Tying up loose ends

man tying a knot in a boat's rope

The clock keeps moving us closer to the end of the year. As we draw closer to the closure of this year, it’s wise for us to do some spiritual house cleaning. Have we paid our tithe, have we forgiven everyone that may have caused us harm, whether through intent or ignorance, are we reconciled with our fellow descendants of Adam? Is there anything we promised that we’ve left undone? Have we gone to the Lord our God and sought His forgiveness for sins of commission and sins of omission?

The way God forgives us, so we are to forgive others. “For You have cast all my sins behind Your back.”, King Hezekiah proclaimed (Isaiah 38:17 ). As God forgives, so we should forgive others.

Forgiveness

Corrie ten Boom, in her book Tramp for the Lord, wrote: It was 1947–. I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives. It was the truth they needed most to hear in that bitter, bombed-out land, and I gave them my favorite mental picture. Maybe because the sea is never far from a Hollander’s mind, I like to think that that’s where forgiven sins are thrown. “When we confess our sins,” I said, “God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever–. Then God places a sign out there that says ‘No Fishing Allowed'”

Thankfully, the one true God is long-suffering (2 Peter 3:9), He is impartial (Acts 10:34), and He stands against the mistreatment of people (Zechariah 7:10). Our God has relieved us from retribution for He has said, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19). 

Good Deeds

God keeps track of us, and none of our good deeds go unnoticed by Him (Hebrews 6:10). He is righteous and just. (Psalm 89:14). And, He forgives (Peter 2:24Isaiah 43:25)

No, I’ve not forgotten about Christmas, Christ’s mass. We’ll talk about that as that time draws nearer. But, today, I thought it best to remind us of God’s character and His extraordinary expectations of us in 2019.

Photo by Free To Use Sounds on Unsplash

You may like:
https://www.rockexcavationservice.org/nooks-crannies/

God loves you no less

man kneeling at a church pew

I had started a technology company and had a handful of employees. I had bootstrapped the company – no venture capital. At this point, the company was about four years old. I had expensive professional employees. Most held advanced degrees. 

We’d experienced steady growth. Never once during those four years had I missed a payroll. God always provided.

One day, close to a payroll, I went through the company’s financials. It looked grim. Even if I didn’t draw a paycheck, there just wasn’t nearly enough to do a partial payroll. All of my cash was tied up with “work-in-progress.” I was deeply concerned, but God had led me to start this business, and He’d never failed me.

On the morning of payday, my company’s cash flow was the worst I’d ever experienced. Realizing this was a watershed moment for the company, I rushed to my church’s office. I asked the pastor and everyone there to join me in prayer for God to overcome this moment that otherwise would harm my staff and crush the company. We prayed. God provided. The payroll was fully met that day.

God Loves You No Less

This crushing financial event in my life is why I relate so strongly to King Hezekiah’s actions when an invading force conspired to crush him and all of Judah. But God miraculously saved him and his people from destruction. 

Look at what King Hezekiah did when he heard the threat: Isaiah 37:1 (ESV), “As soon as King Hezekiah heard it, he tore his clothes and covered himself with sackcloth and went into the house of the Lord

I didn’t tear my clothes or put on sackcloth, but I tore my heart and humbled myself before Father God, and I went to the house of the Lord. 

God loves you no less than me. When you are “hard pressed on every side (2 Cor. 4:8),” and all seems lost, tear your heart, run to your church, gather Godly people around you, and pray. God will hear, and you may see inexplicable events unfold, for “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Ps. 46:1).

Photo by Sam Rios on Unsplash

You may like:
https://www.rockexcavationservice.org/spiritual-heritage/

You Need a Log

a small pond surrounded by trees

In the wilderness of Shur, the Israelites had no water. At Marah, they had water, but it was bitter (poisonous); so that they could not drink it. 

We find this account in Exodus 15:23-25 (ESV): When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah. And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” And he cried to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.

God Leads us to Bitter Waters

There’s a great lesson (probably several) in this brief passage of Scripture. God often leads us to “bitter water,” not to be cruel but to use us for change.

Moses and all of Israel arrived where God led them, but what they found was unsuitable for them or anyone. Immediately all of the Debbie Downers began complaining. Wow, if you’ve ever been in a leadership role of any kind, you know how “helpful” whining and complaining is to solving problems!

We’re There for a Reason

Nevertheless, God put His people there for a reason. And He will do the same for each of us. Why? Because God chooses to use His children to affect change; to transform bitter waters into sweet waters. We are well equipped for these assignments because the Holy Spirit lives within us, and He intends to use us to point people to Jesus.

