YOU’VE GOT A FRIEND…

HEBREWS 7:24-25: “But because Jesus lives forever, his priesthood lasts forever. Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Have you ever been let down by a friend? Or, have you ever, as a friend, let someone else down? I think that everyone would have to answer yes to both questions. This is especially true in marriage. There is not a man or woman alive who has not at one time or another disappointed or let their spouse down.

Have you ever watched the Toy Story movies? I have seen all of them except for the first one. I took my 3-year-old daughter to the debut of the first movie. Ten minutes into the movie she said – “Daddy, I want to go home.” For whatever reason, I have never seen that movie since. However, in the Toy Story series, there is a famous song entitled – “You’ve got a friend n me.”

“You’ve got a friend in me
You’ve got a friend in me
When the road looks rough ahead
And you’re miles and miles
From your nice warm bed
You just remember what your old pal said
Boy, you’ve got a friend in me
Yeah, you’ve got a friend in me”

This is the song sung in the opening credits when we see Andy playing with his beloved toy – “Woody.” The song is about Woody’s commitment and friendship with Andy. Yet, in the story, and ensuing sequels, Andy does not always reciprocate this devoted friendship. In fact, Andy forgets his affection as he grows older.

In life, we all need a friend. Yet, if we anchor our need for a friend on another person we will always be disappointed. In reality, we will always let each other down at times. In the Toy Story movie, Woody embodies what we all are looking for in a friend. Someone who will always be there. Someone who will never let us down.

“And as the years go by
Our friendship will never die
You’re gonna see it’s our destiny
You’ve got a friend in me
You’ve got a friend in me
You’ve got a friend in me”

Where can we find such a friend?

We can find this friend in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

  • “You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.” John‬ ‭15:14-15‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Jesus is the friend that we are all looking for. Jesus is the friend that is always there for us. He will never leave nor forsake us. He will never turn His back on us when the times get tough. And, he is never subject to failure in his own life so He is always there, always ready to offer His comfort and assistance to those in need.

  • “But because Jesus lives forever, his priesthood lasts forever. Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf.

The writer of Hebrews reminds us – Jesus, as our High Priest, lives forever! Death, sin, weakness, have no power over Him. And, because of this, He is able to save those who come to Him. He is always in our corner. Always rooting for us. Always believing in us. And, He is always standing on our behalf before God the Father praying for us! This is why Paul can so emphatically say…

  • “What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?” Romans‬ ‭8:31-32‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Woody is just a fictional character. He embodies all the qualities we really look for in a friend. Jesus Christ is a real person. He is God in human flesh. He was tempted in all the ways we are, yet He never sinned. He took our place on the cross and suffered and died for our sins. He defeated sin and death, was seated at the right hand of God the Father, and always is there making intercession for us (praying for us). Now, if that is not a friend I don’t know what is!

So, hopefully, without offending anyone, take a moment to imagine these words coming from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…

You’ve got a friend in me
You’ve got a friend in me
When the road looks rough ahead
And you’re miles and miles
From your nice warm bed
You just remember what your old pal said
Boy, you’ve got a friend in me
Yeah, you’ve got a friend in me

Lord Jesus, thank You for being my friend. Thank You for saving me, cleansing me, and daily helping me through all the difficulties and trials of life. Grant me the grace I need today to live for You and help me to be a better friend to all those You have placed in my life.

In Jesus Name!

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THE PURPOSE FOR PURITY…

II TIMOTHY 2:20-21: “In a wealthy home some utensils are made of gold and silver, and some are made of wood and clay. The expensive utensils are used for special occasions, and the cheap ones are for everyday use. If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: What is the big deal about purity anyway? If you put a sermon title on the church sign – “Living In Purity,” I guarantee you that there would not be standing room only in the sanctuary. We look at the issue of purity as an archaic principle. It is not hip. It is not trendy. And, besides – we are covered by God’s grace, so what is the big deal?

If we read the Scriptures carefully we will discover how big of a deal purity is. The word holy in Greek and Hebrew means to be separate from. What are we called to be separate from? We are called to be separate from sin. We are called to live a life that emulates the Father. We are called to purity!

