Remember What?

What’s inside YOUR noggin?

I’ve long wondered why I am the way I am. Did we go by alphabetical order in the memory recall and self-control line when I was created? Was it luck of the draw?

King David, by the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, wrote: Psalms 33:14-15 NKJV From the place of His dwelling He looks On all the inhabitants of the earth; (15) He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works.

Often I forget about God’s sovereignty, His craftsmanship, His artistic ability. Years ago, like a thunder clap, I realized that God doesn’t make junk, that we aren’t trapped by our bad habits and corrupted self-image. By the Word of His mouth He fashioned my inner self, and He keeps track of all my works. He doesn’t ignore me and He most certainly hasn’t forgotten about me. Any lacking or loss of my faculties is due to sin corrupting His perfect creation.

When David wrote, “He fashions their hearts individually,” he referred to God placing within each individual a hunger for Himself, so regardless what we’ve done and where we are, all we have to do is reach out to Him.

Remember King David’s prayer: Let Your mercy, O LORD, be upon us, Just as we hope in You. (Psalms 33:22 NKJV)

Loose Something?

Lost is Found

Don’t we cling to our stuff, our lives, our lifestyles! Just try to get someone to change their eating habits—or any habits for that matter. Try to get a Chevy guy to switch to Ford. Try to get a Lakers’ fan to switch to the Celtics. We cling to what we have or do, and it’s, “My way or the highway.”

Not a Fun Subject

Our lives are much more than gasping for our next breath. They include everything about us. Think about it; when you die you loose far more than your next breath or heartbeat. You loose your hopes, dreams, aspirations, as well as all your stuff.

Does that sound morbid? If so, consider that our Creator put a sense of the eternal into mankind just so we’d strive for eternity with Him. That’s why Jesus’ words resonated so completely with His audience on that hillside:

He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it. (Matthew 10:39 NKJV)

Jesus wasn’t talking about giving up some bad habits, although that might be warranted. He meant giving up the title deed to your entire life, the good and the bad.

Fresh, or Salty? Good Religion, or Bad?

Brackish water is an offense to the palate, just as a life that mixes religion with worldliness is an offense to Jesus’ Holy Spirit. Apostle James had a couple of choice things to say about that.

James 3:11-12 NKJV Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.

James 1:26-27 NKJV If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

I have to ask myself, Am I fresh water, or brackish? What kind of spiritual fruit do I bear? What kind religion do I practice? Self-fulfilling, or other-centered? Do I join in praise to God while I have unconfessed sin in my life? Those are hard questions for me … and for you.

Christian, are you following Jesus, or your own whims? Are you lost to God, or to the world? Those are lifelong questions that we must answer daily, by the hour, or by the minute if needed.

Well? There’s no time like the present.

Easy Rider

Some off-ramps don’t appear worth taking.

“Enter by the narrow gate;
for wide
is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction,
and there are many who go in by it.
(Matthew 7:13 NKJV)

Seems like everybody has written or sermonized about the broad way versus the narrow, or the easy way versus the hard. We’re talking about destinations here.

When Jesus delivered his sermon recorded in Matthew’s gospel, chapters five, six, and seven, most of His audience were common folks, like you and me. His message hit home for them, as they knew they were sinners.

The elitist religious leaders, however, were also listening, and of course He wasn’t talking to them; no one could tell them anything because they were teachers, lawyers, priests, and scribes who knew it all. That’s not to say all of today’s teachers, lawyers, and clergypeople are know-it-alls, but … well, you know what I mean.

When I examine my conscience I know Jesus was talking to me when He sat on that rock on the hillside, as the broad and easy way has always been my default path—until, that is, I decided to give myself to God through Jesus Christ. But old habits die hard; I still struggle with self-control, occasionally reverting to my old ways. Now, however, my reaction to those slips and stumbles is entirely different; where I used to seek every opportunity to sate my fleshly desires, now such slips grieve me deeply. That’s how I know I’ve changed. Another change is taking my sins to God straight away, and begging for the grace to truly repent.

Wonder why I didn’t say, “ask forgiveness”? That’s because as long as I am in Christ, my sins are forgiven. And that’s even more reason for me to feel grieved when I sin; it’s like adding another thorn to Jesus’ crown of thorns.

My reborn self doesn’t want to ride easy any longer, but I pray for God to keep me on the hard and narrow way until I can give my Savior a big hug with tears of gratitude for what He has done for me.

Public Enemy #1

How peaceful are they?

First, lets dismiss the gangsta rap group, Public Enemy, although their name gives an accurate picture of their value to society. History gives us a long list of people who were tagged with the label, “Public Enemy #1.” Back in the twentieth century that label belonged to gangsters and mafiosos. Today that dubious distinction is obsolete, replaced by the “most wanted” list that includes drug cartel kingpins, serial killers, and terrorists, both domestic and foreign.

All of that is consistent with the natural, human perspective, but there is something that the public perceives as an enemy that is more to be feared than all of the Ten Most Wanted combined. That public enemy is peace and quiet.

