Who Is Watching?

Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.” Philippians 4.9

Paul lays his life on the line in this verse and issues a challenge to the Philippian believers.

Paul referred to himself as a model of Christianity (learned), a giver of truth (received), one who proclaims the truth (heard), and finally one who demonstrates truth (seen). That is a pretty large image to follow. But what does he tell them to DO? He says: “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do … ” I wonder if we have any idea of how many people are WATCHING our lives as believers? And if they are, then are they seeing what God wants them to see? I don’t think we should just determine that we are going to be silent witnesses and let our lives speak for us. But at the same time, I believe we should live in such a way that when others DO watch, they see a reflection of Christ in us.

Paul’s final thought here is important for us to consider: “and the God of peace shall be with you.” The God of peace of whom Paul speaks is the only one who can give us peace. When the peace of God is missing in your life, how does that feel? Is there a sense of uncertainty, or a feeling of wondering if God cares? God had already mentioned to the Philippian believers that in order for God to give them His peace, they would need to pray about everything and worry about nothing, and commit the control of their lives totally to Him (vs. 6-7). This is not some magic formula, but rather it is a way of life that you and I need to learn to live. Just my thoughts …

Weak or Meek?

Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.” James 3.13

The one thing you will notice about the Book of James is its practicality. Just because someone says he/she is wise doesn’t necessarily mean that he/she is really wise. In James 1.5 James gives us sound advice: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

The kind of wisdom of which James speaks is wisdom that is received from God. Wisdom is not the same as knowing a lot of information. Most of us know someone who knows a little about a lot of things but they don’t seem to have any common sense. Here is James’ qualifying statement: “Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you?” A wise man has knowledge but he knows HOW to apply that knowledge and that is where wisdom comes in.

So what is this wisdom good for? Here is James’ advice: “Let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.” The word conversation here is a reference to our manner of living or our lifestyle. So James tells us to show our wisdom through the way we live and in so doing our works demonstrate wisdom with a spirit of meekness. A person who is wise in the sense that James uses that word is a meek person. I think of Joseph, husband of Mary and the earthly head of the home in which Jesus grew up. Joseph was a man who was characterized by meekness. I think of the meekness of Joseph and see him as a steel hand in a velvet glove. On the outside he was gentle but he was possessed of great strength of character.

Let’s take the words of this verse in James and ask the Lord to help us first to have wisdom and then to display it in meekness. Just my thoughts …

 

What Are We Learning from God?

Teach me to do thy will; for thou are my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness.” Psalm 143.10

What a wonderful way to start the day: “Teach me to do thy will; for thou are my God … ” This is not just a good word for the psalmist. It is good for you and me too. How do we go about doing the will of God? The starting place is His Word. The psalmist did not have the benefit of the whole of Scripture that we have now. We have the ability and the privilege of studying God’s Word to learn about Him and what He wants from His children. I think for most of us, our struggle is determining in our hearts to DO what we already know God wants. We gain nothing by trying to bargain with God. On the contrary, we find our greatest peace in doing what we already know to do. Once we make the determination that God is OUR God, the rest of life wants to fall into place and follow Him.

This phrase: “thy spirit is good … ” is more than simply bragging on God. The psalmist knows, and we must know too, that God ALWAYS has the psalmist’s best interests at heart (and that is true for us as well).

What does this last phrase mean to us? “lead me into the land of uprightness.” One translation reads: “Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground.” The psalmist’s heart desire is to walk in a way that will glorify his God. You and I need to come to this place in our lives as well. Gone are the days when we should choose to live selfishly. OUR heart cry must be that God would guide us in a way that will cause our lives to bring glory to Him. Once again, this is not a once-for-all decision. It is something that we must choose EVERY DAY – and sometimes more frequently than that. These are just my thoughts …

 

All Things? Really?

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8.28

These words are filled with a promise from God. Paul declares that we can KNOW this one thing: “all things work together for good to them that love God … ” Have you ever struggled with this verse? I must confess that I have. But I think that my question has been this: “How is God going to make this _____________ work together for me in my lifetime?” And then the thought comes to mind, “Why does it MATTER HOW God is going to do it? If He said it, it will happen.”

Let’s loo for moment at the phrase “all things … ” Does that mean the death of a spouse? Yes! Does that mean the death of a child? Yes. Does that mean the premature death of a parent? Yes. Does that mean the loss of a good paying job? Yes. Does that mean a grandchild who is born with birth defects? Yes. Does that mean a marriage that goes wrong and ends in divorce? This is only a small portion of things that we could include in God’s “all things.” But if the verse is going to mean anything at all to us, we must literally believe “that all things work together for good to them that love God … ”.