  • “So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.” 1 Peter‬ ‭1:14-16‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I am sobered whenever I read these verses from I Peter. To be honest, I am a little undone by them. How can I be holy? How can I live a life of purity? When I look over my life I see a peak and valley of failures and brokenness. I am a sinner saved by grace. Yet, this same grace that saved me has also been given to me so that I can become more like Jesus.

God’s grace is given to me so that I can live in purity!

  • “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” Titus‬ ‭2:11-14‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

How does God’s grace do this? How does it teach us to live in purity? How does it empower us to deny ungodliness and worldly lust?

God’s grace does this through the Spirit and the Word!

  • “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” II Peter‬ ‭1:2-4‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

We have been given all things that pertain to life and godliness (purity). How? Through the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Through the exceeding great and precious promises of His Word, they lead us into the participation of His very nature – and give us the grace to escape the corruption that is in the world through lust.

This is all well and good – but sometimes it is not enough. It is enough in reality but I still fall short of my potential. Why is that? I believe it is because I fail to understand why purity is so important to God. I lean upon His promise of grace and forgiveness for my failures, but I do not resource them for my purity.

God wants me to live a life of purity, empowered by His grace because God wants to use me!

Paul writes to young Timothy,

  • “In a wealthy home some utensils are made of gold and silver, and some are made of wood and clay. The expensive utensils are used for special occasions, and the cheap ones are for everyday use. If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work.”

Recently, our entire home was renovated. We just unpacked the kitchen and put the silverware away. During the time we did not have a kitchen we had to use plastic utensils. The only luxury we had, as our refrigerator was still plugged in, was some ice cream. Yet, we could not find the scoop. So we attempted to dish out the ice cream with a plastic spoon. Have you ever tried to do this? Several broken spoons later we were able to get some ice cream.

Our lives many times are like plastic spoons. God has a wonderful plan for our life and the enemy tries to kill, steal, and destroy it by entangling us in the affairs of this world. He created us to be a special utensil destined for special purposes. And, much too often we are content with eeking out the existence of a plastic spoon. God desires so much more for our life. He desires to use us for every good work!

If I can remember this, the call to purity takes on a completely different perspective. The call to purity is not the restrictive call of a God who likes to impose rules and regulations. The call to purity is the call of God who desires us to live in freedom and to live up to our full potential in life. The call to purity is the call to be greatly used by God and reach our divine destiny! Is it any wonder that the enemy of our souls tries to make the call to purity such an unpopular subject?

Lord, this morning I want to be pure. I want to be empowered by Your grace, filled with Your Spirit, and set free by Your Word. I want to grow in the knowledge and character of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And – I want to be used greatly for every good work! When I am tempted to slip backward – remind me of Your great plan for my life and help me escape the corruption of this world through Your exceedingly great and precious promises.

Help me to reach my full potential in Jesus Christ by Your great grace!

In Jesus Name!

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ALWAYS BE JOYFUL!

I THESSALONIANS 5:16: “Always be joyful.”
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OBSERVATION: “If your happy and you know it…” – enough already! “What is there to be happy and joyful about anyway?”, some would ask. We have been sequestered in our homes for almost a year, our country is divided, the virus is still at large, and our future is uncertain.

“Always be joyful?” Give me a break!

Yet, that is what the Word of God commands us to do. We are called to be people of joy. We are exhorted, no matter what the circumstances, to always be joyful. In fact, this Christmas season reminds us that this was one of the purposes Jesus came to this earth over 2000 years ago!

  • “Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!” Luke‬ ‭2:9-11‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The experience of the shepherds reminds us of this important fact. The coming of Jesus, His birth, life, and ministry, took place to bring great joy to all people. Then why are so many people living a joy-deficient life?

I will never forget a dear friend I had in college. His name was Tom Calhoun. This brother had a smile from ear to ear. Every day, regardless of the circumstances, Tom was grinning, filled with joy, and proclaiming the praise of his Lord Jesus Christ. To be honest – I did not grow up this way. At first, it bothered me. I thought, “Is this guy for real?” And, as I got to know him, I realized that he was. He had problems just like everyone else – yet he chose to live in joy!

How did he do this?

