Category Archives: Devotional

Accepting Christ is just the beginning

If you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel…So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.  Colossians 1:23; 2:6-7 NIV

This is just my pet peeve, so allow me to get it off my chest.  Then maybe I can move on from it. I can’t tell you how many sermons I have sat through that the application point is, “So, if you haven’t accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, now would be a great time to do that…”  I am not against pressing for a decision when the gospel is preached, don’t get me wrong. Repentance and faith in Christ are a big deal, not just for those who have never placed their trust in Jesus, but for all of us.

Here is where I struggle:  I want the application points to be brought to the point of growth, not just to stop at accepting Jesus.  Parents don’t just have babies and say, “Well, my job is done. You’re on your own now kid.” No, that would be absurd.  Birthing a child is just beginning. So it is with the Christian faith. Now it is time to continue in our faith, to be established and firm, to be rooted and built up in Jesus.  We need to help each other learn how to be established and firm in the faith, and to put our faith into practice.

The “Great Commission” verses of Matthew 28:18-20 tells us to go and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe (obey) all that I have commanded you.  The whole idea of making disciples reaches beyond simply making a decision for Christ.  The application points of sermons then should reflect what it looks like to be established and firm, rooted and built up in Christ, strengthened in the faith, and overflowing with thankfulness.

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With that in mind, the following are some of my application points of what that would look like:

  1. Established and firm.  Hebrews 12:1-2 urges, Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  There are a few things in that passage.  One is that being established and firm means to get rid of any known sins and weight in our life.  No sin habits, no hidden sins, no bad habits, no questionable things–put them aside. This Christian life is a marathon, not a sprint.  It calls for endurance. Just like a die hard runner has a whole different lifestyle (no sweets, early morning runs, geared for the long haul), so must we be.  
  2. Not moved from the hope held out in the Gospel.  Hebrews 12:2 tells us to fix our eyes on Jesus.  That is one way to stay steadfast and strong. Encouragement is another way of staying the course.  Hebrews 10:24-25 states, Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.  The root of encourage is courage.  We meet together to give courage to one another.  Sermons are a way of speaking courage into the body of Christ, to say “Stay strong and don’t give up–you are on the right track.”  The more we see evil amping up in our society, the more we need to depend on this because the more outnumbered we will be.
  3. Rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught.  Psalm 1 is a marvelous psalm that gives the contrast between the one who does not stand in the way of sinners and the one that does. His delight is in the law of the Lord and in His law does he meditate day and night.  And he will be like a tree planted by the streams of waters that brings forth its fruit in its season.  Its leaf does not wither and in all that he does he prospers.  The godly feeds on the Word of God, delights in it, and his roots go down deep.  When the storms come, he stands strong. He bears fruit. “As you were taught,” connotes that this grounded person takes advantage of godly teaching, which includes Sunday school, regular church attendance, small groups and personal Bible study.  “And in all he does, he prospers.” That’s a promise of a blessing.
  4. And overflowing with thankfulness.  In Romans 1:21, Paul wrote that when things fell apart being unthankful was to blame: For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  It is the start of the downward spiral.  On the opposite end, in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 Paul commands: give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  If you want to know God’s will in your life, start by giving thanks in all of your circumstances.

My application is this:  Take a look at these four areas and pick a couple of things, maybe just one to work on.  If you have been grumbling a lot lately, pick #4 and list out all of the things you have to be thankful for and start giving thanks.  If you have some sin habits you need to shed, get rid of them now. Ask God to search your heart and spotlight what it is that is grievous to Him and hurting you.  

May you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the Gospel.  Just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, established and firm, strengthened in the faith as you were taught and overflowing with thankfulness!

 


From Alienated to Reconciled

For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in Heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.  Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation–Colossians 1:19-22 NIV

The story of the Bible starting in Genesis is that man was created to be with God.  Adam and Eve walked with God in the Garden in the cool of the evening. What fellowship, what perfection.  Then sin entered, disrupting that bliss. And boom! Separation, alienation, sin, finger pointing, blame, toil and pain.  Genesis 3:15 contains a promise that one day someone from Eve’s seed would come and crush Satan’s head. It’s been a long time in waiting…

The best news in all the world is that our alienation from God is ended and we are reconciled to the King and the Judge of all of the universe and of all time. God sent His Son, His only begotten Son Jesus, the One who would contain all of the fullness of Him in bodily form to come and be the perfect sacrifice for our sins.  In dying on the cross, shedding His blood, Jesus made peace. The result: God is no longer against us, but for us. His wrath is satisfied. How can it be?

