A Deluded Heart

picture of a lion

Many years ago, a close friend of mine began experimenting with drugs. When I first met him, he was a regular guy, but he had a terrible home life. Anyway, he began escaping his real-life problems through stronger and stronger drugs. As he did, his thinking became more illogical, and his life more chaotic.

One night we were sitting in a local restaurant when he became paranoid. He was sure there was a plain-clothed policeman in the restaurant and the policeman was going to arrest him; at least that was his story. Anyway, he had small bag heroin that he kept trying to get me to swallow so he wouldn’t be found with drugs on him.

Thankfully, I refused his pleas, and finally, he took me back to my car, and I drove home. The good news is that several years later, my friend accepted Jesus as his Savior, and he is now the music director for a local church.

A Deluded Heart

Today, as I was reading my Bible, I came upon Isaiah 44:20  and this part of the verse jumped out at me: “a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself.”  The commentary pointed out that our hearts are​ first to go astray, which then leads our intellects astray, which then leads our lives astray. The result is the abject poverty of our morals and we cannot deliver ourselves. 

Our hearts are the battlegrounds that the enemy of God desires to win. If he wins our hearts then the rest of our undoing will soon follow. But God has given us this promise in 1 Peter 5:6-11 (ESV):

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

The Lion of Judah

Pay no attention to that roaring lion for Christ Jesus, the Lion of Judah, (Revelation 5:5) will deal with him. Place your wholehearted devotion (Matthew 22:37) in God. And I pray for you, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 1:2) Amen.

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Rest Easy

cat resting on a person

In the observable universe, there are an estimated 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars. That’s 1 billion trillion. And that’s not counting planets, moons, and so forth. We can’t truly comprehend that number, yet each celestial object is unique. Here’s what our God said about this starry host:

Isaiah 40:25-26 (ESV)
“To whom will you compare Me,
or who is My equal?” asks the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high:
Who created all these?
He leads forth the starry host by number;
He calls each one by name.
Because of His great power and mighty strength,
not one of them is missing.

Indeed, God is beyond our understanding, and yet He knows everything and everyone in the universe! He knows you, and He knows me, and He knows what we need and what our hearts desire.

Thanks to Jesus, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16 ESV)

We have joy, mercy, grace, and peace in God through Jesus Christ. Rest in Jesus, no matter what you need!

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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.

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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).

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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!

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Soul Insulation

people walking in downtown as it snows

As I recently mentioned, we bought a shed for my office. Getting the electrical installed was easy-peasy because we “have” an electrician that is reliable and affordable. However, we have struggled to get my office insulated and drywalled. It seems that my project is too small for anyone to bother with.

My wife and I are about ready to do this work ourselves. When we were younger, we’d already had the job finished. However, time is catching up with us, and our strength is waning. Still, I’m confident that God will make a way for this work to be accomplished.

Just as a house or office needs insulation to keep out the extremes of weather, so we as Christians need insulation to maintain a barrier between what the Holy Spirit is working within us and what our society is attempting to stifle within us.

Soul Insulation

One of the best spiritual insulators for our minds and souls can be purchased for free. It is be found in 

Philippians 4:8-9, Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

This passage of scripture gives us the insulation that we need to keep the world from chilling the Holy Spirit’s fire within us or overheating our passion for the work God has given us, which can lead to frustration and anger. 

Keep the Precepts of Philippians

Daily we need to keep the precepts of Philippians 4:8-9 at the forefront of our thoughts. If we do this, then the storms of life may buffet us, but we will remain warm and snuggly with God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

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My Conversation with an Atheist

two men sitting outside chatting

Have you ever had a sit-down, over-coffee, conversation with an atheist? I’ve had passing conversations, but my most memorable chat was with a co-worker. 

We were on a business trip, and our boss was with us. The three of us had some downtime, so we holed up in an empty meeting room, checking email, and chatting. My co-worker turned to me and said he’d seen my website (an old website that I had) and had read some of my articles. Then he said, “Science has disproved that stuff. I believe in science, not a god.”

We had a cordial but unvarnished debate, while our boss listened. I was elated when I learned that my co-worker continued to read my articles after our discussion. 

The underlying problem with all arguments atheists make is that they speak as a created being against the existence of their Creator. It doesn’t matter what logic you build upon this fundamental fallacy; at some point, it all crashes down.

God summed up this atheistic argument in Isaiah 29:16 (ESV): You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?

As we walk through this anti-God world, we must be ready to defend the Gospel. These opportunities come at the most unexpected moments in our lives. But remember, “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4 ESV)

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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.

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What does an angel look like?

statue of an angel

What does an angel look like? I know. I saw one, and his intervention saved me from a mess of trouble. Regarding angels, God’s Word states in Hebrews 1:14 (ESV), “Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?

Here’s the Back Story

I had moved, along with my wife and kids, to a major U.S. city. We had lived in large cities before, so this wasn’t new. I drove to work, and my commute was typical. We lived about fifteen miles away, so it was a 90-minute commute, on a good day.

BAM!

One morning I took my exit off the Interstate, stopped at the traffic signal, and waited. The light changed; I began my left-hand turn when BAM. In an instant, I was t-boned just in front of my door by a car traveling full-speed through the intersection. 

My car was totaled. I was by myself, but the car that hit me had several people, and all were ready to say that I ran the red light. I prayed. I didn’t ask for an angel but God gave me one. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them (Ps. 34:7 ESV). When I opened my eyes and my head cleared, I saw a man way over on the righthand corner with a perfect view of the accident. 

911

I had called 911, so a couple of police cars showed up. Two police began talking with the men in the other vehicle, and a couple of police started walking towards me to take my statement. Suddenly, the man on the corner waved them down and began a conversation with the police.

Where had this man come from? I hadn’t seen him before. What I do know is that after he talked with the police, I was cleared. The wreck was only about two miles from work, so I walked there and showed up on time!

What does an angel look like?

Oh, I promised a description. The angel that God sent was an African-American male in his early sixties. And, before to call me crazy, he was an angel. Whatever he said to the police settled the matter, and then he was gone; I couldn’t find him to thank him.

So now you know. God still sends His angels. As God’s Word states in Hebrews 13:2 (ESV), “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

Angels Watching Over Me

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No Chaos Allowed Here

messy workbench

My wife and I were talking about a family we know that seems to live in a state of chaos continually. Don’t ask any one of them how they’re doing because that person will take the next hour of your life, giving you a blow-by-blow account of just what has happened to the family that day! That’s an hour of your life that you’ll never get back.

The thing is, even while they’re telling you how bad things are, they seem to find comfort in their distress. It’s almost as if they are proud of their problems. If they would ever stop bemoaning their life, perhaps I or someone could tell them that chaos is contrary to the will of God.

No Chaos!

We find in Genesis 1:1-2 (ESV), “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 in Hebrews 11:3 (ESV), “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

God took what was formless and void and created all that exists. He transformed chaos into order. He did this without the help of anyone, and even without the help of anything.

The only use God has for chaos is as a tool for judgment. We see this in Isaiah 34:11 (ESV), “Behold, the LORD will empty the earth and make it desolate, and he will twist its surface and scatter its inhabitants.

Glorify Almighty God

So when you start your work, as you enter your office, be that a room, a cube, a truck, or a warehouse, go ahead and take a few minutes to straighten your stapler, fix the arrangement of your tools, clean out your vehicle, even in these little things you are honoring Almighty God. As a child of Adam, God created you in His image. Your need to bring order out of chaos is a trait that comes from your Father.

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