BE CAREFUL HOW YOU LIVE!

EPHESIANS5:12-20. “So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Am I living my life carefully in these tumultuous times? Am I making the most of every opportunity? Do I understand what the will of the Lord is for my life? Is my life marked by sincere worship and thankfulness?

If there was ever a time to live with our eyes wide open it is now! I have never witnessed or faced what we are facing today in both the church and the world. The words of the Apostle Paul sound like they have been ripped from the headlines.

  • “So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.”

Our human tendency when we face difficult times is to hide. We look for ways to escape the challenges that we are facing. To hide from our problems is to live like a fool. Hiding does not change anything, it just prolongs the inevitable. In stark contrast, Paul calls us to engage in difficult times – “Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.”

These are days that require “all hands on deck!” This is not a time for the believer or the church to shelter in place. The harvest is white and ready for harvest. The world is in a panic and their hearts are open to hearing some Good News. As believers, and as the church, we are the only ones who have the answer. Only Jesus Christ can bring hope in these troubled times!

So how do we do this? It is really very simple!

FIRST – we refuse to hide!

SECOND – we press into the presence of God and live a life of worship, service, and thankfulness!

  • “Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The church does not have time to debate the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church today. It is time to lay aside our reservations regarding the gifts and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Every believer needs to be baptized in the Holy Spirit – anew! We cannot engage the world if we are empty vessels. Paul’s words are not a suggestion – they area command!

We also need to rediscover worship in spirit and in truth. So much of the attention today is on style and performance. God is looking for those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth. Our sincere worship of the Lord is where we are prepared for battle. It is where we get our marching orders and leave filled and strengthened to engage in the harvest of lost souls. Worship is more than 30 minutes of singing. True worship is the full surrender of our lives as living sacrifices given freely for the Lord’s work!

Finally, our engagement is meaningless unless the world sees the true light of Christ. How can we proclaim the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ when we are filled with anger and complaining. If we are living a life of complaining and regret how can anyone take our message seriously. We must be filled with the Holy Spirit, surrendered in true worship, and giving thanks to God for His goodness and mercy. Thankfulness is the key to effective engagement!

As a youth, I would love to attend the LA County Fair in Pomona, CA. Each year I would walk through the exhibit booths and glean all the free samples they were offering. One year, however, I ended up bringing back some Ginsu knives and a vegetable slicer. Why did I buy these? Why did I take the time to listen to the salesman’s pitch? It was because he made it seem like these two tools would change my life! He constantly proclaimed the goodness of these items and gave thanks for all they could do!

What would happen in the world if we did this for the Lord?

Lord, we truly live in evil times. Like anyone else, I would rather hide and shelter in place. Yet, I feel the stirring of Your Holy Spirit. I need to be baptized in the Holy Spirit anew. I need to engage in true worship as I surrender my life to You as a living sacrifice. And, I need to live a life of thankfulness, proclaiming to all Your goodness and mercy!

Lord, help me make the most of every opportunity in these evil days!

In Jesus Name!

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STORM PROOF PRAYER

EPHESIANS 3:20-21: “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Is my prayer life stormproof? Am I equipped to persevere the storms of life? Am I experiencing the presence of God in an ever-deepening way, or is my life being tossed to and fro by every storm of life?

Our prayer lives can be stormproof!

When we moved into our home in Weatherford, Texas, we added some additional landscaping to our home, including several trees. One was a Chinese Pistache tree. It had a beautiful shape and we felt it would add just the right touch for a front yard tree. Yet, over the years this tree never grew. It remained alive, but after over 10 years it was not much bigger than when we planted it. I had tried everything, but with no results.

Then a storm hit!

We had one of those prolonged Texas downpours, coupled with strong winds. The little tree could not take it. When the storm was over it was laying on its side. When we were finally resolved that this was the end of our tree, we began to shop for a new one. When the nursery delivered the new tree the installers simply pulled the old tree out of the ground.

It had been 10 years and the tree never established a deep root system!

That little Chinese Pistache was only living in three dimensions. It had established a small area to rest its roots. You could measure the area’s height, width, and length. This tree never grew because it never pushed its roots deep into the soil. It lived a very surface life in very shallow soil.

I think this is the way we live our life in Christ many times. We trust Him to a point but we never really go deep. Paul prays that the Ephesian believers would experience the fourth dimension of God’s love in their life. Paul prays that they will go deep in Christ!

