Monthly Archives: November 2015

Do You Need A Lift?

In chapter 4 of his book, James is pretty clear about what being a Christian looks like. He reminds us God resists the proud, and gives strength to the humble. Then he makes a life list:

  • submit to God
  • resist the devil
  • draw near to God
  • cleanse your hands
  • purify your hearts
  • weep, mourn
  • humble yourselves
  • don’t speak evil
  • don’t assume you have tomorrow
  • do good

(the last three are implied)

I believe a person who follows these will represent Jesus. And will do so intentionally.

It takes an act of will to submit to God, to die to self, and be honest enough to admit our helplessness before a Holy God. There is effort involved in drawing near to God through prayer and reading His Word every day. It takes discipline to turn away from sin and determine to use our abilities to further God’s kingdom, and to do it from a pure heart with no thought of anything other than honoring God.

It takes a purposeful look at our lives, our sin, our lostness, and when we do our response can only be complete devastation, sadness, mourning, over the fact that you and I sent Jesus to the cross. We’ll look at sin differently from that moment on.

And it takes a little courage to let go of “self”, like jumping out of an airplane without a parachute, and trusting God with the outcome, recognizing our hopelessness apart from Him.

The rest will come as a natural outpouring from God’s grace. We won’t speak evil, we won’t take today for granted, and we won’t tire of doing what needs to be done for the good of others and for the glory of God.

Because, as James so beautifully puts it, when we humble ourselves, when we give ourselves to God to break us down…

He will lift (us) up!

Sticks, Stones, and Swearing

Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.

I understand why adults tell children that to help them ignore mean things other children say. But is it true that words can’t hurt? Reputations have been ruined, riots have started, lives shattered, when someone says something that hurts.

James, in chapter 3, tells us our tongues can be untamable. He says our tongues control us. What comes out of the mouth reflects what is in our hearts.

Slander? Gossip? Lies? Coarse language? Dirty jokes? Venom? People say, “pissed off” quite easily these days. or “OMG”, or worse. What does that say about what is in the heart?

The question is, do I want my words to come from God’s heart, or not. James says sometimes what we say comes straight from hell. When I read that, I have to stop in my tracks and consider what is in my heart. Can a person whose heart is given completely to God say things that offend Him?

The thing about words is once they are out they can’t be taken back. Damage is done, and often irreparable. Sometimes the hurt is never healed.

Control the tongue, you control your whole self, James says. Control the tongue and reveal Christ to everyone within hearing distance.

Father, I pray for all of us today as we consider our vocabulary. Is how we express ourselves any different from how people who don’t know you express themselves? If there are those things we say that offend You, point it out to us. Convict us. And may we be quick to repent. May the words of our mouths be pleasing to you. And may others recognize that our words come from Your heart.

A Twinge or an Amputation. Your Choice.

The older I get, the more frequently my body aches. Just yesterday I felt a twinge in my knee as I got up from the couch. It hurt when I put weight on it, so I intentionally kept my foot straight, my hips in line, as I walked. I didn’t want to do damage by twisting it. And, after a bit, it stopped hurting.

Then I read Hebrews 12:12 this morning and had to smile at God’s timing. Because I had put the whole knee-thing out of my mind and am sure I would not have given it another thought had I not seen what was written there:

“…make straight paths for your feet so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.” (NKJV)

I am not kidding. Coincidence? I think not! I am blown away at how intimately interested God is in me, how personal, and how He longs to teach me every day.

So what is the lesson here? The writer of Hebrews is talking about God’s discipline of His children. I think the example in 12:12 says that when we sin, it can result in something like a twinge in the knee. God’s discipline could be in the form of guilt, or shame, or regret. But if I keep repeating the sin I cause damage. The discipline, then the consequences become more and more intense.

But if I intentionally walk straight, repent of the sin, if I resist repeating the sin, there is healing. There is forgiveness. And that’s what Jesus died to provide. That’s what God wants for us.