For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things.  That is what gave Jesus the authority to reconcile everything to Himself when He died on the cross.  When He shed His blood on the cross, He brought peace to everything and to everyone that was totally alienated from God.

When sin entered the world in the Garden of Eden, it alienated humanity from God, nature from God, humanity from each other, and humanity from ourselves.  That’s why we need counseling. We can’t even get along with ourselves. Romans 8:19 says that even creation is awaiting its redemption. It was thrown off by sin too.  Jesus came to bring reconciliation to all parties by shedding His blood on the cross.

Once we were alienated from God and were enemies in our minds because of our evil behavior.  That’s why people can’t stand Christians, can’t stand church, and can’t stand the name of Jesus.  It is really because they are enemies of God because of their sin. They don’t know that. John 3:19-20 tells us that men (and women) love the darkness because their deeds are evil.  That causes them to hate the light.

Some people can’t stand the idea of the Biblical God, so they just make up their own God.  They imagine God to be the way they would like Him to be, which is heavy on loving and very light on judging, except for the people that they don’t like.

But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death.  Reconciliation Col 1-19involves a change in the relationship between God and man.  There has been a change from a state of enmity and fragmentation to one of peace and fellowship.  2 Corinthians 5:18 says that God reconciled us to Himself through Christ.  And now the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5).  It is all because of the blood of Jesus.  

Now we are found to be holy in God’s sight, without blemish and free from accusation.  In a jail Bible study, a woman said, “I am nothing but an old junkie.”  I said with a fiery determination, “You are not!” She said, “That’s what I feel like.  That’s how people treat me.” She has called out to Jesus to save her. She is earnestly attempting to leave her life of drugs behind her, but still has relapses.  

I took her and the other women to 1 Corinthians 6:9-11: Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor adulterers..nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

We were all washed, sanctified and justified by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit of our God.  We are not old junkies, we are not just ‘sinners saved by grace,’ or anything else that would minimize this reconciled, changed and empowered position.  We are washed and clean, friends of God, ready for action!

*Picture from Google Images

 

 

 


Headed in two completely different directions

Join with others in following my example, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.  For as as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.  Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.  But our citizenship is in Heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Philippians 3:17-19

When I turn on the news and see those who rant against those who might want to cutopposite directions.jpg back abortion rights or other “freedoms,” I start to wonder if they are ranting because they are really enemies of the cross of Christ.  If someone stepped out of the crowd and asked the question, “What do you think of Jesus and the Bible?” I wonder what their answer would be.

For some, I fear that it would be that they are indeed enemies of the cross and of Christ.   …I remember sitting across the table from an old friend from college. He happened to very involved in a gay lifestyle.  He looked at me and said, “I’m all f—ed up. What can you tell me that could help me?” He seemed desperate for a turn around.  I told him about Jesus and how He rescues sinners and changes lives. Jesus did it in my life, and He could do it in his.

This friend’s response was, “When I asked for your opinion, I wanted your personal opinion, not your religious opinion.”  I explained that they were the same. He said that he didn’t want to have anything to do with Jesus.  

…A co-worker was furious because her pastor had put crosses on the lawn of her church, dozens of them, to represent babies that had been killed from abortions.  He then gave the children’s sermon about why life is precious and said that abortion is taking a life. She just couldn’t understand why he would bring up that topic in church.  I asked what she thought the Bible had to say about abortion and if that had any play in the issue.

She stopped and thought, and basically said that she would have to decide whether the Bible had any authority over her life or not.  She hasn’t been back to that church or any other church since then.

…In another situation, I was in graduate school for counseling and the requirement to finish was to write a position paper.  There were specific questions to answer as guidelines for this paper. The professors said that they couldn’t ask us to change our position, but we had to be consistent in whatever position we stood on.  The questions were ones like “What, in your opinion, is the problem of man?” and, “How are we different than animals?” It went on from there.

