Living By Faith?

Christians are held in a tension. We know that we cannot earn a place of acceptance with our Heavenly Father with any amount of good works. We are made right with Him through faith. Yet, our faith is not abstract. It is shown in how we live.
Abraham is the example used in Romans. “What did he discover about being made right with God? If his good deeds had made him acceptable to God, he would have had something to boast about. But that was not God’s way. For the Scriptures tell us, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” (Romans 4:1-3, NLT) From his life of faith, however, we discover that a ‘faith-full’ life is consistent in word and actions!

Many disciples talk about faith, but live like atheists. They pray, but act as though God does not hear, or is not willing to act, or is incapable of doing what they ask. Abraham’s faith was a core value from which his life was formed. In Genesis 12:1 we read of a radical choice based on faith: The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.”

Jim Cymbala, pastor of Brooklyn Tabernacle, teaches three ‘life of faith’ principles.

1. Faith is informed by God’s voice.

It does not spring from self. Abraham heard from God before he did anything! Do you think that faith is hatching up an idea and then insisting that God bless it? Do you mistake faith for presumption because you think that you have the right to ‘tell’ God what to do for you? God does the telling, we do the living. God sets the agenda, we implement His plans. A heart of worship that is learning to listen to the Spirit and the Word is the fertile soil from which faith grows.

2. Faith leaves the familiar.
Abraham was compelled, by faith, to pack up and move out. He left comfort, safety, family, and friends behind to faithfully pursue God’s plan. Sounds so easy when we say it like that, doesn’t it? Sounds Almost adventurous, like getting on the cast of ‘Survivor.’ EXCEPT, that the Adventure doesn’t end in 6 weeks. It’s a life-long pilgrimage that only rests in Heaven. Faith will pull you out of religious traditions that no longer are useful in connecting you with God. Faith will lead you out of cultural norms that ‘deaden’ you to God’s work. Faith may cause you to do the ridiculous, not because you’re crazed and hearing voices, but because you’re ‘hearing His voice.’

3. Faith goes forward without knowing tomorrow.
Imagine stopping Abraham’s caravan 50 miles out of Ur, his hometown.
“Abraham, where are you going?”
“Don’t know, He didn’t tell me. He just said, go.”
“How will you know when you’re there?”
“Don’t know. He didn’t tell me. He just said, go this way today.”

Faith is risky. Living in faith we will certainly make mistakes. But, faith is the only way to find our true home. “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” – Hebrews 11:8-10

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“Father of the faithful, add my name to the roster of those who lived by Your Words.
Help my ears to be turned to you, to be eagerly anticipating Your directives.
Give me courage to move out from what I know, from what is comfortable, to pursue Your plan.
You know how much I love to know the whole route in advance.

Holy Spirit, reassure me with Your powerful Presence as I just GO, even when I don’t KNOW the end.
May your Son, Jesus Christ, be honored by a life of faith I live today. Amen.”

A privileged son

Monday I visited my Mom’s home. When I arrived, I walked right in with a yell announcing my arrival! Going to the refrigerator, I looked for something to eat. I sat down at her computer and checked my email. I would not take such liberties if I visited most homes because I do not enjoy the familial ties that provide me with the privileges I enjoy at Mom’s house. Though it is not my home, I am her son and need not act as a guest while I am there.

The Scripture says, “Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.” (Ephesians 3:12, NLT) In another passage, we are reminded that we are children with privileges. “This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children.” (Romans 8:15-16, The Message)

\Do you enjoy that kind of relationship with your God?
Or, are you still cowering before a Deity that terrifies you, guilty and ashamed? Through Christ, we are forgiven the sins that previously caused us to feel only fear in the Father’s Presence! Now, we can and should live with a humble confidence, a daily conversation with the One who loves us most. What a privilege!

