GUN LAWS OR REPENTANCE?

PROVERBS 1:7: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction.” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: What is the answer to the senseless mass shootings that are taking place in our nation and tragically in our public schools? The shock of the tragic Uvalde School shooting was quickly taken over by politicians and pundits without even leaving time for families and the community to grieve and heal.

Everyone feels a sense of deep sadness and helplessness in the wake of these shootings. We grieve for the adults and children who were killed and for their family members and friends. We pray for their healing and comfort and think of the trauma of the remaining children who will fear going to school and wonder if it will happen again.

As a nation, it is time to look inward and search our hearts.

I am not a gun owner or a gun lover. I believe in the Second Amendment but I choose to not bear arms. Yet, even though my position is conservative concerning gun ownership, I can’t help but wonder why an 18-year-old, who no doubt was spiritually and emotionally deficient, can go and buy an assault rifle with a magazine that can cause such damage.

While these are my personal feelings I confess that I am not the one with the expertise to recommend gun control standards. I am merely saying what so many conservatives are thinking but might be afraid to say. Yet, I am more than a political conservative – I am a Christ-follower who believes that the Bible is the final authoritative Word of God to man for all matters of faith and practice. It is to this that I make my appeal.

Our culture has dismissed the fear of the Lord. We no longer reverence God in our daily lives nor do we honor His Word. We have grown cold in our hearts and insensitive to evil and violence. We act shocked when an event like the Uvalde shooting takes place – yet, we go to the movies and continue to vote with our dollars for increased sexual promiscuity and senseless violence in the entertainment we choose. Video games are purchased for children that portray life-like killing with no consequences.

All of this is a window to the true condition of our national heart!

The increase of violence in our culture is just the manifestation of the real problem. When we reject God in our hearts and our culture we open the door to every form of evil. If we dismiss God, His righteousness, and His justice, then there is no consequence for our actions. We become gods to ourselves and we make our own standard of truth. We can live in any matter we want to because there is no God, no heaven, or no hell. The words of John Lennon’s song “Imagine” are coming true – yet the outcome is not what he had imagined!

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky

Imagine all the people
Living for today
Ah

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

As wonderful as these lyrics sound, after almost 60 years they have still not come true. Solomon writes these sobering words.

  • “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

When we dismiss the fear of the Lord, when we pretend there is no heaven or hell, when we simply live for today – it does not bring out the best in us, it brings out the worst. True knowledge only begins with the fear (reverence, worship) of the Lord. We have not improved as a society over the past 60 years. Our culture has become more selfish, debased, and violent. We hope for peace and reap tyranny. We try to create heaven on earth – without the God who created everything.

America may need to come up with common-sense gun legislation. Yet, even more than that – America needs to repent.

I NEED TO REPENT!

I need to turn my heart fully to God in sincere repentance. I need to boldly begin to stand for and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There may be too many guns in America – but there are more hearts than guns that need to change. Our nation will not be healed by legislation. It will only be healed through repentance and an outpouring of the Holy Spirit bringing revival to our land.

Politicians will not bring forth the revival that we need. Only God’s people can bring this – through hearts that are broken for the lost and hurting and crying out to God through repentance and changed actions that show the fruit of true repentance!

  • If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” II Chronicles‬ ‭7:14‬ ‭NKJV‬

Lord, we need revival in our nation. Begin with me today – as I call upon Your Name, humble myself, and turn from anything and everything that would hinder the power of Your Holy Spirit working in and through my life.

In Jesus’ Name!

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THE POWER OF HUMILITY…

II SAMUEL 7:27-29: “For You, O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, have revealed this to Your servant, saying, ‘I will build you a house.’ Therefore Your servant has found it in his heart to pray this prayer to You. And now, O Lord God, You are God, and Your words are true, and You have promised this goodness to Your servant. Now, therefore, let it please You to bless the house of Your servant, that it may continue before You forever; for You, O Lord God, have spoken it, and with Your blessing let the house of Your servant be blessed forever.” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: Am I walking in the power of humility? Do I understand what it means to be “In Christ?” What is my concept of spiritual authority? How do I respond to the promises of God?

Throughout my Christian life, I have wrestled with these questions. I have witnessed the extremes of believers who live an anemic spiritual life to those who flaunt their faith and act almost like they are the source of power and strength. With all honesty, I have experienced both extremes in my life of faith.

However, the more that I read and meditate upon the Scriptures, the more I look at the great men and women of God revealed through the anals of Biblical history, the more I am drawn to one common trait that is true of them all. They were not mere cowards, nor were they super-saints. They were men and women of faith who discovered the…

POWER OF HUMILITY!

Moses was called the most humble man on earth. Paul referred to himself as a bondslave of Christ and gloried in his weaknesses wherein he discovered his true strength in Christ. David was a man after God’s own heart. David was a shepherd whom God had raised to be King of all Israel. It was the humility in David’s heart that made him truly great and allowed him to accomplish great things for the Lord.

