I LOVE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS!

JOHN 1:4-5: “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” NKJV

OBSERVATION: Christmas lights are like ice cream. It is hard to find people who don’t enjoy them. Once a year our neighborhoods and businesses take on a bright glowing grandeur that is not present the rest of the year. Nights are reserved for a cup of hot cocoa and a drive around the neighborhood to take in all the lights and sights!

I love Christmas lights!

Christmas lights are special because they take place once a year. They are not always shining so we become bored with them. Communities even schedule special events to turn on the lights. This year my wife and I will be attending the lighting ceremony in our golf course community. It will be filled with music, refreshments, and of course the traditional countdown to turn on the lights.

Rest assured, there are places where people do not cherish the lights. The people who live and work in Las Vegas do not cherish the lights on the strip. These lights are shining every day and night. There is nothing special about them. In fact, they are downright gaudy. To the visitor, they are a wonder for a few days. Yet, to the person who works there day after day they mean absolutely nothing.

Jesus came as the Light of the World! The opening verses in the Gospel of John read – “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” Jesus’ light was more than just a display of lights on the Vegas Strip, Time Square, or Hollywood Boulevard. Jesus’ light was the radiance of life. Jesus was the one true light who came to bring light to a darkened world.

Jesus was the eternal Christmas light sent from God the Father!

It would be sad if each year Christmas lights were put up but no one cared. Imagine, business going on as usual. No drives around the neighborhood to admire the lights. No hot cocoa or Christmas movies. No exchanging of gifts, family meals, or celebrations. If this were the case – how long do you think families and businesses would keep hanging their lights?

Yet, this is exactly what happened when Jesus came. Jesus came as the source of life, the light from heaven, a beacon to a world lost in darkness, and yet – “…the darkness does not comprehend it.” They did not get it. Life had come and most people missed the parade. How did God respond? Did he simply say – “Well, they missed their chance! No more lights for these ungrateful people!” That would have been my response. Yet, God had a different response.

“And the light shines in the darkness…”

The light of Jesus’ life continues to shine. God did not pull the plug. In this darkened world filled with sin, brokenness, and sorrow – there is a light that shines. It is not an artificial light created by man. It is the radiant beam of God’s love, His life, His very person. The enemy of our souls tried to extinguish this light once and for all. Yet, Jesus defeated both sin and death and rose again in radiant life. His light continues to shine and His life continues to call men and women to His life!

  • “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” John‬ ‭1‬:‭12‬-‭13‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

This is why I love Christmas lights! Whenever I look at these lights I am reminded of the one true light who came to bring life into the world. I am reminded of the moment when I became a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ my Lord. I am reminded that this light will never go out and that one day I will stand eternally in His presence warmed by the radiance of His life!

I love Christmas lights – because I love Jesus!

Lord, I pray that this Christmas season will be filled with both light and life for all. May Your light shine upon the hearts of those who do not understand to bring them to the wonderful knowledge of the truth so that they too can open their hearts to the true Christmas light – Jesus Christ, the light of life!

In Jesus’ Name!

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DON’T JUST READ YOUR BIBLE!

REVELATION 1:3: “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.” NKJV

OBSERVATION: Do you read your Bible? This may sound like an unnecessary question for a believer. Yet, in today’s church, the sad truth is that most Christians are Biblically illiterate. They own several Bibles, they have the Bible app on their phones, and they carry their Bible to church, yet they rarely open the pages of Scripture as they struggle from one week to the next.

I used to be in this camp. I read my Bible, but I did not read it regularly. Many times I made a goal to read my Bible from cover to cover, only to fizzle out sometime in February. I bought the One Year Bible, I tried several reading programs – all without success. I would read my Bible to prepare for a sermon, periodically throughout the week, but I was defeated by the tyranny of the urgent in my daily routine.

As I close out this year, I will celebrate reading through the Bible from cover to cover. I have enjoyed doing this over the past 20 years as I have practiced a discipline I believe the Lord gave to me. I call this the L.I.F.E. Program. It is very simple. I simply read three chapters of the Old Testament and one chapter of the New Testament each day. If I miss a day I simply pick up where I left off. And, I have finished the Bible each year since beginning this discipline.

