13 milliseconds

an eye

The human brain can identify images seen for as little as 13 milliseconds. – MIT NEWS That’s nearly eight times faster than a blink of an eye.  Admittedly, we don’t know how long Jesus looked at Peter when Jesus was on trial, but it was enough time for both of them to know that Christ’s prophecy about Peter was fulfilled.

Luke 22:61 (ESV), And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.”

I can’t think within 13 milliseconds, so I need to be so full of the Holy Spirit that He’s continually leaking out of me, through my eyes, through my words, through the way I carry myself, through my facial muscles. I need all of those working for God if I only have 13 milliseconds for someone to see Jesus in me. 

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Solders in chow line for Thanksgiving

Colossians 3:15-17 The Message (MSG)
15-17 Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.

As long as I’ve been a Christian, Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday. Shouldn’t Christmas be it since I am a Christian? Good question. Yes, it SHOULD, but the intention of this Holy Day is more soiled, shredded, and mutilated than the items people hold in their avaricious hands as they stand in line at Walmart. Why not Easter? Same story. The Easter egg hunt reigns supreme on this intended Holy Day to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Savior.

Conspicuous Consumption

No, for most of my Christian life the best that conspicuous consumption could stir up against Thanksgiving was a turkey and pumpkin pie. Both good but not able to overshadow the 800-pound gorilla in the room; to whom do you give thanks?

Giving thanks implies a Giver and places the Giver above the receiver unless you can give back as much, and in kind. A one-shot, day of giving stuff at Christmas pales in comparison to receiving every breath you take for every second or every day for the whole year. – My mother suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for, to me, too many years. But I won’t know until I get to heaven what was gained in God’s kingdom from her battle.

Well, I am still grasping on to Thanksgiving despite its slow, maniacal disassembly. We have Black Friday, Shop Local Saturday, and Cyber Monday. We have Christmas commercials that overlap Halloween. Commercialism is in a no-holds-barred battle against Thanksgiving, and it’s winning.

Friendsgiving 🙁

Just last week I saw a commercial that called Thanksgiving “Friendsgiving”; they’ve tossed the gorilla out of the window. My guess is that the Thanksgiving Holy Day will fall in line with the other three-day weekend holidays: FaceTime a few friends and family, pop some popcorn and watch football. Yes, I think that is the future of my beloved Holy Day. But not for me. Not in this house. “… as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15 NIV).

Take A Little Time

In closing, I’d like to leave you with Andrae Crouch’s song, “Take A Little Time”. You will be blessed.

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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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Just Suppose

Man giving to a homeless person

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5 ESV)

Just Suppose

A giant in the world of Christian missions once said to me, “It’s surprising that Christians will borrow money to buy a TV or a boat, but they won’t borrow money to go on a missions trip. What does that person truly love?” (1 John 2:15)

Just suppose the Holy Spirit guided us to commit to living on half of our income. Yikes! (Ephesians 5:17) And He told us to give the other half to local and foreign Christian missionaries.

Would you do it?

Our first response would probably be, “God, I can’t do that. I live paycheck to paycheck now!” After our initial shock, would we consider the source? No, not who said it, but who provides our income?

In the case we’re considering, God spoke it so therefore it is His will. And, in call cases, God is our provider; our employer is a tool in God’s hand. (Matthew 6:31-33)

So, would we do it? Would we commit to living on half of our income and trusting our Provider to fulfill His will in us? There’s an old question that asks, “Do you work to live or live to work?” I think a better question is, “Do I work to give or do I work to live?” (Ephesians 4:28/Acts 20:35)

Now, let’s say that we did what God asked of us. Would we be content or would we be loudly obedient? This idea of “being content” while living on less can be a very real challenge.

No Condemnation

There is no condemnation from me about my hypothetical question. Not at all. Money isn’t evil (1 Timothy 6:10). I used money as an example because we can all relate to it. What I am wrestling with is this: what are we willing to do as Christians?

How far are we willing to turn away from the world to live for Jesus? (James 4:4) That’s all I’m asking. I think each of us needs to know how to answer that question.

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Learning from Peter

group of young people gathered around a campfire

There may be times in your life when Jesus places you in a position where you can share the Gospel of Jesus with a group. Perhaps the people are co-workers or in a Sunday school class or other settings.