  • “And now, O Lord God, You are God, and Your words are true, and You have promised this goodness to Your servant. Now, therefore, let it please You to bless the house of Your servant, that it may continue before You forever; for You, O Lord God, have spoken it, and with Your blessing let the house of Your servant be blessed forever.”

David did not stand before the Lord with a sense of superiority when God proclaimed His promises over him. God promised David that He would establish his throne forever. God promised David that his son would rule in peace and build the Lord a house in Jerusalem. These were truly magnificent promises. I don’t know how I would have responded to them. Yet, David responded to the Lord with true…

HUMILITY!

David positioned himself under the Lord’s mighty hand with worship. David proclaimed the faithfulness and truthfulness of God’s Word. And, David surrendered to God’s purposes for his life trusting that what the Lord had promised He would fulfill.

  • “…For You, O Lord God, have spoken it, and with Your blessing let the house of Your servant be blessed forever.”

The entirety of II Samuel chapter 8 is a recap of all the victories that David experienced through the mighty hand of the Lord. He did not enter the battle trusting in his own strength. David proceeded in the power of humility, submitted to the plans and promises of God, and witnessed the power of God working through him as he battled his enemies. David was fully aware of where his strength came from.

David’s strength came from the POWER OF HUMILITY (a life fully surrendered to the promises and power of God)!

  • “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” ‭‭I Peter‬ ‭5:6-11‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Lord, this morning I thank you for reminding me of the power of humility. All that I have is from You. The air that I breathe, the new day before me, and all of the promises spoken over my life are Your gift of mercy and grace. Remind me that the race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong. The race is run by faith through those who discover the…

POWER OF HUMILITY!

In Jesus’ Name!

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CALLING UPON THE LORD IN TRUTH…

PSALMS 145:18-19: “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He also will hear their cry and save them.” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: Is there a reason some prayers are answered and some are not? Does your prayer life lack power? Do you feel that God is far away and is not attentive when you pray?

The Scriptures are filled with examples of men and women who cried out to the Lord and their prayers were answered. The Psalmist writes these great words of assurance,

  • “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him…”

Throughout Scripture, we read about God’s willingness to hear and answer our prayers. Yet, these words of assurance and hope are not without any prerequisites. The Psalmist goes on to write,

  • “To all who call upon Him in truth.”

It is not simply a call to call upon the Lord. We must call upon Him in truth. All of our life needs to be balanced with this principle. We cannot live our lives in whatever way we choose and then when we get into trouble simply call upon the Lord and expect Him to rescue us each and every time. Our life, our actions, and our prayers need to be grounded in our surrender to His truth.

Jesus, in His instructions on prayer, gives us a template of what it means to walk and live in truth.

Calling upon Him in truth begins with humility and worship.

  • “In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.” Matthew‬ ‭6:9‬ ‭NKJV

Calling upon Him in truth is marked by a life surrendered to His will.

  • “Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew‬ ‭6:10‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Calling upon Him in truth is marked by a life of faith and trust in His provision.

  • “Give us this day our daily bread.” Matthew‬ ‭6:11 ‭NKJV‬‬

Calling upon Him in truth is marked by a life of repentance, forgiveness, and cleansing, and a heart that is willing to extend the same to others who offend us.

  • “And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.” Matthew‬ ‭6:12‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Calling upon Him in truth is marked by a life that is growing in victory over sin and the power of the enemy.

  • “And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one…” Matthew‬ ‭6:13‬a ‭NKJV

And, calling upon Him in truth is marked by a life of praise and confidence that looks for the fulfillment of all of His promises and the coming of His Kingdom!

  • “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” Matthew‬ ‭6:13‬b NKJV‬‬

Jesus completely fulfilled all of these things in His life. He was fully man and fully God, without sin, and always doing what the Father called Him to do. Therefore, Jesus’ prayers were answered 100% of the time. When we think about this we can respond in two ways. We can become discouraged and think – “Then what chance do I have in having my prayers answered?” Or, we can see it as an example of a life fully surrendered to the Father and the fulfillment of God’s promise.

  • “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth.”

Another misconception that we can have about answered prayer is that it is a reward for our works. Prayer is not answered because we do things or become good enough. Prayer is answered when we align our lives with the purposes and will of God. God’s grace is like a waterfall. It is always flowing. His grace does not move or change. When we surrender to His will, when we choose to walk by grace through faith, we position ourselves under the provision of God’s mercy and grace. It is not because we did enough good things that we are rewarded. It is because we positioned our lives in faith – under His truth!

This is what John is intending to say in his epistle.

  • “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” I John‬ ‭5:14-15‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

And, the Psalmist gives us one more assurance in this promise.

  • “He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He also will hear their cry and save them.”