If you continue reading Hebrews 12 you’ll see that Esau is used as an example of this. Esau sinned for a bite of food. And in keeping with my analogy, he didn’t just get a twinge in his knee, he lost his leg. No amount of tears could bring that leg back.

Sometimes God’s discipline is a twinge. But if we choose to ignore it, we could lose the whole leg. Sometimes God’s discipline feels like guilt. But if we choose to ignore it, it could cost us so much more. And we might find ourselves living with devastating consequences of a sin that could have been stopped at the twinge.

Dearest God, I pray that we will recognize that twinge of guilt as Your discipline when we sin, or even think about sinning. Guilt doesn’t feel good. Yet so often we ignore it and continue in the sin. Thank you that you don’t amputate the first time we sin. We’d all be limbless! I pray that we will be sensitive to the way You work in our lives, that we will be quick to learn from Your discipline so that we won’t have to suffer further consequences for our bad choices. And, God, thank you for reminding me today how intimately interested you are in each one of us. I love you.

It’s Not A Common Thing

The book of Hebrews is rich with mind-boggling, heart-thumping truths. I challenge you to read the whole thing, slowly, intentionally, asking God to reveal Himself a little more clearly as you do. I know He will. He’ll convict you, and lift you up in the process.

In chapter 10 of this amazing book, the writer tells us that if we willfully sin after receiving God’s grace, there is a “certain fearful expectation of judgment…” He says, if the Old Testament Jews rejected Moses’ Law and died without mercy, how much more so we who consider “the blood of the covenant by which (we are) sanctified a common thing.”

Let me say that again. If the Old Testament Jews rejected Moses’ Law and died without mercy, how much more so we who consider “the blood of the covenant by which (we are) sanctified a common thing.”

Do you consider what Jesus did on that cross, the suffering He endured, the blood He shed, the humiliation, the death, a common thing? No big deal? A nice gesture like giving someone a puppy? Then why act like you do? Why willfully sin after you have received His grace?

The writer tells us it’s like trampling Jesus under our feet when we take sin lightly.

Ezekiel, in chapter 22, said God couldn’t find any man to stand in the gap, to build a wall on behalf of the land so God wouldn’t destroy it. The picture I get of someone standing in the gap is one with arms stretched out to both sides.

Like Jesus on the cross.

God is serious about sin. God hates sin. God punishes every sin. And every sin results in death. Every. Sin.

Jesus didn’t die on that cross only to say 2000 years later, well maybe homosexuality is really no big deal after all. Or, if you are spiritual you don’t really have to accept Jesus. God hasn’t changed his mind in 2015.

God is as serious about sin today as He was in the garden with Adam and Eve. He’s spelled out exactly what sin is and what the consequences are.

Death without mercy.

Have you ever sinned? Lied? Lusted? Hated? Cheated? Got drunk? Used coarse language? Even just once? Then you are condemned to die without mercy.

Unless you allow Jesus to stand in the gap. Unless you accept the fact that Jesus died without mercy on your behalf. Unless you repent and accept His loving gift of grace. Unless you are as serious about sin as He is.

Heavenly Father, I pray for your people today. May we be as serious about sin as You are. May we hate sin, run from it, stand against it. May we honor what Jesus did on the cross every day with the choices we make. You command us to be holy as You are holy. May you find us eager to accept your holiness, and to live our lives obviously different from everyone else. I, for one, never want to treat what Jesus did on the cross for me as though it’s no big deal. I never want to trample my Savior under my feet by choosing to sin. I want to show you with every breath how much I appreciate You for saving me.

I Remember

I remember. I remember times I lied to my parents when I was a kid. I remember things I did in college I’m ashamed of. I remember the awful things I’ve done as an adult, things I’d rather not talk about. I am a sinner. And I remember.

But God doesn’t. When I confessed my sins He forgave and forgot them. He buried their memory in the deepest sea and promises never to remember them ever again. Ezekiel 20:42-44 says when we remember our ways, our doings which have defiled us, we will loathe ourselves because of the evil we’ve committed.