The fact is that it’s wise to know how to preach to a group. How you do this is very similar to personal witnessing. The most important thing to do is listen for the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Still, there are some things you can do to prepare.

Learning from Peter

To learn how to share Jesus with a group, let’s look at an exceptional sermon preached by one of Christ’s Apostles.

Acts 2:14 (NIV), Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say.

Let me explain this to you.” Here the Apostle Peter provides us with an excellent example for starting a discourse with a group. Usually there is some catalytic event. Jesus performed miracles, here the Apostle Peter is using the astonishing baptism of the Holy Spirit as the event that drew people into a group.

Acts 2:22 (NIV), “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.”

Identify With the Group

Fellow Israelites, listen to this.” Now the Apostle Peter begins builds commonality by including himself with the crowd. Then the Apostle Peter verifies his statements by reminding the crowd that “you yourselves know.” For us, we can remind people that the written accounts by the Apostles are eyewitness testimonies.

By verse 29, the Apostle Peter has established his intent, his kinship, and the credibility of his core message. So, he moves his message forward by declaring, “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently.” By now, there is no reason for the crowd not to believe what the Apostle Peter is saying.

By verse 40, the Apostle Peter calls on the people in the crowd to response: With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 

Finally, in verse 41, the Apostle Peter concludes the message. He receives those who accepted the Gospel of Jesus Christ: Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

So now you Know

So now we’ve been shown by an Apostle of Jesus how to present the Christ’s Good News to a group. As always, success in the kingdom of God is not measured numerically.

You may have one person accept Jesus, or maybe no one gets saved. That part is not your job. The Holy Spirit convicts and leads people into salvation.

I pray that our Lord Jesus will give you opportunities to preach His Good News to groups of people. Amen.

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Three Keys to our Daily Life in Christ

neon sign that says keys and has an outline of a key

It’s odd, the things that we remember from when we were young. But first, this memory that lazily wandered through my skull.

I remembered a thought that I had after I started my first full-time job. For several months I was underwater and didn’t have time to think, but then this thought hit me: I no longer have my summertimes off as I had in school. I have to work like this for the rest of my life! (Remember, I was young)

I wasn’t sure I could work forever. I felt a sense of helplessness combined with dread wash over me. I had a good relationship with Jesus, but I still had much to learn; always do. However, you see, I hadn’t discovered three keys to living my life for Jesus.

Three Keys

1. I was trying to picture the whole rest of my life. That doesn’t work. If I try to live in the future, then I will be confused, disappointed, and out of God’s will. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23 ESV) How can I even guess my future when daily I lay down my life and pick up my cross and follow Jesus. I rarely know where Jesus is going today until today, so I have no idea what I’ll be doing. 

2. I was envisioning my future upon what my life had been like in the past. That’s just silly. Past failures or successes do not determine my future. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV) That old person that I was, has no authority over me and the new person that I am serves the God whose name is “I Am,” so what do I have to dread about the future?

3. I was thinking within the knowledge, wisdom, and faith that I had at the time when that thought went through my mind. But as we follow Jesus, our knowledge increases, our understanding becomes deeper, and our faith grows stronger. I am not the same as I was. I think differently. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:17 ESV) Sure, my flesh rises from time to time, and I have to beat it into submission, but that’s part of my cross. 

Pleasing Jesus

Now, many decades later, it seems odd to me that such a thought loomed so large before me. By the grace of Father God, the Shepherding of Jesus, and the work of the Holy Spirit within me, I now see that I just walked right through that fear and dread and didn’t even notice when I did.

These three keys are how you and I successfully live daily in Christ Jesus. We are living through such an incredible adventure!

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The Law of Increasing Returns

Coca-Cola Machine

Now, like me, somewhere in your past, you probably took a class on economics. And one of the first things your economics teacher taught you was the law of diminishing returns. My teacher’s example was a milkshake, but from personal experience, I’ll use Coca-Cola.

Diminishing Returns

When I was young, there were a few times, a very few, when my dad gave me a nickel when he pulled into a gas station. I would burst out of the car (no seatbelts then) and run to the faded red Coca-Cola machine, slip my nickel in, press down on the big lever, and plop, out came a six-ounce bottle of Coke. 

On my first swig from that chipped and beaten-up, greenish bottle, I’d get a mouthful of that wonderful Coca-Cola. The fizz would come out of my nose and squeeze past my lips; it was awesome!

