Month: August 2020

Err on the Side of Mercy

couple talking while moving in new apartment

It took nearly 6,000 years for people to come up with the phrase, “passing the buck,” but it happened in the first marriage, ever! Sadly, (for me) it was the man who did it. Even worse, when it comes to wives, we men haven’t learned much in 6,000 years!

The First Marital Squabble

We find the first marital squabble in history in the 3rd chapter of Genesis. What? You don’t believe me!? Without reviewing all of the serpent, fruit, sin parts of the account, here’s the Scripture. We find it in Genesis 3:12, “The man replied [to God], “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.” You don’t think Adam got an earful from Eve for the next 900 years!

Susan: Stan, why was our debit card declined at Kroger’s? Do you have any idea what I had to go through to pay for OUR groceries?

Stan: Well, Dear, you need to understand. Everyone at work uses Bluetooth headphones, so I had to buy a pair. And Apple has the best, so I had to get an iPhone to work with my AirPods, and then there were some options I needed since I had an iPhone 11 Pro. It wasn’t my fault!”

We will just let Stan and Susan work through their misunderstanding, while we go back to Adam.

Vandalizing God’s Image

Adam was created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). However, when Adam sinned, the impact was far more significant than a married couple’s argument; the image of God was vandalized by sin. So, for the next 6,000 years, not a single descendent of Adam saw what the sinless image of God looked like, not one! That is, not until Jesus (1 Peter 2:22).

It’s not acceptable what people did from the time of Adam up to the time of Jesus – creating idols, sacrificing children, mutilating themselves, marinating in every imaginable sin. Humanity’s lust for sin knows no bounds; still, until Jesus, no one observed how a sinless person behaved (1 Corinthians 13:12).

On rare occasions, a person would turn to God, but the memory of the one true God coming drifted into the mist, no longer remembering Adam’s account of “Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day. (Genesis 3:8)” Yes, Enoch pleased God (Hebrews 11:5). Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD (Genesis 6:9), and Abraham was called God’s friend (James 2:23). Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph acted in faith in God (Hebrews 11:20-22). I could name others, but it would be a short list compared to the full genealogy of Adam.

Jesus Steps Into the History of Humanity

When, after millennia, Jesus, the Son of God in the flesh (John 1:14), stepped into the history of humanity, people didn’t know what to think of Him. Even His cousin, John the Baptist struggled (Luke 7:19). Christ’s apostles, too, struggled with the sinless Son of Man: 

Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And he [Jesus] cautioned them, saying,Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread. And Jesus, aware of this, said to them,Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? – Mark 8:14-17

So, the next time you or I read, see, or hear of a person doing something profoundly awful, we should ask ourselves, “I wonder if anyone demonstrated Jesus to that person?” In the constant tug-of-war between nurture and nature, we need to remember that everyone is born with a sin-nature; none is righteous, no not one (Romans 3:10). 

If Jesus is your Lord and Savior, then don’t hold that in. Let it out! Allow the lost to see Jesus in you. Let the whole world know that Jesus Christ is Lord.

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We are Secure

three men and one woman soldiers standing on rock during daytime

Today we are going to touch on an important truth briefly, and this brings some additional passages from God’s Word that we need to consider. First, here is today’s key verse:

“But suddenly, your ruthless enemies will be crushed
    like the finest of dust.
Your many attackers will be driven away
    like chaff before the wind.
Suddenly, in an instant,
     I, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, will act for you
with thunder and earthquake and great noise,
    with whirlwind and storm and consuming fire.

Isaiah 29:5-6 (NLT)

A bit of History

Sennacherib was the king of Assyria, a large domain the stretched from northern Iraq to southeastern Turkey. During the reign of Sennacherib, the capital of Assyria was in Nineveh – yep, the city to which God sent Jonah.

Sennacherib conquered the northern kingdom, Israel, whose capital was in Samaria, and soon set siege to Jerusalem in Judah. The prophecy we just read in Isaiah 29:5-6 was likely fulfilled during the time of King Hezekiah when God suddenly and miraculously delivered Jerusalem from Sennacherib’s attack (2 Kings 19:35-36).

Context

If we zoom out from verses five and six and read the whole chapter of Isaiah twenty-nine, we see that God is punishing the Jews. The Israelites had abandoned their love for God, their love of His Word. They had also left their purpose, which was to show God to all nations. Instead, they took refuge in the letter of the Law. If they just mechanically obeyed the commandments, then they could live their lives without living for and with God. So, the prophecy from God was predicting a time of punishment to bring them back to the intent and purpose of the Law of Moses:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.Deuteronomy 6:4-5

What About Us?