However, my goal is not simply to read through the Bible as if I was running a meaningless marathon. My goal is to do much more. As I read the opening verses of the Book of Revelation I was reminded that I need to do more than simply read the Bible.

I need to READ, HEAR, and KEEP God’s Word!

This is what the L.I.F.E. Program of Bible reading is all about. Here are the simple steps in the acronym.

L – LIGHT: I do my reading each day, prayerfully and expectantly. I trust the Holy Spirit to illuminate (light) something in my reading and to speak to my heart in a personal way.

I – INTERCESSION: I pray before I begin reading and I also pray throughout the reading process. As I read I pause to pray over what I am reading and many times over people that the Lord places on my heart during this time in His Word. I am not just reading. I am having a daily conversation with God through His Word and prayer.

F – FORGIVENESS: I have found that as I read God’s Word, as I hear what the Holy Spirit is speaking to my heart, I must come to the foot of the cross for forgiveness, cleansing, and grace. When we hear the still small voice of the Spirit it will always lead us to the cross to find God’s provision for our lack and our daily living.

E – ENGAGEMENT: Reading God’s Word, hearing the still small voice of the Holy Spirit and receiving His forgiveness, cleansing, and grace, will lead to action in our life. John’s introduction promises a blessing to those who read, hear, and keep! It is the keeping where God’s grace meets our obedience. If we do not engage what we have read and heard there will be no growth. Spiritual growth only takes root when our prayers are followed by our obedience in response to the grace of God working in our lives.

One final note. All of the above would not have the impact that it needs to have if I omitted one important thing – JOURNALING! Imagine you were paying for a degree program at one of the finest colleges in the nation. Do you think you would benefit only from the lectures – if you did not take notes? Would you remember what you had heard during the hour? Would you be able to study and prepare for the tests you would be required to take? Taking notes is paramount to growing in knowledge.

This is why I journal regularly. This is exactly what I am doing right now. I am not writing these words to impress anyone. I am writing these words more for my benefit than anyone else. I need to wrestle with the word the Holy Spirit is speaking to me. I need to grapple with the thoughts in my mind and my heart. And, I need to call myself to action and implementation. Without this exercise, everything will be easily forgotten.

And, so I read, listen, pray, grapple, journal, and engage. I do this daily. I do this with great expectations. I do this each year by reading a new version of an unmarked Bible so I am greeting the text like it is the first time I ever read it. And, I do this with joy. My discipline has become my delight. I can’t wait to begin this process again in the New Year.

Lord, grant me the grace to continue to read, hear, and keep Your Word – so that I can experience L.I.F.E.!

In Jesus’ Name!

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THE PROBLEM OF LIVING ONLY FOR THE MOMENT…

MALACHI 3:13-15: “You have said terrible things about me,” says the Lord. “But you say, ‘What do you mean? What have we said against you?’ “You have said, ‘What’s the use of serving God? What have we gained by obeying his commands or by trying to show the Lord of Heaven’s Armies that we are sorry for our sins? From now on we will call the arrogant blessed. For those who do evil get rich, and those who dare God to punish them suffer no harm.’” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Am I just living only for the moment? Is my life governed by only those things that benefit me now? Are my peace and security tied to the stock market? Do I ignore the weightier matters of life as long as my little corner is safe and cozy?

The nation of Israel had an ongoing flaw. They were grumblers. They complained, wined, and moaned in Egypt, on the day of their deliverance, and when they had the opportunity to enter the Promised Land. Like Lot’s wife, they were continually looking over their shoulders, admiring the grass of someone else’s lawn.

Think about all the benefits the children of Israel were given. They were chosen out of all the people groups in the world to be God’s special people. They would be the ones who would receive God’s Word to pass down through the generations. And, it would be through Israel’s seed that the Savior of the world would come.

Yet, with all of these advantages, they still grumbled and complained.

In the message from Malachi the prophet, the Lord confronts the remnant of the great nation of Israel who had returned from the Babylonian and Assyrian captivities. Once again, failing to see God’s blessings and provisions, God challenges them saying,

  • “You have said terrible things about me,” says the Lord.“

Like a small child caught with his hand in the cookie jar, this small remnant of God’s people responds – ‘What do you mean? What have we said against you?’” God replies,

  • “You have said, ‘What’s the use of serving God? What have we gained by obeying his commands or by trying to show the Lord of Heaven’s Armies that we are sorry for our sins? From now on we will call the arrogant blessed. For those who do evil get rich, and those who dare God to punish them suffer no harm.’”

