Cogs, Big or Small

Bro. Big Cog

Which is better, a big cog in a small wheel, or a small cog in a big wheel? When I was a kid I was lucky enough to have a dad who brought surplus military hardware home from his Navy civil service job. One device was a precision instrument of some kind, and its large gears had the smallest cogs I’d ever seen. Each cog didn’t have to be all that strong because there were a lot of them, and they ran so smoothly that there was hardly any vibration or backlash.

Now imagine that same machine with big gear teeth; its movement would be anything but smooth and its precision would be laughable. Which type of “gears” would make a machine, church, or any organization, function better?

I currently fellowship with a large church that has a well-developed staff and volunteer force. The pastor wisely and efficiently delegates many responsibilities to Spirit-filled, capable people who carry them out with all diligence. It is a joy to behold.

Somehow my church manages to cull out most of those who would be big cogs, or the self-important members that seek power over others who are trying to serve God with their gifts and talents. Everyone is just another brother or sister, with no big I’s or little You’s. Yes, there is a Scriptural hierarchy based on years of selfless service and spiritual maturity, but they are seen as in no way superior to the most lowly members of the body. I present this positive example of a correctly functioning congregation in the hope that anyone who reads this will compare their fellowship with this ideal.

Do I agree with everything those in authority decide to do? Of course not. Anyone who expects their church to conform to their expectations is—excuse the expression—a fool, who would become a big cog, refusing to mesh with the body of believers. That is the sin of vain pride, which is the foundation for all presumption and abuses of authority, and is the sin that got Lucifer ejected from the heavenly assembly.

I sincerely hope that you do not see yourself as “better” than anyone, whether big, or small, cogs. God doesn’t expect us to be humble; He demands it (2 Samuel 22:28; 2 Chronicles 7:14; Philippians 2:3; Colossians 3:12James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:5).


How Tempting!

Patricia Gras begins her program by asking, “Are there universal laws to reach wealth and success? Do you ever wonder why some people succeed no matter what they do, while others fail miserably?” According to Sherry Buffington PhD, author of The Law of Abundance, life’s all about luxury, balance and happiness.

What interests me is not her Laws of Energy, which govern everything, or the subconscious mind, both of which, she claims, are underrated. What fascinates me is her definition of life’s purpose, and the order in which she states its elements.

First, life is all about luxury, which Noah Webster defined as, “A free indulgence in costly food, dress, furniture, or anything expensive which gratifies the appetites or tastes.” I’m afraid old Noah missed the deeper implications of pursuing luxury; while it indeed gratifies the appetites or tastes, it appeals to the fleshly pride of, “I’m a Have, and you’re a Have Not.” The New Testament speaks eloquently to pursuing luxury:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. (1 John 2:15-16)

But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (1Ti 6:9-10)

Abundance, according to the good doctor, is also about balance. Yet, pursuing a life of luxury is anything but balanced, as life is about so much more than luxurious living, as evidenced by all the happy folks who live at a subsistence level, and all the affluent folks who have dysfunctional lives.

And regarding happiness, Jesus spoke powerfully on the subject:

Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.
“Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.
“Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:2-12)

Jesus aptly began His beatitudes with, “the poor in spirit.” That doesn’t mean spiritual poverty, but just the opposite, Spiritual Abundance! It means being content in whatever state God allows in your life. Three Scripture passages contribute directly to that thought:

Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: (Philippians 4:11)

Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. (1 Timothy 6:6-8)

Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU NOR FORSAKE YOU.” (Hebrews 13:5)

Dr. Buffington obviously speaks from the context of fleshly, temporal values, which means we Christ-followers must not subscribe to the “Prosperity Gospel” that so many false teachers push upon us. Let us not follow a, “different gospel,” as Apostle Paul condemns so heartily:

I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:6-9)

Remember, people are watching your life, and your values, whether Biblical or worldly, serve as a guide for those seeking God’s truth. You and I are letters from God, more to be believed than any televangelist. So make sure you’re life is preaching God’s gospel, and not man’s.


