Tough Words!

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Matthew 5.44

These words of Jesus to His disciples must have come as difficult words to hear. They were facing opposition from the Pharisees and Sadducees. And Jesus was telling them to love them, bless them, do good to them, and pray for them. I don’t know about you, but that would seem pretty difficult to do. While we may not face similar enemies like the Lord’s disciples, we will have those in our lives who do not like who we are in Christ, what we stand for, and the way we live our lives.

So let’s take a closer look at the words of Jesus and what they mean to us. “Love your enemies … ” You say, “I can’t do that. You don’t know what they did to me.” Stay with me here … love them for who they are, not for what they did. What they did is an action. Who they are identifies them as a person. Jesus said to love THEM. Next He says to “bless them … ” Do something for them they would never expect. What does that accomplish? It shows the presence of God at work in your heart. “do good to them” goes hand in hand with “bless them”. When God is at work in us and through us, the result is one that is totally the opposite of what the ungodly world would expect.

The final thing Jesus says is to “pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” This is perhaps the most difficult thing to do of everything that Jesus has said. How so? In order to pray for someone, we must hold no anger in our hearts toward them. In order to pray for someone who is persecuting us, we must look beyond the pain they are causing and see the eternal need that exists. These words of Jesus call all of us to a lifestyle that is impossible unless He is living through us. Just my thoughts …

Advertisements

Grace … What a Teacher!

For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, (12) Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” Titus 2.11-12

“ … the grace of God … (is) teaching us … ” There is no better teacher than grace. There is no greater truth than grace. So, we need to listen when grace speaks. So what is grace teaching us? (1) To deny ungodliness in our lives. In our heads we know that we need to do that. Sometimes in our hearts we are not so sure. We seem to entertain thoughts of ungodliness at Satan’s suggestion. Grace says don’t. (2) We are to deny worldly lusts. Again, this is something we know in our heads but there are times when our hearts are drawn (for whatever reason) to worldly lust. Again, grace is teaching us don’t. Then grace says (3) to live soberly. The word sober here means serious, sensible, and solemn. In light of eternity, how can we choose to live any other way? Then grace says (4) to live righteously. Righteous living is right living. Most of us don’t have a problem determining right from wrong but there are times when we do struggle with choosing right rather than wrong. Grace says live righteously. Finally, grace says (5) to live godly. When you see someone who is living for God, you can tell by his or her choices, attitude, responses and behavior. When others look at your life, what do they see? What can they tell from your choices, attitude, responses and behavior? I want others to be able to see the fruit of God’s work in my life by the choices I make, the attitude I display, the responses I display to any given situation, and my behavior toward others. Do I always get it right? Absolutely not! Do I always want to get it right? Absolutely! By the way, why is this so important? Because we are living “in this present world” and they need to see God at work in us. Let’s work on this together! Just my thoughts …

Mercy and Refuge! We All Need Them!

Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast.” Psalm 57.1

I like this translation: “Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by.” I believe each one of us has experienced “storms of destruction” and when those storms come, we are in desperate need of refuge. The words of the psalmist are a great encouragement to me. He knows he can call on the mercy of His Heavenly Father. Notice his words here: “for in you my soul takes refuge … ” and where was that refuge? “in the shadow of your wings … ” The imagery here is important. A mother hen takes her baby chicks under the shadow of her wings for protection anytime danger is imminent. How long are they permitted to stay there? Until the danger is past! How long are you and I protected “in the shadow of (His) wings”? Until the danger is past! It doesn’t matter what kind of danger it is or how long it lasts.

“ … I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by.” What do we learn from this verse? We have a merciful God. We can find refuge in the place of protection provided for us by this merciful God. And knowing that storms are going to come, we can also know that they will “come … to pass.” As your life unfolds before you and you see storms of destruction on your horizon, take comfort in your merciful God and the knowledge that He has a place of refuge for you in the shadow of His wings and you can stay as long as you need. Just my thoughts …

Christ in Me! The Hope of Glory!