Some manuscripts read, “God works in all things for the good.” But what is the context of meaning for this last phrase: “, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”? Let’s consider this translation: “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” What is God’s purpose for me? For you? I believe His purpose for us is to be His hands and feet, mouth and ears to a lost world. How are they going to know The Christ we know if He is not reflected in our lives? Perhaps today we should consider BEING His hands and feet, mouth and ears to the lost world around us and to the believing world of which we are all a part! Just my thoughts …

What Is Jesus Doing Now?

Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” Hebrews 7.25

There are two principal truths in this verse: (1) salvation and (2) intercession. Both of these are made possible by Jesus Christ. When we read that “he is able also to save them to the uttermost … ” we must understand that He is able to save those who, in our minds are farthest from Him. We would look at them as “really bad people.” Somehow it may seem to us that being a really bad sinner makes it harder for God to save them. It takes the same amount of God’s grace to save a serial killer as it does to save a child who is still at a tender age and knows that he/she needs to be saved because of sin. While we may choose to categorize sin, to God sin is sin.

This matter of intercession is perhaps greater than we think. After we are saved, we still commit sin on a daily basis. In order for us to maintain a close fellowship with God, we must deal with that sin. So Jesus is seated at the Father’s right hand to intercede for us. Can you picture this? Every time we sin, Jesus says to His Father, “I paid for that. He’s/She’s still perfect.” But you and I need to follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit to confess that sin to God so that nothing is between our soul and the Savior. I may have related this before, but it is worth repeating. Charles Spurgeon was crossing the street with a friend when all of a sudden he dropped to his knees and began to pray while traffic passed all around him. When he finished to went on to the other side of the street and his friend said, “What were you doing out there?” and Spurgeon replied, “I felt a cloud come between my soul and my Savior and I couldn’t take another step until I dealt with it.” We need to be sensitive to the Spirit’s prompting in our lives. Just my thoughts …

When Waiting Pays Off!

I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait and in his word do I hope.” Psalm 130.5

Waiting is one of the most difficult things that any of us do. We wait on our spouse, or our children, or the order at the fast food restaurant, etc. I find one of my most difficult waiting times is when I am stopped at a traffic light and it seems like I need to shave when it turns green – I have been there so long.

But what we are looking at here is a totally different “wait”. Sometimes in our haste to “do what’s right” we get ahead of God. We may forget that God does not work on the clock the way we do. His view of things is from eternity past, to the present, and into the future with no end in sight. So waiting for the Lord to give us the next step must be more than an exercise in patience. It must be our daily routine.

As if the phrase “I wait for the LORD” wasn’t enough, the psalmist adds: “my soul doth wait … ” indicating that in his inner most being he has made the conscious decision to wait on the Lord. That may not seem like a big deal, but I can’t remember the number of times I have heard someone say, “the Lord told me to do it,” and whatever “it” was turned out to be the total opposite of what God had already told us in His Word.

Finally, the reason for waiting on the Lord is given in this last phrase: “in his word do I hope.” Remember that the word hope here does not mean that there is a possibility that something WON’T happen. Quite the opposite – it means that whatever God says WILL happen is as good as already done. That, my friends, is genuine hope. Let’s bank on that today. Just my thoughts …

The Riches of His Grace!

In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” Ephesians 1.7

The beginning words “In whom” refer to Christ. We have redemption through His blood. It is relatively easy to find someone who believes that all they need to do to get to heaven is have enough good works to offset their bad works. The only problem with that belief is that it is contrary to what this verse says. Redemption is ours BECAUSE of the shed blood of Christ. We read in Hebrews 9.22: “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood: and without shedding of blood is no remission.” The ONLY reason Christ came to die was to pay the necessary price demanded by His Father for our sins to be covered. I can’t thank Him enough every day for paying this price for my sin.

There is a distinct biblical truth here. Christ’s blood paid for our sin so His Father could forgive us, and that forgiveness is based on the shedding of the blood of Christ. Make no mistake about it; He does not forgive us because we deserve it. On the contrary, if God should give us what we deserve, we would all spend eternity in hell. Our acceptance to God is made possible by the sacrifice made by His Son.