Then, he says, we’ll know God is the Lord when he deals with us, “not according to (our) wicked ways nor according to (our) corrupt doings.”

That’s Jesus for you. He paid for every one of the sins I’ve committed so I don’t have to. Hebrews 10 says He offered Himself as a sacrifice once and for all of us:

For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.

He goes on to say, “Their sins and lawless deeds I will remember no more.”

I don’t deserve this. But I am overwhelmed with gratitude and love for the One who has lavished me with grace. I want only to bring joy to my Savior.

Because I remember.

A Better Hope

Colton, my nephew’s four-year-old son is learning to zip his own coat, and the other day he wanted to show me he could do it. Colton found the two ends, lined them up, and tried to connect them, but failed. So he tried again, doing exactly the steps Mommy had taught him. But he failed again. And again.

Then I watched him look at his mother with a soulful look that said, “I need you,” and he took a step toward her. She didn’t roll her eyes or scold him. She didn’t make fun of him because he’d failed. She squatted down so her face was level with his, kissed his forehead, and zipped his coat.

The writer of Hebrews talks about the Law, and Jesus’ role as Priest. In chapter seven he points out that the Law was weak and unprofitable. It, he says, made nothing perfect.

On the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.” (verse 19)

That better hope is Jesus. You can try to live this life on your own. You can go to church, volunteer at the homeless shelter, write a check to a charity. But none of that will save you. You can try all you want to meet God’s standard of perfection. And you’ll fail.

But when you look to our High Priest, Jesus who bought your salvation with His blood, He will meet you face to face. He will save you. He won’t roll his eyes or scold you. He’ll kiss you on the forehead and zip your coat. He loves you so much. You can trust His love.

Thank you, Jesus, for loving us. As our High Priest you have the power to forgive sins. As the perfect Lamb of God, you’ve shed the blood necessary for our salvation. I pray that everyone reading this post will know that better hope the writer of Hebrews talks about. May we come to you, admit our need of you, and allow you to demonstrate your love for us. Thank you, God, for forgiving me, and giving me hope.

Who Wants To Be Considered A Slug?

Today is the birthdate of the US Marine Corps, and the anniversary of the day my Dad entered that branch of service. It must have been 1943 when Dad finally got to join the fight during WWII at the young age of 18.

Dad was proud to be a Marine, and toward the end of his life, talked about what it was like to train, and go to war. He would describe a group of fit, strong, active, and determined young men who were ready to battle 24/7. I don’t think you could be lazy and wear a Marine uniform.

Hebrews 6, and the memory of my father, challenged me today. The word “sluggish” got my attention because I am afraid that describes me too often. Sitting here this morning, I see dust on my baseboards, and a cobweb on my ceiling. I can sit in front of my computer, or the TV for hours instead of getting out to walk, or visit a friend. And that gets me thinking about my walk with the Lord.

That’s the topic the writer of Hebrews was addressing here in chapter 6. I wonder if there are cobwebs in my heart, the place I’ve invited my Savior to live. Are there opportunities to serve Him that I’ve missed because I’m slow to move?

For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love, which you have shown toward His Name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.” (verse 10)

Being a member of a Bible believing church fellowship means I have work to do for God’s kingdom. There are people associated with my church to pray for, to visit, to encourage, to rake leaves for or fix a meal for. There are people outside my church who need to know Jesus, who need to see Him in me. That can’t happen if I’m content to be a slug.

And who wants to be considered a slug?

I think of the training Dad endured on Parris Island, getting ready to go to war. It was hard. It was intense. It was constant. We need to prepare in such a way to do the things required of us as Christians, too. Oh, I don’t mean target shooting or running multiple miles with fifty pounds of equipment on our backs. But seriously spending time in God’s Word, searching, studying, praying, talking about it, questioning and not giving up until we find answers.

