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 indicates 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!  I like that, 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 and advance 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 must 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!  I would add one more “F” to the mix – FRIENDS!

            God bless you and God bless America!

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DON’T YOU KNOW WHAT DAY IT IS???

Spiritual Blog - This Is The Day

Matthew 12:1-8 – “At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!” 

3 But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him:  4 how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests?  5 Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless?  6 Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple.  7 But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.  8 For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”  NKJV

             As I look back on the years I laugh and cry over the Phariseeism of many in the Church.  This account has always stood out to me and given both comfort and confrontation.  The Holy Spirit has used it to remind me of the danger of becoming legalistic and ritualistic.  Through the years I have been around preachers who would blast people for working on Sunday but would lead the crowd to the restaurant after church for lunch.  I have heard sermons on the sin of hunting or fishing on Sunday but then hear a promotion of the Cowboys game coming up and even hosting a viewing party in the church fellowship hall.  I guess we tend to kill the sacred cows we don’t want.

Here the Pharisees were incredibly upset with the disciples for “working” on the Sabbath by gathering ears of corn and eating them.  How dare the disciples, for the Law of the Pharisees demanded no work be done and that was considered work.  I find it most interesting that they were not even remotely concerned with the disciples taking someone else’s corn.  Justice was not their strong suit but keeping every jot and tittle of their law was.  Their self-righteousness was enhanced by their strict compliance but justice and mercy were secondary.

Jesus took their exceptions and exposed their hypocrisy pointing to that which is most important – – Messiah!  He forced them to come face to face with Mercy and that is a message that we dare not forget.  Mercy truly rewrote my life and yours or can!  Without God’s mercy and grace, we would be in a world of hurt.  It is not our great sacrifice or strict compliance with some man-made list of rules that justifies it is God’s Grace!  It is possible to become so zealous for the minute that we miss the vital.

God help us to realize that He is the focus not a particular day of the week.  God help us to remember that it is by Grace that we are saved not by our compliance to a list of rules and our comparison to others.  Yes, I know what day it is and I also know that the LORD is Lord of the Sabbath and every other day of the week.  This is the day the Lord has created and I will rejoice and be glad in it.

            God bless you as you go through this day!

THE TRUTH ABOUT LAZINESS…

Spiritual Blog - Laziness

Proverbs 18:9 – “He who is slothful in his work is a brother to him who is a great destroyer.” NKJV

The Bible clearly teaches and experience confirms that prodigality is bad.  If we remember the parables of the talents we realize that mishandling or not developing that which God has given is viewed negatively by the LORD.  There are people who spend more than they can afford and always seek to live well above their means.  They are not good stewards and in a sense throw away what they have in wasteful living.  The Prodigal.

The Bible also reveals that idleness is bad.  A person who is lazy and negligent in their work, labors or duties is akin to those who openly and actively destroy.  Laziness is not just a propensity to avoid work it is destructive.  It siphons from that which is productive and squanders it on that which is unproductive.  It is visible in today’s ‘entitlement mentality’ crowd who are perfectly content to sit idle and allow the production of another to sustain them.  No wonder the apostle Paul declared that if one “would not work” they “should not eat”.  The operative word is WOULD NOT!

This is true in the everyday matters of life but it can and should also be applied to the spiritual.  If we are negligent in our studies, prayers, and labors for the Kingdom we adopt a life that is non-productive and even destructive.    If we see evil and danger and sit idly by we are guilty of the blood of those who go into perdition without warning.  If we know to do good and fail to do it the Bible calls that sin.  How can we stand before the LORD expecting to hear commendation and acceptance when we have neglected that which we know?

Laziness or slothfulness is not genetic nor even a condition of one’s environment, it is a heart and mind condition.  Children need to be taught industry.  My heritage taught me that you work for what you receive with the exception of salvation.  Grace is a free gift but if after receiving grace we sit idle and become slothful in our Christian responsibilities we are trampling underfoot the Blood of Jesus.  We do not work to earn our salvation but we work because of our salvation.  I believe that Jesus’ statement in Revelation is applicable.  “I would that you were hot or cold but because you are lukewarm I will spew you out of my mouth.” 

God is not asking everyone to be fanatical zealots but He is asking that we bloom where we are planted and stand ready and willing to share our faith and present Him to the world.  The depraved man will be bent toward laziness and slothfulness but when the Holy Spirit resides in the heart He always motivates us to action.

            God bless you as you go through this day!