In this final phrase we find the words that make all of this possible: “ … according to the riches of his grace.” GRACE – just the sound of the word speaks volumes. Someone has suggested this acrostic: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. We can NEVER measure the bountifulness of God’s grace. When we have drawn heavily upon God’s grace we leave Him with no less grace than He had before we asked. Think of the repeated times in your life when God has extended grace to you – times when you did not deserve it, times when you had to strain to recognize it – and yet God was faithful. Thank Him today for His boundless grace and rejoice in the life he has given you “according to the riches of his grace.” Just my thoughts …

A Life Like No Other!

The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. 11I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” John 10.10 – 11

Abundant life – what is that? What does it look like? I can tell you what it is NOT? It is not a life of continual complaining, continual blaming someone else for my problems, continual whining because life has dealt me a terrible blow. It is not living life like I am a victim instead of an overcomer. If that sounds a little strong, then lets think for a bit about what Jesus said.

The abundant life is a life that looks at the beginning of each day and says to God, “Lord, today you and I make a majority. I can handle it because you have prepared it.” Sound too simple? Not at all. It is a matter of knowing who is in control. When I am willing to release my day, my hour, my minute to God for Him to control, then I can embrace and enjoy the abundant life. The abundant life does not mean that I am happy all the time, because happiness depends on what happens. But I can still have a joy-filled life in the midst of my greatest storm – because I have transferred control of my life to God.

Transfer of control is not a one-time deal. It is something that I need to do every day. Perhaps more than once a day, depending on whether or not I insist on taking back control because I think I can handle it better than God can.

When we look at verse 11, we quickly discover a valid reason for embracing this abundant life. In stark contrast to the thief who comes (1) to steal, (2) to kill, and (3) to destroy, our Shepherd sealed everything for me when he gave His life for me. As one of His sheep, I know His purpose for me, and that is for me to embrace the abundant life, and when I do that, my life will bring honor and glory to God. Just my thoughts …

Why Am I Stuck Where I Am?

Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.” Psalm 119.165

I think you have to read that verse a few times before its truth sinks in. We are living in a time where many people – even Christians – are offended so easily. And the result of that offense is the reason so many “professing Christians” don’t go to church. We get offended is someone doesn’t shake our hand. We get offended if we are overlooked after we have done something “for the church”. The list could be extensive but there is no need.

Let’s look carefully at the two phrases in this verse: “Great peace have they which love thy law … ” What does it mean to “love” the law of God? Would that include the Bible – God’s written word? I surely think so. One of the problems with a careless or spasmodic reading of God’s Word is that we know just enough to be dangerous. I can’t love something deeply until I have examined it enough to have more than a superficial knowledge of it. When I am willing to love God’s law, then I am willing to allow His Word to correct me when I am wrong. I am willing to live my life in accordance with God’s Word rather than contrary to it.

Now this last phrase: “nothing shall offend them.” Our purpose in going to the house of God is not to get someone to shake our hand. Nor is it to allow us to find something that we don’t like and let that offend us. Our purpose – our only purpose – is to worship with the people of God. So what if I don’t like the color of paint on the walls. So what if I don’t like the new carpet. So what if they don’t sing my favorite songs all the time. If I am OFFENDED by these things, then I have allowed “my stuff” to get in the way of worshiping my Heavenly Father. And believe it or not, He does care if I worship Him. Just my thoughts …

God CAN Do It All!

But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19.26

This verse is short but filled with a powerful truth. I shouldn’t be surprised, but after 50+ years of ministry, I still hear people say things like, “God’s can’t do that.” We have all heard the phrase, “Think outside the box”, but I fear that many of God’s children want to put God IN a box. Not only is that not a wise thing to do; but if our view of God is limited, then our daily life and our prayer life are subject to being bound by the borders of the box into which we have put God.

Since these words are from the lips of Jesus, we must make the choice to believe them or live a life of fear, frustration, disappointment, and that would be calling God a liar. I don’t think anyone wants to go there. Now I know these words have a context and I don’t want to try to make them say something they don’t really say. But you and I can take these words, “with God all things are possible” and believe them in any circumstance. Remember, there is a difference in what God CAN do and what He CHOOSES to do.

Think for a moment – when was the last time you can remember being in a difficult situation and only God could bring you through it? Were you reluctant to ask God, did you seek to solve it for yourself first, or did you go immediately to the throne of grace to find help in a time of need? I am willing to gladly admit that I come to God first a lot more times in my life now than I did when I was younger. That gives me a freedom to live my life without thinking I must solve every problem myself. I am glad that “with God all things are possible.” I want each of us to take this truth with us through today and then for the rest of our lives. Just my thoughts …