Is there something in your life that is stressing you, keeping you awake at night, making your head ache? Share it with the Father. With child-like faith go to Papa and ask His wisdom, His comfort, His resources for your need. Don’t be shy; be boldly confident. For example, on Monday, my left knee was causing me real pain. Every step I took, was a reminder of my aging body. In prayer that evening, I asked Papa to make it better! I asked Him to show me if there was something I was doing to contribute to my pain and to heal me. Tuesday, I awakened to find the pain gone. In simple faith, I thanked Him for that blessing. Like any good father, He may not do what you want Him to do, but He will do what is best for you. If He corrects you, it is because He loves you.

Rejoice with Him, too. Go often and give thanks for the joys of life.

Here’s a word from the Word. “You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.” (Matthew 7:9-11, NLT)

Don’t live like an orphaned child today. Exercise the privileges given you through your adoption into the family of God, through Christ Jesus, our Lord.

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Sometimes I feel discouraged,
And think my life in vain.
I’m tempted then to murmur,
And of my lot complain.
But when I think of Jesus,
And all He’s done for me,
Then I cry, O Rock of Ages,
Hide Thou me.

O Rock of Ages, hide Thou me.
No other refuge have I but Thee.
When life’s dark vale I wander,
Far, far from Thee.
Then I cry, O Rock of Ages,
Hide Thou me.

Hide Thou Me
Harris, Thoro / Tolbert, L.R.
© 1926. Renewed 1953 Singspiration Music (Admin. by Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, Inc., 741 Coolsprings Blvd., Franklin TN 37067)

CCLI License No. 810055

Saved from myself

In a recent meeting with the leadership team of the church, my temper overcame good judgment and a good friend stepped in to save me from myself. “I don’t think we need to go there,” he said firmly! I can think of so many other occasions when good advice or even confrontation were important to cause reflection so that I would change course. I am thankful for those who bless me with their wisdom along the way. The One who is the best Savior is Jesus Christ.

My life was set for destruction, bound for Hell! Timothy Keller’s observation about how people ultimately arrive far from God is telling. “Hell is simply one’s freely chosen identity apart from God on a trajectory into infinity.” (Reason For God, 2009) We are born with a nature bent to serve ourselves. The more we pursue Self, the further we travel away from God. The end point of that road is Hell, the complete absence of God, who is Light and Love. As much as we might try to believe in our own powers of reformation and/or salvation, we cannot save ourselves from ourselves.

We all need Someone to step in and save us from ourselves. The hymn, “Come, Thou Fount of Ev’ry Blessing,” contains these lines:
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.

There is the Gospel! C. S. Lewis speaks to the importance of responding in faith to the Lord today. “Hell begins with a grumbling mood, always complaining, always blaming others … but you are still distinct from it. You my even criticize yourself and wish you could stop it. But there may come a day when you can no longer. Then, there will be no ‘you’ left to criticize the mood or even to enjoy it, but just the grumble itself, going on forever like a machine. It is not a question of God “sending us” to Hell. In each of us there is something growing, which will BE Hell unless it is nipped in the bud.” (as quoted in Reason for God)

When we were Hell-bound, fixed on our own destruction, our Divine Lover stepped in with an offer, held out the promise of changing the course of our lives. The Scripture says, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, … but because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:1, 4-5, NIV) Ours is but to accept His offer – by faith. When we do, the trajectory spoken of by Keller is turned upward. Heaven is set in our hearts and we begin to live ‘in God,’ right here, walking with the Spirit in a way that ends in His glorious Presence.

Are you allowing Someone to save you from yourself?
Give up pride. Reject self-improvement which is at best a temporary thing and is really just self-delusion, learning not to see the Truth. By faith, respond and accept the offer of the Lord of Glory to ‘interpose His precious blood’ and set you on a new course – one that is filled with holiness and ends at the Throne of God.

________________

Sweet Jesus Christ, my sanity.
Sweet Jesus Christ, my clarity.
Bread of heaven, broken for me
Cup of salvation held up to drink
Jesus – Mystery

Christ has died and Christ is risen,
And Christ will come again

Celebrate his death and rising.
Lift your eyes, proclaim his coming!
Celebrate his death and rising,
Lift your eyes, lift your eyes!

