The Faithfulness of God – Micah 7:18-20

God ALWAYS Keeps His Word

18 Who is a God like you,
who pardons sin and forgives the transgression
of the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry forever
but delight to show mercy.
19 You will again have compassion on us;
you will tread our sins underfoot
and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.
20 You will be faithful to Jacob,
and show love to Abraham,
as you pledged on oath to our ancestors
in days long ago.

Perfect Pardon

Unlike men, God is perfect in all His ways.  When God pardon’s our sin, He pardons it completely.  It is as if it had never happened:

as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

God no longer holds our sin against us.  We who are in Christ, who have believed upon the name of the One and Only Son of God, have been cleared of all charges – past, present, and future.  God greatly desires that as former criminals we be reformed and act as He would desire, just as man wants former criminals to be reintegrated into society in a lawful and peaceful way.  Sanctification is the tool that allows that to occur.

Faithful Forgiveness

God is not a liar.  He is incapable of lying, for God IS truth:

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

God is completely faithful to forgive anything that we have done, anything we bring before Him.  We must, however, turn from our sin and turn towards God.  When we ask for forgiveness and then immediately (and WILLFULLY) go back to what we were doing, we are basically like the child who says to dad and mom “I’m sorry (that I got caught, please spare me the consequences of my actions, I’ll be more careful to hide what I am doing from you going forward).”

God greatly desires to see us walk in His ways.  His faithfulness to forgive frees us from the fear of punishment that the un-Godly will encounter.  God is faithful in all things, for His very nature – His character – allows Him no other course of action when we approach Him in good faith, no matter how many times we stumble and fall.  Will a loving parent reject a child who falls down and skins their knee when trying diligently to walk carefully and cautiously?  If we would not, why would God?

Abated Anger

We are created in the image of God.  God has emotions.  He gets angry.  But God’s anger only lasts a little while.  God will not turn His face away from us forever in His anger.  God will not turn His face away from those who are faithful to Him.  He delights in His children.  God tells us to be angry and do not sin.  He also tells us that we should not let the sun go down on our anger.  God is NOT a hypocrite like men.  If God tells us to do something, will He then not model it for us?

Moved to Mercy

God’s heart is a heart of mercy.  Knowing that we are unable to do what He commands us to do, He took it upon Himself to pay our debt.  In His great mercy and compassion, He sacrificed His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, to bear our iniquity and to receive our just and due punishment upon the cross.  He now has legal authority to show us mercy.  God greatly desires for all of us to come to Him.  But without His mercy, we are unable to do so.

God’s mercies renew every morning:

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

We fail to remember the mercy and compassion of God because the enemy of our souls, when we transgress God’s law, tries to convince us that God will not forgive us.  It is that much more important that we seek out God and his mercy that we may be free from the bondage of sin – our guilt.

Fully Faithful

God is faithful in all that He does.  He cannot be unfaithful, for His very nature relies upon it.  Imagine that God’s faithfulness wavered.  Would not everything that He did be tainted by that?  Imagine if gravity only worked some of the time, and it was completely unreliable, working and not working randomly.  What would happen?

In the same way that we can trust that the Sun will rise every morning, that the Moon will rise every night, that the stars will cross the sky, that God is faithful in each and every thing He does, and in each and every promise that He makes.  God has made many promises to Jacob about his inheritance and descendants.  God will keep each and every one of these promises faithfully in just the right time and in just the right way so that God will be praised and glorified to the utmost degree.

Profound Pledge

God has pledged to Abraham millennia ago that He would love his offspring, care for them, and make them so numerous that they would be as numerous as the sand on the seashore and the stars in the sky:

17 “I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

God does not lie, and He does not make promises that He cannot keep nor will not keep.  God keeps every pledge He makes, no matter how long He takes to fulfill it.  Since He has prophesied through His prophets about these things, He fulfills them at just the right time.  And the time has come when God is calling all men to Himself.  His angel has gone out into the world and proclaimed the Gospel to all nations. He is gathering His people as He promised to the land He gave to their ancestors, and He is bringing all things to a close.  Seek Him while you may find Him, for time as we know it is about to end.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I relying on the faithfulness of God through my trials?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are completely faithful and trustworthy.  Nothing and no one can cause Your plans to fail.  You have carefully engineered through millennia the circumstances that have brought about each and every prophesy that You have given to us.  Your word will stand now and forevermore.  Help me to trust You completely in my pain through my trials.  It is very hard to do so because of the lies of the enemy.  Stand strong for me and with me as I overcome all things in Your strength.  Give me everything I need to grow through my trials, and comfort me as I fend off the stinging rebukes of my enemies.  Holy Spirit, plead my case before the Father, and pray for me, for I don’t know how to pray through these things.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Planning Ahead with God – James 4:13-17

Acknowledge The Sovereignty Of God In All Things

13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

Brash Boasting

Money is an interesting device.  It allows us to exchange our labor and efforts for the goods and services of others.  Money in and of itself has no real value apart from what people perceive it to be.  We often think that we cannot live without money.  But is it money that we need, or what it can obtain for us?

