THE BLESSED MAN…

Spiritual Blog - Blessed

Psalm 112:1-10 – Praise the LORD!

 Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, Who delights greatly in His commandments.

 2 His descendants will be mighty on earth; The generation of the upright will be blessed. 3 Wealth and riches will be in his house, And his righteousness endures forever. 4 Unto the upright there arises light in the darkness; He is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous. 5 A good man deals graciously and lends; He will guide his affairs with discretion.  6 Surely he will never be shaken; The righteous will be in everlasting remembrance.  7 He will not be afraid of evil tidings; His heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD.  8 His heart is established; He will not be afraid, Until he sees his desire upon his enemies. 

9 He has dispersed abroad, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever; His horn will be exalted with honor. 10 The wicked will see it and be grieved; He will gnash his teeth and melt away; The desire of the wicked shall perish.”  NKJV

 

I fully realize that using an entire Psalm affords far more material than a single devotional can accommodate but the point I hope to make is the “Far Reaching Blessings of Righteousness.”   The first verse characterizes this person in a two-fold description.  He “fears” the LORD and “delights” in God’s commandments.  This is an individual who is “in love” with God and so deeply committed to His word, will, and way that his ever-present desire is to do that which God desires.  His desire is given over to God’s desire and done so joyously.  It is not enough to express love for God we must be obedient to Him and obey His commandments.  It is one thing to obey a directive from anyone under coercion but quite another to do so out of love and with delight.  Therefore, this Psalm is speaking of the individual who not only “fears” God but He “loves” God enough that it is his delight and joy to be obedient and keep God’s commandments.

What does that kind of heart, mind, attitude, and action produce?  Let’s consider them briefly as we skim over the incredible nuggets of spiritual meat to be mined in further consideration.

  • His Descendants will be Mighty on Earth.
  • The Generation of the Upright will be Blessed.
  • Wealth and Riches will be in his House.
  • His Righteousness Endures Forever.
  • He will have the Light of Truth as His Guide.
  • He is Gracious, Compassionate, and Righteous.
  • He will deal with others Graciously and be Charitable, not Greedy.
  • He will be Discrete.
  • He will not be Shaken because of God’s Presence, Purpose, and Power.
  • He will leave a Legacy of Righteousness.
  • He will not walk in Fear.
  • His Heart will be Steadfast with Faith and Confidence in God.
  • He will see His Enemies Fall.
  • He will remember the Poor.
  • He will have Honor.
  • His State will Grieve the Wicked and will cause the downfall of the wicked plans and desires.

 

That is simply an overview not a dissertation on the finer points but consider the “Far-Reaching Benefits of Righteousness.”  It not only impacts the individual but their posterity and entire generations within his/her sphere of influence are impacted positively.  What a legacy to leave behind.

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

 

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FLYING BY THE SEAT OF YOUR PANTS…

Spiritual Blog - Wing it

Psalm 81:10 – “I am the LORD your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt; Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.”  NKJV

 

I sat a listened to a group of preachers, rail against anyone who went to the pulpit with notes.  In their view, this was a lack of faith in God, and would result in nothing more than canned preaching with no life.  I held my tongue, knowing that I believe in PREPARATION and although I do not always have notes with me, I have my notes written in my heart and head from the hours of prayer and preparation.  One of them, a very devoted man, said, “I just open my mouth and God fills it.”  I wanted to say, “Yeah, and sometimes He fills it with flies.”  Another quoted, 2 Timothy 4:2 saying, “I am instant in season and out of season.  I just open my mouth and let ‘er rip.”  Hey, I’ve heard him preach some powerful messages that were definitely God-inspired and very anointed so I’m not attacking him, just questioning the mentality, some develop that PREPARATION and STUDY are not necessary for spiritual things and for that matter in life.

I have had well-meaning believers decry financial planning and making preparations for the golden years of life and retirement saying, “But My God shall supply all my needs…” or “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness and all these things will be added to you.”  Some even used the directive of our Lord to His disciples as He sent them out in Luke 10:4 and their view was that if you prepared ahead of time you were small in faith and if we were “good Christians” we would go with no plan or preparation and God would provide and guide.  He can, He will, and He does, but dare we ignore the many other passages that tell us to “study, prepare, and count the costs?”