-Charlie Hall

Off to Afghanistan?

Americans are impressed by more, big, and famous I regret that I spent too much of my life measuring my own ‘success’ as a pastor by the number of people I preached to on Sunday morning. But, I am not an oddity in that pursuit. Many measure their success by their level of compensation, their title, or by how many friends they have on Facebook. Success is often a numbers game, but on Sunday evening I met a man who completely re-defined the assumptions about what it means to live successfully. I’ll call him Dan.

God placed a love for the Afghan people in Dan’s heart 9 years ago. In an encounter with the Holy Spirit, he was deeply impressed, as a 26 year man, to take up the mission of bringing the Gospel to a land held in the grip of the most radical form of Islam. For the last 4 years, he and his wife, along with their three little girls, have lived in war zones of Afghanistan, quietly building friendships and praying for the spiritual darkness around them to be dispelled by the Light. It’s an exhausting assignment, full of sacrifice, and emotionally wearing. He’s been warned to flee numerous times, told that armed Taliban are standing outside of his home at night, and a close associate was gunned down in his car. None of the typical measures of success apply! Converts are few. Money is not a factor. His name cannot be published! Yet, he serves, and with great joy!

Don’t make a leap to a false conclusion. We need not all move to Afghanistan and live in mud homes to be good disciples who are ‘successful!’ We are all called, as disciples of Christ, to total obedience right here, right now. Our individual success is measured by how we respond to the Lord’s call, by our faithful embrace of the mission He gives to each one of us. My call is to lead and care for a congregation at a church in Washington, NJ. God will judge me a success if I am diligent, if I do that work for His glory. Circumstances beyond my control may lead to greater numbers of people in that church, but 200 or 2000 in the building are not His measure of success.

To be a success, disciple, there is a foundational question that demands your answer: what does the Lord ask of me? If you cannot answer that with any kind of certainty, you will be vulnerable to discontent and deception. You will chase meaning and purpose in ways that cannot ultimately provide them. Why? Because you will confuse ‘self-fulfillment’ with God’s approval! Much of what we label ‘success’ is just a way of making ourselves feel better about who we are and what we do. However, for the disciple of Christ, nothing can replace knowing that we are squarely in the center of the will of God. Dan is a man at peace with God and able to serve in a difficult assignment without much in the way of traditional rewards because he knows that he is doing what the Lord wants him to do at this time in his life!

Here’s a word from the Word. May the Spirit cause it to own you.
“Listen to me, all you in distant lands! Pay attention, you who are far away! The Lord called me before my birth; from within the womb he called me by name. He made my words of judgment as sharp as a sword. He has hidden me in the shadow of his hand. I am like a sharp arrow in his quiver. He said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, and you will bring me glory.” (Isaiah 49:1-3, NLT)

Are you His servant?
Will your thoughts, words, and actions today be framed by the desire to “bring Him glory?”

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The Marinade of your soul

Summertime means steaks, grilled to perfection, seasoned just right. T-bone’s are not always affordable so a cheaper cut of meat sometimes finds its way onto the grill, but I have found a way to compensate. It’s called marinade. A blend of wine or vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper, perhaps onion, sometimes some lemon juice – is prepared and the meat is left to soak in it. A common cut of meat is tenderized and flavored by the marinade.

So, let me cut right to my point today. What the marinade that soaks your soul, that flavors your life? Anxiety and despair will always result from constant exposure to cable TV news. Greed and need will surely start to be part of your thoughts if you absorb each and every advertising circular that finds its way onto your dining room table. Many disciples are wondering why their souls are dry, why they are full of doubt, why they don’t love worship or prayer, why their souls are cluttered with temptations like so much junk thrown around in a garage. They blame God for allowing them to wander alone, but the truth is, they pick up the flavors of the culture in which they choose to soak, day after day.

The Word says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9, NIV) That is one superb promise! Fill your mind and heart with praise, with worship, with appreciation for beauty, with gratitude – and reap the benefit of a life marked by peace! Practice love for others, real forgiveness, genuine concern for the poor and the weak and discover the richness of freedom from Self!