I don’t know how old I was when I first became aware of pornography, but it impacted my life powerfully, taking over my mind and displacing wholesome priorities. But praise God, He gave me enough insight to keep me from pursuing the worst, most demeaning types of porn. Even so, my early exposure to that evil established a lifelong pattern that has interfered with God’s work in my life.

Most people might think that being born anew in God’s Spirit would end my fascination with porn, but it simply introduced a life-and-death battle where no such conflict existed before. Over the years I rationalized my appetite for erotic imagery by calling it a compulsion, but a particular Scripture passage dashed that deception:

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. (1 Corinthians 10:13-14)

So much for that cherished rationalization. For me, the key truth here is idolatry, or placing something between myself and my God. In fact, I did exactly that with my “compulsion,” placing it outside of God’s reach, believing that He was unable to deliver me from that sin. Could that be anything but the most subtle of blasphemies?

Erotica is indeed common to man—and woman for that matter—and in the natural context of marriage between a man and a woman it is a beautiful thing. But porn is mass marketed erotica, and one of the enemy’s perversions of natural and good innate drives.

Fatal Attraction

What’s wrong with having a little fun? After all, no one really gets hurt, do they?

Oh my, where do I start? From personal experience I know that immersing myself in erotica both pulls the plug on my spiritual life support and interferes with my emotions and my creative and critical thought processes. Recognizing the spiritual aspect is no great stretch, but I suspect most people fail to realize how it messes with ones mind.

Think in the physical terms of a healthy lifestyle; most of us realize that our bodies work best when we take regular exercise and eat a well-balanced diet of minimally processed foods. The body receives both the exercise and the diet well because God created us for just that sort of natural maintenance.

We also have other needs, such as physical and emotional intimacy, and they are best satisfied when we meet them according to our Creator’s pattern. Shortcutting the satisfaction of those needs produces only frustration and heartache, and makes us ripe for the enemy’s picking.

The Lie

Every convincing lie is built around a kernel of truth, and the pursuit of sexual gratification through pornography is a powerful example of such truth-based falsehoods. God indeed created us with a powerful sexual drive that is fulfilled in a healthy marriage. Many husbands, however, tell themselves that porn’s erotic stimulation will help to spice up their marriages, often with their wives’ approval. Somehow they fail to recognize the probability that such perverse sexual gratification will displace their normal, healthy sexual relations. But men aren’t the only culpable parties to porn; many women consume “spicy,” romance novels that show a perverted view of romantic relationships, and that habit is every bit as damaging as graphic porn. Both encourage false ideals and expectations to which real people can’t possibly conform.

Such is the way of perversions. Whether they be sexual, food related, or the pursuit of prosperity, possessions, security, or the power-trip of dominance over others, they’re all based on some God-given drive gone horribly wrong.

My Erstwhile Prayer

For years I’ve prayed for God to deliver me from my compulsion to use porn for sexual release, issuing anguished cries of desperation and shame. Through my stubborn refusal to apprehend God’s victory, I managed to covertly blame God for not taking it away from me. My muddled mind interpreted God’s “failure” to deliver me from the need for such perverted sexual release as His implied permission to continue.

We regularly hear a particular Bible promise that should put all these desperate pleas to rest:

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39)

Why are we so unbelieving that we regularly gloss over such beautiful promises? Somehow they are good in principle, but our issues are just too big for God’s power. BALDERDASH! Isn’t it remarkable how the flesh can pervert even such a beautiful, God-given resource as prayer?

The Pornographic Church

We church folks can easily understand the unchurched world’s dependence on sexual and all other forms of perversion. Yet, we fail to grasp how easily the world system erodes the church’s holiness. Pollsters tell us that church-goers are mere percentage points less likely to frequent pornography web sites than the unchurched, and among those, ministers are just as likely to develop the habit of viewing porn. In fact, some of the most vocal in their condemnation of sexual sin are themselves deeply stained by such virtual voyeurism.