  • “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.” Ephesians‬ ‭3:16-19‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Note the words in Paul’s prayer. He prays for…

  • Their inner strength through His Spirit,
  • Christ’s home to be established in their hearts,
  • Their roots to grown down into God’s love to keep them strong,
  • Their discovery of the depth of God’s love,
  • Their experience (participation) in the love of Christ,
  • Their completion in Christ,
  • Their experience of the fullness of Christ’s life and power.

In 2018 we planted a new tree, a Lacey Oak, in our front yard. It was only one year before we moved to Florida. I was worried about this tree because of my experience with the Chinese Pistache. We have been leasing our home since we moved and have a Gardner who is taking care of the landscaping. Periodically he sends me pictures of our yard. The first thing I look at is the Lacey Oak in my front yard.

This new tree is growing and flourishing.

There was no deficiency in the soil. There was no problem with the location. There was only a difference in the depth of the root structure. One never reached beyond its limitations. The other began to sink its roots deep into the soil beneath. Its roots were not content to live in a confined space. It pressed deeper to draw the water and nutrients it needed to grow.

We, too, can grow and flourish if we establish our roots deeply in the love of Christ!

When Paul speaks of the power that works within us, the power that changes ordinary prayer into breakthrough prayer, he is speaking of the depth of God’s love! It is a prayer that flows out of a deep communion with God that will survive the storms of life. As we are changed by God’s love, as our roots go deep into the soil of His Word, as we learn to abide in Christ – our prayer lives will be transformed!

  • “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”

I don’t know about you, but I could use some answers to prayer that accomplish infinitely more than I can ask or think. How is this possible? The power of prayer does not reside in us. The power of prayer is found in Christ alone. Yet, the depth of our faith, our trust in Him, will determine whether we can wait upon His answer, give up, or worse – take matters into our own hands.

  • Love (Christ) calls us to wait!
  • Love (Christ) calls us to persevere!
  • Love (Christ) calls us to trust God for the answer!
  • Love (Christ) releases infinitely more than we can ask or think!

Lord, in these tumultuous times, as the storm of life rages on, I need to have a prayer life that is stormproof! Grant me the grace to sink my roots deep into the soil of Your Love and Your Word. Help me to know the height, width, length, and the depth of Christ’s love! AND ACCOMPLISH INFINITELY MORE THAN I CAN ASK OR THINK!

In Jesus Name!

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IS LOVE WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS NOW?

EPHESIANS 1:15-17: “Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God’s people everywhere, I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: There is an old song written by Composer Burt Bacharach entitled – “What The World Needs Now Is Love.” The last stanza and the chorus are,

Lord, we don’t need another meadow
There are cornfields and wheat fields enough to grow
There are sunbeams and moonbeams enough to shine
Oh listen, lord, if you want to know

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love
No, not just for some oh, but just for every, every, everyone.

The Apostle Paul would disagree with this statement. Though the sentiment of this song gives one a warm feeling, it really does not help move forward the condition of man. In the 1960s people dropped out and turned on using drugs to escape the world and experience love. Yet, this love did not last. The same hippies that tuned out are the ones responsible for the loveless world we now live in.

Paul identifies two things that are more important than love. Why are they more important than love? It is because only when we have these two things are we able to discover what true love really is. Love is not an emotion or an experience.

Love is a person!

  • “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” 1 John‬ ‭4:7-8‬ ‭NLT‬

So what are the two things Paul prays for that are essential to discovering true love?

They are spiritual wisdom and insight!

Spiritual wisdom is not taught at a University, it is not resident in the writings of man, it is the gift of God given through His Word. Spiritual wisdom is the ability to see life from God’s creative perspective. It is to be introduced to the nature of God. It is essential to discovering true love – for God is love! Only when we see God for who He is will we be able to understand the true nature of love.

Insight is also translated revelation. Spiritual wisdom and insight go hand in hand. You cannot have one without the other. They are the work of the Holy Spirit in our life. Spiritual insight is the gift of discovering the depth of wisdom in God’s Word. It is the unveiling of God’s very nature in our spirit through His written Word. It is the gift of spiritual sight that enables us to see into the spiritual realm, the eternal nature of life.