He discovered the power of living and abiding in Jesus Christ and His Word! Joy is different from happiness. Happiness is fleeting. Happiness is dependent upon my current circumstances. Yet, joy is something else entirely. Joy is rooted in a person. Joy is rooted and grounded in Jesus Christ and His Word to us!

  • “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” John‬ ‭15:9-14‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Jesus links our joy with these things:

  • Abiding in His love.
  • Obeying His commandments.
  • Abiding in His Word.
  • Loving one another.
  • Living a sacrificial life.

Getting back to my friend from college, Tom did all these things. He was in love with Jesus. He was a student of the Word of God. He was living a life to please the Lord. He was willing to give you the shirt off his back to help you. And, He was always filled with love for everyone. And, something happened as I began to hang around Tom. I found out that joy is contagious.

I learned from others how to walk in the joy of Jesus! As I have grown in my faith I have learned that in every situation Jesus is with me. As Paul says in Romans 8 – “If God is for us, who can be against us!” Paul also says that God is working everything in my life toward His good purpose as I live and follow Jesus Christ. My joy is not dependent upon my circumstances. My joy is rooted and grounded in the person and work of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

  • “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!” Luke 2:10-11, NLT

This Christmas season – let’s live the promise of the season. Let’s always be joyful. Let’s remember that Jesus is the reason for the season. His birth, His life, His ministry, His death on the cross for our sins, His resurrection and victory over the grave, and His soon coming return are the center of our joy. The stock market may fluctuate. The world may go crazy. Yet, He will never leave nor forsake us.

Jesus Christ is our Joy!

It seems appropriate to close these short thoughts with these familiar verses from Romans 8.

  • “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans‬ ‭8:38-39‬ ‭NLT

I don’t know about you, but that is enough for me to –

“ALWAYS BE JOYFUL!”

In Jesus Name!
Merry Christmas!!

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Posted in I Thessalonians | 2 Comments

IT IS TIME TO BE RECONCILED!

PHILIPPIANS 4:2-3: “Now I appeal to Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement. And I ask you, my true partner, to help these two women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News. They worked along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are written in the Book of Life.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Are you holding onto an offense from a Christian brother or sister? Perhaps it is your pastor or Christian leader. Did you leave your church because of an estranged relationship with another believer? Dear one…

IT IS TIME TO BE RECONCILED!

To be honest, I have never spent much time on these two short verses in Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Yet, this morning, I almost could not leave them. Paul explores Eudora and Syntyche – “…because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement.” These are some of the most powerful words I have ever read.

After pastoring churches for over 40 years I have witnessed my share of disagreements. I have seen people leave the church because they had a disagreement with me and also because they had a disagreement with others. When we find ourselves in this situation the easy thing to do is leave and go somewhere new. No one likes confirmation and it takes effort, humility, and grace to work through personal issues.

My last church was in Weatherford, Texas. In this town, there were a large number of Baptist churches. One Baptist church pastor said to me in passing – “Every Baptist church in town is a result of a church split.” The purpose of sharing this is not to indict the Baptists. It is simply to illustrate that the norm in life is to avoid reconciliation. We avoid it so much that we will even start a new church so that we don’t have to deal with those we disagree with.

One day, at the local Walmart, I saw someone who used to go to our church. I approached them to say hello, and they acted like they did not see me, turned around, and almost ran the other way. Is this how brothers and sisters in Christ should act? I have made many mistakes in my life and ministry. I am a broken human like everyone else who is on the pathway of restoration and healing. Yet, I have tried to always work on reconciliation. I have not always been successful, but I have always tried.

As a pastor, I have witnessed the wonderful power of God’s grace working in individuals who are willing to set their pride aside and call upon the grace of God. The broken relationships, when brought to the cross, are healed and even strengthened. I have seen this in personal relationships and marriages. It is a wonderful thing. Why is it so important to be a reconciler?

Our relationships reflect our faith and our testimony in Jesus Christ. They say more about the power of the Gospel than anything else. If the cross is a call to forgiveness then we must model the forgiveness that we have received from Christ by extending it to others. There is nothing more powerful than forgiveness. It changes our lives and the lives of others.

We also must consider the work of God. Paul notes that these two women had been great contributors to the work of the Gospel.