God doesn’t change (Malachi 3:6). Just as God punishes nations, He also disciplines His children. We know this from:

For the LORD corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.Proverbs 3:12 (NLT)

For the LORD disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.Hebrews 12:6 (NLT)

Every Christian receives correction from God. If God never corrects us, then we are not His children. Discipline is the responsibility of a father to his child, so it is a blessing when our Heavenly Father corrects us. And, I must say, God is sovereign, political correctness holds no sway over God’s chastening.

We Are Secure

So here is our Good News. Even when we are in the middle of God’s chastening, we remain in His hand. He will “never leave you nor forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5)” If attacked, God defends us suddenly! “But suddenly, your ruthless enemies will be crushed…” This is how God works. We are safe in the palm of our God. When the enemy attacks or this world has us on the ropes, we are safe. As the lyrics say in Dottie Rambo’s song, “We are Sheltered in the Arms of God.”

I feel the touch of hands so kind and tender.
They’re leading me in the paths that I must trod.
I’ll have no fear for Jesus walks beside me
For I’m sheltered in the Arms of God.

Jesus redeemed us. As the redeemed children of the Most High God (Daniel 4:2), we should have no fear from this world. For we are pilgrims, “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” (Hebrews 13:24) The world can injure us but it can not harm us.

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Chaos has no Meaning

huge wave at daytime

The irony of cosmology is that its most basic tenant is that the universe is not chaos. In its article titled, “Why Carl Sagan is Truly Irreplaceable” the Smithsonian magazine makes this statement,

“…his boyish enthusiasm for understanding the universe we’re so lucky to live in.”

Carl Sagan, an avowed atheist, sought an understanding of the universe. His search implied that the universe is not chaos.

Chaos Provides no Benefit

In mathematics, it is impossible to create accurate, repeatable equations for pure chaos, for within chaos, there is no intelligence. That chaos is unintelligible has been a decades-long problem for scientists working in quantum mechanics. 

Most quantum processes seem to be chaotic, yet, slowly, science has made headway because they believed; they’ve had faith that there exists intelligence and logic within the quantum world. Why else would corporations spend billions of dollars to understand the quantum world? It is worthy of study because science has found incredible value in quantum mechanics. If it were chaos, there would be no point in studying it for chaos provides no benefit.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. – Genesis 1:1-3 (ESV emphasis added) 

Chaos has no Meaning

God spoke, and chaos transformed into order. The chaos of the cosmos became knowable, usable, valuable. Just one example: For millennia, sailors navigated by the intelligence in the stars. God’s transformation of chaos into meaning is only one of the infinite attributes of God.

Many times during Jesus’ earthly ministry, He demonstrated this Devine attribute. One that immediately comes to mind is when Jesus calmed the storm. The storm was so fierce that His apostles, who had lived their lives as fishermen, woke Jesus up because, humanly, all they saw was the chaos of the winds and waves sending them to destruction. We see Christ’s response in Mark 4:39 (ESV):

And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea,Peace! Be still!And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

Chaos Cannot Exist in God’s Presence

Chaos cannot exist in the presence of God. Why? Because nothing happens outside of God’s will; it is without meaning. The nature of chaos implies an activity that would be beyond the omniscience of God. If your life is chaotic, call on Jesus. Find your purpose (Mt 11:29), your peace (Jn 14:27), your protection (Mt 7:24) in Him!

Prayer

Heavenly Father, I come to you now in the name of your beloved Son, Jesus. I ask You to intervene in the lives of Your children that feel as if they’ve been thrown into a clothes dryer for they are tumbling and buffeted on every side. Speak into their lives, I ask Father, bring purpose, peace, and protection to them; transform chaotic lives into meaningful, purposeful lives. Impart to them the employment they need, the church fellowship they need, their ministry that others need. I thank You for Your answers. Amen.

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With Bread

In a few days

bride and groom walking on staircase

God often synchronizes His events with those of man and those which He commanded long ago. It’s fascinating to see that God is never in a hurry, never behind schedule, and loves people enough to include them in His plans.

Celebrations

As children of Adam, it is in our nature for us to celebrate events. Birthdays, wedding anniversaries, 12-step milestones, births of nations. Consider the Lozi tribe in Zambia. Their king is very revered and influential. 

Each year, when the rains come, their lowland territory becomes flooded. The Lozi people cannot leave their flooded land until the king gives his permission, and he and his entourage are the first to cross a large river and relocate to his highland territory. It takes eight hours for the king’s boat to cross the river. His arrival kicks off a three-day celebration!