My personal experience demonstrates the futility of trying to maintain an intimate relationship with God while chronically involved with pornography. We church folks find Christianese verbiage easy enough to spout, but though we practice a form of godliness, we deny its power (2 Timothy 3:5). Remember; shame kills intimacy, whether with God or with one’s spouse.

The Remnant

Despite all the successful attacks on the church’s moral purity, God has maintained a remnant of chaste brothers and sisters in Christ. Are all the rest hell-bound for eternity? But for God’s amazing grace they would be. Does that mean we can freely gratify our fleshly drives without consequence? As Apostle Paul wrote, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2) We must remember that making excuses for our sin is actually self-justification, which in a real way rejects Christ’s justification, and we all know what that means.

To avoid our enemy’s condemnation, we must remember a key Scripture passage:

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh. (Romans 8:1-3)

The operative phrase is, “for those who are in Christ Jesus,” so anyone trying to fudge a free pass for sin is flat out of luck.
Glance back to Romans 6:1&2 for a moment; the phrases, “continue in sin” and “live in it,” mean there’s a huge difference between living in sin and inadvertently sinning. We all experience moments of weakness when we yield to temptation, but a true Christ-follower gains no satisfaction from such behavior. That’s why Jesus gave us 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Despite having been made dead to sin, we are certainly not immune to temptation. In fact, we suffer greatly from grieving God’s Holy Spirit within us, and the only remedy is brokenhearted confession and heartfelt repentance.

If your relationship with Father God lacks intimacy, there’s a strong probability that you have allowed something to block your access to Him. Even if that something is addiction to pornography, Jesus has already won your victory over it.

Dump your depravity! Shuck your shame! Claim God’s precious promises for yourself and join His holy remnant as an ultimate conqueror.


Who would portray God as a spiteful child? Who would take a compelling Biblical story that already has all the adventure and pathos of the best Hollywood spectacles, and rip out three-quarters of its guts, leaving a disjointed fictional movie.

Hollywood, and more specifically, 20th Century Fox and producer Ridley Scott, that’s who. And they didn’t even have the decency to change the characters’ names to protect the innocent. For instance, the Moses character confronted Pharaoh only once, and that was during the plagues, rather than giving him a warning before each plague. When the people Israel stood at the Red Sea there was no trace of a pillar, either of cloud or of fire. The only pillars of cloud were the chain of tornadoes that brought the sea back to cover the Egyptians. Any Sunday school kid would tell you how wrong that was.

While I eschew sitting—or standing—in judgment over others’ motives, I think my analysis is right; the film’s producers sought to explain away the majority of miracles surrounding Israel’s exodus from Egypt with natural phenomena, thereby stealing God’s thunder. That attempt was as effective as a cockroach shaking its thorny claw at the boot that’s about to squash it.

God is glorified by those very movie moguls’ every breath, and I don’t envy their sense of futility over their corporate failure to repudiate Him. They share the same insanity as any other crazy person, by repeatedly trying the same failed strategy over and over again, always thinking it will produce different results.

My Fickle Friend

No, Olive Oyl isn’t my fickle friend. She was Popeye’s fickle friend, ever impressed with the muscular Bluto.

Is a fickle friend really a friend? We’ve all known people who seem friendly, clapping us on the back and cheering us on to accomplish the hard things, but how many of those “friends” stick “closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24) through both the fat times and the lean times? Through both elation and depression? Through both gain and loss?

I have such a fair-weather friend. He lives between my ears. He pumps me up with pride when I do well, but points the bony finger of condemnation when I blow it. The Bible calls him “the old man,” “carnality,” “the flesh,” or simply, “sin.”

Even the eminent St. Paul had trouble with his inner, fickle friend. In his presentation on the place of the law in believers’ lives, he wrote:

Romans 7:14-25 For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. (15) For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. (16) But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. (17) So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. (18) For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. (19) For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. (20) But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. (21) I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. (22) For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, (23) but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. (24) Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? (25) Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.

