Let’s Be the Real Thing!

With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early: for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.” Isaiah 26.9

As believers in this New Testament era, we have a faith that is both historical and experiential. When I think of prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah and the others we find in the Old Testament, I wonder what their experiences with God were like. They were looking forward to the cross, and we are looking back to the cross.

When I read these words from Isaiah’s pen, his longings certainly seem to be a lot like mine. He says: “With my soul have I desired thee in the night … ” There have been numerous times when I have awakened during the night and the longing of my heart is to cry out to God about something that is bearing on me. I know He hears me no matter where I am or what time it is. He is “on duty” 24×7.

And then we hear him say: “with my spirit within me will I seek thee early:” I think Isaiah was an early riser. That was when he met with God. The day was young, his mind was fresh, and his spirit had a longing to speak to this God who wanted to hear from him. I know that there are many whose work prohibits them from rising early. I believe it is not so much the time of day as it is the beginning of OUR day.

This last phrase causes us to reflect on how the world sees this God whom we worship: “for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.” Sometimes we hear false teaching that tells us that God is love and He will ultimately take everyone to heaven in the end. That sounds a bit syrupy because it is not true. When this world see God at work in His “judgments” here on earth, some people in the world begin to pay attention to the fact that this is the hand of God and not just a fluke of nature or that something else “just happened.” Where is our place in all this? Let’s seek God with our whole heart and live in such a way that even the vilest sinner will look at us and say, “there’s something different about that person’s life.” Just my thoughts …

 

It Is Not a Magic Formula – It Is Faith

Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” Luke 6.38

So many of God’s children misunderstand what giving is all about. One of the things I hear most is, “All the preacher talks about is money.” We need to come to grips with the truth that giving is a measure of one’s faith. The words above were spoken by Jesus. He challenges us to exercise our faith by giving first and then the blessings will come. If we cannot trust God with our money, what else can we not trust God with?

Look at the emphasis stated in this first phrase: “Give, and it shall be given unto you … ” These are not empty words spoken to fill part of a page in Luke’s gospel. This is a declaration by the son of God that says, “When you obey, the blessings will come.” To expand on this issue, Jesus says: “ … good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom.” What is going to happen when we give? More than we can ever imagine. I am fearful that some will read this and simply conclude, “I will give so I can get more.” In reality we do not give in order to get. We give in order to get so we can give again. The blessings keep coming when we keep giving.

Now let’s look at this last phrase: “For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” Here is God’s promise to His children. The measure of blessing that will come back to you will be in proportion to that which you have given. I don’t really think we misunderstand this truth. I think some simply do not think it is true. Remember this – you cannot out give God. Just my thoughts …

 

Like the Boy Scout Motto – Be Prepared!

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Ephesians 6.12

How does it feel to be wrestling with someone or something you cannot see? Our enemy isn’t someone we can grab by the collar and wrestle to the ground and overcome with a show of strength. As a matter of fact, it would be foolish for us to attempt to overcome him in our own strength anytime. Take note of how Paul describes this enemy: (1) principality, (2) power, (3) ruler of the darkness of this world, and (4) spiritual wickedness in the heavenlies.

Paul knew about this enemy first hand. He encountered him almost every place he went to preach the gospel and/or start a church. In case you are wondering WHY this enemy would pick on you, just remember that he took Jesus on when He was in the wilderness.

In another place he is described as a roaring lion: “Be sober (be serious), be vigilant; because YOUR adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking who he man devour.” Satan’s intent for each one of God’s children is to render them totally ineffective in doing kingdom work, and to keep them spiritually defeated as much as he possibly can.

This entire passage in Ephesians 6 is critical to our battle down here on earth. In the preceding verse (11) Paul tells us what we need to do: “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” Wiles is a plural word meaning tricks, ruses, ploys, schemes, dodges, maneuvers subterfuges, shenanigans, artifices, guile, artfulness, cunning, craftiness. In a nutshell, the devil is sneaky when it comes to the ways he comes after God’s children.

IF we want to be victorious over Satan, we must take Paul’s advice and put on the whole armour of God (vs. 13-18). Just my thoughts …

Me? a Light? You Must Be Kidding!

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.” Matthew 5.14

Yesterday I wrote about letting our light shine and the reason why – that God may be glorified. In this verse Jesus is not SUGGESTING that we BECOME the light of the world. His declaration is “Ye ARE the light of the world.” I have made this statement so many times before, but I believe it bears repeating.” Jesus only needs to say something one time for it to be truth.” A light only has one purpose, and that purpose is to dispel darkness. If this world had NO darkness in it, there would be no need for a light. But since Genesis 3, the world has been plagued with darkness – a darkness that has systematically rejected God and gravitated toward Satan and his demons.

Some may protest by saying, “But I don’t want to be a light. I just want to live my life the way I want.” Recently basketball great Charles Barkley made a statement similar to this: “I don’t want to be a role model for anyone.” Guess what – too late – little boys growing up have already set their eyes on this super star and said, “I want to be like him.” Guess what – the world is watching whether we want them to or not. They may watch us in order to criticize us or they may watch us wishing they had what we have. But they ARE watching us.

This last statement of Jesus is again very powerful: “A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.” Try as we might, we CANNOT stop being a light. Only one thing keeps a light from shining brightly – some kind of contamination that keeps it from penetrating the darkness and bringing it light. Is there some kind of contamination in your life that keeps your light from shining brightly? You don’t have to ask anyone else. You already know the answer. If there IS something that is contaminating your light, take the necessary steps to remove it and do what Jesus said: “Ye are the light of the world.” Just my thoughts …

Where Is Your Life Focus?

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 5.16

There is a significant difference between doing good works so you will go to heaven and working for God because you are on your way to heaven. Jesus clearly states our level of responsibility to the world in these words here in Matthew 5.16. The first truth is that we are to be lights in this sin-darkened world: “Let your light so shine before men … ” A light is useless if it does not shine when it is needed, so Jesus’ words here indicate that my life and your life are to shine – to be noticeable and to fill the void of darkness found in this world.

Why is our light supposed to be shining? “that they may see your good works … ” Once again let me be clear. We are NOT working in order to earn our way to heaven. That is what the cross is all about. But we ARE working so OTHERS who are not Christ-followers will be able to “see (our) good works … ” There is a specific reason for these unbelievers to be able to see how we live. And it is: to “glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Let’s take a step back and look at WHY Jesus is speaking these words. Jesus came to this earth so that HE might glorify His Father in heaven. After a short span of about 33 years, He was taken back to heaven and we are left here to continue His work of glorifying our Father who is in heaven. Look at the kinds of attitudes that must be overcome in order for our lives to glorify our Heavenly Father: (1) narcissism (life is all about ME), (2) selfishness (I want to do what I want to do), (3) laziness (I don’t feel like living that way), and (4) procrastination (I will do that [glorify God] some other time. I just want to live my life right now).

Let’s get down where the rubber meets the road. The quicker we learn God’s purpose for us while we are living down here, the more victorious our lives will become. The sooner we grasp the concept of letting our light shine so what God will be glorified, the sooner we are able to fill a part in the kingdom work God left us here to do. Just my thoughts …

What KIND of Love Is That?

If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” 1 John 4.20

We must remember that John is writing to fellow believers. So his message is for us. He then presents a hypothetical case. “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar … ” Let’s make this real simple. If a believer says he loves God but he hates a fellow believer, he is a liar. Now don’t shoot the messenger. This is a very valuable truth. I can hear it now: “I never actually said that I hated them.” Did you know that hatred doesn’t have to be spoken? It can be demonstrated by our actions. “You want ME to sit in the same pew with THEM? THAT will never happen.” Seems pretty clear to me there is no love lost there.

But John goes on: “ … he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” It is pretty difficult to love someone who is intangible … we can’t actually see them. Countless numbers of believers gather every Sunday to profess their love for a God they have never seen. They have seen the results of what this God has done. But it is all of faith – faith in One we cannot see. But we go to the house of God every Sunday and meet with part of the family of God. We see them, we speak to them, we sing with them, we worship with them, etc. It is far easier to love one that you can see than it is one you cannot see.

So what is John telling us here?” I believe he is telling us to stop acting like a Pharisee and pretending to be someone we really are not. It is possible to LOVE someone and not LIKE their actions. That happens in marriages around the world every day. So, let’s get real and stay real and love our fellow believers in a way that none could ever deny. Just my thoughts …

Are We Leading or Following?

And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 35 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.” Mark 8.34-35

Jesus is speaking to His followers powerful truth here. (1) Whosoever will come after me … is He talking to you? If so, prepare your heart for what He is about to say next: (2) let him deny himself … wow! That’s a call to experience life in a totally different way than we are accustomed to doing. But what’s next: (3) take up his cross and follow me … when someone is carrying a cross, everyone who sees him or her knows it. It is a distinct picture that one cannot avoid. What is distinct about your life that identifies you with Jesus? You are not carrying a literal, physical cross, but your life must have something distinct in it that cries, “Look at Him. Look at Jesus. He changed my life. He can change yours!”

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it … ” When we say to God, “this is my life. I’ll do with it what I want”, we have chosen to save our life for our own selfish purposes, but we will ultimately lose it. I didn’t say that. Jesus did. To complete the words that Jesus said, let’s look: “whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.” What does that mean? Could it mean that if we are willing to go “all in” for the Lord, that we have lost our life for Christ’s sake and the sake of the gospel, we have finally discovered what life is all about? Jesus was pretty clear: “the same shall save it.” What is the wiser choice, to save your life for yourself and lose it, or to lose your life for Jesus and His gospel and save it? We already know the answer. Let’s “just do it” (thanks Nike). Just my thoughts …