Most people would do just fine through barter.  Even if, for some strange reason, a kind benefactor were to provide you with food every morning on your doorstep (at a house which they provided you a clear title as well and paid all taxes), daily restocked your woodpile for your cast-iron stove, refilled your well with water, provided every tool and item to repair anything that broke, and left clothing (that fit you) every day, who would need money?  You would have everything that you needed to survive!

But we still seek after money, and when God gives us success in our endeavors, we forget that it is because of His mighty providence that we have what we have, even the ability to breathe, and we make mighty boasts about what we are going to do tomorrow.  This greatly displeases the Lord, for we have forgotten our place in His plan.

Mighty Mist

In this passage, we are likened to a mist that is here today, and gone tomorrow.  For the Lord, a thousand years is as a day.  Time appears to be against us.  In just a few years, each of us age, and our bodies begin to fail, until they can work no longer.  Just as the mist rises in the morning, then fades away once the sun shines down upon it and heats it up, our lives are but a short speck of time throughout eternity.

It behooves us to remember just how little time we have, and how fast it marches closer and closer to the time when we must give an account to God for everything we have done in the flesh with the gifts, provision, and calling He has provided to and for us.  By remembering just how short that time is, we will be better prepared to make the sacrifices that are necessary to honor and glorify God.

Moses once asked God to help him to number his days.  He recognized just how short our time here on Earth would be.  We should do the same.  When we ask this of God, we acknowledge that He is sovereign over all of His creation.

Solely Sovereign

We can acknowledge that God is sovereign through our attitudes and speech.  Rather than boast, “Next year we will go here or there and do so and so and be successful,” we can honor God by saying, “If we are alive and it is the will of the Lord, we will …”  It is this attitude of the heart that God is seeking in each one of us.

Once we begin to believe that we did these things with our own hands, apart from the divine strength and provision of the Lord God Almighty, we will begin to erect an idol in our lives out of pride and haughtiness.  We have been warned about what comes next:

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.

Avoid Arrogance

Without the eternal perspective that God has through His nature and sovereignty, we are likely to become very arrogant when He richly blesses us.  And God has shown in His word, time and time again, that He will not tolerate such things.  It is for reasons such as these that Israel was continually conquered by her enemies and enslaved, Over and Over Again, to their great shame and dismay.  And if they are part of the true vine, and the rest of us are merely grafted in, how much more will we be subject to that very same treatment if we go the way of arrogance?

Onerous Omission

James, the author of this passage of scripture, reminds us that not only should we be avoiding those things that are abhorrent to God – sins of commission – but also that we are to be doing the things that we know God wants us to do.  When we fail to do them, we are engaged in sin – the sin of omission.  Both are abhorrent to God.  Let us now carefully evaluate what we do, what we plan, and what we say so that it comports to the attitudes, thoughts, and actions that please God.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I acknowledge God’s sovereignty in how I make my plans and go about implementing them?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are to be praised and exalted above all.  Thank You for Your continued provision and providence in my life, and helping me to even breathe.  Father, show me the way I should go, and help me to get there.  Provide me the wisdom, discernment, and direction that I need to accomplish all that You desire to be done.  Give me clear direction, the strength, and the vision to overcome all obstacles that the enemy places in my path that I might bring honor and glory to Your name through everything You do through me.  Keep my heart far from pride, arrogance, and haughtiness, and instill within me an attitude of humility as I remember my place in Your presence.  Help me to experience success and joy in knowing that You are working out all things to good for me, for I love You, and I know that I am called according to Your purpose.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?


This blog has been edited for spelling errors and clarity

Combat Training with God – Hebrews 12:1-3

Never Give Up, Never Surrender! (To Sin)

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Discard Detritus

The author of Hebrews reminds us to throw off anything that would hinder us in our spiritual pursuit of Almighty God.  Each  of us have issues that are both unique and common, in that we each have trouble spots in our lives that not everyone else has, but that others similarly face and have faced. These issues impede us from our spiritual growth.  For some, it may be the temptation of alcohol.  Others may be sucked in by sports.  Still others by lust.  The list goes on and on.  And while not everyone suffers from these, many do and have, and struggle even to this day with them.