When we place our faith in Jesus Christ the Holy Spirit comes to live in our hearts. He begins to lead us and guide us in the truth and begins a life-long journey of spiritual wisdom and insight into the truth of God’s Word. The destination of this journey is not mere knowledge.

It is the knowledge of God Himself!

  • “I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God.”

It is only when we grow in our knowledge of God that we also grow in love. In fact, our love apart from God will always be misguided and focused on selfish things. We only discover the essence of love when we see God’s plan and His ultimate sacrifice. It is when we receive the revelation of Jesus Christ, and Him crucified, that we enter into the full understanding of God’s love.

  • “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” John‬ ‭3:16-17‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The world does not need “more love.” The world needs a revelation of the love that God has already shown. It is only when we understand God’s love, when we are transformed by His love, that we can freely love one another.

  • “We love because He first loved us.” I John 4:19. NLT

I love that old Burt Bacharach song, especially when I hear Dionne Warwick singing it (I date myself). Yet, what I need this morning more than anything is spiritual wisdom and insight.

Lord, open my eyes to see and know You so that I can enter into Your love!

In Jesus Name!

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THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON I LEARNED FROM MY DAD…

GALATIANS 6:14-16: “As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died. It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation. May God’s peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle; they are the new people of God.” NLT‬‬

OBSERVATION: Our family was seated at the dining room table waiting for my father to return home. He had been laid off from his job as his previous employer had a management change and the entire team he was a part of was replaced. My father had been getting up every morning and diligently looking for work. He had a family to support and he did not take this responsibility lightly.

I still remember the moment he walked through the door. He said – “Meet the new Vice President of…”. I don’t remember the name of the company but I still remember how proud I felt that my father was a Vice President. Later that night I asked him about his new title. He said something to me that I did not understand at the moment but I have come to understand now as an adult. He said,

“A title and ten cents won’t buy you a cup of coffee!”

Didn’t my father appreciate his new accomplishment? Wasn’t he proud that he could boast of this new title? After all, how many kids had a dad that was a Vice President? Yet, my dad did not treat this as anything special. As he went through his life, his jobs and titles would change until he was just – Ralph “Carl” Zehnder, husband, father, and child of God.

This was the title my father cherished the most. He was a child of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. As all the world’s accomplishments faded into years that had passed, my father learned the secret of the cross of Jesus Christ. It was his only boasting in the final days of his life. It was his salvation, his strength, and his promise of eternal life. With the Apostle Paul, he could say,

  • “As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died.”

Now, I am my dad. Yesterday, I sent my employer of 43 years a letter of retirement. I have worked for this family-owned company all my career while I have also served the Lord as a pastor of four churches. As a bi-vocational pastor I have held two titles. Like my father, I too was a Vice President, and I also was a Senior Pastor. Now, I am settling into being Kirk L. Zehnder, father, husband, and a child of God!

As I look back at all these years, I am thankful for all that the Lord has allowed me to do. Concerning the ministry, there is still much that I have planned in helping churches establish discipleship programs in their local churches. Yet, I have laid down all my titles. And, when I look back on my entire life I realize what my father realized so long ago.

“A title and 10 cents won’t buy you a cup of coffee!”

Never before have Paul’s words spoken so clearly to my heart. There is only one thing I can boast about when I look over my life. It is the cross of Jesus Christ! I brought nothing to the cross but my sin. Jesus paid it all. His sacrifice is what has made it possible to walk in the faith of my father and to experience the joy of a full and growing relationship with my Heavenly Father. When I look over the entirety of my life and the years ahead of me, I realize,

  • “What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation.”

As I ponder on these thoughts I am reminded of the great old hymn, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.”

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast
Save in the death of Christ, my God.
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See, from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small.
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
(Author: Isaac Watts)

Lord, as I take these steps of change in my life, may I glory only in Your cross! May the power of Your cross continue to call me to a life of surrender. May I fully understand that the only thing in life that matters is that I am being transformed into Your new creation – through the power of Your cross!

In Jesus Name!

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EVERY PART OF MY LIFE?

GALATIANS 5:24-25: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Am I living on the pathway to freedom or struggling on the road of disappointment and discouragement? Throughout life, we are faced with a moment-by-moment choice. Will we live a life trapped by the passions and desires of our sinful nature or will we live in the power and freedom of the Holy Spirit?