I tend to accuse young people of stimulation addiction, as so many of them live with earbuds permanently implanted, feeding a constant stream of loud, popular music, or video game audio into their consciousness. But young people aren’t alone in their addiction to constant stimulation. “Adults,” including myself, seek constant entertainment and news media saturation. My personal addiction is tech/military documentaries, movies and TV police procedurals. It seems I too am afraid of silence.

The prophet Elijah experienced the eternally existing One as a, “still, small voice,” and preachers admonish us to seek that sort of communication with God. Yet, how are we to hear His voice when our senses are constantly saturated with distractions?

We Christ-followers gripe about not hearing His voice, but do nothing about achieving the personal quietness necessary to hear our Lord and Savior. Even our corporate worship is often boisterous.

Habits die hard. Addictions, much harder. But are we to settle for less than God’s best for us? And His best for us is intimate communication with Himself. He made us for that purpose, and anything less promises only unfulfillment of God’s glorious promises, and frustration of our ultimate purpose.

Yes, but how?

How can we break our noise addiction? First, we must realize, and then confess, that it is quite real in our lives. Second, we must pray for God’s conviction, as to refuse to change makes it sin. Third, thank God for the infinite grace that He shows when we fail to seek His best for us. His love for us is unfathomable, and if we claim to love Him in return, yet willfully disobey Him, we reveal our hypocrisy. Apostle John wrote, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15)

Like all addictions, electronic media addiction is tough to crack. I don’t know of I could break its hold on me cold turkey, but I can try to cut down by substituting other activities that would strengthen me, rather than continuing to weaken myself by sitting mesmerized by Netflix and YouTube.

I want to honor God with my life, but I can’t do that by staying planted at home watching entertainment. Please pray for me, and the millions of other media-addicted Christians, for God to break us free, so we can love the lost to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Prayer Is an Attitude

Surrender to God in prayer, even though you have nothing but yourself to give.

I am only human. Moments of weakness come upon me, weakness that Jesus paid for on “the place of a Skull,” where the Roman soldiers dropped his cross into a socket dug in that hard earth. I know even as I choose to ignore God’s principles that, though He is grieved, His presence is none-the-less with me, and upon my confession and contrition, that sin-guilt is washed away(1 John 1:9).

In view of my chronic weakness, I have a prayer ready at a moment’s notice:

O Father, please prevent my taking Your grace for granted, and keep me from bringing a reproach upon You.

Two Kinds of Prayer

The two ways of living are: self-centered, and God-centered. The same applies to prayer: Self-centered prayer makes demands of God, usually under the guise of claiming His promises and expecting Him to give us what we want. And yes, we can take that attitude even when praying for others, when our confidence lies in the power of prayer rather than in God’s sovereignty.

God-centered prayer takes the attitude that we are both subservient and submissive to Him. He owes us nothing, and only by His grace may we stand, kneel, sit, or lie prostrate before Him in prayer.

God-centered prayer confesses our sin and expresses our gratitude and praise for His forgiveness, before we enter into our shopping list of petitions.

God-centered prayer echoes Christ’s words in Gethsemane, “Nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.” We must never take the arrogant attitude that just because we want something it is automatically aligned with His will.

God-centered prayer expresses sincere gratitude for His action regarding our prayer—and everything else for that matter—whether or not we get what we want. “Everything else” means just that, even when we don’t see the immediate blessing.

Pray Without Ceasing

See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:15-18)

Verse 17, “pray without ceasing,” stands out to me because simply praying for fifteen minutes, let alone continuously, is a challenge. I see it as maintaining a mental attitude that allows me to pray spontaneously, without having to clear my conscience of unconfessed sin, before I can come boldly to the throne of grace.” (Hebrews 4:16)

Will you receive a “Holy Ghost blessing” every time you pray? No, and don’t expect it or you will become disillusioned. Once in a while, though, if you concentrate on Him, God will make this promise real to you: “Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.” (1 Peter 1:8b)

Only Take Care

Step Carefully

This is great advice for any age, even though when this was issued it wasn’t advice; it was a command. Here’s the whole verse:

Deuteronomy 4:9 Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children.

And yes, I have as much trouble keeping my soul diligently as anyone else. Of course I could claim the excuse that my memory is particularly faulty, causing me to forget God’s commands and the lessons I’ve learned over the years, but that would be an outright lie. Surely, I have a lousy memory, but that doesn’t cause my disobedience. As Apostle Paul told us:

Romans 7:17-18 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. (18) For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.

If I wanted a copout, there it is, straight from the apostle’s pen. But just because sin “dwells within me,” doesn’t mean disobedience isn’t my personal choice. Apostle John told us:

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them (the spirits that deny Christ), for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)

That means we could resist sin if sufficiently motivated to do so. If I truly hated a particular sin I simply wouldn’t do it. To “keep my soul diligently,” I must respond to that red flag of conviction by first praying for the Holy Spirit’s intervention. Second, if I fail to resist the temptation, I must submit to the His grievance, allowing my heart to be broken, and determining to repent of that course of sin.