  • “And I ask you, my true partner, to help these two women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News. They worked along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are written in the Book of Life.”

I have witnessed that when people refuse to work out their disagreements, when they run from their conflicts, it usually sidelines them in their work for the Lord. A once vibrant faith grows dim. Anger and discontentment are no motivation for working in the harvest of lost souls. When we pull away it really is an act of selfishness. And, when we are thinking about our needs we stop thinking about the needs of others.

If I could pass on anything from my 40+ years of experience as a pastor it would be this…

IT IS TIME TO BE RECONCILED!

One last note. There is no guarantee that the other part will accept your extension of repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation. However, what I have found is that when I extend these to someone offended, even if they do not respond in kind, I am set free. Personal repentance breaks the bonds. Forgiveness sets me free. I can once again think about this person, pray for them, and bless them, with an unburdened and unencumbered heart.

Lord, this morning, as I reflect upon these verses, speak to my heart. If there are any bridges in my life that need mending, grant me the grace and courage to take the first step. Let me always strive to keep a shortlist and settle all disagreements with my brothers and sisters in Christ.

In Jesus Name!

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AS SIN ABOUNDS…WE ARE CALLED TO LIVE!

PHILIPPIANS 1:27-30: “Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News. Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. We are in this struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: As we look at the world around us, as we witness the erosion of our culture, how should we respond?

WE SHOULD LIVE!

I remember growing up saying the pledge of allegiance in my classroom, and starting each day in prayer. We were brought up with respect for our country, our flag, and one another. As I have gone through my life I have witnessed this world fading away. All of the things I once held dear seem to be a distant memory. There is a sadness that fills my heart. How should I respond to all of this?

I SHOULD LIVE!

I need to remind myself where my true citizenship lies. I am a citizen of heaven, a child of God, destined for eternity. My highest allegiance is to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I am called to be a good citizen, to be responsible, to pay my taxes, and to vote. However, my higher calling is to live for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am to be joining, hand in hand, heart to heart, with all those who call upon the name of Jesus Christ as Lord, and fight the good fight of faith.

Sometimes as we do this we grow discouraged. It seems that we are constantly swimming against the current. The reason it feels this way is because that is exactly what we are doing. We are called to live as lights in this world. If we are the light, then the world is in darkness. If we do not shine – then there will be no light.

I will never forget a kayaking trip I took with my daughter. We paddled down the Brazos River in North Texas. There was a strong wind and the journey was hard. We stopped on the side of the shore to rest. When we got back in the kayak my daughter said – “Dad, we are going the wrong way!” To be honest, everything looked the same, and I did not know where we were. The wind was blowing so hard it appeared we were paddling upstream. I reached my arm deep into the water and I could feel the current. We were going the right way. Everything was working against us – but if we turned around we would have never reached our destination.

Our call to live for Christ is much the same. Sometimes we get discouraged because of the headwinds of culture that are blowing against us. We need to realize we live in a Post-Christian culture. To live for Christ is a call to live counter-culturally. And, as we do, we must never forget –

  • “Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him.”

Life is a struggle. It was for Jesus, the apostles, the early church, and it will be for us too! We must rise up in faith and refuse to be intimidated by those who oppose the truth of the Gospel. We must be willing to suffer for what we believe – even to the point of death. If we lift our lights high, then others will be able to find their way out of the darkness. If we retreat, then we become part of the problem.

There is one more thing we need to remember. We are not in this struggle alone!

  • “We are in this struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it.”

We are not called to let our solitary light shine like a flashlight in the darkness. We are called to join together as one light, one body, one family of God. Together, we are called to be a lighthouse. And, as we shine together, as we live and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we are called to encourage one another through the difficult struggles that we face.

Lord, I know that many today are discouraged as they look at the world around them. You said – “When you see these things begin to take place, then look up, for your redemption draws near.” Help us to live our lives as citizens of heaven, looking up, shining bright, and proclaiming the Good News of Salvation through Jesus Christ the Lord! Today…

HELP ME TO LIVE!

In Jesus Name!