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2.20

I wonder how many times we have read that verse and said to ourselves, “Wow, that is a powerful verse” and never really thought about what Paul really said? “Crucified with Christ … ” really? Do we really understand the purpose of crucifixion? It’s ONLY purpose is death. When they hung Christ on that rugged cross, He had absolutely no hope of ever coming down ALIVE. So in a real world of daily struggles, for us to day that we are crucified with Christ, what do we mean? Do we mean that we are DEAD to our old life? Are we declaring that the sins of our past no longer have any hold on us?

Paul goes on to say that Christ lives in me. That changes the dynamic of daily living to know that God is living within us. When we find ourselves bound to our past, stop struggling and give the past to God once-and-for-all and begin to live the life Paul describes: “I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” God has not called us to a life of repeated failures because of our past. He called us to a life of victory because of the One who lives within us. Remember this. Acknowledgment of truth is not enough. It is the application of truth that makes a difference. Knowing that Christ died for us is one thing. Applying the truth that He lives within us and walks with us daily is something we must apply to how we live every day. Just my thoughts …

A Necessary Thing!

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. (2) Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” Psalm 51.1-2

When I think about the background of this Psalm, I ask myself, “Do I really need this? I haven’t done what David did.” You see, this is David’s confession after his sin with Bathsheba. Satan wants me to think that I am not as bad as David, so I don’t need to pray like this. But the truth of the matter is, sin is sin and I need to be as honest with God as David was.

Have mercy upon me, O God … ” Only God can grant the mercy I need. IF God chose to give me what I deserve, hell would be my resting place. That’s not because I am a really bad person. That is because I was born a sinner. But His mercy is his gift to me through grace, because of His great love.

“ … according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.” God’s lovingkindness is certainly not something I deserve, but because of His tender mercies, He manifests lovingkindness to me.

Verse 2 is David’s cry for cleansing: “Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” In verse 10 he said, “Create in me a clean heart … ” He realized how his sin had affected him and wanted the cleansing that only God could give. Even though we are believers, we still sin and need God’s cleansing. That great truth is expressed in 1 John 1.9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to CLEANSE us from all unrighteousness.” Praise His Holy Name! Just my thoughts …

Let the Work Continue!

For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” Philippians 2.13

When I was a student in Bible College, God deeply impressed this verse on me and I chose it then as my life verse. It is in the signature of my emails. When I sign someone’s Bible or a special card, it is part of my signature. It is literally my life verse.

I am amazed that God not only was willing to save me, but that He has chosen to work in me to accomplish His purposes for me in His work of the kingdom. It is sometimes difficult for me to imagine that God can use me in kingdom work. I know my weaknesses and my limitations. But I am reminded of Paul’s words in Philippians 4.13: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Since God is working in me, the work He wants to accomplish is work that the Holy Spirit can do through me. All that is required of me is a surrendered heart.

Let’s talk for a moment about a surrendered heart. For me, a surrendered heart is a matter of daily focus. Sometimes it becomes a matter of moment-by-moment focus. The Holy Spirit will not run rough shod over my will, so I must be conscious of whether or not I am in control of things or I have placed the Holy Spirit in control. When He is in control, my life not only runs more smoothly, but it also enhanced the kingdom of God, because I am not making decisions that will hurt the kingdom. Instead, I am allowing the Holy Spirit to direct my thoughts, my choices, my actions, and my words so that the kingdom is advanced. That is the great truth of this verse: “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” Just my thoughts …

Fear vs. Trust!

The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe.” Proverbs 29.25

Fear and trust are powerful words. They are the antithesis of each other. I think it would be accurate to say that when one fears man he is not fearing the Lord. also we can say that when one has absolute trust in the Lord, he is not likely to fear man.

So what are some of the ways that we fear man? (1) We fear man when we hold back our witness about Christ for fear of being ridiculed. (2) We fear man when we fail to honor God as we should because someone may criticize us or look down on us. I am confident we could name a number of ways we demonstrate our fear of man, but I think you get the idea. A snare is something that is a hindrance to us in some way. It is defined in the dictionary as “a thing likely to lure or tempt someone into harm or error.” When we are snared by the actions or opinions of others, we will fail to exercise out absolute trust in God.

“ … whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe.” Sometimes we are reluctant to accept the truth that trusting the Lord is the safest place in life to be. When you and I put our absolute trust in the Lord, the Object of our faith cannot and will not fail us. We “shall be safe”. Our unwillingness to take God at His word weakens our faith. We begin to play the “what if” game and we never come out the winner. We become the victim and not the victor. So if we analyze this verse and take it at face value, we can make the choice not to be snared by the fear of man and to put our absolute trust in the Lord and be safe. You decide. Just my thoughts …

Liberty – Not License!

Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” 2 Corinthians 3.17

More than most of us realize, one of God’s greatest gifts to us is the gift of the Holy Spirit, who resides within us to give us direction each moment of each day. Paul is writing here to the Corinthian church to encourage them that they no longer are under the restraints of the law, but they have the glorious liberty that has come to them because of God’s gift of His Holy Spirit.

I grew up in an environment of legalism, a system of do’s and don’t that were supposed to make me more like Christ. The only problem was that there seemed to be a tendency to want to keep me under some kind of legal restraint based on external looks, not heart attitude. Thankfully I was able at some point to see that “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” He is the One whom God has ordained to tell me what I can do, should do, must do, and ought to do. Unfortunately some believers read this word liberty as license. Liberty from legalism is not a license to sin. It is the liberty to live a grace-filled life that glorifies God in everything we do and say.

I am fearful that we may turn some away from the gospel with our demands of “You have to stop doing that (whatever that is) once you get saved.” Jesus said, “You catch them and I will clean them.” Do we get that? My job is not to make them look like Jesus. That is the Spirit’s job. Let’s focus today on glorifying God because “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” Just my thoughts …

Love Immeasurable!

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (17) For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.” John 3.16 – 17

Children have memorized John 3.16 for as long as I can remember. It is perhaps the most familiar verse in the Bible. Perhaps the struggle with this verse is that we become so familiar with it that we overlook its deep meaning.

What is God telling us here? (1) His love is immeasurable. “For God so loved the world … ” How do you measure the phrase “so loved”? (2) His gift is unimaginable. “ … that he gave his only begotten Son … ” As human parents, we struggle with giving one of our children for the life of another. (3) His promise is almost incomprehensible. “ … that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The result of believing God’s promise means that I will never perish (spend eternity in hell), but I will have everlasting life.

Verse 17 gives further explanation of God’s heart for this lost world. “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world … ” If condemnation was God’s only purpose is sending His Son, that would be a tragic circumstance for mankind. But His purpose was far greater than that. “but that the world through him might be saved.” God’s love mentioned in, v. 16, was demonstrated at Calvary for the purpose of saving all who would believe. That reveals to lost mankind the true heart of God. What is our responsibility to this good news? As one songwriter said, we must win the lost at any cost. Do we believe that everyone needs to hear the gospel? Are we willing to be inconvenienced to give someone the gospel? Are we willing to be rejected by someone because we took the initiative to share God’s love with them? Just asking? Just my thoughts …

That Covers It All!

And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” Colossians 3.17

When I think of a life-consuming verse, this one is the perfect one. “ … whatsoever ye do … ” Nothing is left out. “ … in word or deed … ” We are only capable of two things in life – speaking and doing. In a hypothetical sense, the next time we want to give ourselves permission to sin (and we don’t like to admit this but we do it more than we want to say) we need to say to the Lord, “I give you thanks for letting me partake in this sin.” Some of you are chuckling right now and some of you are on the verse of anger at the thought of doing such a thing. BUT that is what the verse says. I don’t think any of us ever consciously sin in Jesus’ name but we still sin, nonetheless. Can you see here how Paul is calling the Colossians and us to a life that has a higher standard that we may set for ourselves? WHAT IF our purpose for the remainder of this day became doing everything (whatsoever) in word or deed in the name of the Lord Jesus? How would that change our interaction with people? How would that change the dynamics in our family? How would that change the conditions in my workplace?

This last phrase is critical for our thinking: “ … giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” WHAT IF we would consciously give thanks to God through Christ for whatsoever we do? I suspect we would re-think some of the things we choose to do. We would re-think some of the words we say BEFORE we say them. This verse became a part of my spiritual make-up when I was working with teen-agers and God has never let it leave my thinking. I challenge you today to process what God is saying here and let it change your life too. Just my thoughts …