In a few days

Each event that people celebrate carries its unique pomp and circumstance. It is fascinating to see that this natural attribute comes from being created in God’s image, for God is big on ceremonies and celebrations.

A significant difference between God’s events and ours is that God never rushes, nor does He become frenetic, whereas being rushed and frenetic is part and parcel of humanity’s staged events. Notice what Jesus communicated to His apostles.

John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. – Acts 1:5

Pentecost

Why, in a “few days?” God’s plan was to birth Christ’s Church on the Jewish day of Pentecost. Jerusalem would then be teaming with Jews from both foreign and domestic lands. They would be there to celebrate the day of Pentecost. Little did they know that God would institute a new Pentecost.

The word Pentecost means “50”, so for the Jews, Shavuot (Pentecost) comes seven weeks (49 days +1) after the second night of Passover, therefore “50”. For Christians, Pentecost comes 50 days after Easter.
What better way to showcase the fulfillment prophecies in the book of Joel? With Jerusalem filled with people that spoke myriad languages, the Holy Spirit had the perfect platform to point people to the miraculous, to the birthing of the Church for the whole world, testified to by the first members of the first church proclaiming the glory of Jesus in every tongue, every language.

Coming Soon, an Extraordinary Celebration

In chapter one of Act, we find Jesus telling His disciples, hang on for just a few days more, and then you will see Me, again, in the miracles which the Father has ordained. Of course, the apostles wanted to know, “So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6) But Jesus said the timing for that event was hidden.

We love to celebrate. God loves to celebrate. I am confident that there will be an extraordinary celebration on that day when Jesus calls us home.

Are Birds Evil?

picture of a "Bee Eater" bird

Just look at the beauty and purpose that God created in this “European bee-eater.” WHAT! They eat honey bees! Does this make them evil? No. Only children of Adam, people, are evil. –Matthew 15:19

The Good News is that Jesus has made a way, the only way, for us to reborn, out of wickedness, and into righteousness!

For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.Romans 5:19

Work Where God Placed You

green leaf trees under blue sky

Jonah 3:10, When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.

Jonah 4:1-3, But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”

John 4:4, But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?”

Work Where God Placed You

I don’t know which side of the political aisle you stand. I don’t want to know. However, my question to you is this: If God told you to join the other side and do His work inside that party’s camp, would you do it? Would you do it if you knew that God would extend compassion to that political party?

That is basically what Jonah faced and what drove Jonah to flee God and to become livid when God changed the hearts of the people of Nineveh. Jonah certainly had a tough assignment. To be told to go to an evil society. To tell them that God was going to punish them, knowing that God would change their hearts. That they would repeat and make Jonah look like a false prophet. That was Jonah’s assignment. Ouch!

Don’t look at others’ fields and say in your heart, that’s where I should be. Don’t say in your heart, “I would be better.” Don’t waste your prayers pleading with God to put you in the place you want to be, that you thought you would be. Don’t allow bitterness to displace gentleness. Don’t run from God; don’t hinder God’s work in you. God called you for a purpose. His timing and His place may not align with your agenda but our purpose in God’s kingdom is to do His will.

A People, A Place, and a Purpose

God calls every Christian, and He chose you and called you for a purpose. He has a people, a place, and a purpose for each of His children, including you, if you are His child.

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

Your life will never make sense until you receive the Father’s beloved Son, yield to the yoke that Jesus has personally crafted for you (Matthew 11:29), and entered the field which He has prepared for you. Don’t be a tone-deaf musician, an inarticulate teacher, a clumsy craftsman. Rejoice in the work that was prepared for you before you were even born.

God’s Heavenly Call

Allow the radiance of Christ Jesus (Hebrews 1:3), through the abiding Holy Spirit (John 14:17), to shine from you and upon those around you. Allow no hate, no malice, no discontent to discredit the work Christ is doing through you. If your Master has called you to weave baskets or build bridges, do it all unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23). If He has called you to go into the enemy’s camp, then go. For there is a day on God’s heavenly calendar when you will stand before Him and give an account of what you did with your life (Acts 17:31). Don’t let your answer be, “I buried it.” (Matthew 25:18) Instead, do your Master’s work so that you will hear, “Well done my good and faithful servant. Enter into thy rest.” (Matthew 25:21)

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Coffee, Too

So, by now you’re asking, Gary, how are you going to wrangle a devotional out of coffee, especially when so many people abhor the stuff? Well, here goes… Read more

Our Signature

love one another chalk written on concrete floor

Jesus always shows compassion towards people that are lost or struggling. He showed compassion to Mary (called Magdalene); He cast seven demons out of her (Luke 8:2). Jesus reached out to Zacchaeus, the tax collector (Luke 19:2), and the dad that asked Jesus for help to overcome his unbelief (Mark 9:24) and the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:27). Jesus reached out to me when I was lost.