The book of Galatians is a strong reminder of the fine line between the spirit-filled life and the self-filled life. One leads to freedom while the other leads to old patterns of bondage, brokenness, and failure. One is a work of the Holy Spirit the other a work of our old sinful nature. And, there is a constant battle raging trying to keep us from moving forward.

  • “The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.” Galatians‬ ‭5:17‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The worse place we can find ourselves in is the valley of indecision. This is the place where we allow our old nature to entertain our old actions while we are also thinking about what the Spirit is saying to us. It is as if we are being pulled by both arms in two different directions. We find our lives in limbo. However, if we continue to stay there we will always fall back to our old ways.

You can’t stay in limbo forever!

Paul lists the fruit of our old sinful nature and the fruit of the Spirit. There is a stark contrast to the two lists. One leads to death and the other to life. One is a product of our brokenness and the other of the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit. One is the result of human effort and the other is the gift of divine intervention and grace.

We must make a choice!

What do we want the garden of our life to look like?

When I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ my life radically changed. However, there were (and still are) some areas of my life that I struggled with. Each time I tried harder I found myself failing all over again. I was saved by grace through faith but I was trying to live the Christian life by my own strength. If only I … (fill in the blank) … then I will have victory. Yet, victory eluded me. I was caught in the land of indecision!

Paul reminded the Galatians,

  • “Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. How foolish can you be? After starting your new lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?” Galatians‬ ‭3:2-3‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The book of Galatians is a call to freedom. It is a call to a new way of living. It is a call to be empowered and led by the Spirit of God. It is a call to allow the Holy Spirit to cultivate the very nature of our Lord Jesus Christ in our hearts and lives. It is a call to follow the Holy Spirit in every area of our lives!

  • “Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.”

This is the statement that stands out to me this morning. I need to pause and take a serious inventory of my life. Am I allowing the Holy Spirit to lead every part of my life? Have I relegated the Holy Spirit to the spiritual areas of my life, while I continue to direct all other areas? Do I have two gardens growing in my heart at the same time?

I am facing many challenges and decisions as I write these thoughts. Some are practical and some are spiritual. Yet, I am reminded that God cares about them all. He sees what I do not see. His wisdom is higher than mine. I need the Holy Spirit to lead and guide me in every single decision I am facing. The difference can be a fruitful field or a field of weeds.

Lord, I want my life to be a fruitful field. I want my life to bring glory and honor to Your name and to be a light to point others to Jesus Christ. Help me to surrender my struggle and to walk in the power and leading of the Holy Spirit – IN EVERY PART OF MY LIFE!

  • “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” ‭‭Galatians‬ ‭5:22-23‬ ‭NLT‬‬‬‬

In Jesus Name!

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WHAT IS TRUTH?

II CORINTHIANS 13:8: “For we cannot oppose the truth, but must always stand for the truth.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Am I willing to take a stand for the truth? Am I willing to be unpopular or even rejected by others for the truth? In this day of compromise and diluted values, is my life a light shining on a hill or a light hidden under a bushel?

What is truth?

This is the question that everyone is asking today. In our present-day culture truth is not absolute. Truth is like getting an ice cream cone at Baskin and Robbins. We can create our own truth from an array of different colors, textures, and flavors. Truth is relative only to my feelings.

In today’s culture – truth originates from me.

To see how far our culture has taken this concept one only has to look at science. Science is supposed to deal in absolutes that have been tested and verified. Yet, today, science deals in supposition and political preference. Recently, a professor at a medical college was chastised for saying that only women could bear children. When science ignores the absolutes of life it has ceased being science and is no longer operating in the principle of truth.

Man has been searching for truth from the beginning of time. Most of man’s search has been focused on trying to discover an experience or a philosophy that would bring illumination and help make sense of life. This search has become an endless and unfruitful search because it has been focused in the wrong direction. Truth is not something we acquire.

Truth is a person!

  • “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John‬ ‭1:1 NKJV‬‬

Truth is not something that exists within us. Truth is the Word of God. It is the foundation of everything we see and experience. It is God Himself. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” God knew that we would never be able to discover the truth on our own. Our sinful nature, the deception of the enemy of our souls, and the brokenness of this world would always lead us astray.

So – the Word, God Himself, the Truth – came to us!