THE LOINS OF YOUR MIND…

Spiritual Blog - Loins

1 Peter 1:13-16 – “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”  NKJV

Without question, there is a visual of the long robes they wore and when they were performing labor or service they would tuck them in their girdles or waistbands so as to be able to move freely without hindrance.  Although I fully concur that we must allow our minds to be free of encumbrances so as to bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ there is something more in this passage that I hope to offer.

The loins are always understood as that part of the anatomy from which reproduction comes or is initiated.  Therefore, if we are to gird up the loins of our minds could it not be understood that we are to prepare ourselves so that our minds can give birth to thought and thereby imagination and creativity.  Is it not in the loins of the mind that we encounter our LORD in knowledge and fellowship?  Is it not in the loins of our mind that we embrace His life and have our minds renewed so that we become one with Him in our consciousness thought?

If out of the physical loins, reproduction is possible then out of the mind’s loins we give birth to thought.  Peter’s instruction is, in my view, a directive and encouragement to bring our minds into obedience to Christ and thereby resting our hope squarely on the grace that comes to us through the revelation of Christ.  It is through this that we are better prepared and capable of obedience in all things.

I find it disturbing that too many in Christendom give so little importance to the mind.  I am not suggesting mind over matter or any other metaphysical activity but I am saying that our minds are incredibly important in our spiritual development and walk.  If we are as we think in our hearts then how could we not understand the value of the mind?  The mind, like the muscles in our physical body, must be exercised to have strength, discipline and grow.  In the things of God if we are to bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ we must learn to gird up the loins of our minds.

I encourage you to allow God to expand your mind, stretch your thinking and infuse into you an ever expanding imagination guided and led by the Holy Spirit.  How far can you think in Christ?   God bless you as you go through this day!

SWIFT, SLOW AND SLOW…

Spiritual Blog - Swift and Slow

James 1:19-20 – “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; 20 for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” 

             For those living in a microwave world of instant everything where they demand things immediately if not sooner and they want it yesterday, this passage can be problematic.  There are principles in every facet of our world that if we begin wrong we will normally reach the wrong destination or reach the right one marred and scarred.  This passage illustrates that perfectly.

  • SWIFT TO HEAR…

Many people I know find that a most difficult task for hearing is frequently one of our shortcomings.  Not that we cannot hear but that we do not listen and therefore do not hear.  I have known people who are so focused on their response and what they will say next they fail to hear what the other is saying.  There can be little agreement, comradery, fellowship and certainly no “koinonia” if this is the case.  To develop interpersonal relationships and build unity we must HEAR and James instructs us to be SWIFT in that pursuit.  It should a prime objective to both hear our brothers and sisters and to hear the Spirit of God.

  • SLOW TO SPEAK…

Sadly, many fail at this point even if they have heard.  We have a tendency to engage mouth before we engage the brains and too frequently before we have discerned the heart of the Father on the matter.  Many proudly proclaim, “Well, I just tell it like it is and let the chips fall where they may.”  That can be good but it can also be incredibly destructive, insensitive, unfeeling and without grace.  If we carefully weigh our words, evaluate the consequences and impact of those words we will find the guidance of the Spirit of God empowers us to dynamically impact others.

  • SLOW TO WRATH…

One of the reasons we tend to speak quickly is because we fail on this front.  If we are quick-tempered and allow our anger to quickly boil over into rage and wrath we will find it impossible on the second part speaking.  If we allow the Spirit of God to maintain control over our tempers we will find that we are able to speak soft answers that turn away wrath without being perceived as a doormat or pushover.

Obedience on these points is valuable if for no other reason than failure does not produce righteousness.  If we are to be God’s witnesses and are to manifest Him to the world then we need to walk in God’s righteousness.

Therefore, I encourage everyone to seriously seek the help of the Holy Spirit to empower, enable and strengthen our discipline so that we are Swift Hearers, Slow to Voice our Opinion and Controlled in our Anger.

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

 

 

DO WE HAVE GOD or a FICKLE FRAGILE PLANET???

Spiritual Blog - God or Fickle Planet

Gen 8:20-22 – “Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 And the LORD smelled a soothing aroma. Then the LORD said in His heart, “I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done.  

22 “While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, Cold and heat, Winter and summer, And day and night Shall not cease.”  NKJV

             I know, I know I’m not supposed to be presenting anything that is remotely political in a devotional but when I hear people talk about God’s creation as though it were some fickle little thing that puny man could somehow destroy I am disturbed.  When God destroyed the world by flood wiping out the entire population of the earth except for Noah and his family He made the promise of verse 22 above.  If that promise is accurate then the hyper-concern over man-made global warming, climate change, or climate disruption is a non-concern for a believer.  Do I believe in being good stewards of the planet?   Absolutely but I do not believe, based on the Bible that God’s creation is at risk by the activities of man.