I couldn’t answer the questions any other way than from a Biblical point of view.  It was back in the days before cell phones and emails. When I turned my paper in, there was a voicemail from one of the professors on my home phone by the time I got home.   In a mean voice, she said: “In no uncertain terms, get God out of your paper.” I knew I couldn’t take God out of my paper, but I also knew I needed this to finish my Masters program.  I prayed, changed the opening line to the middle of the paragraph and resubmitted it.

The interesting thing was that there was an attempt, it seemed on two professors parts, to then lose my paper.  I had to have a showdown in one of their offices after his night class to retrieve it. He denied having it, although the other professor said he did.  I said I couldn’t leave until I had it. He said, “I said I didn’t have your paper, I don’t have it.” He tried to shut the door, but I put my foot out to stop it.  He had stuff piled everywhere. I looked down, and there was my paper on the top of the pile right in front of me.

“Oh, lookie there,” I said.  “Just what I needed. Thanks a lot, and have a great night.”  

***Colossians 1:21 states, Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.  Some people know that they are God’s enemies, others don’t. In John 16:3 told the disciples that people would put them out of the synagogues thinking that they were doing God a favor.  The Pharisees were God’s enemies, but they thought they were His representatives, speaking for Him and helping Him out.

Paul tells us in our power verses what the underlying motives of those who are enemies of the cross of Christ: their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, their glory is in their shame.  Their mind is on earthly things. It is because they don’t know Jesus. Their eyes are blinded. They are pointed in a completely different direction than Jesus followers are. I think about the people that don’t know Jesus and I want to weep.  I want them to know Jesus and not to perish. They need to hear there is another way.

Our citizenship is in Heaven and we eagerly await a Savior from there.  Paul started by saying, Join with others in following my example, and take note of those who follow the pattern we gave you.  In other words, don’t look at the people who hate Jesus as your role models and examples.  Spend your time around those who pattern their lives after Jesus. Copy them. Keep your eyes on the prize and run with others who have their eyes fixed there.

Fellow Jesus followers will encourage you when the times get tough, they will stand with you when the enemies of the cross close in, and run with you toward Jesus.  What a day that will be when we see Him! Keep that picture in your mind. It is a glorious one.

 

 


Putting Jesus front and center

I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.  Philippians 3:8

When I first got out of college and graduate school, I thought I was ready to take on the world.  I had a few years of schooling under my belt and God had done some pretty wild things in and through me.  They were ‘wild’ good and I was wanting to share them with anyone I could.  The funny thing was that no one seemed to care.  They weren’t running up to me asking me how much I knew, wanting to know what God had done in my life, all the places I had been…

I’ve always said that the maturity path is: in your twenties you think you know everything, in your thirties you don’t think you know anything, and then after that you have a pretty good sifting of what you do and don’t know.  BUT, I’ve missed the point.  At least according to Philippians 3:8.  IT’S NOT ABOUT ME.  It never was.  Maybe somebody should have told me that back in my twenties, and maybe they tried and I couldn’t hear it.  It should have been about Jesus all along.

Paul said it in Philippians 3:  I used to brag on myself all of the time.  If anyone could do anything, I could do it better.  But now I count it as rubbish compared to knowing Jesus.    I started to figure this out a few years ago after reading a cool old book called They Found the Secret by V. Raymond Edmonds (1960, Zondervan).  He was the President of Wheaton College and he compiled stories of famous Christians from the early to mid 1900’s.  They were people who knew God and who did things for Him.

There is the story of one guy that really changed my thinking about just waiting to tell people about myself and what God has done in me–and turning that around to just talking about Jesus.  His name is Ian Thomas.  He said that he learned, Only as I related situations to Jesus did I find that He undertook.  As soon as I related a situation to myself, He retired into the background…That is the secret; it is so simple!  Just to relate everything to the Lord Jesus, and take our hands off–to stand back and say, ‘I thank Thee, Lord, this is Thy situation! (page 140)

Picture it:  Jesus is with you and you’re talking about Him.  He stays front and center and He’s free to work, and stuff happens.  People are drawn to Him, lives are changed, and the things you are trying to do actually go ten times smoother than usual.  You don’t draw attention to yourself, just to others and point to Jesus whenever you can.  But then you start talking about yourself and Jesus withdraws into the background.  He isn’t free to work, and the opposite is true.  Things don’t go as smoothly, the cult of “you” is formed, and you’re the only member.