I am reminded of the situation when Ahimaaz begged Joab to let him run with news to David.  Joab instructed him to turn aside and sent the Cushite instead.  Ahimaaz would not be deterred and continued to pester Joab until he said, “Run!”  He took off like the wind and outran the Cushite and when he got to David and the King inquired what the news was, he had nothing of significance to say.  He had run without the message and without preparation and all his effort was of no value.

Ecclesiastes does tell us there is a time for everything and we are reminded that God will never leave us nor forsake us.  We are taught in Scripture that the Holy Spirit will teach us all the things of Christ.  We know from God’s word that we are more than conquerors through Jesus.  However, to assume that we can go forth without preparation is to be presumptuous and that is a dangerous place to find ourselves.  There is a time, when our previous preparation, study, and prayer will have to suffice and in that moment,God will give us what we need to say. There is a time when, what God wants is immediate and there is not the time to make financial preparation and we must trust Him for the provision, and in those times He will send the ravens if necessary to provide.

I have witnessed churches who are in a survival mode just winging it having no plan and making no preparations.  I am not saying that we plan to the point of trusting our plan rather than God but as in the case of Israel in 2 Kings 3 where Elijah the prophet instructed them to dig ditches and when Israel viewed the prepared ditches there was water but when the enemy viewed the same ditches they saw blood and thought Israel and their coalition had turned on each other and rushed forward without caution to their destruction.  Preparation precedes blessing and having a life or ministry that is spur of the moment, winging it, and flying by the seat of one’s pants will frequently if not usually result in disaster.

            God bless you as you go through this day!

JUST DO THE RIGHT THING…

Spiritual Blog - Right Thing

James 4:17 – “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.”  NKJV

 

Every time I hear someone say, “Do the right thing” the question comes to mind, “What is the right thing?”  Sometimes, that is such an ambiguous statement that without clarification and more detail it would be impossible to determine what it actually is or what should be done.  But, in business, I heard it repeated every day and when I asked for more detail was treated as though I were a leper, antagonist, and someone to be treated with disdain.  I said to a high-ranking company official once, “Our policy and statement is ‘Do the right thing’ but what do we do if what I think is the ‘right thing’ and what you think is the ‘right thing’ are different?”  He paused a moment and said, “That could be a problem.”  Absolutely, so how do we determine what the “Right Thing” is?  I believe there are more answers than I can adequately address but want to give you something I believe will help.

  • THE RIGHT THING should be rooted in “Common Sense”.

What makes sense and will not do harm to anyone but will provide a pathway to the resolution of problems or potential problems?  What is logical and ethical?  The problem is, too often, people want a script to detail what is to be done, when it is to be done, and how it is to be done, rather than THINKING.  Most things in life are not “black and white” but have varying “shades of gray”.  Of course, there are some things that are absolutes and there is not variance but in many cases there is more than one way to solve the problem and doing the RIGHT THING is thinking through the possibilities and finding the one that offers the best good for all concerned.

  • THE RIGHT THING must be rooted in “Biblical Principles”.

Biblical Principles are or should be the basis of or moral and ethical standards.  The “WWJD” motto is applicable and when we truly discover what Jesus would do we find surprises along the way.  There is a time for “tough love” and requires us to “hold accountable” various actions and lifestyles.  There is a time for “mercy” and “second chances” which may be a fourth or fifth chance but is based on the situation and the condition of the heart.  What is the RIGHT THING biblically?  It is following God’s principles which always has as its ultimate objective reconciliation and restoration.  It matters not if it is business, social, relational, or spiritual the basic principles apply.  We are to be people of LOVE, not HATE. 

Spiritual Blog - Right and Hard

Doing THE RIGHT THING does not always present itself with crystal clarity and may require us to THINK through the situation but ultimately our decision and action must be rooted in the principles of God’s Word.  I had a person who reported to me once faced with a situation where they could allow a variation in the declared rules or they could go by the letter of the law, so to speak.  They came to me with the dilemma and I said, “Just Do the Right Thing.”  That person looked at me perplexed and asked, “But what is the right thing?  What is right for the customer or the company?”  We took the time to evaluate the situation, determine the options, and using common sense and biblical principles arrive at an option that would offer both the company and customer a reasonable outcome.  It was not easy and required explanation to superiors but it was THE RIGHT THING.  It was one of those cases I had addressed to the high-level company official earlier, “Whose definition of THE RIGHT THING should we go by?”  At the end of the day, I suggest that you be led by your conscience and be at peace that you have DONE THE RIGHT THING.