Disciple, if you want to live with the promise of the Spirit, check the marinade in which your soul soaks. Ask the practical questions:

What’s playing into your head on your Ipod?
Who is influencing you with counsel?
What is creating the ambience in your home?

Take this wise and ancient counsel of the Word and make it your guide.
“How well God must like you-
you don’t hang out at Sin Saloon,
you don’t slink along Dead-End Road,
you don’t go to Smart-Mouth College.


Instead you thrill to God’s Word, you chew on Scripture day and night.
You’re a tree replanted in Eden, bearing fresh fruit every month,
Never dropping a leaf, always in blossom.”
(Psalm 1:1-3, The Message)

______________________

On God’s holy Word I challenge you
To give to the Lord your life anew.
My friend, make your choice;
He waits for you
For this is the moment of truth.

Now walk with God
And He will be your dearest Friend
Where’er you go
In everything you do.
And may your life
Reflect His love to ev’ryone.
Now walk with God
And He will walk with you.

Now Walk With God

Skillings, Otis

© 1969 Lillenas Publishing Company (Admin. by The Copyright Company)

CCLI License No. 810055

Yeah, I know, but…

Some of you will remember the country song by Tom T. Hall that said, “Me and Jesus, got our own thing goin’. Me and Jesus, got it all worked out. Me and Jesus, got our own thing goin’. We don’t need anybody to tell us what it’s all about.” The song talks about a man who worked out the sins in his life without a preacher or a church involved. It plays right into our cultural sense of ‘me-ism,’ in which we learn to think that everything is about ourselves, even knowing and serving God.

We know we should live differently, but often don’t because we somehow convince ourselves that our situation is unique, because we think our status gives us special privileges, or because we think that the consequences that others suffer just will not happen to us. People that seek my counsel are often ‘amazed’ at what is happening to them as their health deteriorates, their marriage falls apart, or their kids go wild. Even as they acknowledge the decisions that got them where they are today, they excuse themselves with the old line, “Yeah, I know, but….”

Thinking that the rules apply to everyone except ourselves is a human trait that has a long heritage!
“Yeah, I know I was speeding, but….”
“Yeah, I know I oughta quit smoking, but….”
“Yeah, I know I’m flirting with disaster, but…”
“Yeah, I know I should get my spiritual life together, but…”

In that upside-down view of life, our personal comfort, our happiness, our sense of well-being trumps everything else. Nothing is as important as doing what we want to do. After all, what a Friend we have in Jesus with Whom we have it all worked out. (So, we think!)

Here’s what the Lord says. “You must not have any other god but me.” (Exodus 20:3, NLT) That includes self! I look into the mirror often and tell myself, “There is one God, and you are not Him!” I do not get to write the guidelines for myself, God already did that.

James writes about people who brag and boast about their plans, who mistakenly believe that they are a god. He says, “Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog-it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” Otherwise you are boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil. Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.” (James 4:13-17, NLT)

Jesus says, “If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.” (Matthew 10:39, NLT) Without faith, without eyes that are open to the things of the Spirit, that statement makes no sense at all. “Give up your life?” You mean, don’t make choices based on what’s best in this moment, what feels good, what leads to making the most money, what feeds myself? That’s exactly what He means! Our obedience allows us to find life to the full, to enjoy God’s affirmation, and day to day intimacy with Him. It takes real faith to accept that and do what He says rather than what Self demands.

So you can say, “Yeah, I know, but….” and give yourself an exemption. People do it all the time – and, they pay the price for their choices.

Here’s a passage that merits meditation. It talks about the Believer on the Day when he stands before Christ to give an account. I don’t think that “Yeah, I know, but…” will mean all that much before His piercing, insightful, loving gaze, do you?