Ian Thomas had said earlier in his testimony, I tried to make up with noise what I lacked in effectiveness and power (page 137).  The less we put our confidence in Christ, and the more we put it in ourselves, the more we need the “noise.”  We may be seeking effectiveness and power, but looking for it through the noise of our personality, skills, technology, loud music, or whatever else we take pride in other than Jesus.

So I’m better than I used to be.  I don’t try to jump in with stories about myself, or ‘one garbage-can-1260832__340.jpgup’ someone else’s story.  In fact, if people ask me about myself, I’m quick to try to bring it around to what Jesus has done or to get out of the limelight.  Maybe I’m in the ‘Paul club’ now, where I count all my stuff as rubbish just so I may gain Christ and be found in Him. At least I hope so.

 


What do you want Me to do for you? I want to be healed

The blind beggar called out, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus said to him, “What do you want Me to do for you?”  And the blind man said to him, Rabbi, let me blind man.jpgrecover my sight.”  And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.”  And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.  Mark 10:48-52

Have you had weeks and months that just kind of blur together and not much big goes on, and then ‘Boom!’ big stuff happens?  Well, this last week was one of those weeks.  Let me back up.  For about the last four or five months, my left shoulder has been hurting, like bad. It had gotten to the point where I couldn’t even open up my car door without extreme pain kicking in.  I suppose it was a pinched nerve or a herniated disc.  For most of the last two or three weeks my arm was numb and cold when I woke up in the morning.

I began going to the chiropractor in June two to three times a week.  I knew I should have attended to it sooner, just too busy.  In early July the chiro said, “I can’t do anything more.  You’ve got to go to the doctor.  You’ve probably got to get an MRI.”  I nodded, but thought: “No way.  I’m not going to get an MRI.  I’m not going through all of that.”

Second strand of the story:  Over the last year, my husband and I have gotten to know a Christian brother better.  He’s the kind of guy that’s full of Holy Spirit energy.  He’s into dreams and interpreting them, so we like to talk about how God speaks to us.  He went on a missions trip to Haiti about a year and a half ago.  While there, whoever was leading the group told Brian to take charge of a line of locals who were there for healing. He was to pray for them to be healed.  Brian was thrown into just doing it, and God met him.  By the end of the day, almost all of the people were healed that he had prayed for.

He came back home thinking, “If God could work through me in Haiti, why can’t he work through me here to pray for people and see them healed?”  So he began to pray for people to be healed and things began to happen.  Brian began a small group Bible study in our area.  He has been inviting us to join us, but it hasn’t been until the last month or so that we have begun to go.

Another guy has been at the small group who also has the gift of healing, Barry.  And I sit there with a shoulder that hurts so much I can’t open my car door…I’ve been reading through the Gospels and ‘faith’ seems to be the thing that just keeps jumping out over and over.  So after the chiropractor said, “Yup, your shoulder is messed up,” I guess I knew it was time to actually apply faith and open my mouth.

So I did.  At the end of the small group, when it was time to pray, Brian asked if anyone needed any prayer.  Someone else said something first.  And then  I finally said, “My shoulder has been really bad lately.  I need prayer for it.”  So Brian said, “Okay, let’s pray for it.”  He prayed for God to heal it, then asked me to move it around.  “Nothing.”  He prayed for it again.  Still nothing.  Then another gal said, “Stand up.”  Then she had me raise my right arm.    She said, “I can feel and see the knot.  It’s huge.”

He prayed again.  Then he said, “Move it around.”  The loudest snap and crack sounded and the gal standing to my right yelled, “The knot is moving!  It’s gone!”  I moved my arm, and the knot and pinching and pain was gone.  That was five days ago.  It’s still gone.

There’s more to the story.  My husband struggles with anxiety a lot.  Like my shoulder pain, it has become more and more distinct and debilitating.  He has resisted going to the small group because he’s anxious about having to go to work the next day.  My reply is that we all have to go to work the next day, but that doesn’t change anything.  He wasn’t going to go this week because of it.