No, we don’t walk around with blessed logs that we’re to through into bitter situations (there’s a lawsuit). What God does is show us the tool, the instrument of change, the “log” that He has prepared to transform situations, problems, people that are poisonous into something wholesome, healthy, and refreshing.

Don’t Panic

Don’t panic, don’t join the complainers but pray, seek God’s will, ask for the Holy Spirit to show you the “log” that is needed and then act in faith and watch God work. When once you’ve experienced this, you will desire God to lead you to the next crises; well, maybe not, but you’ll sure be ready!

Photo by Alfred Kenneally on Unsplash 

You may like:
https://www.rockexcavationservice.org/angry-people/

Hey, You’re the Leader

African-American child wearing a t-shirt with the words future leader

A few years ago, after a school reunion, my wife set up a Facebook page for her high school class. There had been a site set up for the reunion, but, since they had all connected on Facebook, she thought she’d try to keep all the classmates connected, till the next one.

On her page, she gives recognition to classmates’ birthdays and other life events and maintains an “In Memoriam” page for members when they pass away.  Her classmates seem appreciative of her efforts,

From a Member to a Leader

She built the Facebook site thinking she could be “in the background,” like she’d been at school. Because of how Facebook works, every post she made as the administrator of the site showed up as one of her posts. One classmate recently made an interesting comment to her, saying, “You were mostly an unknown in high school, but now you’re the most visible member.”

She cringes at that visibility, and the thought that she is a “leader” because she runs the site. But, this opportunity that landed in my wife’s lap is how God works. Now read this account of Paul in Acts 27:31-32,35:

Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.” So, the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it drift away… After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat.

How God Works

There’s an exciting progression here in Acts 27, regarding the shipwreck. Paul lives a holy, humble life that they witnessed. God gave supernatural insight to Paul, which Paul shares with the crew. Paul does not pull back from the leadership that God gave him with the crew and with the Roman soldiers. In fact, God engendered Paul to people of authority. And, when things got tough, it was Paul, and the God Paul served that they trusted.

For the centurion to not kill all the prisoners, as Rome law called for, but to trust Paul, even over the sailors, is an excellent testimony to the rapid credibility Paul gained with the people on the ship. 

God gave Paul opportunities to demonstrate God’s love, long-suffering, and miracles, so the centurion, especially, put his trust in Paul and the God Paul served. Paul has already established a “witness” to these men. So, giving thanks in front of them was a logical continuation.

Hey, the Leader is You

God still uses this same process with His children. You may be just a member of a Sunday School class, or Parent / Teach association, or perhaps a member of a local book club. If a severe problem arises – lack of funds, theft, loss of a leader – don’t be surprised if God selects you to lead the members out of the difficulty.

Your consistent walk with Jesus, openly, so other members see Him in you lays your ministry’s foundation. Your acute awareness of the Holy Spirit’s voice in you will enable you to hear God’s guidance for you. And your confidence in God’s willingness and ability to deliver your cohort from damage, danger, or loss enables you to pray fervently, so they see their victory is from the God you serve.

Be ready at all times, for you never know when God’s call will come to you.

Photo by Kiana Bosman on Unsplash

You may like:
https://www.rockexcavationservice.org/leadership/

Godly Faith

Old Bible

Can you lose your faith? Let’s walk through what God’s Word says about your faith.

As you likely know, faith is the only way to receive Jesus and all of the benefits in God’s salvation. You can probably quote Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV, which declares, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

For you to receive salvation, you must use God’s faith to enter into His salvation. God uses no work on your part for the Scripture says, “not by works.” This verse means that even the faith through which you are saved is God’s faith.

Godly Faith

We know from Romans 12:3, “...in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” God gives faith to you. That faith exists through the completed work of Jesus Christ. 

You may fret about statements Jesus said to His disciples, such as “you of little faith (Matthew 8:26).” Remember, Jesus made these comments to unsaved people. The Apostles only got saved after Jesus arose from the grave, and He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:22 ESV)

Faith is a Gift From God

As a theologian once wrote, “The most important thing to know when it comes to your faith is this: you’re not in charge of it.” God gives it as a gift to you. And God may choose to increase your faith, but you can’t manufacture Godly faith. 

Now you know. You can’t lose the gift of faith that God gave you. Can you purposely get rid of Godly faith? That’s a question with which the early church in Egypt wrestled. The Coptic Church was thrown into turmoil over this very question. We’ll tackle that some other day.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

You may like:
https://www.rockexcavationservice.org/faith-is-like-breath/

Our Heavenly How

a welder

Thankfully, my dad grew up on a farm, so, along with agriculture, he learned carpentry, plumbing, mechanical design, engine repair, and all kinds of skills. It wasn’t just my dad but all of his brothers (and I think my aunt) learned these skills. So even though most of them had other careers they all possessed and used these skills throughout their lives.