“Anyone who builds on that foundation (the salvation provided by Christ Jesus) may use a variety of materials-gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames. . . . Stop deceiving yourselves. If you think you are wise by this world’s standards, you need to become a fool to be truly wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. . . . Everything belongs to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.” (1 Corinthians 3:12-23, NLT)

_______________________________________________

Oh that with yonder sacred throng,
we at His feet may fall!
We’ll join the everlasting song,
and crown Him, Lord of all!

-public domain

The favorite little word

Monuments are everywhere. Names of the great are attached to buildings, bridges, airports, and roadways. Companies bear the name of their founders. Let’s face it. Everybody wants to be somebody. I don’t know that I want anything named for me, but I do have a persistent desire to leave a mark on my world, to have lived in a way that means something to at least a few people. That’s not all bad. Self-esteem can be healthy when kept in the right place.

Healthy self-esteem subtly morphs into pride and from that root grows some bad stuff!
Hypocrisy grows out of the prideful desire to look better than we actually are.
Vanity springs from that root, too. Somehow we think we can impress others with the right clothes, titles, or car.
Exclusivity, the desire to be part of the ‘in’ group is another fruit of pride. Howard Schultz, who grew Starbucks® into a huge company, did so in part by turning the act of buying an expensive cup of coffee with an exotic name into a way of being on the inside! He acknowledged that it took some effort to learn the special language that is required to order coffee in his shops, but once mastered by the individual, there was a sense of belonging to an exclusive group.

The more a person is in the grip of pride the more ways he will find to express a simple one letter word that has become his favorite little word– “I.” His world will increasing shrink down to revolve around his comfort, his concerns, his reputation, his preferences, his emotions, and his agenda. An exaggerated sense of self-importance takes hold that can slide into grandiose behaviors, of which he is completely unaware. His life becomes a monologue. It’s an ugly way to live; tragic, lonely, and paradoxically – what the proud man desires most is denied him by his own pride. Self-absorption is the surest way to become a forgotten person!

So, how do we defeat pride? The Word shows us the prime example.
“You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names.” (Philippians 2:5-9, NLT) Jesus became involved with our need, fully human, and served! He was no demi-god, dabbling in our world. He humbled himself to become one of us, setting aside His glory for our sake.

John Ortberg writes that “the oldest Christological heresy—docetism—arose because people could not absorb the notion that God might enter into vulnerability and suffering. John says it is the spirit of antichrist that denies that Jesus came kata sarx—”in the flesh.” Jesus was no Superman. He did not defy his enemies, hands on his hips, bullets bouncing harmlessly off his chest. The whip drew real blood, the thorns pressed real flesh, the nails caused mind-numbing pain, the cross led to actual death. And through it all, he bore with people, forgave them, loved them to the end.” – LeadershipJournal.net 1/2007 Curing Grandiosity

Are you willing to set aside your ‘glory?’
Will you become the person that God desires you to be by serving?

Don’t look around while you’re serving, wondering who’s watching and what they think. Just serve for Christ’s sake. Don’t calculate the potential for reward or recognition, just serve for Heaven’s reward.

Let me leave you pondering a story Jesus told at a wedding where the guests were competing to sit at the best tables.
“When someone invites you to dinner, don’t take the place of honor. Somebody more important than you might have been invited by the host. Then he’ll come and call out in front of everybody, ‘You’re in the wrong place. The place of honor belongs to this man.’ Red-faced, you’ll have to make your way to the very last table, the only place left.

“When you’re invited to dinner, go and sit at the last place. Then when the host comes he may very well say, ‘Friend, come up to the front.’ That will give the dinner guests something to talk about! What I’m saying is, If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face. But if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.” (Luke 14:8-11, The Message)

__________________

Make me a servant,
Humble and meek.
Lord, let me lift up
Those who are weak;
And may the pray’r
Of my heart always be.
Make me a servant.
Make me a servant.
Make me a servant today.