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LORD, HELP ME GO DEEPER…

EPHESIANS 3:16-19: “I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Am I growing in my relationship with Jesus Christ? Is my faith deepening? Do I live in a sense of awe of His glory? These are the questions that I am pondering as I read Paul’s prayer in his letter to the Ephesians.

We live in a finite world. We are trained to deal with life through our senses. As we live in this finite world, limited by time and space, it is easy for us to begin to treat our spiritual life in much the same way. While God’s Word is always practical in its application, it is never limited or exhausted by our human measurements or understanding.

We are called to go deeper!

Going deeper into the things of God does not mean that we begin to invent things that the Bible does not reveal. There are many today who are purporting to have received a revelation of some new and unknown truth from the Bible. This is the pathway where cults have begun. We are not talking about discovering something new that the Bible does not say. We are called to discover the One who is the Word – Jesus Christ our Lord!

I have been a bi-vocational pastor all of my life. In my secular job, I have worked in the food industry. Our company is an importer and distributor. I have dealt with shipping logistics all of my life. When you work with shipping you need to identify if a truckload will weigh out or cube out. There is a maximum weight for a truckload – 45,000 lbs. However, if the product is light, and if the boxes are big, the issue is how many cubic feet can you put in the trailer, as the weight will not be the determining factor. A cubic foot is determined by measuring the box’s height, width, and length in inches and then dividing it by 1728.

When we think of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we ponder His love, are we treating it as an ordinary box? Is the Love of Christ something that we can measure, hold in our hands, or put in a box? Whenever we begin to view God’s love in a formulaic manner we are limiting His power and glory – and our spiritual growth! We cannot measure the cube of God’s love. Paul gives us a new formula to measure God’s love.

  • “And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.”

How do you measure God’s love? First, you need to realize that it has a fourth dimension. It is not simply how high, wide, or long it is. Paul calls us to measure the depth of God’s love. Picture if you would the plausibility of this call. Take a tape measure in your hand. On a clear night, as you gaze into the stars in the heavens, as you look upon the galaxies that God has created – measure its height, width, and length if you can. And, measure its depth. As you stand there, tape measure in hand, ask yourself – can you ever really know and understand the love of God?

I believe people go off on tangents in their Christian walk because they stop searching to know the love of Christ. Their life of faith becomes routine. They read the same passages, sing the same songs, say the same prayers, and everything seems measurable. They stop looking upward with awe and wonder. The church of Ephesus fell into this trap and Jesus had something to say about it.

  • “But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first. If you don’t repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches.” Revelation‬ ‭2:4-5‬ ‭NLT‬‬

For a long time, the United States was dependent upon other countries for their oil. Now, we are energy independent. How did this happen? We discovered a way to go deeper. There were vast reserves of oil under the surface that we could not access until we discovered a system called “fracking.” This allowed us to access the oil reserves that were deep beneath the rock formations.

There is an endless source of God’s love that we have yet begun to know. The search for God’s love is one that can never be exhausted. To desire to know the height, width, length, and depth of God’s love is our greatest call. It is the only pathway that will lead us to the fulness of God and His nature. It is the only focus in life that will keep our hearts tender, our faith growing, and will propel us to fulfill the Great Commission!

  • “May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”

We have been called to be made complete in Christ. We have been called to be witnesses for Christ. We have been called to love one another with the love of Jesus Christ. If we are to fulfill these calls – we need to go deeper. We need to grow daily in our experience of the love of Christ. We must never become dull or satisfied in our walk of faith. The riches of His love are there for us to discover and experience each day!

Lord, help my roots to grow strong in Your love. Create in me a clean heart and renew in my the joy of Your salvation! Let me go deeper in my understanding of the awesome power of Your unending and unfathomable love!

In Jesus Name!

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THE LAW OF SOWING AND REAPING…

GALATIANS 6:7-10: “Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Do I understand the law of sowing and reaping? Usually, in Christian circles, when someone talks about sowing and reaping it is right before they take an offering. However, the majority of the time the Bible talks about sowing and reaping it has nothing to do with money at all!

Paul, in his closing words to the Galatians, reminds them of the law of sowing and reaping. A law is something that is constant. You cannot change it. It is always true. Some took Paul’s teaching as a license to live as they please. They reasoned – If we are under grace, if we have died to the law as a means of righteousness, then it doesn’t matter how we live. To this Paul responded,

  • “Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant.”