We are reminded to throw these things off.  Is there something in your life that just won’t go away, something that gets you in trouble each and every time that you encounter it?   It is time to bring it to the body, so that others can pray for your deliverance from it:

13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

Run the Race

The Olympic Games were very popular during the time when the author of Hebrews wrote this letter.  The imagery of the games would have been known and understood by all who had read it.  They had seen the training and effort that the participants who entered the games had endured in order to prepare for their opportunity to win their events.

We need to have in our minds the same mindset that the athletes of that day had – a complete and total focus on the goal.  They trained not only their bodies but also their minds for the sole purpose of doing the very best that they could in their field of endeavor.  The proper term is discipline.  They disciplined their bodies and minds.

In modern Western thought, discipline appears to be a pejorative, something that impedes a person from obtaining the desires of their hearts, and interfering with their pleasure and self-fulfillment.  But it is quite to the contrary; discipline helps us to eschew that which does not intentionally drive us towards our goal.  We cull the desires and behaviors that are at odds with our intentions and purposes and distract us from our pursuits so that we will be positioned to reap success from our endeavors.

We need to apply these same techniques and recognize their effectiveness as we learn spiritual discernment so that we can set aside the things that hinder us from completing our objectives.  When we are willing to do this, and allow the Spirit of God to provide us with the strength and endurance to overcome the emotional pain that this type of loss generates, we are able to fully embrace our freedom from sin and say “NO!” to it.  Every time we say “NO!” to sin, we grow a little stronger in our resistance to it.

Ask anyone who has quit smoking tobacco “cold turkey” how difficult it was.  The body rebels against the intentional withholding of the chemicals that brought pleasure and comfort and order with it.  The body rebels, and we may get irritable, the physical being greatly desiring what it is being deprived.  Withdrawal is never pretty, and it is the same way with spiritual withdrawal.  But such courses of action are necessary in order to grow and to regain control of that which we ceded to external stimuli and pressures.  And when we come in contact with other people who are doing what we used to do, the body cries out in a desperate attempt to ensnare the person again.  That is why it is sometimes so difficult for ex-smokers to be around smokers, and for recovering alcoholics to hang around drinkers.

Guide our Gaze

In this case, we have our goal in our sight – Jesus Christ is the one with whom we fix our gaze upon.  It is His example that we need to keep in sight as we move away from sin and move towards righteousness.  When we take our eyes off of the goal, it is easy to become sidetracked, blindsided, and fall back to old patterns of behavior.  It is hard enough trying to break a habit without having people constantly offer the very substance or circumstance that you are trying to avoid.

With spiritual habits, we are constantly bombarded by the devil and his minions to go back to life that we were living.  His calls to return are like daggers that zap our strength and feed the monster we are trying to starve to death.  And like anything else in this life, what you feed will grow, and what you starve will die (eventually).  Some things die long, slow, painful, soul-crushing, whining, loud deaths.  But die they must.  Remember to keep your eyes upon Jesus, our Redeemer, the one who shed His blood so that we could be free from our monsters.  Put the monsters in the dungeon where they belong, and make sure you don’t feed them – the enemies of our souls will try to do all that they can to feed and water them when we aren’t looking or ready for it.  Carefully planned ambushes that we don’t see coming are often the demise of the most well-intentioned Disciple.  Discernment keeps our spiritual eyes aware of our environment as we allow the word of God to light the path for our feet.

Wave off Weariness

Finally, we need to keep our eyes upon Jesus so that we can remember the strength that He had through submission to the Holy Spirit to endure all that God had preordained Him to endure for our sake.  We must always keep heart, even when our flesh and emotions fail us.  For long after our physical strength is exhausted, it is only through determination of heart that we are able to hold on and endure, pressing forward to the goal.  Most of us have not resisted to the point of bloodshed.  Let us remember the price that was paid, and determine in our hearts that the One who endured all of our sins upon the cross is worthy of fighting until our very last breath leaves our body, and we go into glory.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I feeding or starving the monsters I am trying to slay?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your Son Jesus Christ has shown me the way to victory.  Give me wisdom and discernment to avoid the circumstances that would overwhelm me and cause my spiritual demise.  Help me to starve the monsters of sin that seek to overcome my soul, and give me the strength to resist them with Your word and Your strength when I am faced with them.  Help me to avoid the pits and ambushes of the enemy so that I will be best positioned to grow in Your word and Your ways.  And when there is no apparent way out, help me to remember the option that Joseph took when faced with the overpowering strength of Potiphar’s wife – help me to flee the situation so that I may not become entangled in it.  This I ask and pray in the name of your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