  • “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John‬ ‭1:14 ‭NKJV

Jesus came to this world as God in human flesh. The Truth came to us and revealed Himself to us. He called us back to the Father. He showed us the pathway of righteousness. He illuminated the Scriptures. He revealed Truth to all men. And, like today, the majority of people kept looking for truth in the wrong places. Yet, for those who embraced Jesus, they not only found the Truth, they were restored to their eternal destiny and purpose!

  • “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 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 ‭1:10-13‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Jesus died for the truth!

The Truth was crucified for you and me!

Jesus died on the cross so that we could discover the truth. He died on the cross so that our sins could be forgiven and we could be restored as children of God. He died on the cross so that our spiritual eyes could be opened and, knowing the truth, we could be set free. The Truth paid it all so that we could walk and live in the truth.

The price for the truth was the blood of Jesus Christ!

Is it any wonder why the Apostle Paul writes in his closing remarks to the Corinthian church – “For we cannot oppose the truth, but must always stand for the truth.” Paul understood the price that Jesus Christ paid so that we could know the truth. To compromise the truth, to dilute it or change it to fit our personal desires, would be paramount to disrespecting the sacrifice of Jesus Christ our Lord.

To oppose the truth is to oppose Jesus Christ, the Truth!

This is not a call to legalism. This is a call to consecration and faithfulness. As we watch so many churches embracing falsehood in our day, who will stand for the truth? Who will teach the truth of God’s Word no matter what the cost? Who will lead men and women to the Truth so that they truly can be set free? Who will honor the cross of Jesus Christ and hold the sacrifice of His blood as sacred?

As I ponder these questions I am reminded of Jesus’ own words on the Sermon on the Mount. I believe they are a sovereign and sobering call to me today.

  • “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew‬ ‭5:17-20‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Who today will stand for the truth?

Lord, let it be me.

In Jesus Name!

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WHEN THE MOUNTAIN DOES NOT MOVE…

II CORINTHIANS 12:8-10: “Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: What do I do when the mountain does not move? What is the attitude of my heart when my plans do not go the way I want them to? Do I see God’s plan in the midst of the situation? Am I positioned to receive God’s grace?

I like to move mountains! I love the words of Jesus when He said – “…I tell you the truth, if you have faith and don’t doubt, you can do things like this and much more. You can even say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen.” (Matthew‬ ‭21:21‬ ‭NLT‬‬). Yet, in reality, there have been mountains in my life that did not move.

If you find yourself in this situation, you are not alone. The great Apostle Paul found himself in the same predicament. Paul was a man of prayer. When he faced his “thorn in the flesh” (his mountain), he prayed earnestly – three times for this mountain to be removed. Yet, the mountain did not move. Paul learned a valuable life lesson.

If the mountain does not move – God has a purpose in it!

Let’s be honest. If we could move every mountain in our life, by simply quoting the right Scripture or praying the perfect prayer, we would not need to depend on God. Our faith would be focused on our formula and not on God. This is where many find themselves today. They are trusting in methods more than in Jesus. If anyone could have been tempted to do so it was Paul.

Paul had been used mightily by Jesus to work signs and miracles as he proclaimed the Gospel and planted churches. Paul was even given revelations that the Lord told him never to share. If anyone was a candidate for pride – it was Paul. So, to keep Paul humble, the Lord allowed the enemy to buffet Paul with, what Paul referred to as, a “thorn in the flesh.”

I am sure books have been written trying to identify what this was. Yet, Paul did not reveal what it was. The only thing he revealed was – “…I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from being proud.” (II Corinthians 12:7). How did Paul respond? He prayed earnestly three times for the Lord to remove it. Paul wanted the mountain moved. Yet, the response he received from Jesus was,

  • “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”

There is one thing the Lord will not give to another – His glory! The Lord Jesus Christ is the only one who should receive the glory in our lives. Pride is the biggest obstacle we all face that tries to keep us from the grace of God by the temptation to receive glory and praise from others. Yet, when we rely on our glory we find ourselves outside of the grace and power of God.

God only shares His glory (His goodness) and gives His grace to the humble!