Lord, this morning I want to position my life in truth. I want to surrender my life to The Truth – Jesus Christ my Lord. I want to live and walk in the fear of the Lord, to see Your desires become my desires, and to begin to live in fellowship with You through the power of the Holy Spirit. Lord, hear my cry as I call upon You in truth!

In Jesus’ Name!

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WHY I AM PRO-LIFE!

PSALMS 139:16-17: “Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them!” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: Pro-Life or Pro-Choice? With the possible overturning of Roe v Wade in our nation, the debate is heating up to a fever pitch. It has captured the headlines, Facebook, and the public arena. Violence has broken out as churches and clinics that support Pro-Life views have been attacked. In light of all of these things, I want to declare why I am Pro-Life.

FIRST, I AM PRO-LIFE BECAUSE I AM A FATHER!

My wife and I were married for 17 years and we were unable to have children. We were just set to begin investigating adoption options when God answered the prayer of my wife. On Christmas of 1992, we discovered that we were going to have a baby. It was a little girl. Our world was about to change.

I will never forget the first ultra-sound we went to. I was there to witness this miracle with my wife. When I saw this tiny baby in her womb, moving around, sucking her fingers, I felt weak in my knees. What was only conceptual became a reality. I saw my daughter for the very first time that day. I witnessed the miracle of life!

It is easy to dismiss that there is a baby in the womb when you don’t see it. There may not be a baby bump that is visible but there is still life in the womb. That life became a reality in 1993. I will never forget the day the nurse took my newborn daughter and laid her in my arms. She was swaddled in a blanket and there was a little beany on her head. I felt like I was in a movie scene as I held her. It was surreal. In my arms was this little life that my wife had carried for 9 months. It truly was a miracle!

The argument for Pro-Choice is that the woman has a right to do whatever she wants with her body. It ignores the fact that a life has been created. It sees this beginning miracle as just a bunch of tissue. It is not viable because it is not seen. Therefore, if someone wants to abort this mass of tissue and cells there is nothing morally imperative to stopping the person from doing so. This brings me to the second reason I am Pro-Life.

I am Pro-Life because I am a Christian. I believe in the Bible as God’s authoritative Word for all matters of faith and practice. And, I am Pro-Life because…

GOD IS PRO-LIFE!

Psalm 139, for the Christian, for one who bases their life of faith on God’s Word, is the clear evidence that life begins at the point of conception. It is never a debate about a mass of tissues and cells. When the sperm meets the egg – life is conceived. God speaks to this in this wonderful Psalm.

  • “Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, “

God sees our substance, our life, our future, our destiny – when we begin as merely a ball of tissues and cells! Why is this? It is because this is when life begins. At this moment God sees us as a vital and full living person. It is when we were unformed, yet alive, that God begins to record our calling, purpose, and destiny. The Psalmist says – “And in Your book they were all written, The days fashioned for me.”

This is a recurring theme in the Scriptures. Jeremiah was called and ordained to be a prophet – even before he was in his mother’s womb!

  • “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah‬ ‭1:5‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

John the Baptist lept with joy in his mother’s womb when Mary, now carrying Jesus in her womb, went to visit Elizabeth.

  • “And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit…For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.” Luke‬ ‭1:41, 44‬ ‭NKJV‬

Many Christians still will object – what about when a woman is raped or a mother’s life is in danger? Is abortion still wrong? Shouldn’t a woman have a choice? I believe that these questions deserve some consideration and discussion in light of the full revelation of Scripture. However, this does not impact the core of the issue. As a believer we must affirm what the Scriptures proclaim – life begins at conception in the eyes of God and…

EVERY LIFE IS PRECIOUS!

When I look into the eyes of a child I see the wonder and the handiwork of God. Each child is a wonderful gift. Each life is extremely precious. We have been given the awesome responsibility of procreation. It is the ultimate calling and responsibility of life. To be a mother or a father is the highest calling we will ever receive. We are called to love, cherish, care for, and respect this wonderful gift of life – for the rest of our lives!

I am Pro-Life because I am a father and because my Heavenly Father is the maker and giver of life. Every other objection and side discussion on this issue without God in the center of it, the maker and giver of life, misses the point completely. The argument of faith is not embraced or respected by those who dismiss God and the Bible. However, I am writing this to appeal to those who call upon Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, who have held a baby in their arms, and who see the gift of life in each and every child. My prayer is that you will take a stand for life and for defending the life of every unborn child.

EACH AND EVERY LIFE, BORN AND YET TO BE BORN, IS A PRECIOUS GIFT FROM GOD!

  • “For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.” Psalms‬ ‭139:13-14‬ ‭NKJV‬

In Jesus’ Name!

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WHO IS WATCHING YOU?