Have you ever felt this way? I know I have. You try to serve the Lord, love others, and follow and obey His commandments, and you wonder – “Is it all worth it?” What benefit is there to taking up one’s cross daily and following Jesus? When you look at the world around you it seems like the rich are getting richer and those who break the rules are winning the race. You look at the injustice in this world and wonder…

“Where is God?”

If we only live for the moment we will live a life of grumbling and regret. Paul put it this way,

  • “And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.” 1 Corinthians‬ ‭15‬:‭19‬ ‭NLT‬

When we forget to live with an eternal perspective in life we set ourselves up for a life of grumbling, disappointment, and regret. So many have turned being a Christ-follower into a pathway of success and prosperity. This used to work in America because of her abundant wealth. However, this focus did not export well to third-world nations, and it is no longer working very well in America as we face rapidly growing inflation and economic unrest.

Christianity is more than a get-rich scheme. It is a calling to love and follow Jesus. It is concerned about the life to come and the fulfillment of Jesus’ Great Commission to make disciples of all nations. It is a call to give rather than receive, to bless rather than to be blessed and to serve rather than to be served. It is the way of the cross.

It is an eternal calling with an eternal reward.

As we read the following verses in the book of Malachi we are reminded of this eternal focus.

  • “Then those who feared the Lord spoke with each other, and the Lord listened to what they said. In his presence, a scroll of remembrance was written to record the names of those who feared him and always thought about the honor of his name.” Malachi‬ ‭3‬:‭16‬. NLT‬

God’s words did not fall on deaf ears. In all of history, there has been the faithful remnant who saw past the immediate and into the eternal. These were the ones who feared God, who remained faithful, who persevered. They did this not for an immediate reward. They did this because of their love for God and His promise of a coming Kingdom of righteousness. And, to these faithful, God promised –

  • “They will be my people,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “On the day when I act in judgment, they will be my own special treasure. I will spare them as a father spares an obedient child. Then you will again see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.” ‭‭Malachi‬ ‭3‬:‭17‬-‭18‬ ‭NLT‬‬

There may be sacrifice and suffering for the moment. Yet, for those who love God, who fear His name, who walk after the Spirit of God, there will be deliverance from the day of judgment and a vindication of their faith and sacrifice. It will be on that day that the answer will be given as their names are read in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

It is worth it to serve the Lord!

Whatever sacrifice is made in this life for the Kingdom of God, there will be bountiful blessings in eternity for those who have answered the call, embraced God’s grace, and followed Jesus. In Jesus’ own words…

  • “…Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life.” ‭Mark‬ ‭10‬:‭29‬-‭30‬ ‭NLT‬

Lord, forgive me for the times I have grumbled and complained. Give me the grace to keep my eye on Your eternal promise. Help me to remain faithful – rejoicing that my name is written in the Lamb’s book of life, and that I will hear you say,

  • “…Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!” Matthew‬ ‭25‬:‭23‬ ‭NLT‬‬

In Jesus’ Name!

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THE PROBLEM WITH WALKING IN THE LIGHT…

I JOHN 1:5-6: “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: Why do I struggle with walking in the light? What is it about light that is both inviting and intimidating at the same time? Why do I find myself facing my greatest battles in the shadows? I confess – it is a constant battle to keep walking in the light!

Why is this? John’s first statement is both profound and intimidating at the same time.

  • “…God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.”

When I read this statement I am undone. Does walking in the light mean walking in perfection? I know that there is no darkness or shadow of turning in God. Yet, I see within my life a constant struggle between light and darkness. I feel the battle that Paul so eloquently outlines in the book of Romans.

  • “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.” Romans‬ ‭7‬:‭15‬-‭19‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

What is Paul saying? He is saying exactly what John says after he proclaims God’s nature.

  • “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.”

Therein lies the problem with light. We know that God is light. We know that we are to be children of the light. We know that we are to let our light shine. Yet – we see the reality of darkness in our lives. We want to live in the light, and we want to practice the truth, yet we continue to struggle with the darkness in our lives. What is the answer to this great internal struggle?