There were guest missionaries there from Albania.  They had become Christians through Barry.  As Brian was praying for me, the missionary wife was singing quietly over the whole while.  I thought it was pretty, but didn’t make much of it.  Wayne left as soon as prayer was over.  We drove separately so he could do that, our compromise.  When I got home, he said:  “I wished everyone would have stopped talking when that lady sang.  It was like a wave of peace washed over me.  I wanted her to sing over me for my anxiety.”

I asked why he didn’t stay then, but his anxiety had gotten the best of him.  But he called Barry’s the next day, in an act of faith, and asked if he could come and have them pray for his anxiety.  This was even bigger than my shoulder!  This anxiety has gripped him all of his life.

So Wayne went, and Barry and his wife and the missionaries prayed over him.  The wife sang.  Another miracle happened this week.  When Wayne left, it was like a load was taken off of him.  Peace that he hasn’t known swept over him.

I am not saying that this is a once and for all deal, because fear keeps knocking.  As we processed that freedom, we talked about how Jesus is the way and the truth–Satan is a liar.  Jesus is all about faith–Satan is all about fear.  James 4:7 says to “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”  I say he must flee from us when we take authority in Jesus’ name.  I rebuke you fear and anxiety in Jesus’ name.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!


The secret to being blessed financially

Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house. And thereby put Me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of Heaven for you, and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.  Malachi 3:8-10

 This isn’t one of those speeches that you’ll get when you turn on a church channel where you see a guy with all kinds of diamond and gold rings and watches on. He says, “Send me money and you’ll be blessed. God will double your income.” No, it isn’t. But here God says that His people, the Jews, the keepers of the Temple and the words of the prophets and Moses, were robbing Him.

Robbing Him? Yes. They were supposed to give God a tenth of their bounty and they money bags.jpgweren’t. They were keeping it for themselves, and they were under a curse from God. God told them to test Him and see—if they would start to give a tenth of everything they had, He would open the windows of Heaven and pour down blessings on them.

Now some people look at this and say, “Now that’s the Old Testament. That’s not for today. There are enough things in the New Testament about giving to indicate the very same thing. A tenth of what you have, or a tithe, is just a good place to start. Listen to Luke 6:38: Give and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. In 2 Corinthians 9:10 Paul wrote, He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.

If you are generous with your money, God will multiply your spiritual seed for sowing. In other words, there is a link between how generous you are and your harvest of righteousness. If you don’t see any spiritual fruit being reproduced in your life, maybe it is because you have never learned the discipline of giving. So I get to be the one to tell you this very important secret!

I can tell you from my own experience, the more generous I am with the money that God has blessed me with, the more money He blesses me with. And, the more opportunities He blesses me with to share Jesus with others. If you are struggling to make ends meet, maybe it is because you are under the Malachi 3 curse. Start giving God a tenth of what you have and trust Him to multiply it. He said to test Him and see. Do it.

Give to God off of the top, not with what’s left. Matthew 6:33 tells us to Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added onto us. He means it.

There is this neat little book by Randy Alcorn, The Treasure Principle, Unlocking the Secret of Joyful Giving.  It is by Multnomah Press, 2001.  He has a lot more to say in his bigger book, Money, Possessions and Eternity.  That is by Tyndale House Publishing and it was done in 1989 and 2003.  Both open up a whole new perspective on storing up eternal treasures.  Alcorn tells how to do develop a treasure mentality, not only because earth’s currency will become worthless when Christ returns, but because Jesus commands it.

In fact, in his first page in Money, Possessions and Eternity Alcorn sites that the Bible devotes twice as many verses to money (about 2350 of them) than to faith and prayer combined.  Boom.  It’s a big deal.  So stop and think about how you view money, how much you give to God, and whether you are storing up treasures on earth or for Heaven, where moth and rust cannot destroy and where thieves cannot break in and steal, as Matthew 6:19 states.  And be blessed!