God bless you as you go through this day!

QUESTIONING GOD…

Spiritual Blog - Questioning

Job 13:15-19 – “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. Even so, I will defend my own ways before Him. 16 He also shall be my salvation, For a hypocrite could not come before Him. 17 Listen carefully to my speech, And to my declaration with your ears. 18 See now, I have prepared my case, I know that I shall be vindicated. 19 Who is he who will contend with me?  If now I hold my tongue, I perish.”  NKJV

 

I ask questions, it is my nature when I do not understand because without understanding I cannot form a right opinion, make a right judgment, and pursue a right course.  I have even “questioned” God.  Please understand it was not questioning His existence, sovereignty, integrity or power, it was out of a NEED TO KNOW or know more fully and completely.  There have been times when He answered me and times when he remained silent and allowed me to struggle with the question.

 

I shared that reality with a congregation and some thought I had committed unpardonable blasphemy.  Their attitude was, how dare anyone question God!  The real issue, to me, is not questioning God but how, why, and/or what we question.  What is our reason and what is our question?  If it is a genuine desire for clarification, not a challenge to His supremacy I believe it is not only acceptable but worthwhile.  If it is questioning Him as God then it is not only foolish but dangerous.  Habakkuk questioned God’s timing and it is interesting that God did not rebuke him for the question but patiently and gently answered the prophet.  King Saul questioned God in 1 Samuel 28 and God was silent, not answering his questions.  In one case it was a need for clarification not self-serving and in the other quite the opposite.

Likewise, if I do not understand I cannot truly trust and as Hebrews 11:6 declares, “…without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe He is and is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”  Questioning God is not, in and of itself, wrong and you should not feel guilty when you have questions.  I was cautious in questioning my earthly father but dared to, at times.  I was usually careful to be sure he knew I was not questioning his authority or edict but my question was so I would better understand.  There were times he answered me in detail and I was able to see the bigger picture and other times, he simply said, “Just do it.”  I accepted both and do the same with God.  There are times when we must simply obey without full clarification and other times when He will give us more information and often in those cases we will be asked to pass that along to others with similar questions.

Gideon, a man mightily used of God in his battle with the Midianites had a myriad of questions when the angel issued God’s call.  Gideon’s concerns did bring into question God’s goodness, power, and promises but the heart of why he was asking is clear as well, at least to me.  Gideon was not convinced he had heard God correctly and his questions were more about Gideon’s perceived ability than God’s power.  Gideon was making a mistake we often make, he was focusing on self and how he could carry out the directive.  It is not us but God that is the source of strength, ability, and wisdom to carry out the directive it is “in” and “from” God.  Gideon’s questions went beyond that of most and out of his questioning came “fleeces” which are often direct challenges to God but ultimately his questions became assurances and he followed through with God’s purposes.

If you have questions, God already knows so why pretend?  Which would be better, having questions and resisting or finding answers and fully committing to the assignment?  If my children or any person whom I exercised authority or oversight had questions I would far rather they asked than half-heartedly followed my request or instructions.  If they KNOW they can more readily OBEY and IMPLEMENT.

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

MAKING DEALS WITH GOD???

Spiritual Blog - Deal

Ecclesiastes 5:4-5 – “When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; for He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed — 5 Better not to vow than to vow and not pay.”  NKJV

 

Have you ever attempted to bargain with God to get something you wanted?  Most have, even if we are hesitant to admit it.  It is utter foolishness to do so, but most continue to do so not realizing that the attempt to “bargain” relegates God to the status of a pagan god in a very real sense.  The followers of those gods and/or religions believe that it is through their sacrificial offerings they move the heart and hand of their god, thus effecting a bargain, negotiation, or deal to get what they want.