ACTS 16:22-28: “Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.” NKJV

OBSERVATION: Someone has wisely said – “You are the only Bible that many will ever read.” What does this statement mean? It means that the average person is not seeking God. The Philippian jailer was not engaged in a discussion with Paul and Silas about the Scriptures. He was simply doing his job and observing their behavior. It is an awesome and sobering thought to realize…

SOMEONE IS ALWAYS WATCHING US!

This may seem like an impossible call to fulfill. We have all experienced the naysayer who has criticized us for our faith and jumped on every mistake we have made saying – “Is that how a Christian should act?” This type of interaction reveals a cynical spirit. Yet, for the very few vocal objectors, countless others are silently observing our life. If we live our life of faith in Christ publicly others will observe and take note.

To live our life of faith in Christ publicly is not to set up a soapbox on the street corner and yell at people as they walk by – waving a huge Bible in the air. Rather, it is to live our life of faith honestly, transparently, and without reserve. It is to live out the fear of the Lord with a life that gives God glory in everything that we do. We never make a show of our faith to get others’ attention. Yet, we do not try to hide our faith and all the actions that are a part of it. We worship, pray, witness, and love others unashamed.

Think of the impact Paul and Silas had on the Philippian jailer. Beaten with rods, thrown into the dark inner chamber of the prison, feet, and hands locked in stocks, Paul and Silas begin to pray and sing hymns of praise. They did not whisper their prayers and worship. Nor do I think they shouted them out to be seen and heard. They simply lived out their life of faith without fear or reservation. They were not ashamed to proclaim the goodness and faithfulness of God – even in a dark, damp, and dingy prison cell.

The jailer heard their prayers and worship long before God intervened and opened the prison doors. When the doors were opened by the power of God the jailer was ready to take his own life rather than being arrested tortured to death by the Romans. Yet, when Paul and Silas called out, when they assured the jailer that no one had escaped, the jailer encountered both the power, mercy, and grace of God when he humbled himself saying,

  • “…Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Acts‬ ‭16:29-31‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Salvation came to the jailer and his entire family because of the public witness of Paul and Silas. The jailer was watching them even though they were not aware of this. And, when the jailer encountered the power of God his heart was in a position to hear the Gospel.

I believe the church needs to rethink its approach to evangelism in a post-Christian culture. No longer are people turning to the Bible and the church for answers when they encounter difficulties in life. The jailer was not seeking or even engaging Paul and Silas in dialogue. Yet – he was watching. And, every day we have people watching and observing our lives too. They may not pick up a Bible, they may not go to church, but they will observe how we react to the struggles of life. Will we complain like everyone else, or will we lift our voices in prayer and praise?

When I was a young Christian, saved in the Jesus Movement, I was walking down the center quad of the college I was attending. There must have been a spring in my step and the joy of the Lord was in my life. Someone stopped me and asked me what I was on and how he could get some. I told him it was not a high from drugs – I was high on Jesus. I was able to share the Lord with him that day on the quad. I am ashamed to say that I am not asked that question much anymore. It makes me realize that I need to live my faith as boldly and authentically as I did back then. Why?

BECAUSE PEOPLE ARE STILL WATCHING!

I may not be that long-haired Jesus person of years gone by. Yet, my life can still be a testimony of God’s power and faithfulness. I have an opportunity to live my faith every time I go to the store, interact with a waitress, or talk to a neighbor. This is where evangelism must take place. The church needs to stop waiting for people to come on Sunday and go into the highways and byways and live out the Good News for everyone to see and hear. If we all do this we will see a harvest of souls come to Christ. We need to reach them for Christ before we can get them into the church. This is what the disciples did – and we need to rediscover their playbook.

Lord, I am challenged and convicted by the story of Paul and Silas. They were unafraid to share Christ – even to their own peril. And, when beaten and thrown in jail they started a prayer meeting! They lived out their lives authentically and powerfully – and it changed the world – one jailer, one man, one family at a time. Grant me and Your church the grace to live for Christ once again, boldly, unashamed, and ready to give an answer to all who call to question the hope that is within us!

  • “Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ.” ‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭3:15-16‬ ‭NLT‬‬

In Jesus’ Name

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GOD IS IN CONTROL!

PSALMS 135:5-6: “For I know that the Lord is great, And our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the Lord pleases He does, In heaven and in earth, In the seas and in all deep places.” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: Is God in control of all things? Is God moving all the affairs of this world toward a determined end and purpose? Or, did God simply set everything in motion and everything that happens is subject to chance and the will of man?

There is an age-old debate regarding predestination and free will. The view of predestination is that God is in control of everything and the ultimate end of all things is already determined by God. We are just cooperating with fate. The view of free will is that man has a choice and his destiny is not preordained. Man’s destiny is determined by the choices he makes and God interacts with these choices.