We have two real choices before us. The first choice is to hide from the light. This is the natural choice of our old sinful nature. It misunderstands God’s nature and His call to be in the light. This misconception focuses on the fear of punishment and the exposure of our sin. Jesus speaks about this in John’s Gospel.

  • “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.” John‬ ‭3‬:‭19‬-‭20‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

The second choice is to walk into the light! God’s light is not a celestial spotlight that is searching for our weaknesses and failures. Rather, it is God’s love that is calling us to His healing, forgiveness, and restoration. When we try to hide our darkness from God the only person we are fooling is ourselves. God sees our struggle. He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, to die in our place, to break the power of sin and death so that we could come into His light. And, His light is not to destroy us – His light is to cleanse us!

  • “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” John‬ ‭3‬:‭17‬ ‭NKJV‬‬
  • “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I John‬ ‭1‬:‭7‬-‭9‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

God’s light is not to condemn us. God’s light comes to show us what is keeping us from life. It reveals the darkness so that we can be cleansed and forgiven. As we walk in the light we will constantly be dealing with darkness and sin. This is the process of sanctification. And, as this sin is revealed in our lives God’s provision is with us. The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

Sometimes I forget the fact that this is a struggle that I will face until I step into Jesus’ presence. I beat myself up saying – “Surely you should be better than this by now!” Why are you tempted by the same things? Am I a hypocrite? Is God disappointed with me? What if others knew what I was thinking and struggling with?

God’s Word comes to assure me once more. “If we (I) say that we (I) have no sin, we (I) deceive ourselves (myself), and the truth is not in us (me).” I am a sinner saved by grace. My old man is dead in Christ but he still tries to get up every morning. When the enemy comes with his condemnation I have learned to agree with him. I don’t agree that I am worthless. I agree that I am a sinner. And, I gladly step into the wonderful provision that I have in Jesus Christ my Lord.

  • “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

This does not mean I am free to sin, do what I want to, and simply ask God for forgiveness. This is not the reality of a born-again believer. I cannot live a sinful and destructive lifestyle and proclaim to be a Christ follower. Yet, I will still battle with temptations in my life. I will still face thoughts and feelings that I know are not of the light. And, when I do, I know that as I run to the light I will be met with the wonderful provision of God through Jesus Christ my Lord!

  • “But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” John‬ ‭3‬:‭21‬ ‭NKJV‬‬
  • “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” I John‬ ‭1‬:‭7‬ ‭NKJV‬

Lord, this morning, I run to Your light. Expose any darkness within me. Cleanse me by the blood of Jesus Christ. Guard my heart against both spiritual pride and hypocrisy. Keep me humble, kneeling at the foot of Your cross, walking in the fullness of Your forgiveness and cleansing – so that I can live fully in Your light!

In Jesus’ Name!

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BE CAREFUL WHO YOU LISTEN TO…

II PETER 2:18-20: “For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage. For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning.” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: WARNING – Be careful who you listen to! False teachers are nothing new. They existed in the Old Testament, during the time of Jesus, in the early church, and they are among us today. We hesitate to identify false teachers because we do not want to be accused of judging others. Yet, we need to understand their characteristics, be careful we don’t fall prey to their schemes, and leave judging up to the Lord.

Peter outlines several characteristics that will be found in all false teachers. The first I find very interesting. Peter says,

  • “For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness…”

The book of Proverbs says that a fool is known by his many words, but even a fool, when he is silent, will be counted wise. With false teachers, the bigger the story, the more sensational it becomes – the more careful we need to be. The characteristic of a great con is to spin a yarn that is so big it seems impossible – and then convince you to believe it. False teachers use this trick. They make great claims that are never checked or authenticated. They excite their audiences with stories that seem too good to be true. And, this is usually because they are!

  • “…They allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error.”

These great swelling words of emptiness are not focused on calling one to the cross, repentance, or commitment to Christ. They are usually focused on the personal blessing that is available for the individual who listens and then supports the false teacher (monetarily). The false teacher appeals to those things that are temporal and passing away. They promise prosperity, divine health, favor, and blessing – without the cross. Unlike Jesus, they would have welcomed the rich young ruler and emboldened him to walk in his covetousness as long as he supported their cause.