When I first read that, I was amazed how the apostle faced the same issues that I faced. Verse twenty-five confused me, though; how could he thank God when he couldn’t find victory over his, “body of sin and death?” But finally I turned the page to chapter eight:

Romans 8:1-4 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (2) For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. (3) For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, (4) so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

There was the victory I had sought! I learned that it doesn’t matter what my fickle mind tells me, but God is faithful in all things and I can trust Him absolutely.

So my fickle friend still tries to steer me toward sin and self-condemnation, but I cling desperately to God’s precious promises, knowing that His love will give me the victory.

Make Ready, But …

Proverbs 21:31 presents a valuable admonition, and not just for cavalrymen preparing an attack: The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord.

“Preppers” might well embrace the first half of this Scripture verse, intending to survive the upcoming holocaust. I watched a couple of episodes of Doomsday Preppers, amazed at the lengths they were willing to go in preparation for any eventuality.

When I listen to conspiracy theorists and survivalists I begin to feel unsettled, wondering what I would do in a “SHTF” situation. Fortunately, though, faith trumps fear, and I realize that whatever God has in store for me is infinitely better than trying to take control of my own destiny. Besides, my Social Security income won’t support much in the way of fortresses, rolling gun platforms or food stores. If the wandering brigands decide a can of soup is more valuable than my life, I’ve already done the most important preparation of all; I wear the whole armor of God, so they may kill my body, or eat it for that matter, but I can confidently agree with the author of Hebrews in chapter thirteen:

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.” So we can confidently say,

“The Lord is my helper;
    I will not fear;
what can man do to me?”


Jesus used that long word (or the Aramaic word translated as such) in His prayer while sweating blood in Gethsemane. He knew exactly what would happen in just a few hours. And He hated it.

So, why did He hate what was about to happen? Why did His sweat become “like great drops of blood falling down to the ground“? (Luke 22:44) The man Jesus saw His Father God turning away from Him, forsaking Him because He bore the world’s sin-guilt. “Nevertheless,” Jesus knew it was not a betrayal of His love, but that God—the Almighty God in whose palm rests the entire universe—had no choice but to turn away.

“Nevertheless,” the man Jesus resolved to endure all that sinful man could do to Him. Betrayed by those He existed to save, abandoned by His friends, mocked, tortured and crucified by the reprobate Roman garrison, yet perfectly innocent, He became the true Lamb of God.

You’ve no doubt heard this story hundreds or thousands of times. “Nevertheless,” we must all keep fresh in our minds the single most powerful proof of God’s unconditional love for His wayward creation, and realizing that, resolve to love our families, our brethren, and yes, our enemies as He loves us, who were His enemies. We must love—the action, not the feeling—in every deed, in every word, in every thought, because we want to be like Him.

No Coincidence

I’ve felt a bit down of late, to the extent that I’ve asked God to take me home. I would like to say that such feelings aren’t self-pity, as I hate that dynamic because it denies denies God. Trouble is, I can’t say that, so I suffer shame in addition to my depression, steering me toward the vicious maelstrom that would suck me into emotion’s depths.

The enemy of our souls is often our emotions’ lord, manipulating them, and thus our will, away from godliness and the edification that it holds for us. God, however, never abandons his own to Satan’s wiles, but through “coincidences,” buoys us up when we most need it.

Today’s “coincidence” took the form of Crosswalk dot com’s daily feed, Streams in the Desert. Here’s the portion that ministered to me:

Have you asked to be made like your Lord? Have you longed for the fruit of the Spirit, and have you prayed for sweetness and gentleness and love? Then fear not the stormy tempest that is at this moment sweeping through your life. A blessing is in the storm, and there will be the rich fruitage in the “afterward.”
–Henry Ward Beecher 

That’s the sort of “coincidence” that makes me love my Savior God ever more deeply. I’m confident that He has some wonderful purpose for allowing my bouts with depression to continue. When all is revealed I will marvel at His supernatural wisdom and love toward me, and spend eternity thanking and praising Him for it.