This is true in the natural world and it is true in the spiritual world. If you plant an apple seed you will get an apple tree. An apple seed will not produce an orange tree or a rose bush. If we live our life with compromise, if we allow sin to get a foothold in our life, we will not reap a life of joy and peace.

  • “Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature.”

There are two aspects to this that we need to understand. First, if a person rejects Christ, if they live their life in self-will and sin, they will reap the wages of that sin, which is death, eternal separation from God.

  • “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans‬ ‭6:23‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Secondly, if a believer allows their life to become entangled once again in sin, if they live a life of selfish compromise, if they ignore the Word of God and turn a deaf ear to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit, they may be saved – but only as through fire. They will allow the enemy to kill, steal, and destroy their fruitfulness in this life and their eternal reward in heaven.

  • “But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.” 1 Corinthians‬ ‭3:13-15‬ ‭NLT‬‬

You cannot override the law of sowing and reaping. In the computer world it is known as G.I.G.O. – “Garbage in, garbage out.” There is no exception. So what is the answer?

  • “But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.”

Paul’s whole letter was to encourage the Galatians to walk in the Spirit. We are no longer under the law as a means of righteousness. Yet, the law is fulfilled in our lives as we learn to walk after the Spirit in love!

  • “The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body, God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit…Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.” Romans‬ ‭8:3-4, 12-14‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The Holy Spirit will always lead us in the direction of love. He will guide us in the pathway of righteousness. He will cultivate in us the very character of Jesus Christ. If we abide in God’s Word, listen to the still small voice of the Spirit, and walk in obedience as we are empowered by grace, we will sow seeds of life that will bring forth a harvest of life.

If this is so simple, why do we struggle with this so much? It is because we look for an instant crop. We are called to sow to the Spirit. We plant – but God gives the increase. He gives it in His way and in His time. You can plant a seed, but you cannot rush its growth. We are called to sow in hope, patiently wait, and know that we will reap in joy. Our call is to sow. God will always bring a harvest – if we do not lose heart!

  • “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.”

Lord, forgive me for the times when I have lost heart. I have sown to the Spirit and then grown discouraged when I did not see the fruit. Grant me the grace to stand in faith – You will not be mocked! If I sow to the Spirit, if I sow in love, I will reap a harvest of an abundant and everlasting life! May I sow Your seed today!

In Jesus Name!

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DON’T FORGET WHY JESUS DIED!

GALATIANS 2:17-21: “But suppose we seek to be made right with God through faith in Christ and then we are found guilty because we have abandoned the law. Would that mean Christ has led us into sin? Absolutely not! Rather, I am a sinner if I rebuild the old system of law I already tore down. For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God. My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Do I live my life with a clear understanding of Jesus Christ’s death on the cross? This is the question Paul is asking the Galatian church in these verses from his epistle. We have a choice each day as we take our first step.

Will I live in the power of the cross or will I slip back to my old ways?

There is something in our human nature that gravitates toward legalism. We have been set free from following the law as a means to achieve a right standing with God. Yet, once free we begin to rebuild new systems for our life that become a new source of self-righteousness and bondage all over again. Why do we do this?

We live in two distinct worlds. The first is our life in the flesh. Everything in this life is geared to what we can sense and control by our own human effort. The second is our life in the spirit. This is our life in Christ. It is in opposition to our life in the flesh. It does not rely on the natural. It finds its life and purpose in those things freely given to us through the Spirit of God.

  • “When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths. But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means.” 1 Corinthians‬ ‭2:13-14‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I think we grow insecure in our life in the spirit. To walk in the spirit is to put our full trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. We must lay down our human wisdom and self-effort. In essence – we must relinquish control. There can only be one Lord in our life. It will either be Jesus or it will be us. And, this is where the enemy comes to deceive us. He tries to convince us we can have Jesus and – (fill in the blank).

As believers, we do not want to say Jesus plus sin. However, our old sinful nature wants to participate. We want to have some sense of control and input into our life of faith. So, we do not entertain sin. We begin to build religious systems that have an appearance of holiness and give us a sense of control. When we do this we are setting ourselves up for a fall. Paul writes,

  • “Rather, I am a sinner if I rebuild the old system of law I already tore down. For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God.”