But all the training in the world is worthless unless we use it. Dad finished his boot camp, then went to war. We, too need to prepare – and go! Our world depends on us.

Being a Marine isn’t for the lazy or sluggish. And neither is being a Christian.

Our Heavenly Captain, Our Commander in Chief, we are soldiers (or Marines) in your army. May we be equipped for the battles ahead, may we be willing to serve at a moments notice. May we be intentional about our training in Your Word. And may we not hesitate when you call. Forgive our laziness. Make us fit and capable to do what you would have us do. No slugs here, Lord. We want to win this war!

Does That Warm Your Heart?

Ezekiel saw a vision of the Lord. I love his description in chapter 2: colorful light, blazing fire, a throne like sapphire, an appearance like a rainbow on a rainy day. Ezekiel SAW the glory of the Lord!!

And it was beautiful.

The writer of Hebrews tells us that in the past God spoke to us through prophets like Ezekiel, but in these last days God speaks to us through His Son. The writer calls Jesus, “the brightness of (God’s) glory and the express image of His person”. (chapter 1)

Ezekiel witnessed that brightness! And we can, too. What is that “warm” feeling you get when you fellowship with God from a repentant heart? What is that “lightbulb” that turns on when God reveals a truth through His Word?

It’s the same Jesus Ezekiel saw in his vision. It’s like the warmth and light from a fire. It’s the Spirit of God, Jesus in the flesh. It’s tangible evidence that God is real, He’s alive, and present with each of us today, this minute.

This morning I am overwhelmed by the lengths to which God goes to reveal Himself to us. From the strength of a hurricane, to an “aha” moment reading His Word, from the birth of a baby, to the heartbeat-skipping experience of asking for – and receiving – forgiveness through the blood of Jesus.

Our hearts are warmed when we see the love of God demonstrated by Jesus on the cross, knowing He did that for each of us. We experience the warmth from the fire Ezekiel saw in his vision. We look at the world differently when we allow God to teach us what He wants us to know. We experience the light Ezekiel witnessed. And we can walk in that light, the Light of the world.

My hope is that the next time your heart is warmed by someone or something, you will recognize it as from God. Or the next time you become aware that the path before you is bathed in light, you’ll know that light is from God.

Don’t miss out on the blessed realization that those “feelings” are God’s embrace. It’s Jesus!

If that doesn’t warm your heart…

Renewed Days

I read Lamentations this morning. God was unresponsive to the cries of the disobedient nation of Israel. There was a famine in the land and the Jews were not spared. In fact, the actions of some to survive are unimaginable. How desperate they were! Why did God reject his people?

Woe to us, for we have sinned. (5:16)

The last two verses of this sad book caused me to pause. Here’s what they say:

Renew our days of old, unless You have utterly rejected us, and are very angry with us.

The truth of the matter is God was angry, and they were rejected because of their disobedience.

Psalm 119 reminds me how important is God’s Word, how necessary it is that we obey it. God’s not playing around. He’s serious about sin. And so should we be. He has spelled out His demands, His Law, and has demonstrated the severe consequences for disobedience. This psalm challenges me to love Scripture and obey it. There is evidence of God’s holiness, power, and love on every page.

Then I read the beautiful letter Paul wrote to Philemon, and I am reminded what Jesus did for me. I sinned against God, like Onesimus sinned against Philemon. Philemon had owned Onesimus, but Onesimus walked away from him, may have stolen from him. God created me to be His, but I, too, walked away when I sinned. Onesimus owed a debt he could not pay. There’s no way I could pay my sin debt, either.

But Onesimus repented. He became a follower of Jesus, a helper to Paul. So Paul asked Philemon to forgive Onesimus, to accept him as a brother, to place any debt of Onesimus’ on Paul’s account. And Jesus did the same for me. He paid my enormous debt, asked the Father to forgive me, and accepted me as His child when I repented, too .

My days are renewed and I am not rejected, thanks to Jesus. I pray you can say the same.