BUT IT IS SO VERY HARD…

Spiritual Blog - Adversity

Proverbs 24:10 – “If you faint in the day of adversity, Your strength is small.”  NKJV

 

             The word “faint” means to let drop, relax your hold or become disheartened.  The word “adversity” means a tight place or a place of trouble.  Therefore, it would seem this passage is declaring that if we “let go of, relax our grip on or become disheartened when we face difficulty, are in a tight place and feel hemmed in” our strength is small.

Most of us have been in difficult places where we felt hemmed in and everything in us cried, “give up and give in”.  That is a sentence of death and in our hearts and heads we know it.  I heard an illustration of a baby before birth as an explanation of this passage.  Imagine how a baby must feel before birth.  The baby appear stuck with no way out and once they enter the birth canal they must feel hemmed in and squeezed by their circumstances.  That baby, for 9 months has had plenty of room to grow.  The body that housed them grew with them and then suddenly there is no room.  They cannot back up and are squeezed tightly causing stress.  They have two choices, keep pressing forward or die where they are. 

I can relate that to the condition of many in times of difficulty.  It is either keep inching forward or die where they are.  I am not saying die literally but the death that occurs is worse than physical death.  We have two choices, hold on to the promises of God and keep moving forward regardless of the pace or allow our promises and vision to die there.  We must hold fast to the strength that comes from God in those times.  The Bible gives an alternative to losing our grip and giving up in times of difficulty.  Proverbs 24:5 declares that a man of knowledge increase in strength.  That knowledge is not any knowledge but knowledge of God and His word.  Simply put, the more word the more strength!  Proverbs 10:14 reveals that a wise man will store up knowledge.

In the natural a wise steward will plan for the future and set aside funds for the unknown.  In the spiritual a wise one will always have more than they need stored up in their hearts and heads.  Then when the day of adversity raises its ugly head that one will not be left with weakness but empowered by the Word of God.  I readily acknowledge that even if we are full of the word and drawing from God’s strength adversity can take its toll.  If we do not continue drawing from the well and digging in the mine of truth drawing from God’s strength we will be overcome.  Hosea 4:6 says, “My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge.”  There is nothing more valuable in our spiritual diet and exercise than the Word of God.  Hosea 6:3 declares, “let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord.  His going forth is established as the morning.  He will come to us like the rain, like the latter and the former rain on the earth.” 

Therefore, if we have become weary and are nearing collapse that is the time to saturate ourselves in the Word of God.  It is there that the Holy Spirit infuses strength into our spirits and quickens us empowering us to stand.  If you neglect anything do not let it be the Word of God or prayer!

            God bless you as you go through this day in Him!

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AT THE CROSS…

Spiritual Blog - The Cross

1 Timothy 2:5-7 – “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, 7 for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle — I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying — a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.”  NKJV

 

I have long loved Isaac Watt’s beautiful song, “At The Cross”.  What a wonderful and powerful truth of not only the beauty of what Christ did but the necessity.  In today’s world far too many churches are either no longer or are limitedly preaching the Cross as a staple.  I had a preacher tell me that the Cross was too violent for civil society and not really necessary for man’s redemption.  He did not from a liberal theological persuasion but grew up in an old line Pentecostal church and trained in a very conservative theological seminary.  How he arrived at that conclusion I do not know but he is not alone.

The Bible is clear that “without the shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22).  Jesus sacrificial death on the Cross paid the price for mankind’s sin and effected a legal transaction that stripped the devil of his dominion over man.  The god of this world had been empowered over the race in the Garden at the Fall when Adam sinned.  Now the Second Adam, Jesus Christ, came to earth and satisfied divine justice in presenting a lamb without blemish sacrifice in His person.  He took our place on the Cross!  He died that we could live!

The refrain is incredibly powerful: 

            “At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light,

            And the burden of my heart rolled away,

             It was there by faith I received my sight,

             And now I am happy all the day!

Spiritual Blog - The Cross Love

Hank Williams wrote and sang, “I Saw The Light” and although his lifestyle testified of a life outside the light the lyrics indicate he understood something that too many miss.  In God there is light and without God there is no light.  It is at the Cross that we truly begin to see and as Watt’s song declares, it was there that real sight came.

Once we receive spiritual sight and can look beyond the present into the eternal our heart’s burdens roll away and joy comes to the heart that has been freed from sin.  The Bible declares that there is no greater love than to die for a friend.  Jesus willingly went to the Cross for you and me.  He paid for our crimes or sins and opened the door to grace that is beyond human comprehension.  I’m not sure any of us can understand grace we experience it and as a result are transformed into a new creation.

How can I fail to preach the Cross for without the Old Rugged Cross I would still be lost in my sins and separated from God?  The preaching of the Cross to those who are perishing is foolishness but to those of us who have believed it is the power of God unto salvation.  (1 Corinthians 1:18)   If one thinks the Blood and Cross too vile for civil society what will they think of Hell?

            God bless you as you go through this day!

CLOUD OF WITNESSES…

Spiritual Blog - Witnesses

Hebrews 12:1-2 – “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  NKJV

 

I remember a cousin giving me advice before I departed for boot camp saying, “I was fearful of not making it but the more I thought about it the more I realized that if so many others had successfully gotten through that ordeal I could too.”  That helped me more times than I can count in boot camp, Vietnam and life in general.  The very fact that a host of others have successfully traveled the path inspires me that I can too.

Paul used the truth powerfully.  He sought to inspire the hearts with the reality that others have walked the path and because they have we should be careful to divest ourselves of all hindrances, develop patience and confidence in God’s promises and determine to endure or finish the course.  We run, not without purpose but with our focus on the LORD Jesus who is that friend who will never leave or forsake us.  He is the one that has gone before us to prepare a place for us.  He has promised to return for us and allow us to join Him in that heavenly abode forever.

The confidence inspired by others successfully achieving an objective is a powerful inspiration and reminder.  There are things we must do to enhance our journey and propel us toward victory.  Most of us have loved ones who have proceeded us having crossed over and their faith, lives and commitment are inspirations as are the desire to see them again.  In life’s difficulties we can and should be reminded of the myriad of others who have faced similar circumstances and successfully defeated the enemy.  As my cousin said, “If they can I can too!” 

I would be remiss if I failed to note that it is not in our strength we run this race but in His.  It is a biblical truth that we can DO ALL THINGS through Christ who strengthens us.  We are MORE THAN conquerors through Him.  If God is for us who can be against us?   Therefore, knowing that He has led multitudes through the twists and turns of life and successfully led them to victory we can rest in confidence that He will lead us as well.

            May the Lord be with you as you go through this day!

BECAUSE HE LIVES I CAN…

Spiritual Blog - Because He Lives

1 Corinthians 15:12-20 – “Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. 14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. 15 Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up — if in fact the dead do not rise. 16 For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. 20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”  NKJV

Bill Gaither wrote an incredibly powerful song at the birth of their son called, “Because He Lives.”  Truly, because Jesus lives we can!  We can face the future without fear and in perfect peace because He has risen from the dead, ascended to the right hand of the Father and now makes intercession for us.  Because He lives I can…

  • Face Life…

The Bible tells us that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever therefore the three days we need to concern ourselves with are “yesterday, today and tomorrow”.  Yesterday is history so fretting over it is futile.  It is history and what is written is written. Worrying about what might have been will not change what is or will be.  Tomorrow has not yet come and might not come therefore concerning ourselves with it is without redeeming value.  Our Lord confirmed that telling His followers to “take no thought of the ‘morrow…”  He was not counseling against planning or preparation but to not be overwhelmed with what might be.  The day we should focus on is TODAY for as the Bible declares in Psalm 118:24, “This is the day which the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”   TODAY is the moment in life that we should devote our attention.  Today is the day of salvation.  Today determines tomorrow in our lives.  Because He lives we can face today and life.

  • Reject Worry…

Jesus instructed His followers in Matthew 6:25 – “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?”  NKJV We can live in peace and confidence that God is at work on our behalf and in our best interest at all times.  Remember in Romans 8:28 we are told – “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” NKJV Because He lives we can live worry free!

  • Face Death…

Death to the unbeliever is finality and painfully troubling.  Although few truly yearn for death the believer is so completely confident in the promise of eternity death holds no terror.  The difference in how we face death is Jesus Christ.  If we have received Him as our personal savior death has no sting.  If we have not then death brings fear to our hearts as a terrorist’s threat of destruction.  Because He lives I can face death without fear.

  • Face Eternity…

The Bible makes it clear that judgment is real.  Heaven is real.  Hell is real.  All will stand before God and give account.  The covering of the Blood of Jesus is essential and His presence at the Judgment Bar defending us before the Father is vital and affords incredible comfort as we face eternity.  Because He lives we can long for our eternal destiny rather than fearing.

May the Lord be with you and may your heart leap for joy as you consider the power of the truth that He Lives!   Blessings!

I WISH I WAS EIGHTEEN AGAIN…

Spiritual Blog - Past

Luke 9:62 – “But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”  NKJV

 

The title and the text have some wiggle room to attain the message I desire to present in this short devotional.  Truly, if one looks back at their past longingly and regrets or pines for the pleasures of sin that is an awful place and fits squarely in the word of our Lord in the above passage.  That is something I would want everyone to hold in the forefront of their consciousness but not specifically what I desire to present today.

I have said and heard others say, “If only I could be eighteen again knowing what I know now.”  There is both good and bad in that statement but at its heart it is a wrong frame of mind; for the past is the past and time once lived cannot be recovered.  It is gone!  Paul, told the Philippians that he knew he had not achieved spiritual perfection but was continuously reaching for the prize.  He emphasized that in pressing forward he refused to look back.  Lessons are learned in our experiences but they should never become a point of focus that we keep before us.  Learn the lesson, implement the learned and move forward.

Eighteen is so far in my rear-view mirror that I can barely remember it and although I made many mistakes at that stage of my life and have wondered how differently my life would have been and be had those mistakes not been made.  I dwell there only momentarily for almost immediately the Holy Spirit reminds me that my path led me to Christ and eternal redemption.  I made several choices after high school to avoid Vietnam and with each choice something changed that kept my path headed to Southeast Asia.  I wanted to be an Air Force pilot, I had opportunity to cross branches to the Army and train for flying helicopters but made choices that negated those possibilities.  Had either of those happened my life could have and probably would have been dramatically different if I had survived.  Experiences in childhood, high school, military and afterward conditioned my heart to hear the tugging of the Holy Spirit and the wonder of salvation.  I would not change that for anything so I do not want to be eighteen again.

Some want to be eighteen again or any age younger than their present years because they fear the eventuality of death.  Death is a horror if you do not know the LORD in salvation and forgiveness but holds no sting or threat if we do.  We know that it is simply a promotion, sleep and/or transition from the physical reality to spiritual and eternal reality.  If it were possible to turn back the clock, travel back in time and be eighteen again where is the guarantee one would make the right choices and still arrive at the desired destination.  The desire is somewhat rooted in vanity but even more concerning is it expresses a lack of peace.  It expresses a lack of contentment with where our lives are now.  It expresses a desire to be god and in control rather than walking in faith and obedience to the Father.

We are on an eternal journey and reaching the finish line is not an undesirable thing.  Rather than wishing we could return to the days of youth let’s focus on making the remaining days of our lives productive and full.  I desire to LIVE not ENDURE or EXIST.  I desire to savor every moment of the remaining days and my prayer is that the LORD enable me to fulfill my purpose in this generation.  I want to be a vessel the Master can and does use to touch lives for God and good.

Never focus on the past but keep your eyes on the prize that is before!  The end of the race is better than the beginning!   May God bless you, guard and guide you as you walk through this day in Him!   Blessings!

FAITH – FAMILY – FREEDOM…

Spiritual Blog - Faith

2 Timothy 1:3-7 -”I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day, 4 greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy, 5 when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also. 6 Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”  NKJV

  

Three things are foundational in my life and outlook:  Faith, Family & Freedom.  The Bible reveals in Hebrews 11:6 that “without faith it is impossible to please God…”  We are also informed in Romans 10:17 that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  We read in Ephesians 2:18 that salvation is by grace and we receive that gift or prize through faith.  So Faith is incredibly important in the spiritual.  We demonstrate our faith through obedience.  Our obedience to the directives of the Word of God indicate our confidence in the God of the Word and is an expression of faith.  Without faith we would be like rudderless ships tossed on the sea of life.  Some have accused me of preaching a “blind faith” that is unreasonable but I contend that Hebrews 11 teaches faith that the unbeliever could easily view as “blind”. 

The writer of Hebrews 11 presents a complex definition of faith saying, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  I heard a preacher take this text once and contended for NOW FAITH.  Not future faith, past faith but present faith or faith that is alive and operational in the NOW.  This faith described in Hebrews is a demonstrated confidence in the promises and provisions of God.  It is the desired object yet unseen but possessed in the heart, mind and spirit by FAITH.  Faith transforms hopelessness into hope and inspires those facing seeming sure defeat to rise and stand on the promises of God.  Is it “blind”?  Only to the natural mind or eye.  For we are serving one who sees the end from the beginning.

I find it tragic in dealing with people, reading articles, seeing television programming and observing the efforts of Hollywood to witness the lessening of importance to the family unit.  I realize that I was raised in a different generation and with parents and grandparents who were totally committed to family and valued it above everything but God.  My parents considered it both an obligation and privilege to teach, nurture and train us in life.  They believed that if they kept us pointed in the right direction and taught us basic principles of morality, life and faith we would become wholesome contributors to society and could, in time, become responsible parents ourselves.  In my family we did not and do not rubber stamp attitudes and actions simply because of kinship.  We illustrate the idea of iron sharpening iron but at the end of the day we value family and carefully guard those relationships.  My sister was a grade behind me in school and I was told once that some guys were afraid to ask her out because of me.  The statement was, “You are so fiercely loyal to family and friends some guys are afraid.”  I responded, “Nothing to fear unless you harm her.”

Today the world and America are witnessing the weakening of Freedom on many fronts.  Freedom is not the absence of chains on the body but the absence of chains on the heart.  Of course none of us want to be in chains physically and find slavery repulsive but many are in chains spiritually, mentally, emotionally, financially and politically.  Freedom is a treasure never to be treated lightly.  Freedom on virtually every front is fragile if there is not a solid foundation of Faith.  If I do not trust or have faith in government I will not feel confident or secure in my freedom.  If I do not trust others I cannot have confidence or feel secure in relationships.  If I do not have confidence in the Word, Promises and God Himself I cannot be Free spiritually and become an easy target for the enemy of our souls.

Therefore, I believe it is imperative that we first develop a foundation of Faith, strengthen Family relationships and in that condition we can achieve and enjoy Freedom regardless of what transpires in our world.  For me it is:  Faith-Family-Freedom!

            God bless you and God bless America!

ONE TIME TOO MANY…

Spiritual Blog - F Word

Matthew 18:21-23 – “Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”  22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”  NKJV

 

I know some believers who are such incredible literalist they frequently arrive at some amazing conclusions regarding scripture.  I had to deal with a situation where a church member had gotten into trouble because during an argument someone struck him.  He followed the biblical mandate and turned the other cheek and they hit him on that cheek as well.  He then proceeded to give the other person a thorough thrashing and I had to plea to keep him from being arrested for assault.  He could not understand the problem for he said, “But I turned the other check and the Bible does not say anything about what to do after that so I took it literally to mean I was on solid ground.” 

I remind him and others of this passage and attempted to convey that Jesus was not saying forgive 490 times and then on 491 it is open season.  Several protested that we must take the Bible literally and since Jesus said 490 there had better not be number 491.  I laughed thinking of the ledger they would have to keep for the 490 sins and possibly in the context the same sin.  Imagine being so consumed with revenge and being allowed to retaliate that you kept such a ledger.  I cannot fathom that for by the time 491 rolled around the bitterness would have consumed the one supposedly forgiving.

Forgiveness has to have at its foundation a desire for restoration.  It cannot be focused on the offense or self for if it is it will prove to be other than forgiveness.  Forgiveness cannot be a balance sheet or scale it has to be a matter of choice from the heart that desires to restore the one offending.  If I declare that I forgive you and harbor resentment I have not forgiven.  I have only exercised the application of a faux balm on my conscience but the root is still there.

Forgiveness is to release into the hands of God and then take my hands off.  If I am keeping score I have neither released it to God nor taken my hands off.  God clearly says, “Vengeance is mine…”  Remember this question was about being offended, wounded, or wronged by a BROTHER.  He gives a directive on handling offenses between brothers earlier in the chapter and few, if any, follow that prescription. Few churches are equipped mentally or spiritually to follow that directive.  The ultimate end of church discipline, God’s chastisement or forgiveness is restoration.  It may not happen but that must always remain the objective.

We do not forget but we, as God, make the decision to never allow that offense to come into play in our dealings with the one forgiven.  I am not suggesting that you do not guard against being taken advantage of but you cannot do that to the place that you are cynical and lacking compassion or trust.  If you get burned you get burned and you can turn to God for His comfort and protection.  Never allow your heart to become hardened or filled with bitterness because of offenses.  

Forgive and we will be forgiven!  What a promise and provision from our LORD.  May the Lord be with you and bless you as you go through this day!