The lifestyle of the false teacher is lewd, in your face, and braggadocious. They claim to have the blessings of heaven because they are walking in a deeper understanding of the truth. Like crude multi-level marketing schemes, they promise the same excess and blessings to those who buy their books and give offerings to support the ministry. Many times they will put a price tag on these offerings. I once heard a television evangelist ask for a seed of $1000 to release divine healing. Without this specific amount, there would be no healing or blessing for the individual. They needed to prove their faith by giving $1000 or more!

  • “While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage.”

When the curtain is rolled back the truth is revealed. I will never forget a local false teacher who lived in my hometown. He had a weekly television show, claimed to be a great healer, and boasted of his faith as evidenced by his luxurious living. Yet, the reality was that he was a carnival huckster who was simply fleecing his flock. On his show, he sold miracle water from the holy land. Yet, an employee who quit the ministry, revealed that these miraculous vials of water were filled from a garden hose in the back of his offices. This false teacher was exposed on national television. So what did he do? He simply moved his show to a new time slot and focused on a new audience who did not know of his past.

  • “For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning.”

The sad thing about many false teachers is the fact that they came from solid Christian homes. They were taught the truth and were raised in the church, yet they turned from the pure knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ to serve themselves and lead many astray. They forsook the way of the cross and followed the way of Balaam, thinking that godliness is a means of gain. Their condition is actually worse than that of an unbeliever since they openly denied Christ after knowing the way of life.

The spirit that works in false teachers is actively at work in both the world and the church. We see the same excess and attitudes in our politicians today as we see in false teachers in the church. These warnings in Scripture are not given to us as mere knowledge. They are given to us as somber exhortations and instructions. Any person can be led astray if they do not stay true to the Word of God and understand the red flags of false teaching.

So, I am brought back to these words from the Apostle Paul to Timothy in his second letter.

  • “But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” II Timothy‬ ‭3‬:‭13‬-‭17‬ ‭NKJV‬

Lord, in these last days, it is evident that evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving many. Grant us the grace to cling to Your Holy Scriptures. Let us look to Your Word as our only source of truth, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness – so that we can be complete and thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Lord – Help us to be careful who we listen to!

In Jesus’ Name!

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A HYMN FOR ELECTION DAY…

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name

On Christ the solid rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand
(Edward Mote, 1837)

OBSERVATION: Today is November 8, 2022 – Election Day in the United States of America. For months politicians have been campaigning. The television and radio airwaves have been filled with political ads. There have been accusations, scandals, and the typical mud-slinging. It has been billed as the election of our lifetime, the future of our Democracy, the last hope for America as we know it.

I believe that every Christ follower should be involved in the community, state, and nation in which they live. This includes paying taxes, obeying the laws of the land, and praying for our elected officials. It is incongruent to call oneself a Christian and ignore the world around us. Jesus said that we are to render unto Ceasar the things that are Ceasar’s and to God the things that are God’s. We have a dual responsibility in this world.

With regard to the world, we must stand up for righteousness. Micah proclaims the Word of the Lord when he writes,

  • “He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?” Micah‬ ‭6‬:‭8‬ ‭NKJV‬

In these words, we find this dual responsibility once again. To do justly is much more than merely trying to live one’s life according to the will of God. It also means standing up for the poor, the disenfranchised, and those who cannot speak for themselves. It is to stand up for the principle of life for all – for the unborn, the living, and the elderly. It is to stand up for children who are vulnerable and easily misled. It is to support the God-ordained institution of marriage and family. And, how do we do this?

WE VOTE!

We vote for candidates who most closely align with our Biblical values. We vote for platforms that support life, and religious freedom, and uphold principles of justice for fall. We vote for the opportunity of all men and women to engage in life and reach their God-given potential.

Now, no candidate is perfect. We are all broken men, saved by grace through faith, and in need of continual cleansing and forgiveness. If our criteria were to find perfect candidates we would never vote for anyone. We are not looking for a perfect candidate because we are not perfect. Our hope is not placed in a candidate. It is placed in Christ alone. And, so we come to our hymn for election day.

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name

We never place our hope on candidates (“the sweetest frame”; frame here refers to the strength of a person). We place our hope in Jesus’ Name! Jesus alone is the hope of the world. We are not cleansed by our good deeds, our political party, or the way we cast our votes. We are cleansed solely by the blood of Jesus Christ. Only Jesus can turn the heart of the vilest sinner into a child of God. And, only Jesus can truly save our land!