I, as well as all of my paternal cousins, learned these same skills. Why? Because our fathers showed us how. They mentored us (in a 1960s sort of way). They showed us how and required us to use these skills as we grew up.

Our Heavenly How

Our heavenly Father also shows us how. We learn “how” by observing. We see Father God at work in the Scriptures, at work in the lives of fellow believers, at work in divine interventions, and at work through people that have no idea that God is using them. Father God doesn’t just tell us to do His work. He shows us how.

As Christians we are reconciled to the Father. Jesus accomplished this on the cross. We are not fatherless; we are not orphans; we are not without hope. Through Jesus, the Father has shown us how to pray, how to deal with rejection, and how to walk by faith.

Our heavenly Father shows us how to recover when our lives crash, how to choose what is right over what is expedient, and how to please Him, just to name a few more examples. He is always near, always showing us how, ever catching us when we fall. 

Use the How

Do you remember how the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write to his “son,” Timothy? He wrote, “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, (2 Timothy 1:6 ESV)…Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15 ESV).”

Paul reminded his “son” that he had been shown how to use the tools and skills that had been given to him; so he needed to use them. Knowing “how” is wonderful but our Father’s expectation is that, by faith, we use our “how”.

Benediction

As I conclude, I would like to reference this Scripture as a closing benediction:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Romans 15:13 ESV)

Photo by Maxime Agnelli on Unsplash

You may like:
https://www.rockexcavationservice.org/how-close/

A Defective Understanding of Christianity

A man on a couch with a laptop

I’ve written quite a lot about faith over the last few months. There is a reason for this. When I talk to young people that professed faith in Jesus, went through some form of Christian education, and were baptized, they seem to have a defective understanding of Christianity. 

Is Saving Faith Missing?

These Christians consider the Bible as having been written by ordinary men with the intent to maintain domination over women, the poor, people that don’t conform to artificial standards, and people of other beliefs. 

It seems that all that is wrong in this world can be condensed down to Christianity. Their disbelief is not in Christian ethics or even Jesus (from the little they know), but in a lack of faith in the Bible.

Perhaps you haven’t encountered this mindset, but I have on several recent occasions. It seems that somehow saving faith is missing.

As Christians, we know that we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). Faith is, in general, an act of convincing the mind that a particular statement is true (Philippians 1:272 Thessalonians 2:13). 

Saving faith can be acquired. Romans 10:14-15 (ESV), “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?…” (This is a foundational passage affirming the role of missionaries.)

Knowledge is an essential element in all types of faith and is sometimes spoken of as an equivalent to faith (John 10:38; 1 John 2:3). Yet faith is different from knowledge because faith includes an act of the will besides that of understanding. 

There are Different Kinds of Faith

Here’s the rub: there are different kinds of faith. There’s historical faith, the trust in facts of history. There’s temporary faith which rises in a person from the Holy Spirit or when they see a miracle of God, but then quickly fades. And there is saving faith, so called because it has eternal life inseparably connected with it. (Acts 16:31-32)

This Problem is our Opportunity

We live during a time when many people are confused and deceived. When a person acquires saving faith and receives Jesus, they are reborn, and the Holy Spirit lives within them. It is our opportunity to help and guide these brothers and sisters. As the Scripture says in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” 

(This devotional includes content from Easton’s Bible Dictionary) 

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

You may like:
https://www.rockexcavationservice.org/on-doubt/

The Starting Point

Skier at starting line

The starting point with God is this: “… And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Hebrews 11:6 ESV

Watch a Baby Explore

Just watch a baby explore and learn. The little tike moves around, tasting everything. They rub their tiny hands on rugs and blankets and grandpa’s beard. They experiment with everything they can get their hands on, feet on, or face on. And they will listen to the same song or watch the same movie five hundred times and not grow tired of it. 

Constantly they are using their five senses (e.g., sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch), which God gave them to comprehend and interact with their world. They learn and change so quickly that parents have trouble knowing who’s going to wake up each day.

Children of God

When we are born again into the kingdom of God, we must enter as a child and learn the “senses” He has given us to comprehend and interact within God’s kingdom. That’s why the Bible records what Jesus said in Matthew 18:3 ESV: “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” 

Just like a baby, we have to explore, taste, learn, feel, sing, worship, dialog with God, and fellowship with other Christians. We need all of these and more, so we grow up to be a healthy child of God.  As David wrote in Psalms 34:8 ESV, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!…

We all want to be healthy children of God. To achieve that, we need to learn in God’s kingdom. Learn how to hear the Holy Spirit. Learn how to pray fervently. We need to enjoy fellowship with other Christians. And we need to learn what God meant when the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write in 1 Corinthians 4:20, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.