Let me express that many who believe that ‘greenhouse gasses’ are causing global warming or climate change do so with sincerity.  Many who believe this hold to it so religiously it has become their religion and then there are those who are pursuing this theory because it is incredibly lucrative to get ‘green laws’ passed and the ‘green industry’ advanced to the forefront of the energy industry.

But as a believer, how am I to view this issue?  As with many things purported by activist and the government, with great skepticism and careful examination.  The nearest thing I can find in the Bible to even remotely resemble the disruption they declare is coming would be Revelation 6-18 but that is not due to greenhouse gases or climate change it is due to the judgment of God.  As a believer, I am always reminded that God is in control and planet earth is not my home I’m just passing through.  That does not mean I disregard environmental sanity but I maintain that God is in control.  In 2 Peter 3:7-12 we find that God is going to destroy this present world and (Revelation 21-22) replace it with the New Heavens and New Earth.  So, is it logical that we make climate change or global warming the prime directive in our efforts?  Massive spending and regulations to save something that God is going to destroy?

I believe that the God of the Bible is in complete control and this world is not a fickle fragile planet that man, whom God created, is destroying.  The science regarding greenhouse gasses and the warming of the planet being caused by man is not conclusive nor is it uniformly supported in the scientific community.  There is utter disregard for natural phenomena such as volcanic eruption and many other natural occurrences for they do not fit the narrative that drives the hysteria.

In Psalm 46:2-3 we read, “Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”  I vote for God being in control and that Earth is not a fickle fragile planet as advanced by those who cannot see His hand in nature.  I wish those who are fretting over global warming and climate change were half as concerned about the spiritual condition of mankind.  We either have a God who created all things or we do not and if we do not then our hopelessness will overwhelm us, but if we do, and we do, then we need to REST in His Care and Keeping.  It is my belief and confidence that we have a God who is the Living God to trust and He did not create a fickle planet.  Therefore, let’s make our focus on Him and the Eternal Destiny of our fellow human beings rather than following the path of hysterical action and reaction.

God bless you and cease fearing what is happening and trust God who has promised to never leave nor forsake us!   God bless you richly is my prayer!

 

THE POWER OF ENCOURAGEMENT…

Spiritual Blog - Encouragement

Proverbs 12:25 – “Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.”  NKJV

We have all had times when we either received an encouraging word or gave one.  Through the years I have had people tell me, “You just don’t know how much what you said meant to me.”  I have often been completely unaware that I said anything of particular significance but somehow the Holy Spirit directed my words to be the right word at the right time for the right situation to produce the right result.  I have received words of encouragement in the same manner.  Through those situations, I have come to appreciate the power of a word of encouragement.

When a person begins to succumb to anxiety, fear, frustration, or worry it brings depression and weighs down the heart.  It is like carrying a load that you can’t see but can feel and it exhausts physically, emotionally and spiritually.  It will sap your strength and propel you into the darkness and if not checked can lead to self-pity which is incredibly destructive.

David said in Psalm 94:19, “When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Thy consolations delight my soul.”  Jesus urged us in John 14 to reject a troubled heart by focusing on His promise and provision.  Encouragement is incredibly powerful because it enables a person to combat discouragement and renews a sense of worth and significance in the heart.  Encouragement helps fuel or empower a person to begin moving forward out of the shadows into the light of God’s promises and purposes.  Paul instructed in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” NIV

Always remember the times when you needed someone to give you an encouraging word and how much it uplifted your heart and spirit.  Instead of looking down on someone suffering from depression because of anxiety remember that except for the Grace of God that could be you and possibly you have been discouraged and depressed.  I never want to receive or give flattery but I do want to give and receive encouragement. 

I have had times when simply giving me a word of cheer was insufficient and needed to be slapped in the face (figuratively) with the reality of my situation.  I needed to be challenged to shake off the depression and look to the Word of God for my hope and help.  I remember once battling discouragement having a friend who would begin singing when he saw me.  It irritated me at first but after a few times it began to stir something inside and as the chains of despair began to break I could see what he was doing and began to rejoice with him.

You never know the power a kind and encouraging word will have in and on a life.  Therefore, remember what God has brought you out of and always have a word of encouragement for a brother or sister battling anxiety.  Your encouragement may be the catalyst that lifts them from the darkness into a new walk of victory.

            Blessings as you go through this day!