And, so, as we cast our votes as believers, as we vote for principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we do so in faith, knowing that we do not live by bread alone (worldly structures), we live by the living and abiding Word of God. With this understanding, as we watch the results of today’s election, our hearts will be lifted in praise…

On Christ the solid rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand

In Jesus’ Name!

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AND NOW – “A WORD FROM OUR PROPHET!”

AMOS 5:21-24: “I hate all your show and pretense— the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies. I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings. I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings. Away with your noisy hymns of praise! I will not listen to the music of your harps. Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: I remember the Golden Age of Television. When I was a small boy growing up in the 60s, television was in its heyday. Families gathered around the TV to watch shows during what was called “prime time.” This was usually 7PM – 10PM, although I was never allowed up past 9PM! Unlike today, each show was sponsored by one or two companies. When there was a commercial break the announcer would say,

“And now, a word from our Sponsor!”

It is very rare today that you will hear a sermon from one of the minor prophets. These are the smaller books at the end of the Old Testament that feature the writings of godly prophets who spoke to both the nation of Israel and Judah. They called them back to repentance from their sinful backsliding. They spoke of the nature of God and revealed both His mercy and justice. As I read in the book of Amos today, it was as if I was a small child again, sitting intently at the television, and then I heard,

“And now, a word from our Prophet!”

As I look upon the condition of this world, as I approach a major election in just 3 days, I wonder – am I really engaged in what is going on or am I simply offering up sacrifices and singing songs. The uncomfortable reality that is revealed in the minor prophets is that I can be involved in all the trappings of religion and be completely blind to my true spiritual condition.

This was the reality for both Israel and Judah. They had embraced idols, they participated in injustice, they ignored the poor, they practiced all forms of immorality, and yet they contined offering sacrifices, celebrating feasts, and holding worship services. They ingnored the prophet’s call to repentance.

What did they have to repent for? God loved them. They were God’s chosen people. Certainly these prophets, minor ones to boot, had it all wrong!

How many churches will stand from their pulpits this coming Sunday to call their congregations to repentance, to righteousness, and to vote for principles and candidates that support life, liberty, and justice? How many will look past their worship set, videos, and announcements and take time to cry out to God for His mercy and deliverance. My prayer is that all will do this. Yet, I know this is not the case.

So, as the services start, as people gather to worship, as the morning is planned, perhaps we all need to stop and hear these words,

“And now, a word from our Prophet!”

  • “I hate all your show and pretense— the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies. I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings. I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings. Away with your noisy hymns of praise! I will not listen to the music of your harps. Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living.”

Lord, when I hear these words, I do not point a finger. I hear them speaking to my heart. I hear them challenging me to break up my fallow ground and plant seeds of righteousness. I hear them calling me to stand up for the poor, uphold that which is good, and by Your great grace – to be swept away in a mighty flood of justice and and endless river of righteouss living. Lord, transform my heart so that my worship will be acceptable in Your sight. Help me to –

“Hear the word of Your Prophet!”

In Jesus’ Name!

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THE MEEKNESS OF WISDOM…

JAMES 3:13: “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom.” NKJV

OBSERVATION: What is wisdom? To some, it is learning from others who have more life experience. To others, it is the writings of antiquity. To the believer, it is the Word of God as revealed in the Holy Scriptures. The Biblical way of defining wisdom is,

WISDOM – is seeing life from God’s perspective!

Our source of wisdom is God’s Word. Wisdom is not our perspective of life. Wisdom is God’s revelation of life through the Scriptures. It is not given to us to merely grow in knowledge. God’s wisdom is given to us to transform our lives and to impact every area of our behavior. So, James challenges us when he writes,

  • “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom.”

This short statement gives us both a direction and a challenge. Wisdom, true wisdom, transforms our life. In the book of Proverbs, we are exhorted to seek wisdom and with wisdom to seek understanding. James combines these two things when he asks – “Who is wise and understanding among you?” Whereas, wisdom is seeing life from God’s perspective,

UNDERSTANDING – is learning how to apply the principles of Scripture through our daily conduct.