The above is simply a working definition of these two positions and by no means a definitive explanation. However, the extreme of both positions either puts God in absolute control or makes every choice we make the determining factor. The good news is that one position does not have to be true to the exclusion of the other. Could it be possible that God is in complete control and that man has a free choice in his destiny? Is it possible that God’s sovereignty is not threatened by man’s free choice?

I love these verses from Psalms 135. The Psalmist declares,

  • “For I know that the Lord is great, And our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the Lord pleases He does, In heaven and in earth, In the seas and in all deep places.”

The Psalmist notes that the Lord is great and is above all gods. This is not an acknowledgment that other gods truly exist. A few verses after this we read,

  • “The idols of the nations are silver and gold, The work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they do not speak; Eyes they have, but they do not see; They have ears, but they do not hear; Nor is there any breath in their mouths. Those who make them are like them; So is everyone who trusts in them.” Psalms‬ ‭135:15-18‬ ‭NKJV‬

An idol does not exist. There is only one true God. And, the Lord, the Creator of all things, does as He pleases. No force in heaven or earth can thwart the will of God. Yet, this same all-powerful God allows each one of us to make our own choices. These choices determine our destiny. Yet – they do not alter the destiny and purposes of God. God’s purposes still will be accomplished no matter what man chooses.

I find this truth a great paradox. God is in control and man always has a choice. At the same time, God is moving everything by His mighty power to accomplish His purposes. This brings me a great sense of awe and wonder. Imagine over 8 billion people exercising their free will yet never altering the sovereign plan of God for mankind. How can this be true?

  • “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts. “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater, So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” Isaiah‬ ‭55:8-11‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

We cannot fully grasp or understand the ways of God. Just the other day I watched a beautiful hawk soar as it rode the air currents for over an hour. He soared effortlessly. I have never experienced this. I really cannot fully understand it. Yet, I can look upon it with awe and wonder and acknowledge its truth. Such it is with the ways of God. God does what he wants. He also gives man the ability to do what he chooses. Yet, His purposes are never thwarted. His word is established in the heavens. What God has spoken will be accomplished.

This brings me great comfort and hope. As I look at a world that seems to be out of control, I am reminded that God’s Word will be fulfilled. He will judge the nations. He will redeem His children. He will establish a New Heaven and a New Earth where He will reign forever and ever! The nations may raise their fists against the God of Creation. Yet, He will do what He wills and wants to do. God is sovereign and will accomplish all that He has spoken.

Today, we are all facing challenges that seem to be out of our control. We wonder how God will lead us through these challenges. How will He redeem the bad choices that we have made? This is where the truth of predestination and free will meet in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Paul writes in Romans 8,

  • “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” Romans‬ ‭8:28-30‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

In Jesus Christ, God redeems us and all of our choices. He works all things in our lives toward His good purpose. His purpose is to mold us into the image of Jesus Christ. This is what we are predestined for as children of God. He has called us, justified us through the blood of Jesus Christ, and is glorifying us day by day, step by step, choice by choice, as we walk in the power of His grace through the Holy Spirit.

The subject of predestination and free will can take many additional twists and turns. Endless books have been written on the subject. However, this morning I am blessed to simply give thanks that God is in control and is redeeming all the choices that I have made toward His good purpose. What a wonder to serve a loving God who gives us free will and redeems us with His powerful sovereign hand. Today I rejoice that…

GOD IS IN CONTROL!

In Jesus’ Name!

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WE WANT A KING!

I SAMUEL 8:4-7, 19-20: “Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, “Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” So Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them…Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, “No, but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.”
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OBSERVATION: We want a King! What motivated God’s chosen people to make this declaration? For over 400 years God had shown Himself faithful as both their Lord and King. When they followed and obeyed the Lord they prospered. When they disobeyed the Lord they fell under the persecution of the surrounding nations. As time wore on the children of Israel became discontent with their life. They insisted,

  • “No, but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations…”

In life, the grass always looks greener on the other side. Someone once wisely said – “When you are looking at your grass you are looking at it from a vertical view. You see all the brown and bare spots. However, when you look at someone else’s grass you are looking at it only from a horizontal view. All you see are the tops of the grass blades. The brown and bare spots are hidden. It appears that the lawn on the other side of the street is lush and green without any challenges.”

This is what happened to the nation of Israel. They looked at the surrounding nations from a horizontal view. They saw each nation had a king with pomp and circumstance. There were grand chariots, a royal palace, and all the appearances of grandeur. Yet, the nation of Israel was left with an aging prophet in Samuel, and two sons of Samuel who were disobedient and taking advantage of the people. They wanted a change! They wanted some pomp and circumstance.

They wanted a King!

I believe we are experiencing the same situation in the life of the United States of America. This nation, founded over 200 years ago, on Christian principles, is now looking at the grass of the nations of the world and they are saying in a sense – “We want a King!” We want to be like all the other nations. America looks at the green fields of socialism and lusts for its beauty. America longs for acceptance by the nations and is willing to lay down its torch of liberty. There are growing efforts in America to reject the Constitution so that we can be just like all the other nations.