 

Combat Training with God – Galatians 6:1-2

Carry Each Other’s Burdens

1 Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Seized by Sin

The sin nature within us never is satisfied.  Without constant vigilance, it is easy to slip up, and begin to justify sin.  Once sin has been embraced, it ensnares us and keeps us in bondage.  We need to remember this when we see other Christians who have been ensnared by sin.  It is with compassion and gentleness that they need to be confronted, and brought out of slavery and back to righteousness

Righteously Redeem

Paul instructs believers to gently restore those who have been caught in sin once more.  Sometimes, it is the unwrapping of grave-clothes of the newly released captives that needs to be addressed.  Other times, it is seasoned disciples that have gone astray.  Look at how far David had fallen.  God raised him from being a shepherd of sheep to the King of Israel, leading His people.  And while he was noted as being a man after God’s own heart, he raped Bathsheba and murdered her husband, never batting an eye.  Nathan the prophet was sent by God to restore him.  In the restoration of one who is entrapped, it is crucial that we do so gently.  Harsh or judgmental attitudes usually do not bring about the needed atmosphere for repentance.

Elude Entrapment

When we go to restore one who is in sin, we must be extra vigilant, for we ourselves may be tempted by the very same sin that we are trying to help another disciple overcome.  Oftentimes, it is something that we may have struggled with.  Sometimes, there is demonic activity involved, and the demons causing encouraging the behavior will try to do the same to the person who comes alongside the fallen.  They would like nothing better than to entice another disciple with their evil taunts, warping the thoughts of even the most pious people.

Bear the Burdens

Paul further encourages us to bear one another’s burdens.  This does not mean that we become enablers of lazy people by doing their work; rather, we help them with the things that weigh them down so that they can breathe again to complete that which they have been called to do.  Moses was confronted by Jethro regarding the way he was administering the law.  Jethro suggested that Moses find men who were capable men that feared God to help him with the task.  This greatly reduced the burden on Moses’ shoulders, and greatly reduced the time for justice to be enacted.  When you see someone who has an overwhelming burden, and you have the time and ability to help, offer what you can so that the person can be more effective.

Complete the Commandments

When we carry one another’s burdens, we fulfill the law of Christ – to love one another as Christ loved us.  Love fulfills the law, and helping each other is showing unconditional, sacrificial, and volitional love towards others.  And outsiders will know that we are the disciples of Christ when they see the love that we have for one another.  For if you love Jesus, you will obey His commands.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I loving others by helping them to bear their burdens?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have said through Your Son, Jesus Christ, that we should take His yoke upon us, for His burden is light.  Yet it is absolutely impossible without yielding our lives to You so that Your strength can flow through us to complete Your goals.  Help me to be yielded to You.  Show me how I can help others be more effective in their ministry, and help me to be more effective in mine.  Send others to help bear my burdens when they become too weighty, and help me to be there when You have enabled me to help them with theirs.  Father, help me when I engage others to help restore them from sin that I would not be tempted in the same manner that they were.  Guard my heart so that I would not because a casualty in the battles we face with spiritual enemies.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Combat Training with God – Psalm 51:16-17

God Does Not Delight In Sacrifices For Sin

16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.

Reparation Rejected

There are some action films where the antagonists, brightly decorated with gold chains and other “bling-bling“, saunter into a catholic church with their guns drawn and walk up to the priest.  They then pull out wads of cash, and then say to the priest, “Bless me, father, for I am about to sin.”  The payment for acknowledgement of a coming sin is confirming that the act is premeditated.  There is no repentance by the sinner, just acknowledgement of the hatred in his heart.  Indulgences have been part of Catholic teaching for over a thousand years.  These payments to God are supposed to reduce the amount of time that the sinner has to spend in Purgatory.  The concept of Purgatory is considered invalid from the perspective of Protestantism, for it negates the theology and doctrine that Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for sin was the complete and total payment for our sin, and introduces a works-based approach to salvation.