Make Me A Servant
Willard, Kelly
© 1982 Maranatha! Music (Admin. by The Copyright Company) / Willing Heart Music (Maranatha! Music [Admin. by The Copyright Company])

CCLI License No. 810055

Beautiful Life

He was dressed in his military uniform, neatly pressed, carefully presented. But, there was a big problem; I was looking at a corpse! Oh, I could see from his features who he was. Yet, there was no sparkle of laughter, no warmth of relationship. His spirit was gone, leaving a shell. The appearance was intact but the essence of the man himself was missing. The vibrant, fun-loving guy described by the friends was nowhere in sight inside that coffin! The life that made him beautiful was gone!

Disciple, are you ALIVE in Christ?
Is the Holy Spirit active in you, making your life a thing of beauty?

There are those who claim to be “Christian” who are not. They are dressed in religious habits, neatly prepared with Biblical theology, and carefully presented with morality, but dead none-the-less! Their lives are missing the essence of being truly Christian.  One night, a very moral man, a religious leader, came to Jesus. Nicodemus knew that something was missing in his sought after relationship with God. He was among those still dead. Jesus told him, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.” (John 3:5-6, NLT) Let me paraphrase Jesus’ words: Your Daddy and Momma gave you one kind of life, but the Spirit of God will give you real and lasting life. You can have a life that is made beautiful, not of your own doing, by God’s Spirit living in you. You need not go through some esoteric ritual, join some mind-bending cult, or go on a vision quest in some far-away land to find this life. Jesus said that “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23, NIV)

He is invited to come through faith in Christ Jesus. He remains as we respond to His prompting, deal with our sinfulness, and breathe His breath in worship and prayer. Where the Spirit lives, there is an attractive, nearly indescribable, but very real, quality of life. Are you alive?

Here’s a word from the Word. It’s one of my favorite passages, rich in promise. Take time to digest it, accept what the Lord says, and let the beautiful life begin.
“Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.


Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.


So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.” (Romans 8:10-16, NLT)

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Heavenly Dad, (Abba!) I love You and
thank you for the gift of life.
Breathe Your holy breath in me.

Make my words and actions beautiful for Your own glory.
As Your life pulses through this mortal body
in that mysterious way of which Jesus spoke,
may I catch sight of Heaven and Hope!

Come, Holy Spirit!
Produce the evidence of Your Life in me:
The abundant fruit spoken of by the Word:
“love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23, NLT)

As You live in me, cause me to
love, laugh, and make Your Presence
known in the world,
one truly ‘born of the Spirit.’
Amen.

Beautiful Liar

Magicians fascinate me, not because I think they can really make people float on air or cause the Statue of Liberty to disappear with a wave of their hands, but because they convince me to suspend my reasonable mind for a few moments. With ‘hands that are faster than the eye,’ tactics designed to divert attention, wires, and boxes that have secret compartments; the modern magician makes us believe a lie, if only for a moment. We want to think, somehow, that they have defied the limits of time, space, and gravity! That’s entertainment.

The Devil is a magician, too, who draws the willing into a lie! While we like to think that evil’s approach will always be obvious, that alarm bells will sound in our mind when we wander into spiritually dangerous territory, that is simply not true. The devil is a beautiful liar. In the Genesis story, he approaches Eve urging her to disobedience in eating the forbidden fruit with a promise: “you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5, NIV) He did not tell her that she would also begin to die, that she would lose intimacy with her Creator, and that she would become subject to pain and suffering. Why, after all these millennia, are we not wise to his schemes?

He is still a beautiful liar. The Bible says that he “masquerades as an angel of light.” (2 Corinthians 11:14, NIV) He works to make selfishness appear sophisticated, to recast marital infidelity into a sweet affair, to make addiction to work into admirable diligence, to make truthfulness the characteristic of the naïve in a world. He even works his magic on sincere Christians, when allowed. He turns their desire for the Living God into a ugly parody of faith called religion, based not on life in the Spirit, but on rigid rules that attempt to control behavior by fear. Only after we have entered into his conspiracy and compromised ourselves does he drop the act and reveal his diabolical intent to destroy us.