In all of this, America is not rejecting a president or a political party. America is rejecting God. Once, one nation under God, we want to be one nation – just like everyone else. We have taken God out of our schools. We are systematically removing Him from the public square. And, we are rewriting history to remove Him from our past so that He does not influence our future.

America is making the same mistake as the nation of Israel.

What is the motivation behind America’s rejection of God? We can always point to sin and the work of the enemy of our souls. Yet, I believe there is something more at work here. I believe it is a growing spirit of national laziness. We are no longer pioneers. We are no longer a nation that is dependent upon God. We have become a nation of people who want someone else to do the work for us. We look to the government to solve our problems and fight our wars. We are glad to part with our money and liberty if we don’t have to put in our own effort!

  • “No, but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.”

Notice these words from the children of Israel – “…that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” Today, we want the government to do everything for us. Personal responsibility is becoming extinct. So is working hard to excel. We want all the accouterments of liberty without any effort. We want to create our own morality and have someone else watch the chicken coop. We have exchanged faith in God for devotion to government.

God told Samuel to warn Israel of what would happen if they rejected Him for a king. A king would be harsh, take their hard-earned labor, use their children for his purposes and benefit, and turn them into a nation of entitled slaves. Israel did not listen to this warning. They had crossed the line already in their heart. They wanted to be like everyone else.

They wanted the lawn across the street – at any price!

I pray for our nation. I pray for the church. I pray for the next generation that will determine the direction of both should the Lord tarry in His return. There have been many bleak and hopeless looking times in the history of America. Yet, God has poured out His Holy Spirit upon the church and revival has turned the tide in our land. America was the hope of the world because God was the hope of America. We are at a crossroads, or perhaps we have already chosen our path.

I pray for God’s mercy and that it is not too late!

Lord, turn the hearts of Your people back to You. Pour out Your Holy Spirit once again upon our nation and bring revival to our land. Let this revival turn our hearts once again to You. May we truly be one nation under God – once again. Grant us the grace to change the tide of America, one person at a time, as we proclaim the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ!

In Jesus’ Name!

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THE ONLY CURE FOR PREJUDICE…

ACTS 10:13-16: “And a voice came to him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.” And a voice spoke to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again.” NKJV

OBSERVATION: Is there a cure for prejudice? Is there anything that can bridge the racial divide in our culture? Is there something that levels the playing field, fosters true community, and breaks down the walls of hatred? I believe that there is! It is not a government program or a new social revolution. The only cure for prejudice is…

THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST!

I grew up in the 60s and 70s during some very difficult racial tension. I witnessed racial riots firsthand. There was prejudice on every side. And, now today, I am witnessing the cycle of history repeating itself. It has been over 50 years and there is still no change. It seems like society has regressed. The speeches of Martin Luther King fall on deaf ears. And, if I am honest, I am dealing with old feelings of prejudice in my heart that I thought were vanquished long ago.

Prejudice is not cured from the outside because it is a struggle of the heart. There is racial prejudice, gender prejudice, socio-economic prejudice, and geopolitical prejudice because we all are sinners. Left to ourselves we will huddle and group with the people we feel the most comfortable with and dismiss the rest. We will build walls of distrust, disinformation, and disunity based on our prejudices. And, the worst expression of this is when prejudice becomes hatred and is acted out through violence in the public arena.

Peter was a Jew – and he was prejudiced. His prejudice was the norm of his day among his people. The Jews were the chosen people of God. Their nation had been persecuted for generations by the Gentiles. They did not view the Gentiles as their neighbor. To a devout Jew, a Gentile was a vile dog – to be despised and never to be associated with. If the Gospel of Jesus Christ was going to move past Jerusalem to Samaria and the uttermost parts of the world, God was going to have to change Peter’s heart.

The Lord did this in two ways. First, He sent an angel to visit Cornelius, a Gentile worshipper of God. Second, He visited Peter in a vision while Peter slept. God directed Cornelius, a Roman Centurion, to call for Peter to come so that he could hear God’s word. The Romans (Gentiles) were ruling and oppressing God’s people. How could Peter go and speak to such a person? Peter could only do this if his heart was changed. It was not something that would happen automatically.

It would require the third time Jesus spoke to Peter in “threes.”

  1. The first time Jesus spoke to Peter in “threes” was when He warned Peter that he would deny Jesus three times. Peter did deny Christ three times and it dramatically impacted his life.
  2. The second time Jesus spoke to Peter in “threes” was when He restored Peter after the resurrection and affirmed His love for Peter and called Peter to feed and shepherd God’s flock.
  3. Now, through this dream, Jesus speaks to Peter once again in “threes.” Three times Peter sees food that was forbidden for a Jew to eat and three times the Lord said –

“Rise, Peter; kill and eat…What God has cleansed you must not call common.”

