Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanks Giving 2014

Psalm 100:4-5

"Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting, and His faithfulness to all generations."

I'm sure that during this time of year people's ears can become calloused to the words "give thanks".  After all, it's a phrase used for marketing especially during this season.  But Psalm 100:4-5 tells us to enter God's gates and courts with thanksgiving and praise.  It's a natural part of authentic worship.  

As I was saying good night to my children tonight, I asked them this question, "How do you think I would feel if I gave you a gift and you said,'Thanks', then just set the gift down and never looked at it again?".  Their response was immediate, because the answer was obvious to them.  

Unlike God, my gifts can miss the mark and be just another "thing" sitting around taking up space.  But with God, all things are good.  He knows how to give good gifts to those who ask of Him, and he is gracious even to those who do not worship Him.  When God gives gifts, it's because of His goodness and mercy toward us.

He's given us many gifts.  But one of the most precious is the gift of being able to come to Him in prayer and worship.  Through Jesus, anyone who would come to God can approach Him without hesitation.  What an awesome gift!  But many people have a hard time praying.  They struggle with what they should say.  They struggle with remembering that they should or can pray.  And there are ever so many distractions that keep us from seeking God in prayer.  Yet, it's  one of the greatest privileges we've been given.  

My kids have at various times confessed to me that they just don't remember to pray. I'll tell you what I tell them.  If you are aware right now that you should pray more, start right now.  And before you stop praying, ask God to draw you close and remind you to seek Him.  God is interested in you seeking Him.  He's given you this gift because He wants you to have it!  But if you say a glib "thank you" and then set the gift down and walk away, your "thanks" is disingenuous.  Instead of getting into the habit of setting aside the gift of prayer, take it up right now and put it to use!  Night or day, busy or not, tired or energized...God is there waiting for you.  
Today's call for thankfulness does not end with the setting sun.  Be thankful continually.  And enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name.  It is the worship you were created to give.  It is the gift and privilege He died to give you.  

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Gussied Up For Jesus

Isaiah 64:6
"...and all our righteous deeds are like filthy rags."

It's sometimes difficult to listen to a Christian brother give his testimony. Not because the story is uninteresting. More so because so often our stories are so similar in content. One thing that many believers and soon-to-be believers often share is their belief that they were not able to come to Jesus because their sin was too great. It isn't uncommon for people to feel the need to "clean up their act" before they approach God for forgiveness. This misunderstanding, though common, is not even remotely connected with reality.

In Isaiah 64 the words "filthy rags" is used to describe our righteous deeds. I've been told that "filthy rags" refers to something along the lines of menstrual cloths. That's what God thinks of our attempts at righteousness apart from Jesus. That's pretty extreme on the gross factor scale in my opinion. In reality, not one of us would wrap up a nice pretty box filled with "filthy rags" and bring it to anyone, let alone God, as a peace offering. In fact, now that I think of it, just the opposite is used as a sign of surrender. A white flag seems so much more appropriate, don't you think? But God doesn't even desire a white flag from us. He wants NOTHING from us...because nothing will satisfy Him except Holiness. And the long and short of it is, we are not holy. Nothing we touch is holy. Nothing we think is holy. Nothing we can conjure is holy...ever. In light of that, it seems we are doomed, don't you think?

Think of all the people out there in the world who work so hard to do the right thing and be the right kind of person. Think of all the deals men make with their gods, all the pleading and reforming they do just to get on the good side of the "man upstairs". But it's all for naught. Because God doesn't need or want anything from us. And nothing we could bring to Him would ever satisfy. That just seems so...hopeless! And not at all like the movies, if you ask me. How misleading is that! I call "No Fair" on behalf of all those who look to Hollywood to be their moral compass. No fair indeed! They tell a good tale, but in the end it's just a futile lie that gets us nowhere.

What is a man to do? How can anyone ever approach a God who needs nothing and desires only perfection? Like I said...we're doomed! And that's exactly the point of the Law of God. It's the mirror that shows us our need for Godly mercy and grace. Do you know what that is? Godly mercy is when God does not give us what our deeds deserve. Godly grace is when God gives us what we do not deserve.

Isaiah 59:16
"And He saw that there was no man, And was astonished that there was no one to intercede; Then His own arm brought salvation to Him, And His righteousness upheld Him."

God knows something that every man needs to learn. There is not one man, woman or child who is holy, just, righteous or pure. Not one thing we can do will please or impress Him. That is exactly why He knew that His own arm would need to bring salvation to us. He knew that only His own holiness would be sufficient to atone for our sin. And consequently, when He created the earth, He did so with the full knowledge of how things would play out. And from the foundations of the world He knew that there would be some who would come to Him on His terms, and He wrote their names in the Lamb's book of Life. Who is this Lamb? Jesus, the Son of God.

Jesus is the one who laid down His heavenly glory in order to take on the physical body and limitations of men, so that He could become the perfect sacrifice that would satisfy His holy Father. He died in our place and rose from the grave having concurred death in the process. Now, do you really think, after hearing about this, that you could possibly add to it? Do you think that any attempt you make to get gussied up for Jesus will be of any benefit? God doesn't. He said our righteous deeds are as filthy rags to Him.