So James exhorts us – “Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom.” This is the call to walk in wisdom and understanding. Wisdom is not complete without understanding. Understanding is shown through our good conduct and changed life. It is our submission to God and our obedience to His Word that shows that we are truly walking in God’s wisdom.

James adds another interesting clarification to his instruction. Our good works are to be done in the “meekness” of wisdom. Someone has defined meekness as – power under control. Jesus was called meek. Jesus did not hide from confrontation or difficulty. Yet, Jesus never lost control of His emotions and He never struck back in retaliation. Jesus walked in the power and wisdom of God through meekness.

In this day of division, strife, and hatred, we need to show the world the wisdom of God. They are not seeking His wisdom but they will take notice if we live our lives with meekness. Wisdom does not have to fight. Truth is truth and it stands on its own. Wisdom simply has to be proclaimed, in love, and confirmed through understanding – our daily obedience to God in the power of the Holy Spirit.

If we have received the true wisdom that is from above, we don’t need to get angry with someone who does not agree with us. We can love that person and exercise self-control as we share God’s wisdom with them in love. There is no guarantee on how they will receive this, but rest assured, they will take notice. Peter writes in his epistle,

  • “Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior (works done in the meekness of wisdom; mine), and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.” 1 Peter‬ ‭2‬:‭12‬ ‭NLT‬

And Jesus teaches us,

  • “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” Matthew‬ ‭5‬:‭14‬-‭16‬ ‭NLT‬

In a world that is torn with anger and division, we as believers are called to live our lives in the wisdom of God. We are not called to fight with unbelievers. We are called to love them, pray for them, and share the Good News of Jesus Christ with them. We are called to live our lives in the meekness of wisdom. We do not protest and burn buildings. We do not shout out words of anger and hate. We proclaim Jesus Christ, crucified, buried, and risen from the dead!

We proclaim the Wisdom of God!

  • “Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.” 1 Corinthians‬ ‭1‬:‭21‬-‭24‬ ‭NLT‬

Father, transfom my life, my conduct, and my words. Make my life a reflection of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the meekness of His wisdom.

In Jesus’ Name!

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WHAT ABOUT HALLOWEEN?

JAMES 1:26-27: “If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: Today is October 31. Today much of the world will celebrate Halloween. The internet will be filled with spooky posts and also countless articles about why Halloween is an evil holiday. Many within Christendom are divided over this debate. Some see it as merely a harmless time for children to dress up and have fun. Others see it as a celebration of the kingdom of darkness. All believers should ask this question,

What about Halloween?

I grew up in a mainline denomination that did not see anything wrong with celebrating Halloween. Granted, when I was a child it was a much simpler time. Yet, I can remember looking forward each year to dressing up and filling my bag with a bounty of candy. We would have neighborhood parties, bobbing for apples, and it was an all-around fun time for all.

Yet, in those years, I did not understand the difference between the kingdom of righteousness and the kingdom of darkness. Surely, no child did. I know my parents did not understand these things because we never discussed them. And, I never heard any teaching from the pulpit about these things.

When I committed my life to Jesus Christ as a young man, everything changed. When I was born again and filled with the Holy Spirit something inside me changed. I began to read my Bible and I found that I could understand it. As I read the pages of Scripture I began to understand that there were two spiritual realities. There was a spiritual battle taking place. It was a battle for the hearts and souls of men!

It was once possible for me to practice religion and celebrate Halloween. I did not see anything wrong with it. Dressing up like a devil or a witch was simply make-believe. Yet, I was practicing religion without knowledge. I was hearing the Word but not doing it. I was walking in darkness and not even knowing it. As James writes,

  • “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.” James‬ ‭1‬:‭23‬-‭24‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

My religion had no change of heart. My spiritual eyes were darkened. I heard the Word but did not understand it. I looked into the mirror of truth and walked away not even understanding what I had seen. Yet, I can do this no longer. As I look at the world, as I see the enemy raging to capture souls and destroy lives, I can no longer wink at a holiday that celebrates everything that is dark and twisted.

James writes,

  • “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”

To be a disciple of Jesus Christ is to live a life of transformation. It is to receive a new heart, new eyes, and a new purpose for living. We no longer live for ourselves, but we live for Jesus Christ and we are called to serve others through His love. Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. He came so that we might have life (in Him) and life more abundantly. The enemy comes only to kill, steal, and destroy.