Lord, Don’t Let Me Fall

Falling isn’t fun, whether it’s caused by clumsy feet or weak spiritual will. By God’s grace, however, the latter isn’t necessarily fatal. Psalms 37: 23-24 says, The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, And He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the Lord upholds him with His hand. (NKJV)

Lots of people try to avoid sinning because they’re afraid of going to hell; they view God as the Heavenly Parole Officer, just waiting to slap the eternal cuffs onto their weak wrists. The Lord’s apostle John took a different view: There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.  (1 John 4:18 ESV) According to that powerful passage, we are not to fear God’s punishment. But how can be “perfected in love”? Verse nineteen gives us the answer to that key question. We love because he first loved us.  (4:19)

So then, loving God is automatic for Christians. Right? Wrong! Just because we’ve, “decided to follow Jesus,” doesn’t mean we know of God’s love in giving His Son over to ridicule, torture, and death to free us from the eternal penalty of our sin’s guilt. To know of God’s love we must at least begin to know God, and only His Holy Spirit, working through our ever-deepening understanding of His Word by prayer and meditation, can give us that knowledge. But heed Apostle Paul’s warning in 1 Corinthians 8:1, Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that all of us possess knowledge. This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. Some in the Corinthian church understood the liberty we have in Christ, but they were proud of that knowledge and ridiculed the “weaker brethren” without such understanding. Bible knowledge alone makes us no better than Satan’s minions. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe–and shudder!  (James 2:19)

While I’m not afraid of going to hell—praise God! Jesus took care of that—I am petrified of damaging my Savior’s holy name through my thoughtlessness and sin. When I pray, “Lord, don’t let me fall,” I’m deadly serious. I love my Lord and will not besmirch His name.


Where Is Your Closest Idol?

An idol is anything you place between yourself and God. It’s something to which you pray and offer sacrifices. The Bible speaks of idols manufactured of wood, stone, silver and gold, but it doesn’t limit them to those materials. Idols can be of flesh and blood. Instead of the dumb idols of heathen religions, we hold idols such as money, possessions, property, vocations, recreation, power, and even loved ones, if we place a higher priority on them than on God. But possessing idols doesn’t stop there; if we spend more time primping before our mirrors than offering our heartfelt praise and petitions to the only living God, we have an idol. If the TV demands more of our time than ministering to our families, or helping others in need, we have an idol. The same could be said of gaming, shopping, or even working. If that is the case we may just have idols.

How can we pray and offer sacrifices to all those things? If we gain gratification from them in exchange for time offered to them, they may be our idols.

Please don’t think I’m trying to guilt trip you. I’m not suggesting that you have to live as a monk, constantly praying and reading your Bible. Not at all! I’m simply urging you to keep worldly pursuits and spiritual pursuits in balance. For instance, after a day’s work in the New Life Center thrift store … my sore feet prove it … I looked forward to just vegging with Netflix, but after watching one program I felt led to read today’s Our Daily Bread, which suggested this topic.

Am I “Saint James” for doing that? Hardly! I simply enjoyed a moment’s lucidity, motivated, I’m sure, by God’s Holy Spirit. He wanted to speak to me through the devotional which, in turn, motivated me to write this piece, preaching to myself all the while. I don’t know how to type with fingers pointed back at myself, but I’m trying (figuratively).

Don’t think that praying and offering sacrifices to yourself is always positive. I well know that engaging in negative self-talk, instead of asking God for positive change, can be a prayer of sorts. I also know that flagellating yourself emotionally can produce a perverse sort of self-gratification. I know because I spent many years doing just that, even after I offered my life to God through Jesus. Nothing can be a greater joy-kill than negative self-talk.

Our most devastating idols are the ones closest to us, because they make seeing beyond them well nigh impossible. Please, pray for God to open your eyes to all the idols in your life, then ask Him to give you the grace to strike them down. Only then will you gain power over them. God worked through prayer in the Old Testament, and He can work for you now.