That's not bad news I hope. But if it is, then let me clarify even more. You do not need anything except Jesus to come before God the Father. Jesus is everything anyone will ever need. His own arm worked salvation for you. And it's free. And it isn't limited to the "good" people...because there aren't any! Not one. That's why He came.

If you are trying to fix things in your own way, trying to clean up your act and get all gussied up for Jesus before you come to Him, consider what God Himself says about your efforts. Filthy rags...that's what He thinks. And it's even grosser than it sounds. Instead of waiting until you get it together, just come...come as you are. He said,

John 6:37
"...whoever comes to me I will never cast out".

If you come to God, in the name of Jesus, because you believe He is the perfect sacrifice for your sins and that only though Him can you be will not be turned away. There is no need for any other improvement to be made upon you except that Christ redeems you.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Seventy Times Seven

"If ye from your hearts forgive not..."

Matthew 18 gives a humbling account of the teachings of Jesus on the subject of forgiveness. In this account Peter approaches Jesus and asks the question, "Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother who sins against me?" Then, on the heels of his question he gives the number "seven". I know seven is said to be the number of perfection. Maybe that is why Peter settled on it. But Jesus was quick to multiply Peter's standard making it seventy times greater.

Seventy times seven; He also said that we must forgive as God forgives. Do you suppose that God's threshold for sin is only 490 sins per person? I am certain that His mercy is new each morning because He says so in scripture. That's fairly limitless, until the day when I cease to have breath in my lungs and I am no longer given a new morning. Instead of hearing a limitation upon the amount of sins we're expected to forgive, consider that Christ was showing us how far God's mercy supersedes our own. We need to remember that the human mind is always simplifying what is by Heavenly nature more complex than we can comprehend.

Isaiah 55:10

"For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts."

If we are to think like God, love like God and have mercy like God, then we need to do so with an eternal mindset rather than with limitations of time and human perspective.

As human beings we simply do not have the capacity to store anger and un-forgiveness. In our hearts, anger quickly turns to bitterness. And as anyone can testify, bitter people have a kind of pathetic-ness about them that causes them to waste years of their lives wallowing in their pasts. Their bitterness compels them to gossip, malign and color the reputation of those they feel have wronged them, for the sake of petty revenge. The end result is that they perpetuate the cycle of hatred with anyone who will entertain their poisonous words. A man after God's heart avoids feeding into the bitterness in others, knowing that without gossip, a quarrel dies, as scripture tells us.

Inevitably each of us will be given the opportunity to grapple with the subject of forgiving a brother who sins against us, simply because, as fallen individuals, everyone will fail and sin and offend someone at least once in their lives, probably more. And as the Body of Christ, we struggle with sin in sinful man. We struggle with our own sin and with each others. So, when Peter brings the question of forgiveness to the forefront, I believe it's because God knew it was an issue that every single believer would have to come to terms with, because as Jesus explains in Matt. 18, how we forgive is directly connected to how God forgives each of us. That's pretty serious business.

I've met some who find it easier to forgive unbelievers, or someone who lives like one, excusing their sin on the grounds that they "know not what they do". They look at it as though their sin were merely a "mistake" or a "moment of weakness". But those very same people are quick to condemn and withhold forgiveness from a brother or sister in the church. Their belief that their brother or sister in Christ "should know better" keeps them from offering the same mercy God offers. This double standard is blatantly wrong and flies in the face of godly love. Often those who withhold forgiveness become divisive naysayers who take every opportunity to sew discord among the brethren.

According to Jesus in Matt. 18, Christians are to forgive their brothers who sin against them just as they would like God to forgive their own sin. The phrase "Seventy Time Seven" may help to keep our minds open to forgiving each other when we feel offended.  Though there may be those who continue to sin against us, even in the church, God's mercy is to govern our reactions and our attitude towards them. This does not mean that God expects us to put up with continual harassment. God does not intend for his children to be powerless to maintain godliness within the body. The biblical protocol for dealing with sin in the church is fairly straight forward and quite effective. But each individual is instructed to forgive as the Lord forgives. This is a task that each of us must own personally, forgiving others from the heart.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Common Contempt

As I was reading scripture this morning I noticed something that had escaped my attention previously.

In the accounts of Jesus' trial both in scripture and in various dramatic depictions of the story, Pontius Pilate seems to be an unfortunate man caught between a rock and a hard place. And when he washed his hands of the guilt of Jesus' condemnation it comes across as though he were actually forced into his ruling, playing the part of the innocent.

It always amazes me how people can twist and manipulate their stories to free themselves of their guilt. So convinced in their own innocence, they tell a good tale and paint such a good picture of their "plight", that they actually manage to convince others that the wicked situations they "find themselves in" are of no fault of their own, but that they are truly victims. It's astounding. Pilot is one of those men, in my opinion. The fact that he could find no reason to condemn Jesus, yet he did, should give us a glimpse into the kind of man he was. But if you still can't see it with that evidence before you, consider Luke 23:10-12.

