  If God lays it on your heart to “take that mountain” as He did to Caleb (Joshua 14:12)  then rest assured, you will succeed. For in God it’s already done. 

Gotta Serve Somebody

Gotta Serve Somebody

Verse
You may be a preacher with your spiritual pride
You may be a city councilman taking bribes on the side
You may be workin’ in a barbershop, you may know how to cut hair
You may be somebody’s mistress, maybe somebody’s heir

Chorus
Still, you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

– Bob Dylan

Mr. Dyan had just openly said he’d become a Christian at the time this song came out. The first time I heard Dylan sing “Gotta Serve Somebody” I thought his verses were just throw-aways and his point was that we all have to serve somebody. But, over the years, I’ve developed an appreciation for those silly or, at least, eccentric verses.

In “Gotta Serve Somebody” Dylan is saying that no matter who you are or think you are, from the homeless to dictators of nations you can’t be the “alpha dog”. Since we’re Adam’s seed we either serve the devil or Jesus. Those are the only two options the sons and daughters of Adam have.

You see, “Gotta Serve Somebody” sits on top of a solid Biblical truth. Though said in different ways throughout the Bible, we find this openly declared in 2 Peter 2:19 (NIV), which reads, “They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for ‘people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.’”

So, a
re you a servant of Jesus? You aren’t unless you’ve received Jesus as your Lord and Savior and been regenerated. To say that another way – “…you must be born again.” (John 3:7 NIV) Right up front, the Apostle Paul lets us know whom he serves in Romans 1:1  (NIV), “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God – ” He is a servant of Jesus.

As Christians, we are servants of Jesus. Before our rebirth, we were servants of the devil for he is “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4 NIV)

It’s a good and comforting feeling to know we belong to the Creator of compassion. The world is full of oppressed people whose master thrills in their suffering. That’s why Jesus gave us “The Great Commission” in Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV) which says, “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Prayer: Lord Jesus I ask that nothing would have a higher place in my life than you. Teach me to know my place and to rest in Your righteousness, power, mercy, and grace. You know my fears, you see my tears and you hear my cry for your calling to work its way in me, through me, and out into others. I am your servant, Jesus, and I listen for your call. Amen.

Misunderstood

Today is the day after Thanksgiving. My guess is that some of you had at least one difficult or unpleasant conversation. So, I think today is a great day to talk about frustrations and misunderstandings. To start things off, here is an actual, personal experience.

One morning, unusually for me, I sat down beside my wife on the edge of our bed as she was getting dressed, and said, “Good morning.”

Suspicious of this atypical behavior, since I usually am up early and busy by the time she gets going in the mornings, she asked warily, “What do you want?!”

My random gesture suddenly bloomed into confusion and an issue for us both.

Not being understood is a first order source of problems for projects, business initiatives, and, as you can see, relationships. Being understood is difficult and a continuous source of frustration that is not easily resolved. Jesus was very familiar with these disconnects. Christ’s own mother didn’t understand Jesus. We read this in:

Luke 2: (NIV)
49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?
50 “But they did not understand what he was saying to them.”

This was a characteristic throughout his entire earthly ministry. People simply didn’t understand, even his apostles with whom He invested so much time and energy continually didn’t understand Him. We read in Mark 9:32, “But they [the apostles] did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.”

Effective communication is difficult and often takes a tremendous effort on our part. However, if we persevere God has given us the great promise that there’s a time of rest for us, even if now our ability to be understood is exhausting. Please remember that it’s worth the effort. Here’s one of God’s promises to us:

Hebrews 4:9-11 (NIV)
8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day.
9 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God;
10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.
11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.

Therefore, I close with this benediction for you.
2 Thessalonians 3:16 (KJV)
Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all.

Our Father is ALWAYS in control

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When Jesus was arrested:

Matthew 26:53-54 “Are you not aware that I can call on My Father, and He will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?

Our Father is ALWAYS in control. Nothing can withstand His will. God spoke to the prophets about His Son long before the birth of Jesus. These prophets and the Law and the Psalms, and, well the whole Old Testament, documented God’s will for His Son for the redemption of all that are willing to accept and align themselves with the intention of God.

Scripture is the only legitimize instruction for our salvation. Scripture is the very agenda of the Father for His one and only Son, Jesus. It is Jesus Christ’s agenda to redeem and save all people that will receive Him and, too, the recovering all that was lost when rebellion entered God’s creation. The culmination of Jesus Christ’s agenda is His presentation of a restored Creation back to the Father.

If God can do this, which He has, He can certainly help you.

Prayer: God our Father, I come to you in the Name, the Name that healed the sick, raised the dead and made blind eyes see. He is the Name above all names, Jesus, your only begotten Son, who through the faith you have made available to everyone, I placed in the Name. Only as my will and words align with the will of Jesus do I ask, for Jesus told me in His Word to ask.

I ask that whoever reads this brief article would be surrounded by the presence of the Holy Spirit. That salvation in Jesus would be made clear to them. That they would know that if they receive Jesus, then they accept you, Father, and the Holy Spirit; they receive the one true God within them.

If they receive You then their life will come into alignment with Your will so that your intense desire for them will be fulfilled. I can pray this because you don’t start what you don’t finish. Bless the reader, I pray. Open their eyes so that when they read the Bible, they see Your hand at work, Your will moving Your plan of salvation forward and that the Holy Spirit would make Your word alive and profitable to them.

To Your glory, my God, I pray.

Amen

Leviticus 24:2 Burning continually

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Leviticus 24:2 “Command the Israelites to bring you clear oil of pressed olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning continually…”

“Continually” is very important in our walk with God. It’s unthinkable that Jesus would be double-minded or only occasionally holy. What hope would we have if Jesus “usually” saved, but not always, He usually forgave, but not always, He usually loved, but not always?

The more I think about this the more I appreciate why God’s Word, front-to-back, is full of “continually”. It’s our daily walk that is most pleasing to the Lord. Great acts of sacrifice, love, and service are wonderful but, just as in a marriage, it’s our “continually” that builds our relationship and enables us to truly show our love.

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