In 2003 I moved to Weatherford, Texas to plant a new church. The church had been closed and the building was empty for months. We did not know a single person in this new town. I had so many ideas and plans on how to accomplish this task. ALL OF THEM FAILED! I was brought to my knees, humbled, crying out to the Lord, and then I heard these words,

  • “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”

As I positioned my heart in humility God began to pour out His grace. He began to lead my path and all along the way He was glorified. I could not point to any method I had created that began to build His church. The church was built on prayer, worship, and a sincere trust in the day-to-day leading of the Holy Spirit. The weaker I felt the more of His power I experienced. As I look back on it know I rejoice at His all-sufficient grace.

Today, I am back in the same place as I was in 2003. Filled with a new vision I began to lay the groundwork for a ministry to help churches in their process of discipleship. I had wonderful plans and strategies on how to do this. One by one I began to face mountains that would not move. One of these was COVID. It shut down churches and put all of my plans on hold. Once again I was brought to my knees. Once again I needed to understand this important truth.

  • “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”

Today I feel like I am beginning all over again. Yet, God is doing some amazing things. Some wonderful doors are opening that I never expected. The Lord has used some setbacks to give renewed vision. He has used people in my life to sharpen my vision and guide my steps. Today I am filled with hope and expectancy. It is not based on what I have planned. My hope and expectancy flow out of my weakness and the realization that His power is coming!

Mountains that do not move are opportunities to position our life for the grace and power of God. They are not setbacks. They are merely realignments. When the mountain does not move God is reminding us to rely on His strength and not ours. Together, with Paul, we find ourselves living with new hope and perspective.

  • “That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

I do not know what the future holds for this season in my life. All I have are the gifts He has given me, the tools He has allowed me to create, and a willingness to share them with others. The degree to which I will be able to accomplish this is fully determined by His grace. My prayer is that I will not fall short of the grace of God in any way.

Lord, this morning I humble myself before You! I confess that I am weak, my vision is limited, and I am fully dependent upon Your grace. Pour out Your grace upon me and allow me to stand in the strength of my Lord Jesus Christ! Today, I choose to rejoice in every mountain that has not moved and trust that You are creating the pathway before me.

In Jesus Name!

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WE MUST LEARN HOW TO FIGHT!

II CORINTHIANS 10:3-5: “We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Do I know how to engage in spiritual warfare? Have I been trained in the offensive weapons that the Lord has given me? Am I trying to win the battles of life in the power of my own wisdom and strength or in the power of the Holy Spirit?

We are engaged in a battle. It is the battle for truth and the battle for souls. While the world races to the streets in protest and flexes its strength in acts of violence, the believer is called to engage in their warfare in a different way. Paul makes it very clear.

  • “We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do.”

The believer in Jesus Christ is never to take his marching orders from the example of this world. The way that we normally would respond to a situation is exactly the opposite of how the Lord calls us to respond to it. Jesus made this very clear in His Sermon on the Mount.

  • “You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow. Matthew‬ ‭5:38-42‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Let’s break this down to an example we can all relate to – road rage! When you are driving down the road and someone cuts in front of you, almost causing an accident, every fiber in my body wants to honk my horn, raise my fist, and shout out – “You idiot!”. Even worse, there is the temptation to speed up and do it right back to them. This is waging war as humans do.

When we apply this to our calling it takes on a completely different dimension. We are tempted to overcome those who oppose God with our human wisdom and respond as the world does. Those who oppose abortion have taken matters into their own hands by using violence and burning down clinics – all in the name of Jesus. Would Jesus fight this way? Did Jesus fight this way?

As children of the light, we are called to fight against the enemy and his lies in a different way. We do not take up weapons and flood the streets demanding that people believe in Jesus. Rather, we use the weapons that we have been given. In Ephesians chapter six Paul outlines our spiritual armor. Yet, there are only two offensive weapons that he notes. The rest of our weapons are defensive. What are the two offensive weapons?

They are the Word of God and Prayer!

  • “Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.” Ephesians‬ ‭6:17-18‬ ‭NLT‬‬

When we are being attacked, or when someone we love is walking down the wrong path, we want to take action. Our human nature is to do something tangible that will change the situation. We are victims of what I call the “Hollywood Moment.” This is the false conception that life is like a movie. We want that perfect moment where we can do something or say something that changes everything.

Life is never like a Hollywood Movie!

Life is a battle. Our weapons are twofold. They are the Word of God and prayer. These seem inadequate to the human eye but from God’s perspective, they are powerful. In fact, they are the only thing that can truly win the day!

  • “We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.”