However, every few years, Coca-Cola’s bottles, then cans, and then self-serve cups got larger and larger. Now I can go to a gas station and walk out with a 32 oz cup of Coke, and I can finish it off before I get home, never once experiencing fizz through my nose and mouth. Sadly, I will finish it off without a second thought.

That’s how the law of diminishing returns works. Sadly, a large portion of our economy depends on this economic law. But we, as Christians, have a different “law” at work within us.

Increasing Returns

2 Corinthians 3:18 (ESV), “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

This growth is a moral and spiritual transformation “from one degree of glory to another.” We are being progressively restored to greater and greater possession of the image of God which was corrupted at the fall of Adam. – Reformation Study Bible

Now we know that when we received Jesus as our Savior, the Holy Spirit (i.e., the Spirit) is continually building inside us and moving us closer and closer to the image of God that was Adam before he sinned. That’s what I call the law of increasing returns. Praise God!

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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.

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Security Certificate

Security Certificate

Today I spent more time than I intended to on creating security certificates for a couple of web sites. I try to stay on top of these things. Anyway, before creating these certificates I made a backup of the sites. While the backups were running my mind wandered.

I often look for corollaries between my work* and things I’ve learned from the Bible. So I started thinking about security certificates and that led to the 14th chapter of John.

Two verses before the verse where Jesus tells His disciples that He will not leave them as orphans Jesus makes this astounding statement: “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of Truth” (John 14:16–17 ESV).  

Holy Spirit is our Security Certificate

Quoting from “GotQuestions.org”: The Greek word translated “Comforter” or “Counselor” (as found in John 14:16, 26; 15:26; and 16:7) is parakletos. This form of the word is unquestionably passive and properly means “one called to the side of another”; the word carries a secondary notion concerning the purpose of the calling alongside: to counsel or support the one who needs it. This Counselor, or Paraclete, is God the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity who has been “called to our side.” He is a personal being, and He indwells every believer.

I just created a security certificate that is a seal guaranteeing a web site is what it says it is. Among the many activities of the Holy Spirit one of them is that He is the seal by whom the Father guarantees the salvation of believers unto the day of redemption (Ephesians 1:13-14). That’s how the Holy Spirit ties back to the work I am doing. And that’s good news!

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*I’m retired and I don’t get paid for this so it’s a stretch to call it work.

No animals were harmed during the writing of this devotional

Holy Priesthood

1 Peter 2:4-5, As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

This “holy priesthood” to which God called us is not in name only nor is it a formal position within the clergy. This role is for all Christians. If we, as Christians, are called to a holy priesthood, then we have work that we must do that aligns with our position.

We don’t sacrifice bulls or goats or lambs

God does not view us as holy priests after the lineage of Aaron; ours is a spiritual priesthood. We don’t sacrifice bulls or goats or lambs in this new priesthood. Since we operate within the Spirit, our sacrifices are spiritual. A good question to ask here is, “What does Peter mean by “spiritual sacrifices?”

We read that Jesus is a living stone (singular), and we are living stones (plural). Therefore our holy priesthood is modeled on that of Jesus, the Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14). As such, our spiritual sacrifices are foremost that of self and will. Here is a verse to verify this statement: 1 John. 3:16 (ESV), “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”

One Mediator Between God and Man

As we know, the ministry of Aaron and his sons was to mediate between people and God. However, as the Bible says in 1 Timothy 2:5 (ESV), “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus…” So, in addition to self-sacrifice, what is it that Christians do in this holy priesthood? Every Christian everywhere is called to be mediators and intercessors between each other and God through Christ Jesus.

We have confidence in our call to be mediators and intercessors because “...we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us…” (see the full context in Hebrews 10:19-25) 

Mediating and Interceding

Our spiritual duty in this holy priesthood is to mediate and intercede for other Christians. This duty means that we counsel and pray with other Christians, using the wisdom, guidance, and other gifts the Holy Spirit gives us, so all Christians come into alignment with the will of God.

As intercessors for other Christians, we add our standings with God to other Christians’ standings. We say “amen” to the prayers our brothers and sisters pray as they lay their petitions before God with assurance, through mediation, that their requests can be asked in the name of Jesus.

These roles help keep the Body of Christ healthy, protected, and in alignment with God’s will.

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