"And the chief priests and the scribes were standing there, accusing Him vehemently. And Herod with his soldiers, after treating Him with contempt and mocking Him, dressed Him in a gorgeous robe and sent Him back to Pilate. Now Herod and Pilate became friends with one another that very day; for before they had been enemies with each other."

Pontius Pilate and Herod had been enemies. But after Pilate sent Jesus to Herod who had him beaten, mocked and ridiculed, they became fast friends. If Pilate's act of washing his hands of the guilt of Jesus' death were a true indication of his innocence in the matter, he wouldn't then have become friends with the man who treated Jesus so contemptuously. The very fact that he bonded with his enemy over Jesus' mockery, beating and death is indicative of the character of the man and his guilt.

Ecclesiastes 1:9
"What has been will be again. What has been done will be done again. There is nothing new under the sun."

The Bible is such a good guide, informing us of the schemes of the devil and the way in which to deal with them. And this verse often comes to mind to reassure me that the evils that are witnessed in the world are nothing new, but rather just a different version meant to ensnare God's people.

Like Pilate, people don't yoke themselves to the wicked without having at their core, a common contempt for God.

It should be our goal to be of the same mind as God.  If there is any doubt as to how God feels about this, take into consideration James 4:4.

"Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God."

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Spiritual Ebola

"By His wounds we are healed."

I don't know about you, but the Ebola virus sounds like the nastiest virus a person can contract. Sure many viruses cause fever, body aches and headaches etc., but the internal and external bleeding is what adds the major gross factor. No, I'm not afraid of blood. But being completely unable to get away from your own rotting destruction sounds completely horrible to me. Also, knowing you are dying, and knowing that your very presence poses a great risk for anyone who comes in contact with you or anything you've touched would bring a terrible sense of guilt and fear and desperation. After all, who wants to be alone when they die?

Sometimes I think of sin like a Spiritual Ebola, a devastating virus that rots us from the inside out. One might be able to "deal with it" and hide it for a while, but eventually it becomes exceedingly obvious that something is drastically wrong. It doesn't just affect the "wicked" either. Even "good" people drop like flies when they become ensnared by sinful lusts. And those who don't take precautions to guard against being ensnared often succumb in the worst way, seemingly without remedy.

Like those who have contracted the Ebola virus, many may not understand early on just how dangerous and contagious their condition is, until it overtakes them and they can no longer deny it. Some, who are so steeped in sin, though they see their condition, often seek out others who "accept them the way they are" because they do not want to be alone. No one wants to die alone.

I know that we can't turn off our love for others. I would hope not anyway. But rather than exercising restraint, some are so calloused to their own wretchedness that they risk the exposure of their loved ones to the very thing that is destroying their own lives. Unfortunately this happens all to often. Generational sin is passed on and on because children are like little sponges and can't help but pick up on their parents habits and regrettably, they often become just like them, sometimes even worse.

However, unlike the Ebola virus, there is a free and immediate cure for those with "Spiritual Ebola". What is necessary is to recognize your condition, and the cure is there for the taking. A man who recognizes his need for spiritual healing from sin needs only to look to Jesus, the one who takes it away. Other religions will tell you all the steps a man should take to overcome the problem of sin. But no other religion offers such an answer as that of the Christian Faith. They either down play the problem or create a list of "works" to perform in order to be set free.

Like a man who was healed from the Ebola virus would never carelessly put himself in the same situation from which he was saved, one who has truly been saved from their sin would not run back to the source of their spiritual death and readily embrace it again. Once enlightened and set free, the conscience rejects it's former death sentence and earnestly clings to life. If this isn't a victory you've experienced, it might just be that you haven't truly been saved.

If a person comes to Jesus for any reason without ever seeing the depravity of his soul and desperate need of forgiveness, then he has come to Jesus for the wrong reason, and quite possibly may not truly know Him. The family faith, being blessed, being physically healed, having needs met, bargaining submission for favor of some kind, responding emotionally to the call of God but not surrendering spiritually...all of these reasons for coming to Jesus are called "false conversions". A false conversion brings nothing but disillusionment, sorrow, anger and lack of victory over sin. Those who have "come to Jesus" during emotional moments or times of desperation often find themselves empty and lacking any formidable faith. They find themselves in complete disbelief, feeling duped. Their exodus from the Christian Faith leaves them believing there is no God and that religion is just a crutch...because that's all it ever was for them. Their Spiritual Ebola was never really cured. They never even knew they had it. They were merely treating some other symptom and equating it with the Cure.

If my words are resonating with you right now, do not even hesitate to call upon God. Plead with Him for the forgiveness of your sin. There is no sin too great that He can not forgive. If you're looking at your life and recognizing a pattern of slavery to sin that you've not been able to overcome, and your shame is driving you to repentance...repent! God will indeed set you free and in His Spirit you will find the strength to overcome. I'm praying for those of you who read my blog posts. And I'm asking for your salvation and edification in the name of Jesus Christ.

If you're interest, you can drop me a line and share your story with me. I'd love to hear it. You can reach me at

My prayer is that you will see your need for Jesus. He can and will forgive your sin if you call upon Him.