Temptation to do evil is more easily defeated than we might think. Part of the lie is convincing us that we are powerless, that the attraction is irresistible, that the ‘devil made me do it!’ No, we choose to cooperate with the liar, to believe his whispered seductions that appeal to our base nature. If we live in Truth, if we are relentlessly authentic, temptation loses much of its luster. We see the sequins for what they are, the smoke and mirrors become obvious under the bright Light of the Gospel of Christ.

The human tragedy is summed up in these words: “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. …Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.” (Romans 1:25, 28, NIV) But, God did not abandon humanity in that hopeless condition! He intervened with the gift of His Son, showing us the Way back home, calling us to reject the beautiful liar.

Disciple, will you live in the Truth today?
Will you pray for a discerning heart and mind that God, the Holy Spirit, offers to you?
Will you love the light of Christ?

Here’s a word from the Word. Own it as you read it.
“The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living. Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see.
Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.”
(Romans 13:12-15, NLT)

___________

Give me one pure and holy passion,
Give me one magnificent obsession.
Jesus give me one glorious ambition for my life.
To know and follow hard after You.
To know and follow hard after You,
To grow as Your disciple in the truth.
This world is empty, pale, and poor,
Compared to knowing You my Lord.
Lead me on and I will run after You.

One Pure And Holy Passion
Altrogge, Mark
Word Music Group, Inc.

© 1988 PDI Praise (Admin. by Word Music Group, Inc.) / Dayspring Music, Inc. (a div. of Word Music Group, Inc.)

CCLI License No. 810055

The All-seeing Eyes of the Lord

It seemed to me that my motives were in question. Anger welled up in me, surging almost uncontrollably, and as it did, reality receded! What I saw, what I heard, even my thought processes, became skewed by my need to assert myself in an effort to overcome the situation. For a moment, I forgot Who I serve and Who is my security! The issue became ‘me’ for a few moments instead of Him. Does that ever happen to you? Do you lose sight of what’s really going on because you’re feeling besieged, or alone, or unloved, or without support?

Later, as I prayed about my actions in that angry moment, I felt both regret and comfort. I regretted acting the part of a fool and hurting others in a moment of insecurity. I was comforted by the knowledge that in God’s strength, I can stand, and that I need not allow my feelings to rule over me. I searched the Scripture and read this passage in the book of Romans. “If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. … For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. … So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:8-10, 12, NIV)

Do you see the core truth of those words? The ultimate commendation or criticism comes, not from a spouse, boss, or peer but from Christ Jesus. If our lives are lived to please Him, our need for the plaudits or approval of others is relegated to a secondary place. We must frequently remind ourselves that when we appear before the Lord to give account for our choices, that He will see each and every decision in the full context of our lives. What an amazingly comforting fact.

As human beings we judge the words and actions of others within a very limited time frame. We do not always know or understand the subconscious issues, the fatigue or frustration, the past experiences that are in play in the mind of another. We rise in indignation and wonder “How could he act like that?” “What’s the matter with him?” God knows! His insight is deep. “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:13, NIV)

So today, I am coming ‘round to ask myself the most important question: “Jerry, is your life focused on pleasing Christ?”

Disciple, would you ask it of yourself today? Others may criticize when we have done our best. Our work may be overlooked, even ignored. Our offer of love may be spurned. Our failures may be held up for all to see by those who hold us in contempt. Our successes may be corrupted by selfishness that we hope we have concealed. Yet, in each and every situation, it is the commendation or judgment of Christ that matters most; and His evaluation is always perfect because He sees the full context of it all!

Take this word from the Word with you today.

“So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:9-10, NIV)

“Remember, there is only one foundation, the one already laid: Jesus Christ. Take particular care in picking out your building materials. Eventually there is going to be an inspection. If you use cheap or inferior materials, you’ll be found out. The inspection will be thorough and rigorous. You won’t get by with a thing. If your work passes inspection, fine; if it doesn’t, your part of the building will be torn out and started over. But you won’t be torn out; you’ll survive—but just barely.” (1 Corinthians 3:11-15, The Message)