It is important that with both of these weapons we need the leading and empowering of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who illuminates the Word of God. And, it is the Holy Spirit who guides our prayers and even prays through us when we exercise our spiritual language. He intercedes through us according to the will of God. When Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness He used these mighty weapons and won!

Why do we struggle with believing that these weapons are as mighty as God’s Word says they are? I think it is because these weapons work in the invisible realm. We are fighting a spiritual battle. We do not see what God is doing in the background while we are using our weapons of truth and prayer. It appears as if nothing is happening. Yet, if we could see the reality from God’s perspective we would see strongholds being broken and the encroachment of darkness being pushed back.

As I write these thoughts I am engaged in a prolonged battle. It is a battle that I cannot win on my own. There is nothing I can do to change the situation. I am wholly dependent upon the Holy Spirit working through God’s Word and prayer. Each day as I pray I cannot see what is taking place in the invisible realm. Yet, I know that God is working. I have seen some walls fall but there is still a long way to go. I need to be reminded each day that these weapons are mighty and powerful – and that God is at work!

  • “We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.”

Lord, this morning, grant me the grace to engage the battles in my life with the Word of God and prayer. Help me to be led and empowered by the Holy Spirit and always guided by Your love. And, when I do not know how to pray, when the situation is simply overwhelming, may I pray in and by the Holy Spirit trusting that He will intercede through me according to the will of God the Father!

In Jesus Name!

Posted in II Corinthians | 1 Comment

THE END OF THE WORLD?

ISAIAH 24:1: “Look! The Lord is about to destroy the earth and make it a vast wasteland. He devastates the surface of the earth and scatters the people.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: What is the future of the world? Is the world on the pathway of increasing enlightenment and progress? Or, is the world racing to an inevitable day of judgment?

No one likes bad news. We would rather hear the news that promises a bright future where our best days are ahead of us. The bookstores are filled with self-help books that promise you your best life yet. Preachers stand behind the pulpit proclaiming messages of victory and prosperity.

And, then there is the prophet Isaiah.

How many churches would invite Isaiah to speak on a Sunday morning? What would the title of Isaiah’s sermon be? Would people clamor around his book table after service to buy his latest work – “The Lord Is About To Destroy The Earth!”? I don’t think Isaiah would be welcomed in many churches today.

What do we do with Isaiah’s message? Is it just an Old Testament writing that we can ignore now that we are in the new covenant? Has God altered his plan? Will He give this world a pass simply because there are so many churches in the land?

Isaiah answers this question when he writes,

  • “Priests and laypeople, servants and masters, maids and mistresses, buyers and sellers, lenders and borrowers, bankers and debtors—none will be spared. The earth will be completely emptied and looted. The Lord has spoken!” ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭24:2-3‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Notably, Isaiah begins with priests and laypeople. No one will escape the judgment of the Lord that is coming upon the world – except the true church. Only the true remnant of believers in Jesus Christ will be raptured and removed from the earth before God’s judgment falls. God has always dealt with His faithful remnant. In Noah’s day, it was only 8 souls among millions. In our day it will be those whose hearts are sincerely surrendered to Jesus Christ.

  • “For you know quite well that the day of the Lord’s return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. When people are saying, “Everything is peaceful and secure,” then disaster will fall on them as suddenly as a pregnant woman’s labor pains begin. And there will be no escape. But you aren’t in the dark about these things, dear brothers and sisters, and you won’t be surprised when the day of the Lord comes like a thief. For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night. So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clearheaded…For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us.” 1 Thessalonians‬ ‭5:2-6, 9‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Who is the remnant? Is it a denomination? Is it those who believe in a specific doctrine? I don’t believe we will be able to identify the remnant of the faithful church by a group or organization. I believe that after the rapture there will be many churches that continue meeting. Who is the remnant?

  • “So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clearheaded.”

The remnant will be those who are looking for the soon return of the Lord Jesus Christ. The remnant will be those who are remaining faithful to God’s Word even in the midst of suffering and persecution. The remnant will be those who are not relying upon their good works but solely upon the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. The remnant will be those who remain alert (spiritually) and have their ears (spiritually) tuned to hear the trumpet call of our Lord Jesus Christ!