David captures the essence of useless sacrifice.  The sacrifice was to be a type and symbol of the final sacrifice of Christ for our sins.  If the sacrifices of the Jews were sufficient for their sins, then they had no need of a Savior, and looking for the Messiah would be a wasted effort, for the sacrifices would have had their intended effect – the total payment for sin.  As it is, the sacrificial system pointed to Christ’s ultimate sacrifice.  With regards to David’s comments here, David rightly identifies that animal sacrifices are not what God wants, for all of the animals are His.  God ALWAYS looks at the condition of our hearts.  Sacrifices were to remind us that there is always loss involved when we sin.  We instead need to examine our hearts to see where they are.

Subdued Spirit

David then speaks to the heart of the matter – the condition of our heart.  He rightly declares that God will not despise a broken and contrite spirit.  Isaiah says that God will not break a bruised reed.  God desires us to come to Him in humility.  Repentance is turning away from sin and turning towards God.  Sacrifice by itself has no redeeming effect, apart from the perfect sacrifice of Christ.  No amount of atonement on our part will negate our sin, but the blood of Christ washes us clean.  Jesus sums this up nicely in the Beatitudes:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  What is the condition of my heart when I seek forgiveness of sin?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have given us Your Son as a sacrifice for our sins.  He was the unblemished lamb, the perfect sacrifice.  Father, forgive me for my sins, and give me a heart that is broken when I sin against You.  Rather than mere acknowledgment of my transgression, help me to be broken over both my sin, and the sin of my country.  Forgive us, Father, for we have sinned mightily against You.  Direct Your people to seek Your face, turn from our sin, and embrace Your forgiveness, lest our hearts become hardened by sin.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Sin Is Sin – James 2:10

God Views All Sin As Egregious

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.

Pet Peeves

In a previous post, one of the most divisive, permitted sins within the body of Christ –  by the body of Christ – was mentioned.  Those who do not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior act out of ignorance.  The body of Christ acts out of insolence when it is embraced internally by the children of God. This, of course, is Sexual Sin, and today in particular, the acceptance of the acted-upon desires of some to have sex with people who have the same chromosomal pairs that they do. We used to be able to call this homosexuality.  However, with today’s cultural acceptance of gender reassignment surgery and “gender identity”, it is becoming harder to assign that specific label to it from a cultural sense.

Each of us, whether we realize it or not, assign specific a “severity” to certain sins.  For some, historical revisionism (lying) is the absolutely worst sin a person can actively entertain.  After all, Jesus had rebuked the Pharisees when He called Satan their father for telling lies.  For others, it might be theft, adultery, or <fill in the sin that you find most “vile” here>.

How about murder?  Most of us would be quite uncomfortable being around a person who intentionally took someone else’s life in an unjustified, non-accidental way.  How many people would have been comfortable being around Jeffrey Dahmer?  Yet many people who were murderers – King David, Saul (who became Paul the Apostle), and others were murderers in the Bible!  We applaud their lives, and would gladly break bread with them.  What is the difference?

They were chosen by God and redeemed.  They repented of their sin.  So did Jeffrey Dahmer.  Wait  – did your opinion of Jeff suddenly change with that revelation?  If so, ask yourself why?  Of course, the answer if that once a person gives themselves to God – AND REPENTS OF THEIR SIN – they are considered blameless before all.  It is the act of REPENTANCE and the grace of God that does this.

But let’s look at this in view of the “open acceptance” of “active homosexual practice” within the body Christ.  Paul reprimanded the Corinthian Church for permitting – and being accepting of – sexual sin by members of that body of Christ (in this particular instance, incest).  Why is this important?

  • We are image-bearers of God.  As such, we should be acting in the character and nature of God.  When we continually engage in sin without repentance, we are obscuring the holiness of God and bringing shame upon His name – His character.
  • A little leaven leavens the whole lump.  When we allow open sin to be tolerated within the body of Christ, others will see it, and think that it is perfectly acceptable to engage in that sin.  Once sin begins to take a hold of our lives, it leads to the obscuring of our judgment of other sin, and it will be like a snowball rolling down a snow-covered mountain – it will get bigger and move faster, until it becomes nearly unstoppable, or starts an avalanche of snow.
  • We will be JUDGED.  When we engage in open sin, knowing that it is sin, and accept it (and maybe even be proud of our acceptance of it), we are engaging in the same behavior that the Israelites did when God sent conquering nations to overcome and disperse them.  If you like being “spanked by God”, feel free to slap God in the face and say, “I’ll do whatever I want to do, and You can’t tell me otherwise.  After all, God, You have to give me grace when I sin, so back off – I’m going to do this because it makes me feel good.”