I have heard people promise incredible things to God, “if only” He would do what they were asking and then when time to pay the vow comes, they renege realizing the incredibleness of how their mouth overloaded their lives.  Remember Psalm 50, God speaks through the Psalmist declaring that He will not be negotiated with and does not need our petty offerings because He owns it all, created it all, and Lord of it all.  I have heard teenagers promise God incredible things “if only” He would cause that special guy or girl to notice, like, and/or love them.  I’ve heard incredible promises “if only” God would grant a petition such as a raise, a new house, a new car, a new job, healing, etc. I prayed with a man once who was facing some legal issues and he prayed, “Lord if you will keep me out of jail I’ll give 50% of all future income to you.”  He didn’t go to jail and did not keep his promise and over time lost everything he had.  It is far better to make no promises than to make a promise and fail to keep it, to God or anyone.

Let me take you to a passage that illustrates powerfully the fallacy and foolishness of trying to “bargain” with God and making “rash or foolish vows.”  You will probably remember the story in Judges where Jephthah was about to engage the Ammonites in battle and in Judges 11:30 he made an incredible vow to God saying, “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the Lord’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.”  That is incredibly stupid and opens the door to an act that is totally foreign to the biblical teaching and God’s nature.  But, the vow or bargaining chip was pushed to the center of the negotiating table.

Although I am 100% convinced that God’s response had nothing to do with the bargain Jephthah attempt to make, he defeated the Ammonites.  In that sense, God kept His end of the bargain and when Jephthah returned home jubilant over the victory we find… “…who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of tambourines!  She was an only child.  Except for her, he had neither son nor daughter.  When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, ‘Oh! My daughter!  You have made me miserable and wretched because I have made a vow to the Lord that I cannot break.”   See the problem?

A sidebar that must not be missed is found in his reaction.  Notice the emphasis.  He says, “Oh! My daughter!  YOU have made me miserable and wretched…”  He does not take responsibility for the foolishness of his vow and attempted bargain with God but blames her.  Isn’t that the way we do it too often?  We make a vow to God or attempt to “cut a deal” and when the payment is greater than we realized we seek to blame someone or something else.  I can only imagine that he thought what would come out to meet him would be livestock, and that reveals the fallacy of the attempt to “bargain with God”. 

A vow such as this is rooted in “distrust” not “faith”.  It is relegating God to the level of man and a false belief that we can “buy” what we want from Him.  The end of that mentality would be attempting to “purchase” or “earn” our salvation and we know from Scripture that is impossible.  Rather than attempt to bribe or bargain God with our petty offerings, why not roll all our care on Him knowing He cares for us?  Why not rely on His faithfulness to never leave us nor forsake us?  Why not simply trust Him and know that even if we do not receive that for which we desire He will still lead and guide us in the paths of life and toward the ultimate prize.

But, if you are foolish enough to vow a vow to God and what you asked becomes reality, PAY YOUR VOW.  May the Lord bless you, guarding and guiding you through your daily journey.

TROUBLING QUESTION In A Parable…

Spiritual Blog - Faith

Luke 18:1-8 – “Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, 2 saying: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man.  3 Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’  4 And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man,  5 yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.'”

 6 Then the Lord said, “Hear what the unjust judge said.  7 And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?  8 I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” NKJV

 

I am a firm believer that we should not take isolated passages without considering the context and use them as a proof-text to validate your belief or argument.  In “studying ourselves to be approved” we should always be seekers of truth, God’s truth.  Too often the Bible is used to validate what we want to believe or what we have been taught to believe rather than finding the truth and adapting our lives to that truth.  The question of Jesus in this parable has troubled me for a long time, and in some ways, still does.  “…nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”

If I allow this Scripture to become an isolated statement or question with no regard for the context and that which He had just spoken, I could conclude that He is talking about His return and that many would have drifted away from Him and are no longer followers of the faith.  But, I must ask, is that all He is saying?  Consider the situation He has presented.  It is a judge who did not fear God who heard the case of a widow.  Her persistence and presentation of her cause troubled him and because he didn’t want to have this issue become a persistent problem he ruled in her favor.  Jesus then informed those listening that God would avenge his children who continually intercede before His throne.  Then He gives this perplexing question of verse 8.