*Image from ‘The Sacred Path’ Blogger


No grumbling

When Jesus saw Zacchaeus, He looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.”  So he hurried and came down and received Jesus joyful.  And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”  Luke 19:5-7

One of the things that catches me as I read through the Gospels is the different responses to Jesus.  Typically they can be boiled down to three base emotions: mad, sad and glad.

  • Mad–In Luke 4:16-30 there is the account of Jesus going back to His hometown just after His baptism.  He picked up the scroll and read the Messianic text from Isaiah 61, and then said: “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  In other words, “I’m here.”  By the end of their discourse they get so enraged that they drive him out to the brow of the hill and try to throw him down the cliff.  When we try to talk to some people today about Jesus, they get that mad too.  They might not try to push us over a cliff, but they might threaten us with a lawsuit if we ever pray in public again, ending the prayer “in Jesus’ name.”  Oh, that makes them mad.
  • Sad–In Luke 18:18-24 there is the account of the ‘Rich Young Ruler.’  He came to Jesus asking what he must do to inherit eternal life, and Jesus told him one thing that he lacked to be really good, since that was what they young man was going for, was to sell all that he had.  Verse 23 tells us “When he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.”  I have seen many people walk away from Jesus sad because they love other things more than Jesus.  It’s usually men, because it’s women that I work with primarily.  They get involved in relationships that they know aren’t pleasing to Jesus, and they pick that guy over Jesus.  They would rather have a guy by their side, even if he’s not a good guy, than to wait for God’s best.  For others, they pick sports.  A friend’s son got more involved in hockey, so she quit coming to church because hockey tournaments took them away every weekend.  They drifted away from pursuing a relationship with Jesus.
  • Glad–In Luke 19:1-10, we see that Zacchaeus received Jesus joyfully.  He didn’t come up with excuses why Jesus couldn’t come to his house, he gladly welcomed Him in.  And then Zacc repented, telling Jesus how he was going to repay everyone that he defrauded.  What a joy it is to see someone receive the good news of the Gospel with gladness, and to see his or her life turned around by Jesus.

But there is another emotion in the Zacchaeus account that grabbed me today.  It’s in the grumbling.pngverses that are printed above.  Luke 19:7 tells us when they saw that Jesus was going to Zacchaeus’ house they grumbled.  We don’t know who the they’s are, but I can guess.  It’s the people who have resisted Jesus all along–the establishment, the Pharisees, the religious leaders.  I’m sorry it doesn’t rhyme with mad, sad and glad.

They grumbled.  Was it the whine of the self righteous, judgy, I’m so good I don’t need Jesus religious onlookers?  They are onlookers because they will never get involved, but only stand off from a distance and criticize.  Grumbling looks like it wouldn’t be as bad as the guys in Jesus’ hometown that tried to push Him off the cliff, but let’s look at Psalm 78:17-21 to see what God thought about the grumblers in the wilderness:

Yet they sinned still more against Him, rebelling against the Most High in the desert.  They tested God in their heart by demanding the food they craved.  They spoke against God, saying, “Can God spread a table in the wilderness?”

God’s response: Therefore, when the Lord heard, He was full of wrath; a fire was kindled against Jacob, His anger rose against Israel.

We might not look at grumbling as rebelling against God, testing God in our hearts, demanding things of Him and speaking against Him, but it is.  And it stirs up His anger, which never is a good idea.

In Matthew 23 Jesus delivered a series of woes to the Pharisees and religious leaders, telling them exactly what He thought about their self righteous ways.  He said they preached but didn’t practice it, and that they shut the kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces.  They wouldn’t enter themselves and they weren’t allowing others to enter either.  They were full of greed and self indulgence, appearing righteous, but inside were full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

I want to have the same reaction to people that Jesus has.  And I want to grumble at the things He grumbles at, not the other way around.  The way I get Jesus’ heart is to spend time with Him, lots more of it than I spend on the influence of the world.  It’s too easy to pick up that grumbly, judgy attitude about people and think things like, “They should just get a job,” or, “Who do they think they are?”

There is no end to the wrong attitudes I can have and I can end up being just like the Pharisees.  Jesus said in Matthew 7 to take the log out of your own eye before you take the speck out of your brother’s eye.  That pretty much knocks me out of opening a speck picking business.