Uncomfortable Union

So, let’s put all of this into perspective.  For the “sake of argument”, let us say that a person in the body of Christ is murdering other people.  It doesn’t matter how they do it – strangulation, knifing, shooting, raping to death, vehicular homicide, the method is not important.  What IS important is that they are doing it CURRENTLY.  Would you feel comfortable sitting beside a murderer who continues to practice murder, and then comes into the body of Christ AS IF THEY HAVE DONE NOTHING WRONG, and sit beside you and your family?

OK, while that is highly unlikely (as most of us would have reported them to the authorities for prosecution), let’s look at another sin that is more likely to occur.  How about the serial adulterer?  Would you be comfortable if your family and friends were sitting next to a man who was giving you or your spouse or children the “winking eye” looking at them as though they were a delicious meal waiting to be devoured, in a sexual sense?  That in every glance, it appeared that they wanted to just “take you” (or perhaps, everyone [as in an orgy]) right then and there?

Or how about an attractive, well endowed, shapely young woman who dressed with a low-cut blouse and a very short skirt, showing most of God gave to her through her near lack of clothing, making puckered lips with half closed eyes, winking at everyone, legs spread, nearly offering herself to any that would take her?  While I understand that this is a horrid picture of behavior in the body of Christ, most people would be uncomfortable with such an overt display of sinful behavior.

Most sins are within, or well hidden from the view of others.  It is the visible ones that we tend to assign greater disgust as we are aware of them.  But God doesn’t distinguish between them.  Whether we tell little white lies, secretly lust for someone, or any other attitude of the heart that is not only left unchecked, but actively pursued, is just as evil in the eyes of God as the man and woman mentioned above.  Or the man and his stepmother engaging in incest.  Or actively pursuing homo/bisexuality.

Know this: every person that you sit beside while worshiping has committed sin, including YOU.  We don’t have a problem sitting next to them, even though they may have committed the most egregious of sins.  So why do we place such an aversion to recovering homosexuals?  Aren’t we all:

  • Recovering liars?
  • Recovering adulterers (in attitude if not practice)?
  • Recovering murderers (in attitude if not practice)?
  • Recovering thieves (in attitude [covetousness] if not practice)?
  • Recovering idolaters (and many of us still ARE idolaters!)?
  • The list goes on and on…

Fantastic Friend

The good news is that Jesus is a friend of sinners.  Look at the company he kept:

Jesus befriended them, and us, because we were/are sick and are in need of spiritual healing.  We should do the same.  We acted in ignorance, and God gave us grace.  We need to do the same for those who are acting out of ignorance (those who do not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior), regardless of their sin.  We need to embrace them as Jesus did.  People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

However, within the body of Christ, that is something else.  We are to keep leaven (sin) as far from the body of Christ (within the body of Christ) as possible.  We should not tolerate any sin within the body.  We are to encourage one another to be sanctified in the Word without being judgmental (judge the sin, not the person), confessing our sins to one another, and praying for one another so that our sins might be forgiven and we would be healed. All of this is to be done with tenderness, compassion, and love;  discipline without love is harsh and not well-received.  We look for a gentle rebuke from our Father in heaven, not a drill-sergeant screaming in our face at how poorly we have acted.  We should engage in discipline in the same way.

Jesus had the greatest compassion for those whose hearts were broken over their sin, and the harshest words for those who knew the law and didn’t follow it.  Let us, as the days grow darker and more evil, encourage one another along in our faith, our sanctification, and our hopeful expectation that our Lord Jesus Christ will soon appear again.  Make SURE you are like the five virgins who had stocked up on oil waiting for the bridegroom.  Don’t be caught abusing the servants – be about the master’s work, getting everything prepared for his return.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Are we viewing some sins as more grievous than other sins as we see them in others?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You cannot tolerate sin in Your presence.  Help me to view You as the Holy God that you are.  Show me in Your word where I am falling short, and help me to turn from unrighteousness to You.  Help me to be broken over my sin, and to seek You in forgiveness.  Father, help me to see others as You see them, that I would not categorize sin as anything other than what it is – disobedience to You.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Abiding in Christ – Judges 16:20

The Price of Freedom is Eternal Vigilance

Then she called, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!”  He awoke from his sleep and thought, “I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had left him.