To celebrate Halloween as a believer is to forget why we were redeemed.

As a believer, I am called to keep myself unspotted from the world. This means that I am to put the cross of Jesus Christ before me at all times. I need to ask myself these questions about anything I do.

  1. Will it help me to grow in Christ?
  2. Will it give glory to God?
  3. Will it help me to serve others?
  4. Will it help me to share the love of Christ?
  5. Will it lead others to Jesus, spiritual freedom, and eternal life?

If the answer is NO to any of the questions above, then as a believer this is something I choose not to do. And, as a believer, one who is desiring to be a doer of the Word and not merely a hearer, this is why I cannot celebrate Halloween.

One final note. I believe it is important for churches and people of faith to allow our children to experience the joys of life. This can still be done without celebrating Halloween. We need to teach our children the reason why we do not celebrate this holiday and give them a functional alternative to celebrate and have fun. Over the years, as a pastor, we would have either a Fall Family Festival or a Jesus Celebration. It would include dressing up as Biblical characters or characters that were God-pleasing, along with games, candy, and fun. And, we would always share the Gospel as we did this for children who came that did not know Jesus.

My prayer is that we can lead our children in Jesus’ path, help them to understand the difference between darkness and light, good and evil, all without taking away their childhood. This takes wisdom and balance. Yet, in these dark days, this is exactly what is needed.

Lord, give us the courage, wisdom, and balance to do so.

In Jesus’ Name!

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HANG IN THERE!

HEBREWS 10:35-39: “Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: “For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: Elijah was one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament. He was called to speak for God in Israel during the reign of one of the most wicked kings and queens that ever lived – Ahab and Jezebel. Elijah proclaimed the Word of God during these wicked days. He stood alone many times in his calling. He felt like he was the only one who remained faithful to God. Weary, depressed, and despairing of life itself, Elijah received the call to endure!

I have met so many Christians today who are becoming weary in their walk of faith. They look at the rapid decline of morality in our culture, the growing failures of Christian leaders, and the apathy of many who claim to be followers of Christ, and they feel exactly as Elijah did. Yet, amid their frustration and despair, the Holy Spirit is calling. We too have a need for endurance. I can hear the call of the Holy Spirit. He is calling each one of us to faith and endurance. This is not a time to give up. This is a time to…

HANG IN THERE!

The writer of Hebrews exhorts us.

  • “For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise:”

He reminds us that the promise is sure and calls us to faith!

  • “For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith;”

Jesus warned us that in the last days, things would grow progressively worse. The Bible does not teach us that the world will get better and better before the return of Christ. What it does teach us is that the return of Christ is certain. It is our blessed hope. It is the assurance of this hope that gives us the strength to continue in faith until that blessed day. We do not look for man or government to usher in a better world. We look for the coming Kingdom and our hope is anchored in the coming King!

  • “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” II Corinthians‬ ‭4‬:‭16‬-‭18‬ ‭NKJV‬‬
  • “Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” II Peter‬ ‭3‬:‭13‬ ‭NKJV‬

We live in a divine tension as Christ’s followers. We are called to pray for all in authority. We are called to let our light shine and love others as Christ has loved us. We are called to be good stewards of all God has given us and to make every effort to make this world a better place.

YET – we know that in the last days things will grow progressively worse. There will become a greater divide between darkness and light. Today, many believers around the world are putting their life on the line each day as they proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And, each day in America, we are seeing the spirit of the antichrist beginning to manifest himself in our culture. Today, unlike any other day in my lifetime, I feel the Holy Spirit calling me to…

HANG IN THERE!

It is a call to walk by faith. It is a call to daily be filled with the Holy Spirit. It is a call to pick up my cross and choose the narrow path each and every day. It is a call to look unto Jesus, the author, and finisher of my faith. And, so the writer of Hebrews closes these thoughts with these words.

  • “And He who is coming will come and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.”

Lord, this morning, anchor my soul in the blessed assurance of Your soon coming. Give me the grace to walk each day by faith in Jesus Christ my Lord! Let me be with those who do not draw back, but believe to the saving of the soul. As I patiently await Your return and the new heavens and earth that You have promised, help me to…

HANG IN THERE!

In Jesus’ Name!

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