This no doubt got Peter’s attention. In fact, he could not stop thinking about it. He wondered what the Lord was trying to teach Him. Just then, the Holy Spirit spoke to Peter and told him three men (another three!) were coming to seek him and that Peter should go with them. Peter may have been dealing with prejudice in his life but he had a teachable heart. He followed God’s instructions and the three men brought him to the house of a Roman Centurion. Peter must have thought – “Surely, this has something to do with my vision!”

Cornelius gathered together his relatives and close friends and told Peter about the visit he had with the angel. He then asked Peter to share with them all that God had commanded him to share. Peter began to preach Jesus Christ. He bore witness to His miracles, sacrificial death for our sins, and victorious resurrection. Peter preached the GOSPEL! And, as he did, something remarkable happened.

  • “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days.” Acts‬ ‭10:44-48‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

This astonished both Peter and the Jews who accompanied him. There was no altar call, Peter did not lay his hands on these Gentiles – he simply proclaimed the GOSPEL! The message of Jesus Christ was met with open hearts in those who listened and God poured out the Holy Spirit upon all the Gentiles gathered together. How could this be? Peter realized that it was the fulfillment of God’s vision when three times He spoke –

”What God has cleansed you must not call common.”

In one instant the walls of separation were taken away. They were not a group of Jews and Gentiles. They were not a group of soldiers and the subjugated masses. The cross of Jesus Christ removed everything that separated them. They were united in faith and the indwelling gift of the Holy Spirit. They went from enmity to love, enemies to brothers and sisters in Christ. Prejudice was dealt a death blow with one thing, and one thing only –

THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST!

I am convicted as I reflect upon this wonderful account of transformation. The ability to love across all lines that divide is the love of Jesus Christ. This love is proclaimed and realized as we hear and believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. To the world, this seems like foolishness. Yet, to those of us who have believed and experienced its power, it is the only thing that can cure prejudice!

  • “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” I Corinthians‬ ‭1:18‬ ‭NKJV‬
  • “But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.: Ephesians‬ ‭2:13-16‬ ‭NKJV‬

Lord, touch my heart once again with the power of the Gospel. Tear down every wall of separation. Fill me to overflowing so that I can love others with the great love with which you have loved me. Awaken Your Church to see the power of the Gospel once again. May we be called and emboldened to shout it from house to house and from the mountaintops!

JESUS IS THE CURE FOR PREJUDICE!

  • “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” Romans‬ ‭1:16‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

In Jesus’ Name!

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FREE WILL REQUIRES STEWARDSHIP…

PSALMS 109:109-112: “My life is continually in my hand, Yet I do not forget Your law. The wicked have laid a snare for me, Yet I have not strayed from Your precepts. Your testimonies I have taken as a heritage forever, For they are the rejoicing of my heart. I have inclined my heart to perform Your statutes Forever, to the very end.” NKJV

OBSERVATION: Free will, apart from the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ, is the greatest gift that God has given to man. The Creator of the Universe, who has all power and authority, has entrusted to His humble creation the freedom to do whatever we desire. This free will is never taken away. When a person becomes a disciple of Jesus Christ, they still have a choice in how they respond to His call each and every day.

FREE WILL REQUIRES STEWARDSHIP!

(The careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care. Webster)

Free will can lead us into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ or it can pull us back to our old patterns of sin. Each day, each moment, we are faced with decisions that God places before us. When we are saved by His grace we are not placed in a bubble of protection. We are called to live out our new life of faith in the public arena where each moment we have choices to make. Will we walk after the Spirit or succumb to the flesh? Will we allow God’s Word to be our guide or will we lean to our own understanding?

IT IS ALL A QUESTION OF OUR FREE WILL!

The Psalmist writes these words.

  • “My life is continually in my hand, Yet I do not forget Your law.”

There is only one thing that stands between us and the wrong choices in life. It is the Word of God. Some versions translate this verse – “Although my life is in continuous peril, I will not forget Your law.” I believe you can look at this verse both ways. We are always faced with choices and we are always contending with the difficulties and challenges of life. Everything in life is trying to chip away at our walk of faith. The pull of the world is strong, yet God’s Word is stronger! Jesus reminded His disciples,

  • “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John‬ ‭8:31-32‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

So many believers today are doing everything – except abiding in God’s Word. In a recent poll conducted by the Barna Group, George Barna stated that only 4% of evangelicals hold a Biblical World View. What does this mean? It means that only this small percentage of believers who claim to believe in the Bible as their only source of truth – actually use the Bible to guide their lives and decisions. They are simply shooting from the hip and exercising their free will without any consultation with God’s Word.