Complete Committal

One of the saddest phrases in the Bible is, “But he did not know the Lord had left him.”  Samson’s confidence in himself was the blessing that God had bestowed upon him – his great strength.  As long as no one cut his hair, God had poured out His blessing upon Samson.  He was so confident in God’s blessing upon his life that he started to do things that God had expressly forbade the Israelites to do:

Samson did not follow the Lord – he assumed he was fine because God kept blessing him with supernatural strength.  We need to be very careful, especially when God has blessed our ministry, that we are in the faith.  We need to be completely committed to God and His ways to prepare us so that we can avoid many pitfalls.

Subtle Separation

The separation from Samson from God didn’t just happen overnight.  It occurred over a period of time.  Sin does the same thing in our lives.  Once we veer off the straight and narrow path, we become further and further from the truth, and we are able to justify what we are doing.  The Holy Spirit will try to reconcile us, but if we ignore Him we will eventually sear our conscience (“con”=with, “science”=knowledge) and sin will truly blind us to what we are doing.  Samson kept going further and further away from God.  Although he led Israel for twenty years, he did so moving further and further away from God.

Odious Outcome

Captured now by his enemies, betrayed by his wife, eyes gouged out to cripple him, Samson languished in prison, a trophy of the Philistines.  We need to be very mindful of the consequences of our actions, especially when we are surrounded by people who seek to cause us harm, and possibly even death.  Samson is a prime example what can go wrong when we allow sin to reign in our lives.  David did the same thing when he went into the Philistine area during the time of Saul’s quest to destroy him.  He went there for a year and four months.  In that time, he lied to the king about who he was raiding and didn’t plan security for the wives and children which were under his care which resulted in their abduction by the Amalekites.

Resounding Restoration

God always wants us to come to repentance.  He restores us once we confess our sins and turn from them.  Samson had been humbled.  His hair had started to grow back.  Standing in the temple between the main pillars holding up the temple as the Philistine leaders gloated over their conquest of Samson, he asked the Lord to restore his strength.  And the Lord came upon him mightily.  In few moments, he destroyed the temple where they were and dealt a mighty blow to a people who had been oppressing Israel.

God seeks to restore us as well.  It doesn’t have to turn out in tragedy like it did for Samson.  We need to be on guard against the world, the flesh, and the devil.  We need to seek God with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength.  And through this vigilance we can avoid many of the pitfalls that we see of the great men of old in the Bible.  Their lives are both warnings and instructions to us so that we won’t repeat their mistakes.  But Solomon, the wisest person ever to live, rightly said “there is nothing new under the sun.”  Even with these warnings, we continue to do what we know is wrong.  But thanks be to God for His Son, Jesus Christ, who redeemed us and paved the path to repentance!

The Qualifying Question

So let’s ask ourselves a question: Do I learn from my mistakes?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You show us Your mercy and grace through Your Word.  Help me to be vigilant in all my ways that they may be pleasing to You.  Guard me from the influence of evil that I may walk in truth and righteousness.  Help me to abide in Christ, so that I may abide in You.  Help me to see the warning signs when I go astray, and reconcile me when I turn back to You.  Help me to have a steadfast spirit that is for You.  As You bless me and any ministries I am in, keep me free from pride and help me to keep everything in balance.  Deliver me from evil this day, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

 

 

 

Forgiven by God – Ephesians 4:32

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

It is a blessing to be forgiven. What a relief!  It is also expected that we will forgive as we have been forgiven.  So why is it so hard to forgive when we have been forgiven so much?  We suffer three injuries every time we forgive:

  • The Initial Offense – We suffer from the harm that happened because of the event
  • The Pain of Reconciliation – We must come to terms with the pain of offense and let that pain go, since we consider it as though it never happened
  • The Absence of Justice – We suffer knowing that since we have chosen to forgive, justice will not occur for the offense

Yet, we are called to forgive as we have been forgiven.  But why does it seem that every day people are getting more evil than ever?  Perhaps this is why (Matthew 24:12-13):

Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

Besides, everything has already been paid in full already.  Just as some physical injuries take longer to heal than others, the pain of sin and forgiveness can take longer for certain events.  Either way, we are called to be perfect like God.  So, like everything else in life, practice makes perfect – make forgiveness the first state of mind when someone wrongs you.  And let God take care of the rest.  Lean on Him for strength and healing.  For:

Isaiah 61:1-3

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.

Be an oak of righteousness; forgive as God has forgiven you.  And let God give you the oil of joy and a garment of praise.