Clarke’s commentary suggests that this is not speaking of saving faith but fidelity, suggesting that it is referring to people doing right and maintaining right relationships.  The idea is that of the parable of the talents and the master returning requiring each of the servants to give an account.  This thought suggests that when Jesus returns He will not find a church that is putting its trust in Him but one that is compromised relying on the world system and following the world’s philosophy and manner of interpersonal relationships and business relationships.  He will find the world lacking fidelity, thus the answer to His question.  It is a sad reality that some if not many in today’s Christian world are more concerned about making sure they do not lose what they have on this earth rather than “seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.”

The first words of this passage grip my heart when I read it, “…men ought always to pray and not lose heart…”  Then he presented the parable of the judge and widow.  That suggests, to me, that He is focusing on the End Times and the Difficulty of the Age and how people will deal with people where authorities will be uncaring and unfeeling, not fearing God but doing the expedient rather than just what is right.  A clear focus is on the problems His followers will face and thus the need to be in continual prayer, holding confidence that God will never forget us.  It is an encouragement to not just do right but be right in our lives and relationships.  Thus, at least one question would be, “When the Son of Man comes will He find us faithfully executing His purpose, maintaining our integrity, and doing and being right?”  Will He find that on earth when He comes?  The answer is yes and no.  It is my plea and prayer that we are in the YES and make our journey through this life with the understanding that we are just passing through and this world is not our final home.

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

HEARING FROM GOD IS ONLY PART OF THE PROCESS…

Spiritual Blog - Vision

Habakkuk 2:2-3 – “Then the LORD answered me and said:

 “Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it.  3 For the vision is yet for an appointed time;  but at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.”  NKJV

 

I shared with a particular congregation concerning the importance of vision in the local assembly.  We discussed the value of individual and personal vision and then about connecting our visions to THE VISION of the assembly and that vision into the VISION OF THE KINGDOM.  I had someone ask, “How do we know the vision of the church?”  I was not truly surprised that he did not know the vision for I had encountered the same situation at other times.  It is a problem when the congregation does not know the vision of the assembly.  Too many times, there is no defined vision and people are wandering around going through the motions seeing times of increase and decrease without real direction and purpose.

Whose responsibility is it to define the vision of the assembly?  First and foremost, from a human standpoint, it is the pastor.  However, that does not mean that the pastor alone sets the vision or even publicizes the vision but he/she is charged with leading the local flock and therefore MUST have the vision inscribed on their heart and able to write it down and communicate it.  That is the directive from the LORD to Habakkuk. Yes, I know this was writing down a prophetic vision but is not the vision of the assembly a prophetic vision?  Do we know what God wants to do in our communities?  Do we know how God wants us to pursue His purposes in our local assemblies?  Do we just meet for regular services, have a few extraneous activities and call that the vision?  Can those who are participants in that congregation read the vision and then carry it out or “run with it?”

Most of us want to know the will and purpose of God for our lives but how many of us pray for a revealing of the VISION of the local assembly?  Some people are gifted as scribes and able to write the vision with clarity.  I believe it is incredibly important for the local assembly to hear the vision, understand the vision and align with it.  It is no surprise that God would speak in Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision, the people cast off restraint…”  The KJV translates it “perish” and the Amplified, “Where there is no vision [no revelation of God and His word], the people are unrestrained…”  A church with no clear vision causes people to pursue their individual visions with no concept or idea how to plug those visions into the VISION OF THE WHOLE and often those visions, although good individually, are counterproductive when one tugs against the other with no order or guidance.

A Vision of a Church is like a rudder on a ship it helps steer the church and keep it on the God-charted course.  One of the reasons churches have no defined vision is there is no prophetic voice.  When people ask, “Where do you go to church?”  I often respond, “I don’t go to church, I am the church.”  I don’t mean that I am anything special but the Church is not a building that is the ‘sheep-shed’.  The church is not an organization it is an organism made up of “living stones” or “human cells” making up the Body of Christ.  Can you imagine the human body trying to function if there was no link between the brain and all the other parts via nerve paths?  It would be utter chaos and would be unable to survive.  The human body follows a vision and the church needs one as well to keep it moving in the right direction, maintain health, and be productive.

If you have not established a personal vision there is no time like the present.  If your local assembly does not have a defined, clear and written down vision, pray that God will bring one to the body.

God bless you as you go through this day pursuing His purposes in your life.