I hope it goes without saying that one cannot respond to sin in that godly fashion if he or she, you or I, are not actively walking in God’s Spirit:

Galatians 5:16-17 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. (17) For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.

Some of the most difficult tasks are dead simple, like climbing a hundred foot rope, or for me, climbing any length of rope. Similarly, walking according to the Spirit is dead simple, but deadly difficult. Here again, Apostle Paul gives us the key:

2 Corinthians 10:5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.

To destroy the world’s stupid arguments and opinions we must really know God’s Word, if not by rote memory, at least by principle. The second part of the above verse is a matter of pure will. I know when my mind begins to wander from its obedient mode; there’s that red flag again.

I pray this will help you to overcome sin in your life. The way I conduct my life is certainly not perfect, but these principles help keep me from wandering too far from the Spirit-filled life that I so desperately covet.

Did It Again

Did it again, committed one of those sins.
Question arises: Did I learn any lessons?

Grieved my spirit, and God’s as well.
But only defeat comes, if on it I dwell.

Searched my heart, but I must search deeper
For the solution of my soul’s Keeper.

I was born solely to glorify Him;
Is my best to continue in sin?

But for His grace I’d be a goner,
Yet, presuming on grace gives Him no honor.

Hear my prayer for strength from Your store.
Fill me up and I’ll sin no more.

You have better things planned for me.
Give me strength to rest, holy in Thee.

Who Do We Worship?

First, What Is Worship?

Technically, it is an expression of our lowliness compared to our object of worship. It demonstrates recognition of another’s superiority or sovereignty over us. Praise is an expression of worship that recounts the qualities and works of the one we worship. I didn’t capitalize “one” in that sentence because we too often worship our temporal gods of material goods, people, or positions of power.

Today’s worship is usually programmed to elicit worshipful feelings, even if the content is non-Scriptural. Too often we feel we’ve failed to worship if we somehow fail to reach that tearful ecstasy. Despite all its wonderful aspects, Pentecostalism has elevated emotional response to where it can become the main priority of worship, with a neopentecostal worship style becoming the norm for Evangelical churches.

Now look! Did I say emotional worship is wrong? Not at all, as long as it isn’t our main priority. If our tears are in response to our love for God, or our conviction of sin, and not merely emotional contagion, God is well served by our tears.

God, or Jesus?

That’s a trick question. Jesus is the human expression of God, the eternal Word, so worshiping God is worshiping Jesus the Christ, the unique Son of God. In the same way, worshiping Jesus is worshiping God.

CAUTION! We can easily analyze the heart out of worship, and getting hung up on technicalities is the heart of legalism. Speaking of hearts, God knows and understands our deepest motivations. If love for God motivates our worship, it glorifies Him even if we fail to understand all the Scriptural particulars.

We mustn’t worry about how we worship God, whether we focus on the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit. Instead, we need to concern ourselves with obeying God according to the light He has cast upon His Word.

Amazing Grace

No one will ever get living for God exactly right. That’s why He gave us 1 John 1:8-10.

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10)

If you can’t praise God for that, you don’t know Him as you could.

Through Jesus Christ our Lord

Some churches end congregational prayers with, “Through Jesus Christ our Lord.” While that’s more-or-less Scriptural, I wonder whose Lord He really is. Can I make that prayer more specific by saying, “Through Jesus Christ my Lord?”

What does His lordship mean to me? What does it mean to you? For Jesus to be our Lord, we must obey Him, not only when it’s convenient, or easy, or when we agree with His commands. Jesus said in John 14:15  “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” That’s simple cause-and-effect, like a stone tossed into the air and falling back to earth. It will happen with no exceptions.

He also said in John 15:9-12  “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. (10)  If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. (11)  These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (12)  This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

So, Jesus’ lordship is all about love: His love for you and me, and our love for Him—evidenced by our love for one another, regardless what they’ve done to us. If there’s any question about what that special kind of love looks like, we need to revisit St. Paul’s definition of godly love:

1 Corinthians 13:4-7  Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant  (5)  or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  (6)  it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  (7)  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

I could turn each statement of that passage into a personal question, but I think that is something each of us must do as a devotional exercise, and not just once, then forgetting about it. We must question each action, especially those involving others, according to God’s standard, and never be satisfied with the results until we see perfect conformity. Of course, that means we’ll never be satisfied, which is just and right, considering who is our Mentor.

Please don’t be daunted in your pursuit of God’s perfect love. As St. Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians 3:13, As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. And in Galatians 6:9,  And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

By those Scriptural standards, is Jesus Christ my Lord? Is He your Lord? If you’re not sure, go to God in prayer right now to sincerely confess your failures, ask His forgiveness, and commit yourself to Christ’s lordship. Your life will become His, and His life will become yours, forever.

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).