Let’s explore God’s kingdom, of which we are citizens, through our faith in Jesus. God’s kingdom is more significant and more fascinating than we can ever imagine!

Photo credit: Bob F Smithson on VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-ND

You may also like:
https://www.rockexcavationservice.org/just-one-of-those-days/

God’s Beloved

Dust on a man's handds

First published on August 24, 2019 (I’m sick today)

We obey as a result of being God’s beloved

I came across an article I found interesting. The article is titled, “4 Ways Your Bible Points to Jesus.” In the article I read there wa a quote that gave me pause; I knew I needed to ponder the words. Here’s the quote: We obey as a result of being God’s beloved, not to cause God to love us. His grace toward us precedes, enables, and motivates our efforts toward holiness.Bryan Chapell

How amazing and how consistent Mr. Chapell’s words are with God’s message to us throughout the Bible. God always initiates, always provides, always loves. We do not obey God to cause Him to love us. We obey because He already has loved us.

Then there is God’s grace. The simple definition of grace is receiving what you did not earn. God’s grace equips us, His beloved, to attain the holiness to which He calls us (1 Peter 1:16). God’s tool house is full of every imaginable tool that we might need for us to move from where we are to being holy. He made them for us before we existed, and they exist for our asking, provided we use them.

God Acts Before The Facts

God has done all these things while we were still sinners. This fundamental characteristic of God to act before there is evidence of success is found throughout the Bible, and not only regarding humanity’s salvation. We find assurance of God’s compassion in our walk with Jesus in Psalms 103:13-14:

13 As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
14 For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust.

This is such an encouraging passage of Scripture. God knows how we were formed. He was there. He did the work. He truly knows you and me

Photo by Austin Ban on Unsplash

You may like:
https://rockexcavationservice.org/god-orchestrates/

Is it Seed?

Seed - Man harvesting grapes

A missionary once told me, “If it’s not enough for the need, then it’s seed.”  When he said that I knew he was right. However, contained in that simple statement was a BIG step of faith.

Seed Backstory

The backstory on this simple statement is that I had developed a program for Microsoft Windows. I had one authorized reseller and after several months they had only made one sale. By that time I had moved on. So, I had one sale which wasn’t a lot of money. Still, I was sure it had been the right thing to do. 

After talking with this missionary I decided that I would give all the money I received from that one sale to God. It would be a seed since it surely wasn’t enough for my needs.

Now let me stop at this point. I am not writing about incorrect teachings like “name it and claim it” or “give to get”; the list goes on. What I’m writing about is “need”. 

God’s Way

We find in Matthew 6:25, 32-34 (ESV emphases added), Jesus saying: “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? …For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

I have found these words of Jesus to be especially encouraging. My heavenly Father KNOWS that I need them all. However, notice the “but”. “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness…”  Jesus is telling us that before we can expect God to meet our needs we must change our intent

Intent and Purpose

A complete shift must take place in us. The intent and purpose of our lives must change from that of a consumer mindset to that of a righteousness mindset. This truth sticks a pin in the promises of material gain.

Now here’s my news. I took all that I made from my product and planted it in the kingdom of God. No one hinted that I should give it all but I felt the Holy Spirit stirring within me. That income was my seed.

I wasn’t asking for a 30, 60, 100 fold increase. That wasn’t in my heart at all. What was in my heart was placing God first in my life and trusting Him for my needs. (I needed a job.) My seed was a declaration that I was walking by faith.

An Epiphany

Shortly after this epiphany from the Holy Spirit, I didn’t just get a job. I began a whole new career that met my needs for many decades. It was so much more than I would have ever thought or asked for.

There have been many times that I’ve found myself with seeds. I’ve learned to plant those seeds. Rarely have these seeds been financial. They may be “family time” or “an effective ministry.”

How do you plant a “family time” seed? My wife and I invited our kids’ friends to a weekly dinner. We prayed, discussed topics of the day, and asked about the activities and needs of the young people at our table. We took the seed of our family time and planted it in others. God met our needs.

God Has Never Failed Me

Each time God asks us to plant what we have, even if it’s almost nothing – some small fish and a bit of bread – God honors our faith in Him. As for me, God has always met my needs. He has never failed me.

Photo by Mert Guller on Unsplash

You may like:
https://www.rockexcavationservice.org/faith-is-a-noun/

%d bloggers like this: