THE EXAMPLE OF NOAH…

Spiritual Blog - Noah

Hebrews 11:7 – “By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.”  NKJV

 

I heard a preacher declaring that Noah was the first survivalist in recorded history and while that may be true my focus is more on Noah’s obedience.  Noah believed God without any tangible or physical evidence to back up God’s command.  Noah lived in a morally bankrupt world, much like ours.  Everyone lived for himself seeing personal pleasure and the mantra must have been, “What is in it for me?”  God’s patience and long-suffering wore thin and He issued a command to Noah that would culminate in the destruction of the world with the exception of eight souls, Noah and his family.  The race would begin again.

God’s description of Noah was that he was “righteous” (Genesis 7:1).  He instructed Noah as to what to do and provided everything to accomplish the command including the skill to build an ark beyond the imagination of that day.  God even caused the animals obedience to Noah’s voice.  After the flood we read in Genesis 8:20-21 that Noah built and altar to the LORD and God then made a promise to mankind sealing it with the sign of the rainbow as a promise He would never again destroy the world again in this manner and in verse 23 declared, “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease.”  So much for global warming.  God is in control and will remain in control.

NOAH TRUSTED GOD WHEN IT DID NOT MAKE SENSE…

Imagine, as Hebrews 11:7 describes, a man building a ship in the middle of dry land.  I can imagine the ridicule hurled at him by the scoffers.  He had been given a command to do something that made absolutely no sense in the natural.  Noah’s act of faith drew a sharp line of distinction between the evil of the unbelieving world and the righteousness of Noah.  That act of obedience brought Noah into a place of powerful intimacy with God.

From a cursory view of geography it would appear that Noah lived at least 100 miles from the nearest body of water in which his ship could be launched.  I can hear the skeptics asking, “How will you get your ship to water, Noah?”  He had no way to accomplish that feat so it was both impossible and ridiculous to the natural mind.  Isn’t that just the way with God?  He uses the foolish things to confound the wise.  Remember we are not talking about a few months labor but years and yet Noah continued to trust and obey.

If we “trust” and follow the “example of Noah” we will not procrastinate or attempt to explain it away, we JUST DO IT!   Hey Nike, Noah got there before you!  I am convinced and have proven in my life that IF I am faithful to His directives and utilize what He puts in my hand and gives as an assignment, He gives the desires of the heart.  Have you ever considered that God is interested in every aspect of our lives?  Psalm 33:15, “He fashions their hearts individually: He considers all their works.”  God is intimately interested in every detail of our lives and it all begins and ends with obedience.

In Chariots of Fire, Olympic runner Eric Liddell said, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast, and when I run, I feel God’s pleasure.”  He went on to say, “To give up running would be to hold God in contempt.”  That was Noah.  God had given him a directive and enabled him to carry out those orders and Noah believed and obeyed.  It is the same in our lives, God has given each of us an assignment or assignments and if we fail or reject them we are literally holding God in contempt.

May God help us be like Noah in our obedience!  Blessings as you go through this wonderful day!

 

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WHO DO YOU TRUST?

spiritual blog - covenant

Proverbs 25:19 – “Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a bad tooth and a foot out of joint.”  NKJV

 

Almost thirty years ago the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart as I was driving to Austin one night and said, “I want you to study and write about Covenant Friendship.”  That has be a journey that I have engaged in over the past decades and each time I think I understand it fully something transpires and I find that I need to dig deeper.

Few of us have true Covenant Friends and few of us are true Covenant Friends.  One of the reasons for that is ‘trust’ or the lack of it in us and others.  Once when I was going through a very difficult time many people I thought were friends vanished and a handful of people were there and never faltered.  One of them was Garry Smith a friend who stood with me and never required me to defend myself or give detailed explanations.  On one occasion when some false accusations were hurled at me I told someone, “My real friends do not need an explanation and those that do are not my real friends.”  I have found that those who require detailed explanations frequently do not believe you when you do so unless the Lord directs me to do that I do not.

Iron sharpens iron and each of us need someone or a few to whom we can be completely transparent, brutally honest, and accountable.  We and they need to know that truth can be spoken and it will not jeopardize the friendship because the friendship is based on Covenant and Covenant is not based on convenience.  Covenant Friendship embodies the character and characteristic of being willing to ‘die’ for the friend literally and figuratively.  It means being willing to ‘share’ all you have.  There are few examples in the Bible of Covenant Friendship and even fewer in life that we can learn from and I believe that is one of the reasons that God instructed me to study this.  The Bible clearly reveals that a ‘three-fold cord’ is not easily broken and when we are linked to others in a Covenantal Relationship those friends become the other strands of the cord along and with the power and direction of the Holy Spirit each one draws from the strengths and shores up the weaknesses of the others.  It is a powerful picture that most see only superficially and infrequently.

The question “Who Do Your Trust?” is the key to Covenant Friendship!  If we have to stop and think who are real friends are they probably are not in the covenantal category.  No matter your age I urge you to find someone you truly trust and allow God to develop a mutual covenantal relationship where ‘Iron sharpens Iron’ and a bond that stands the test of battle.  I have a lot of people I call and see as friends.  I have a number that are close friends.  I have a few that I know I can go to battle with and they will be there until the storm passes by.  They speak into my life and I speak into theirs.

We should all carefully define our friendships and guard them as priceless treasures.  If we place our confidence in an “unfaithful” person in time of need or difficulty the results are painful.  Proverbs 17:17 declares, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”  I treasure friends as rare jewels.  I have different levels of friendships and some called friends are little more than casual acquaintances but all valuable.  However, those I know are Covenant Friends never give me cause to wonder if they are there.  I do not have to see them or hear them, they are there!  Our greatest friend, Jesus NEVER leaves nor forsakes.

            God bless you as you enjoy this wonderful day in Christ!

 

PRESENT HELP – Banished Fear…

Spiritual Blog - Help

Psalm 46:1-3 – “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  2 Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; 3 though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling.”  NKJV

 

Everyone needs help from time to time and if you have ever been in need of someone coming to your rescue or lending a helping hand and no one showed up you know the despair that can accompany that occurrence.  In fact Proverbs 13:12 declares, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.”  If you were hoping for or promised help and it delayed you can easily drift into despair and/or fear.  When help arrives and you find success in that which was before you it is like a fruit bearing tree and your heart soars with newness of hope and life.

The Psalmist declares that our refuge, strength and help is God.  However, he does not just say that God is our help but that God is our PRESENT HELP in time of trouble.  Not hoped for help, maybe help or future help but PRESENT HELP.  He is in the NOW and that NOW HELP banishes fear because of who He is and what He can do.  The picture drawn is that even if there is massive earthquake and overflowing floods FEAR is banished.  This is expanded in other areas where we know that NOTHING can separate us from God’s Love and that no matter what we encounter He is a PRESENT HELP in our time of trouble or need.

FEAR, the Bible tells us, has torment and can be paralytic causing us to hesitate and run for cover in hiding rather than respond to the present situation or need.  Some try to ignore problems like the driver ignoring the warning light on the dash of their automobile of taking a hammer and smashing the warning light thinking that if you don’t know it is not a problem.  It is a problem and the problem solver is with us.

He is our refuge, that place of safety or the pavilion tent in the midst of the battle where we can go in to rest and receive refreshing.  He is our strength as the Bible declares “our strength is made perfect in weakness” because we cease to trust the arm of flesh and trust the arm of God.  Everything around us can crumble and be shaken but if we are under the shelter of His arms we have nothing to fear because He is our refuge and our strength.  If God is for us who can be against us.  If God is for us there is no power to compete or compare with His power.

He is our PRESENT HELP so instead of “wishing and hoping” let us begin to “trust and believe” that He said what He meant and meant what He said.  He will NEVER leave us nor forsake us.  He is able to keep that which we have committed to him against that day.  He is Omniscient, Omnipotent and Omnipresent.  He is NOW!  He is HERE! 

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

THE POOR and THE PROMISE…

Spiritual Blog - Poor

Psalm 41:1-3 – “Blessed is he who considers the poor; the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble. 2 The LORD will preserve him and keep him alive, and he will be blessed on the earth; You will not deliver him to the will of his enemies. 3 The LORD will strengthen him on his bed of illness; You will sustain him on his sickbed.”  NKJV

 

In Matthew, Mark and Luke we have a quote from Jesus that there will always be poor in our midst.  No amount of legislation or moves toward Socialism will rectify that problem. It has always been and will always be.  There are some biblical methods to alleviate some of that with debt forgiveness on a regular cycle and other admonishments but even then, the poor will remain.

So rather than attempting to make it a biblical mandate to wipe out poverty we should consider how God views our response to the poor in our midst.  There are poor people who have been trapped in an economic cycle, there are poor people who are poor because of lack of willingness to labor and there are poor people who have wasted what they had creating a condition of poverty.  It is, in my view, biblical to help those who would get out of their condition if they could and are willing to work or are working.  It is quite another to continue to feed someone who is lazy and unwilling to work.  The apostle Paul addressed that saying, “…if any WOULD NOT work he SHOULD NOT eat.”

In Psalm 19:17 we find God’s view of the poor and our response, “When you help the poor you are lending to the Lord and He repays wonderful interest on your loan.”  Then in 1 John 3:17 we are reminded that, “…whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?”  In Proverbs 14:1 we find that the person who oppresses the poor is insulting God and if we help the poor we honor God.  Proverbs 21:3 we find the warning that if we shut our ears to the cries of the poor we will be ignored in our time of need.

The Promise is powerful in this passage and is confirmed or expanded in other passages.  The Promise is: deliverance in time of trouble, preservation and life, blessings, deliverance from our enemies and healing in time of sickness.  How can you beat a promise like that?  The question is do we truly believe it?  God never makes idle promises and if He declares something He will fulfill His word.

Again, I must draw back to the qualifier of the poor focused on.  I happy to provide assistance for the truly poor who would if they could rectify their situation and condition.  I am not so willing to become a facilitator for the lazy.  I believe in offering a hand up and even a hand out if in so doing we can enable that person or assist that person in breaking out of poverty into a more prosperous situation.

May the Lord touch our hearts with His generosity and help us to truly be of assistance and never become facilitators or perpetuators of idleness and laziness.   May the Lord guard and guide you as you go through this day and show you where you can help those needing help and open the door to His promises in your life on a greater scale.  Blessings!

SILENCE UNTIL…

Spiritual Blog - Burning Hearts

Psalm 39:1-3 – “I said, “I will guard my ways, lest I sin with my tongue; I will restrain my mouth with a muzzle, while the wicked are before me.”  2 I was mute with silence, I held my peace even from good; and my sorrow was stirred up.  3 My heart was hot within me; while I was musing, the fire burned. Then I spoke with my tongue:” NKJV

 

So much in this passage and fits into the problem facing many today socially, morally, politically and spiritually.  The devil would like to silence voices of reason and righteousness and uses people to achieve his end.  He tries to shame us into silence or cause us to somehow believe that if we are not silent we are less than wholesome in our faith.  There is truth and error in that idea.

There is a time for silence.  The Psalmist said, “I will guard my ways, lest I sin with my tongue.”  It is not only possible but probable that if we allow our tongues to spew forth whatever is in our hearts or heads unchecked we will sin with our tongues.  He said, “I will restrain my mouth with a muzzle, while the wicked are before me.”  There is a definite reason to be incredibly careful what we say before the world for it is not only possible but likely it will be misunderstood, misconstrued and misapplied.  We must be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves” and must always be on the alert to “shun the very appearance of evil.”  We are also to guard against “wrath going unchecked” and are instructed to “not let the sun go down on our anger” as well as “being angry but without sin.”

He faced a dilemma in his desire to maintain right, guard his mouth, watch his words and resist sinning with his tongue.  His dilemma was truth and right, he pushed it too far and remained silent even with regard to good.  His heart became more and more broken over the conditions he saw before him and as a result the Holy Spirit started a fire inside the more he thought about what he saw and heard.  THEN, He opened his mouth and was silent no more.

In the next verses we find his confession and request that God enable him to know his end and the brevity of life on earth.  He asked God to remind him and teach him the weakness and frailty of humans realizing that we are here briefly and in so doing we will find a new boldness to stand up and speak up for right and righteousness.

Our present world is facing some catastrophic ideological conundrums and believers are or should be “watchmen on the walls”.  I am not suggesting that we turn every church into a political platform but I am suggesting that we defend those who cannot defend themselves such as the unborn.  I am suggesting that we present the alternative to everything the goes overly tolerant politically correct society and present Jesus Christ and Him crucified for sin.  I am suggesting that we issue the call for righteousness and transformation of hearts not forced compliance to man-made laws, rules and regulations.  I am suggesting that we contemplate what we see in our own lives and the world around us and allow the Holy Spirit to start a fire in our innermost being that cannot be shut up.  I am suggesting that we fall so completely in love with Jesus and have such a passion for lost humanity that we speak with our tongues the Message of the Cross, the Gospel of Jesus Christ and point me to the real answer.

Silence until… I am praying that many who are conspicuously silent today will find a fire burning so hot inside they will become mighty voices for God, good, right and righteousness.  May the Lord go with you as you go through this day!

 

THE MONSTER OF ENVY…

spiritual blog - envy

James 3:16-18 – “For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. 18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”  NKJV

 James 4:1-5 – “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. 4 Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”?”  NKJV

 

Envy and jealousy are close cousins and while jealousy may rip apart relationships envy can destroy lives and/or churches like few other things.  When a person is envious it is, according to Merriam-Webster, “a painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage.”  It is the feeling of wanting what someone else has or is perceived to have.

Envy appears in the Bible in Genesis 4 when Cain and Abel brought their offerings before God.  Abel’s offering pleased the Lord but Cain’s did not and the resentment, envy, jealousy and anger took root in Cain’s heart and the result of envy was murder.  In Numbers 12:1 we see it again when Miriam and Aaron, out of envy and jealousy, they used Moses marriage to a Cushite woman as their reason but the real reason was ENVY as revealed in 12:2, “…has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses?”  Then in 1 Samuel 18 we find King Saul falling prey to envy when the people sang about David’s accomplishments and made Saul’s secondary and drove Saul to seek David’s life.  Envy is a killer!

There are more problems with envy than we can enumerate in a short devotional but I want to hit the high-points and offer things for your consideration and further examination.

  • The person most hurt by ENVY is You.

It eats you alive on the inside, gets in your head and won’t let you rest and damages your spirit so severely that you become consumed with the object of your envy.  Proverbs 13 declares that ENVY is “rottenness to the bones.”  Someone said, envy is not a weapon it is a boomerang.  It hurts you far worse than the object of your envy.

  • It produces a victim or scarcity mentality.

Envy assumes that the other person is winning or has won and you lose.  It views the fortune of another as the misfortune of the one envying.  It produces a mentality of being a victim or scarcity.  It erroneously views God’s blessings as limited and demonstrates an attitude that if one is blessed another cannot be.  Psalms 24:1 declares that “the earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it.”  God is not limited but envy cannot see beyond lack and presumes that their lack is due to the scarcity of God’s blessings or ability and another has what you want or believe you deserve.

  • It is the source of problems.

James tells us that ENVY leads to disorder and every kind of evil.  It does not end with envy or lusting for what another has it opens the door for demonic forces of all kinds and will destroy relationships, churches, homes, business, schools and even nations.  It is deadly and is a killer.

  • It is an evidence we DO NOT TRUST God.

By the very presence of ENVY we tell God we do not trust Him.  We scream at Him either through our attitude, tears or words that we deserve more and He is unfair and unkind by allowing someone else to have what we deserve.  We will seek to take control and steer the ship of our lives without His guidance.  We perceive we have been shorted, another has what we want and/or deserve thus ENVY takes root and destroys.

Through ENVY we destroy our relationship with others and with God.  It is an evidence we do not trust God or believe Him.  We see another with what we feel we should have and because we do not have it, at that moment, we blame, blame, blame everything including God but never ourselves.   We ignore the reality that we may not be ready and this may not be for our best good.  It is the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life from which ENVY springs and grows.  It kills everything it encounters.

God help us to not fall prey to ENVY and rejoice in who we are, who He is and what He has provided us at this time for this moment.   Blessings as you go through this day!

JUST BECAUSE I CAN DOES NOT MEAN I SHOULD…

Spiritual Blog - Just Because

1 Corinthians 6:12-13 – “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.”  NKJV

 

I grew up in a rural country church that was affiliated with the United Methodist Church and then after I returned from Vietnam I truly found Christ or He found me in a church in Palestine, Texas that was an Assembly of God Church.  The church I grew up in would be considered liberal with regard to personal conduct and the one in Palestine strict.  My pastor in Palestine was not a “clothesline” preacher but he held some very strict views and many that I associated with were incredibly intolerant on many fronts and the restrictions were often more than the liberties afforded.

I became quite a Pharisee and do not blame anyone but myself for that.  I was judgmental without realizing it and later realized that I looked down my nose at those I considered less Holy than I because of what they did, how they dressed, the music they played, etc.  I would have argued that I did not keep a list but in my heart and head it was there.  Over a period of time the Holy Spirit convicted me of my attitude and passages such as the one above were some that I could not answer with my Pharisee mentality.  They were problematic and the more I studied and prayed the more I heard the Spirit of God speak to my heart that I was a Pharisee and that broke my heart.

The problem often, in transitioning from a very strict position to a more open one is when the pendulum begins to swing it does not stop in the center but swings far to the opposite side.  Although that happened to me, at least in a small measure, I have witnessed it on a large scale in much of the Church world.  It has been almost like a child raised in a very strict environment going off to college and all restraints are gone.  Tragically some go “hog wild” and become avid prayers for “crop failure” as they sow their wild oats.

There is vast difference of opinion on many things or activities and some have extensive prohibitions and some border on licentiousness.  I have been challenged over my appreciation for a good cup of coffee as somehow I was drinking the devil’s elixir and those same people would drink Dr. Pepper like it was going out of style as well as incredibly sweet iced tea.  Some who would never drink a glass of wine with a meal or on any occasion will smoke tobacco and are totally convinced that the wine drinker is a rank sinner and tell them so proudly.  I know some who will only eat meats that are kosher according to the Old Testament prohibitions and decry anyone who has bacon or sausage with their morning eggs.

I do not believe the Bible bans all consumption of alcohol but teaches moderation and speaks clearly about drunkenness.  I do not believe the Bible (New Testament) forbids any foods but some are, without question, harmful to our physical health.  In fact some of the very people who are super critical of anyone having a glass of wine are 50-100 pounds overweight.  Can you see a problem there?  As Paul declared, “ALL THINGS are lawful for me, BUT all things are not helpful…”  Just because I can does not mean I should.  

I was trying to communicate this to a young invincible once.  His problem was his judgmental attitude and liked to say, “Well I just tell it like it is and let the chips fall where they may.”  I agreed that he most assuredly could say whatever he wanted to anyone at any time but that it might not always be the right thing to do.  We went through several scenarios and none of them resonated with him.  Finally, I called another young person over who was a body builder and martial arts black belt.  I drew his attention to the fact that although he could say anything to the young Mr. Atlas could he see where it might not always be wise to do so.  He thought about it for a moment and the light came on and he said, “Well just because I could does not mean I should because doing so might be hazardous to my health.”   We all laughed but that is the case on so many things in life.  The Bible gives us tremendous liberty but just because we can does not mean that it is the right thing or the wise thing to do.  I have a friend who says, “I drink all I want and cuss all I want…”  Then as puzzled looks come over the faces he says, “I just don’t want to anymore…”  He was not arguing for the liberty to sin without penalty but that God had changed his want to and although we can do some things it does not mean we should.   I am not advocating drinking or profanity so please know that.

             May the Lord free your heart, mind and soul and allow you to walk in total liberty.  Blessings as you go through this wonderful day!