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have forgiven us more that we can even comprehend.  From the worst of sinners as Paul described himself to the ones who led good lives, we have all sinned and fallen short of Your glory.  Forgive us this day our trespasses, and help us to forgive the trespasses of others.  Strengthen us as we deal with the consequences of not only our own sin, but the sin of others.  Help us to remember what it cost You to forgive our sins, that we might put everything into perspective.  Touch our hearts and comfort us as we draw close to you.  This we ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

The Holiness of God – 1 Corinthians 11:23-32

23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

27 So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. 29 For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. 31 But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. 32 Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world.

God takes things very seriously. When Moses struck the rock twice to bring forth water after God had told him to speak to the rock, it cost him a blessing – going into the Promised Land. But God still held Moses in high regard – Moses appeared with Jesus and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration.

Do we take the things of God as seriously as He does?  Notice the observation by Paul that some of the believers were weak and sick and had fallen asleep (their bodies died) because they were taking communion without discerning the body of Christ.  If you believe this to be the case for you, read James 5:14-16 and be obedient to the Word of God to resolve the issue.

God calls Himself Holy in His Word time and time again.  Here are three instances:

The Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry (carm.org) defines Holiness as:

Holiness is a quality of perfection, sinlessness, and inability to sin that is possessed by God alone. As Christians, we are called to be holy (1 Pet. 1:16). But this does not refer to our nature. Instead, it is a command of our practice and thought. We are to be holy in obedience (1 Pet. 1:15). God has made us holy through His Son Jesus (Eph. 1:4, 1 Pet. 2:9).

Holiness is being set apart FROM sin, and set apart TO God.  So, let us take some time today to set ourselves apart to God.  When we do that, we will be setting ourselves apart from sin.  Let us take some time before we take communion to discern whether we are in the faith.  Cry out to God to show you any sin in your life; acknowledge what He shows you (if anything) and repent.  Then, with clean hands and a pure heart, we can confidently take communion in joyful celebration!

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are Most Holy.  We fail to even begin to recognize how Holy You are.  You have told us in Your word that if we saw Your face, we would perish.  Help us to grasp the extent of Your Holiness, so that we can rightly discern ourselves as the Body of Christ.  Prepare our hearts for holy communion.  Forgive us our sins.  Cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  Instill within us such a sense of Your presence that we are better able to humble our hearts before You.  You take this so very seriously; please help us to do the same.  Please do not discipline us in Your anger, but renew your mercy, for we are in desperate need of it.  Thank You, Lord God, for Your faithfulness in all things.  Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Worhiping God – Exodus 20:4-6

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.  You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

We were made to worship.

Everyone worships – regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, background, or any other qualifier – our Creator made us to worship Him and Him alone.  He so rightly desires and is worthy of worship, He built it into us.  And we WILL worship something or someone – God, Satan, ourselves, animals, stars, the Moon, the Sun, the creation, someone else, or something else.  We cannot help but worship.

As we prepare our hearts for worship on the Lord’s Day, ask yourself this question:  “Do I have any idols in my life?”  From the scripture above, it would appear that idols are something that we make.  But perhaps it is better to label, as an idol, anything that you place more value on (desire) than worshiping God.  We often think of worship as gathering with other Christians to corporately worship God, or praising Almighty God in prayer and song wherever we are when we do it.

But Paul, possibly in light of Jesus’ definition of worship, saw something different.  He expands our understanding of worship just as Jesus expanded our understanding of murder , adultery, and divorce.

In Romans 12:1-2, Paul writes:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Oh, there is so much packed into those two sentences!   But here is the key to worship:  Worship is about EVERYTHING we do, say, and think.  It is not just when we pause to remember God (who He is and what He has done and will do); it is the outpouring of our souls in every waking moment to a glorious and beautiful Creator.

Let’s ask ourselves again:  “Do I have ANY idols in my life?”  The question should be expanded by asking, “Is there anything in my life that I have not dedicated to God and, even in the enjoyment of it, acknowledge Him by engaging in the practice of recognizing its proper place in life to ensure that God ALWAYS has first priority in everything?”

Here is a list of common idols that we may or may not see in our lives:

Everything we think, everything we do, and everything we say is an expression of worship.  So, who/what are we really worshiping?

A short prayer of preparation:

Merciful Father, your mercies renew every morning.  You are full of grace and beckon us to come to you with contrite hearts, for you have said that blessed are those that mourn.  Search my heart, O God, test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offense in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.  You and You alone can see my hidden faults, for sin blinds me to them.  Show me the idols in my life, Lord God.  Where they exist, You cannot rule and reign.  Remove them from me – remove even the desire for them from my heart, that with clean hands and a pure heart I can come before You in joyful worship.  Guide me in the ways I should go.  This I ask in the precious name of Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?