Trying to live for God through rules and regulations only condemned us. The law was holy, but we were sinful. Whenever we establish rules as a measure of righteousness we set ourselves up for a fall. Our faith will be directed away from Christ and we will find ourselves in the same broken condition from which we were redeemed. We can never live a life that pleases God in the wisdom and power of our human effort!

So what is the answer?

  • “So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God. My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless.”

There is only one answer that brings freedom to our lives. That answer is the Cross! Just as Jesus died for our sins, so we must die to trying to please God by living in the power of our human wisdom and self-effort. We must realize that when Jesus died – we died. The greatest day of my life was when I looked upon the cross of Jesus Christ and saw my old nature crucified with Christ!

To be crucified with Jesus Christ does not mean that we do not have to exert any human effort in our life. It simply means that we live our lives differently. We refuse to become entangled in a life of rules and regulations. We begin to live each moment, each day, by putting our trust in Jesus Christ. We depend completely upon Him, draw upon His grace, and walk after the leading of the Holy Spirit. We live out our life of faith in love. Love, the love of Christ, becomes our highest call.

To live a life that is free from all forms of legalism is not easy. We all have personal preferences that can easily become standards that we envoke as evidence of righteousness. They usually revolve around things that we do not do. This is the tale-tell sign of living under the law. Love does not focus on what we do not do. Love focuses on what we do! Grace always calls us to the cross and the cross always calls us to love. Love, Jesus’ love, working through our lives, is the evidence that we are walking in the spirit and not by rules and regulations.

Finally, we need to be reminded of what we are doing each time we begin to reconstruct those things that should remain nailed to the cross.

  • “For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.”

Each rule that we judge others by, each regulation that we think makes us holy, is actually saying – “…there was no need for Christ to die.” This is a sobering thought. It centers me. It calls me to the cross. And, it brings me to my knees.

Lord, forgive me for rebuilding the things that have been torn down so that I might live in the freedom of Your love. Grant me the grace today to see myself crucified with Christ. Empower me by Your Spirit so that I can live my life by faith alone in the completed work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Let my life be a testimony of the truth that,

  • “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.”

In Jesus Name!

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WHEN OUR SIDE ISN’T WINNING…

REVELATION 14:12-13: “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: What do you do when your side is not winning? Have you ever routed for your team during the final game of a championship, only to be disappointed at the end when your team lost? Many are feeling that sense of loss after the recent election and as they look upon a world that is growing more and more anti-Christian. When our side isn’t winning – what do we do?

First, we need to define what winning means. If winning means that our Biblical values will become the values of this world, then we need to have a reality check. We need to remember the words of Jesus in His High Priestly prayer.

  • “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.” John‬ ‭17:14-19‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Jesus emphatically prayed – “I have given them Your word, and the world has hated them…”. When did we ever get the idea that living for Jesus Christ was to be on the winning side in this world? If the world rejected the living Son of God, nailed Him to a cross, and tried to eliminate His followers, what will they do to us? We were deceived for a short time when being a Born Again Christian was cool. Now, reality is wielding its ugly head.

Before we hand out hats, blowers, and throw ourselves a pity party, we need to put this into perspective. The believers who come to Jesus Christ during the Great Tribulation will have it much worse. Those who refuse to take the mark of the Beast will be hunted down, persecuted, and killed. They will have to hide and go underground, much like the First Century believers. And, yet John, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writes to them,

  • Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.”

What can we glean from this? The real lesson comes in the verse preceding the verse above.

  • “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.”

The Word of God says – “Here is the patience of the saints…”. The words that follow were written for those who kept the commandments of God, had faith in Jesus Christ and refused to conform to this world (take the mark of the Beast). They were told to take heart and be patient. Their side was not winning. Yet, they were assured that ultimately they would,

  • “…rest from their labors, and their works (would) follow them.”

A winner is not someone who is on the winning side. A winner is someone who is on God’s side. While the world rages on, while our culture becomes less and less familiar to one who has faith in Jesus Christ, we need to remember – we are on God’s side. He is watching over us. He remembers our faith, our labor, and our acts of obedience. His grace covers us, will sustain us, and ultimately will usher us into His Kingdom!