I believe that I do hold a Biblical World View. I would count myself among the 4%. Yet, I know that, even with this, it is a daily battle to keep my free will submitted to the Word of God and walk in obedience to the Holy Spirit. It is not only the battles I face with my old sinful nature. I also face a hostile world that has marginalized me as a fanatic, a hate monger, a narrow-minded fool, and is poised at any moment to try and take me down! The Psalmist noted this as he wrote,

  • “The wicked have laid a snare for me, Yet I have not strayed from Your precepts.”

The enemy of our souls is trying to get us to move away from a full and complete dependence upon God’s Word for all matters of life and practice. The snare he is trying to lay is for us to loosen our commitment, make exceptions, embrace the false concept of tolerance (which means to simply give a pass to sin), and use our free will in a way that will lead us away from life in Christ Jesus.

Yet, I need to be like the Psalmist as he writes,

  • “…YET I HAVE NOT STRAYED FROM YOUR PRECEPTS!”

How do I do this? I can only do this by daily abiding in God’s Word. I need to read it, pray over it, meditate upon it, hide it in my heart, and take every decision I have before me and test it with the principles of Scripture. It is only then that I will truly be living with a Biblical World View. When I see all of my life, every decision, every exercise of my free will through the lens of Scripture, only then will I be…

A GOOD STEWARD OF MY FREE WILL!

(One who is careful and responsible in managing something entrusted to one’s care. Webster)

Lord, this morning, I am challenged to lay my free will at the foot of the cross. I am moved to recommit my life to You and Your Word. I pray that You would quicken me by the Holy Spirit to follow the example of the Psalmist and proclaim,

  • Your testimonies I have taken as a heritage forever, For they are the rejoicing of my heart. I have inclined my heart to perform Your statutes Forever, to the very end.”

In Jesus’ Name!

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WHEN THERE IS NO VISION…

PSALMS 119:25: “My soul clings to the dust; Revive me according to Your word.” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: Have you ever hit a dry spot in your devotions? You open the Word, read it, and it seems like you are climbing uphill. There are no moments of revelation, no deep thoughts, and it seems like you are simply reading over verses that you have read so many times. What do you do…

WHEN THERE IS NO VISION?

I am traveling through one of these valleys at the moment. I love God’s Word. I have spent my life pouring over the Scriptures and have been in awe of the wonderful times when I have been given revelation as I read the Word. Yet, today I find myself once again feeling like the Psalmist as he writes,

MY SOUL CLINGS TO THE DUST!

I have not had anything inspiring to write about. I have finished my reading and prayer time with an empty basket. There is a sense of guilt that I am struggling with as I seem to be reading and praying out of duty rather than out of delight. I pray each day for a breakthrough. As I began to meditate on Psalm 119, an acrostic Psalm that is devoted to the wonders of God’s Word, I could only work up the strength to pray,

REVIVE ME ACCORDING TO YOUR WORD!

I have traveled this valley before. I have gone to the familiar water spots only to find rocks and dust. I have battled with feelings of inadequacy and guilt. My faith has battled as I opened God’s Word and walked away without a special moment of inspiration and revelation. The enemy has whispered – “God has abandoned you.” My physical and emotional strength has waned. All I can do is cry out to God,

REVIVE ME ACCORDING TO YOUR WORD!

The one thing that I have learned over the years of walking with the Lord and abiding in His Word is that God never leaves us in the valley. Why do we find ourselves here at times? Why isn’t life one mountaintop experience after another? It may be that the Lord is trying to teach us something or perfect our faith. It may also be that we are being attacked by the enemy. Whatever the reason, I have learned that God always will lead us through the valleys of life!

  • “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Psalms‬ ‭23:4‬ ‭NKJV‬

In these times I must remind myself – there is no time that is spent in God’s Word that is not fruitful. The Word of God is living and active. The words on the pages of Scripture are my daily bread. They are a revelation of Jesus Christ. They are the pathway of life. They are the only source of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. I don’t come to God’s Word to simply receive a blessing. I come to God’s Word to have fellowship with the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit!

Weariness never lasts if we persevere in faithfulness. Why am I weary? Is it physical, emotional, or spiritual? I don’t really know. However, one thing I am certain of, one thing I know from experience – He will lead me to still waters. He will restore my soul. He will lead me in the path of righteousness for His name’s sake.

  • “I have declared my ways, and You answered me; Teach me Your statutes. Make me understand the way of Your precepts; So shall I meditate on Your wonderful works. My soul melts from heaviness; Strengthen me according to Your word. Remove from me the way of lying, And grant me Your law graciously. I have chosen the way of truth; Your judgments I have laid before me. I cling to Your testimonies; O Lord, do not put me to shame! I will run the course of Your commandments, For You shall enlarge my heart.” Psalms‬ ‭119:26-32‬ ‭NKJV‬

ENLARGE MY HEART, I PRAY…

In Jesus’ Name!

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