The people that grumbled when Jesus went to Zacchaeus’ house had a heart that resisted Jesus.  I don’t want a heart that resists Jesus.  Don’t you think it’s easiest to pick out other people’s faults when you’re trying to avoid your own?  That’s one way to resist Jesus–deflecting to other people’s stuff.

So, no grumbling, speck picking, or resisting Jesus’ work in my heart.  Not today, not ever.


No longer a ‘Sneaky Pete’

If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free…Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.  The slave does not remain in the house forever; So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.  John 8:31, 32, 34-36

My sister got me hooked on this Amazon Prime series, “Sneaky Pete” and I binge watched it sometime over the last month.  While it is cleverly written, I wouldn’t say it’s a ‘must watch’ because it’s filled with the f word, and it is based on continual lies and deception.  In other words, ‘Don’t try this at home.’  But talk about people being a slave to lies.  The basic plot line is that Pete is a con man and he pretends to be someone he’s not.  He gets involved with this family where basically everyone is a conning everyone else.

handcuffs-160062__340I wonder what the series would be like if one of them were to become radically saved and were to get fired up with the truth, in the midst of a very crooked back drop.  Jesus told the Jews who believed in Him: “Everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.” We are all ‘Sneaky Petes.’  We all are prone to the faulty habit patterns of deception, manipulation, white lies, exaggeration, and blame shifting.

We think we are the master of deception, but it really masters us.  We’re enslaved by it.  We try to stop stretching the truth, taking things that aren’t ours, or manipulating, but it comes so naturally.  In John 8, John went on to write about the origin of our problem: Satan.  Jesus was debating with religious leaders about who their father was.  They said it was Abraham.  Jesus said it was the devil because they were trying to kill Him and they didn’t love Him.

Jesus went on in verse 44 to say that, You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.  He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Only Jesus sets us free from those habit patterns.  And only in soaking in the truth of the Bible, letting it transform our hearts, do we begin to see those habit patterns of lying, cheating, and manipulating get brought to the light and changed around.

I remember working with a woman that had become a Christian, trying to disciple her.  She had come out of a life of much drinking and gambling, and a few other vices.  She used to say things like, “No, now I’m going to walk in the truth.”  It was like she had to say out loud that she was going to tell me where she really was, instead of making up a story.  This was contrary to her old habit patterns.  It was a constant struggle for her.

I worked with her on memorizing specific Bible verses to combat some of the lies of Satan that she struggled with the most.  While she memorized them, she soon slid back into her old life.  Looking back, I learned that there is a second key ingredient to fighting off the old life and its lies–the Holy Spirit.

Titus 3:4-6 announces, But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior…

Without the overwhelming power of the Holy Spirit at work in my life, or in someone else’s life to overtake the grip of sin, so often the old life wins out.  I’ve seen it over and over with the women I have attempted to disciple.  They need the power of the Holy Spirit to break the chains of the bondages that have gripped them.

The truth of God’s word sinking deep into the crevices of our heart drives away the habit patterns of deception that used to enslave us.  It sets us free from the bondage of being a Sneaky Pete, and that’s a great place to be.

*Image from Pixabay


What are you storing up?

For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.  Matthew 12:33-34

About two months ago, a second grade boy on the playground was involved in a kick fight on the playground. In the midst of a mean game tag that ended up with this boy and a couple of others kicking each other, he turned and kicked a kindergarten boy, an innocent bystander, and said, “F— you, little boy.”  The playground teacher brought him in for me to deal with him.

One of the things I talked to him about was his language.  I asked him when he began using words like that, and he said, “Last fall.”  I said if he could remember when he started using that word, he could remember when he stopped, because it’s a choice.  And today (that day) was the day he was going to make a choice to stop.  When I talked with his mom about the incident, I quoted this verse.  I knew she was a Christian.  I said something about him needing to get more good stored up in his heart, otherwise it’s those swear words that get stored up and come out at inconvenient times.

I talked with her about how going to church and singing worship songs stores us things in our hearts about God, His goodness, and our choices.  Those worship songs speak to our hearts.  Having those songs on in our vehicles and in our houses instead of other music is a chance to store up good things in our hearts.  I was thrilled when she told me that she was taking her boys to Sunday school and church about a month later.  Even though her husband wasn’t going, which had been her deterrent all of the previous years, it wasn’t going to be anymore.  Praise God!