Here is something wonderful for believers: The Holy Spirit in us is God’s signature, guaranteeing we are His (Ephesians 1:13–14). Likewise, our signature – the thing that identifies us – is pointed out by Jesus in John 13:35By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

This message, “if you love one another“, is recurring from my recent posts. The turmoil in our society is a symptom, more than a “condition.” You can plug in whichever turmoil you wish. Still, all of these symptoms radiate from a single, underlying disease. It is a disease that lives in the flesh of every child of Adam:

to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.Ephesians 4:22-24

Here’s R.C. Sproul’s commentary on this passage:

Belonging to Christ involves repudiating an old life and embracing a new one. The image is that of taking off fraying clothes and putting on new ones.

The Root of the Problem

The root of the world’s travails is a double-headed monster. Mind you, it’s one monster, but it shows up in both the “old self” and the “new self.” Let’s first consider the old self.

One Head is the Old Self

Before you or I accepted Jesus’ salvation, we were convicts awaiting our sentencing. We were under condemnation (John 3:18), we were spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1), we lived and breathed rebellion against Jesus (Isaiah 30:9), the Righteous One (Acts 3:14). Integral parts of our old self were wickedness, greed, jealousy, and more. Our reprobate selves were diseased and decaying. Nothing good resided in us. So no one should expect anything good to come out of us (Job 14:4). Not brotherly love, not selflessness, not fairness, kindness, gentleness, love, and so forth. Certainly, there were occasional acts of love and kindness, but these were always fleeting, and if the real heart of any reprobate person were to be exposed, only evil would be found (Romans 3:10).

Therefore, with regard to a world bursting at the seams with death, it is hardly surprising that any number of heinous laws, systemic sins, personal wrongdoing, and more were perpetrated upon people. The ideas espoused by people like Karl Marx are lunacy for those ideas stand upon the belief that good can be found, if not in the individual, then in some collection of peoples. How utterly misguided are these theories and philosophies for they are born in sin and doomed for destruction.

The earth lies defiled under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant.Isaiah 24:5

The Second Head is Sin in the New Self

If you scroll back up to God’s Word from Ephesians 4:22-24, notice that the apostle Paul wrote this letter to Christians. He wrote it, not to the city council in Ephesus but to the church in Ephesus. Even after we are born again, our old self still lingers. You and I know this, empirically, because we have sinned after being saved. Maybe that’s too much of an assumption. I confess: I have sinned, more than once, after being saved. Therefore, I know that a battle exists between the Spirit and the flesh (Galatians 5:17), not in the “me” that is now seated with Christ in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6), but, in vain, it fights against my new self. Also, I have not fully been transformed into the likeness of Jesus because my mind, though improving, has not been fully renewed (Romans 12:2). And here’s where the monster comes in.

The Monster

Just as Eve was seduced to sin in the Garden, every Christian has been seduced by God’s enemy at one time or another, resulting in sins of commission or omission. For in whatever areas of our lives we are weak, those the places where we are attacked. When a weak Christian finds solace with other Christians that are weak in the same aspects of character, then the local church starts down the path of heresy. That heresy finds “itching ears” (2 Timothy 4:3) in other churches, and soon the society undergirded by Christians becomes reprobate, espousing lies and passing laws firmly grounded in death, not life.

Our Signature

What can we do? If Christians never sinned there would be no reason for:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.1 John 1:9

Yet, we are warned with passages such as:

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. – James 4:7

And we are warned:

No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.1 John 3:6-8

How can we nullify that dead and decaying old man who keeps trying to cling to us, to pull us under, to steal our joy, to steal our witness, to steal our hope, to collude with weak and false believers that spew out heresies? Jesus has given us soul-medicine, the Good News that protects us from our old self. And what is our protection? John 13:35: By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. Love is how we are recognized, it is our signature. It costs us everything that is worth nothing.

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Love Lifted Me

fishing ships in a harbor
Love Lifted Me
I was sinking deep in sin,
far from the peaceful shore,
very deeply stained within,
sinking to rise no more;
but the Master of the sea
heard my despairing cry,
from the waters lifted me;
now safe am I. 

"We love because he first loved us." - 1 Jn. 4:19

Photo: I snapped this pic in Kupreanof, Alaska.

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