All one has to do is continue reading in the Book of Revelation to find the true reality. While it appears in this world that we are not on the winning side – WE REALLY ARE! Satan, the Antichrist, and every ungodly nation and person who opposes the Kingdom of God will be overcome. Jesus Christ will return in His glory to restore the nation of Israel, establish His Kingdom, and present His Bride, the Church, in all of her glory and splendor. Darkness will have vanished once and for all and God Himself will be our light!

  • “And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” Revelation‬ ‭21:6-8‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

So, as we look to a world that appears to be winning. As we feel marginalized, persecuted, and rejected. As we wonder if there is any hope. We need to remember – JESUS CHRIST WILL WIN! If we live or die for Jesus Christ we win! Our call is to be patient, to endure, and to walk by grace through faith. As the church awaits for the trumpet call of the rapture, as we see the final curtain rise on the affairs of mankind, we need to be encouraged. Jesus Christ’s return is imminent. His promises will be fulfilled. And…

WE WILL WIN!

In Jesus Name!

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WHAT CAUSES LUKEWARMNESS?

REVELATION 3:15-16: “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: What causes one to become lukewarm in their devotion to Jesus Christ? As I look at my walk of faith, am I hot, cold, or lukewarm? Is there even such a thing as lukewarm faith?

When something is lukewarm it is not useful for anything. People enjoy a piping hot cup of coffee or a nice iced coffee, but who enjoys a lukewarm cup of coffee. Have you ever put your foot into a lukewarm tub of water? How about a delicious bowl of lukewarm soup? You get the picture. No wonder Jesus said – “…because you are lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.”

These are strong words. Yet, they are words of love and truth. It is easy for people to convince themselves they are walking in faith when they are not. James expresses it this way in his epistle.

  • “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?” ‭‭James‬ ‭2:19-20‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

To James, faith without works, the evidence of obedience and God’s righteousness working through us, is no faith at all. A mere belief in God and church attendance will not cut it. To believe we are in right standing with God, simply because we surround ourselves with the trappings of faith, is to be lukewarm. Jesus would rather we be honest with Him and ourselves. It is better to be on fire for God or simply dismiss Him altogether. We cannot walk the fence between Jesus and the world.

What is the evidence of being lukewarm? What is the test we can apply to our lives to make sure we are on fire for God? When a person is lukewarm they are not aware of their deep spiritual need. They are self-righteous, complacent, and satisfied. They are fully unaware of their true spiritual condition. Jesus says,

  • “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked—”. Revelation‬ ‭3:17‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

What does it mean to be on fire for God? It means that we know and understand our true condition without Him. Without Jesus, we are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. We realize that we are in desperate need of His daily forgiveness, cleansing, and grace. We run to Him and hear His words…

  • “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Revelation‬ ‭3:18-19‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

To be on fire for God is to realize our need for Him. To be zealous literally means to be heated and brought to a boil. If this is not the definition of being hot, I don’t know what is. And, Jesus links this action with another important act – repentance. When we realize our need for Jesus Christ we live in a posture and attitude of repentance. This is what it means to be on fire for God! Anything less is really to be cold. There is no place for a lukewarm response in the call to faith.

I think it is wonderful how this letter from Jesus to the church of Laodicea ends. In essence, this church has pushed Jesus out of their lives. He is not in their midst, but He is now standing outside. Yet, He does not turn His back on this church. Jesus stands at the door and He knocks! He calls out to them with a wonderful invitation to be restored.

  • “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” Revelation‬ ‭3:20-21‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

This morning I need to take my temperature. Am I hot, cold, or lukewarm? Am I self-righteous, complacent, and satisfied, or am I aware of my deep need for Jesus? Have I pushed Jesus off the throne of my heart, or have I welcomed Him anew as my Savior and Lord? Whatever the answer – He stands knocking. His promise to forgive, cleanse, and restore, is extended to me. I have a choice to welcome Him in or to ignore His invitation.

The question I must answer is – “Am I listening?”

  • “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Revelation‬ ‭3:22‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

In Jesus Name!

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