Yesterday in Sunday school we talked more about Matthew 12:33-34 as we discussed again Brad Bigney’s book: Gospel Treason, Betraying the Gospel with Hidden Idols.  On page 60, Bigney makes the statement, “I’ve been shocked at things that have come out of my mouth–things that I’ve been forced to trace back to my heart.  It’s been a wake-up call, a sledgehammer for self-deception, because we always think we’re doing better than we really are.”

I think the reason bad things come popping out of our mouths is because they have been stored up in our heart.  We can have a “resentment warehouse,” where we keep all of our offenses, our bitternesses, grievances and unresolved conflicts.

Think about it.  Let’s say someone does something to offend you and you never resolve it.  You always remember it.  You might forget the dozens of nice things that person says or does, but you remember the one time that he or she had a birthday party and didn’t invite you (or whatever it was).  You never talked about it with that person, instead you ‘let it slide.’  But you really didn’t let it slide, you tucked it away in that resentment warehouse.

resentment warehouse.jpgAnd then, one day when you’re tired, or your guard is down, or you’re not feeling well, and–boom!  You say how you really feel.  You both look at each other like, “Where did that come from?”  Sometimes it comes out through sarcasm, or it comes out through passive aggressive moves, through back stabbing comments, or through some other destructive move.  And you have to trace it back.  Sometimes you can trace it back, sometimes you can’t.

In the case of the resentment warehouse, it isn’t necessarily evil that is stored up, like the boy that shouted out, “F— you, little boy.”  We might not call it evil, but it is.  Ephesians 4:30-32 reads, Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

It’s time to clean out your warehouse.

 


On the Other Side of the Lake

A crowd soon gathered around Jesus, and they saw the man who had been freed from the demons.  He was sitting at Jesus’ feet, fully clothed and perfectly sane, and they were all afraid.  Then those who had seen what happened told the others how the demon-possessed man had been healed.  And all the people in the region of the Gerasenes begged Jesus to go away and leave them alone, for a great wave of fear swept them…

On the other side of the lake the crowds welcomed Jesus, because they had been waiting for Him.  Then a man named Jairus, a leader of the local synagogue, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, plead with Him to come home with Him.  Luke 8:35-41 NLT

I am struck by this contrast on the two different sides of the lake.  On one side, Jesus did something huge, setting a man free from a legion of demons.  Everyone in town knew him as the crazy man in the caves, who probably screamed out at night and scared the kids.  Now he’s clothed and in his right mind and Jesus did it.  Yet they begged Him to leave because they were afraid.

Hebrews 3:12-15 warns us about not having the same reaction: Take care lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.  But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin…Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.

Waiting for Jesus on the other side of the lake were people who needed healing, people with faith, with a welcoming heart and open arms.  One lady knew if she could just get through the crowd and touch his robe she’d be healed.  Jesus told her that her faith had healed her.  The opposite of faith is fear.  The thing that made the people drive Jesus away was fear across the lake.

One of the things that makes us drive Jesus away today is fear.  When we say that Jesus doesn’t do miracles like that today, or that He can’t fix this or fix that…or whatever it is that makes us not come to Him in prayer believing that He can impact a situation–part of our unbelief is mixed with fear.  When the disciples called out to Jesus in the boat and said, “Don’t you care if we drown?” it was fear.  He rebuked them for their lack of faith.

In 2 Timothy 3 when it says that we will have a from of godliness but deny God’s power, is it fear that makes us comfortable with a lack of power?  We are comfortable with our own power, rather than relying on the Holy Spirit, because maybe we’re afraid of where God is going to take us, or what He’s going to demand of us, or who He’s going to ask us to love…So we stick to a less-than power out of fear.  woman-at lake.jpg

Or, as Hebrews 3 calls it, “an unbelieving heart–an evil, unbelieving heart.”  And that heart condition causes us to fall away from the living God.

Which side of the lake do you live on?

This link if my graphic.  It is an infographic and it can’t be loaded on this page.  Please click it, and then pray about the answer to my question.

On the Other Side of the Lake