  • “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words.” 1 Thessalonians‬ ‭4:16-18‬ ‭NLT‬‬

God will judge this world. If He doesn’t, He will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah, and all the victims of the flood. If He doesn’t, then all the words of Isaiah, the prophets, the apostles, and the book of Revelation will be nothing more than mere fantasy and conjecture. The world is not heading for utopia, it is heading for judgment. The only utopia we can hope for is the triumphant return of Jesus Christ who will establish His new heavens and the new earth!

  • “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” Revelation‬ ‭21:1-4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

So, how do we live with this understanding? Do we hang our heads down in despair and hide in our homes and holy huddles? Do we stop living and trying to bring the light of Christ into the world because we know the true end of all things? Jesus anticipated our human nature in these last days. Here is Jesus’ answer to these questions.

  • “So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would keep watch and not permit his house to be broken into. You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected. “A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward. I tell you the truth, the master will put that servant in charge of all he owns.” Matthew‬ ‭24:42-47‬ ‭NLT‬‬

And, Peter has these instructions.

  • “But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment. Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live, looking forward to the day of God and hurrying it along. On that day, he will set the heavens on fire, and the elements will melt away in the flames. But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness.” 2 Peter‬ ‭3:10-13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

We live in one of the most exciting times in human history. It is also one of the saddest times in human history. Yet, where sin abounds so grace is also to abound. This is not a time to walk around in despair or fear. This is a time to live holy and godly lives. This is a time to return to our call to preach the Gospel to all nations. This is a time to open our eyes and look up for our redemption is drawing nigh. Until Jesus calls us home, until we hear His trumpet call, we must be about the Father’s business.

Yes, the world is on the path to judgment. Yet, all who place their faith in Jesus Christ can escape this coming day. They can be rescued from the wrath to come and find an eternal place of joy in the presence of their Savior. Isn’t this a message worth sharing? Shouldn’t this move us from empathy to engagement? Shouldn’t this get us out of our seats and into the streets?

Lord, stir up a fire deep within me. As I see the world reject Your Word, harden their hearts, and openly celebrate sin and brokenness, may my heart not become discouraged or crippled by fear. Give me boldness to proclaim Your truth in love, to call sinners to the cross, and to walk in the provision of your forgiveness and cleansing each day!

  • “He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon!” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s holy people.” Revelation‬ ‭22:20-21‬ ‭NLT‬‬

MARANATHA!

In Jesus Name!

Posted in Isaiah | 3 Comments

CHOOSE YOUR SORROW WISELY!

II CORINTHIANS 7:10: “For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Can you imagine driving a car without rearview or side-view mirrors? You would only have visibility to what lies ahead of you. There would be no visibility to what was coming from behind or on either side.

It is inevitable – you would be heading toward a collision.

Everyone who drives a car knows the value of a rear-view mirror. Yet, few know that most automobiles did not have one until 1921. This means that for at least two decades people drove with no visibility to what was coming from behind. Almost no one alive remembers these early days. Yet, many people live their life without a spiritual rear-view mirror. To travel through life without a proper rear-view perspective is just as dangerous if not more so.

Our spiritual rear-view mirror is sorrow. Sorrow is defined as deep distress, sadness, or regret. Everyone will experience sorrow in their lifetime. It is important to choose our sorrow wisely. There is godly sorrow and worldly sorrow. Godly sorrow is known as repentance. Worldly sorrow is known as regret. One leads to life – the other to death!

  • “For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow.”

When a person allows the Holy Spirit to convict them of sin, righteousness, and judgment, there is always sorrow. We understand the gravity of our sin and we turn our hearts in sincere repentance to the Lord. To repent is not merely to say we are sorry. To repent is to turn from our sin and back to God. It is a 180-degree about-face in both our attitudes and actions. As we turn to the Lord we are met with His love, forgiveness, and cleansing – and the image in our rear-view mirror changes!

When we look in the rear-view mirror of our lives we do not see our failures and brokenness. We see the Cross! And, when we look to the pathway that lies before us we see the Cross! It is the Cross of Jesus Christ that now defines us and guides us. We are redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ. Our sins, though as scarlet, have been washed white as the snow. And, the sorrow that we experienced does not produce any regret. There is no condemnation and no regret for those who are in Christ Jesus. We have died to our past and are now walking in the newness of life!

The sorrow of the world is not like this. It produces the fullness of distress, sadness, and regret. There is no redemption or transformation. The regret of worldly sorrow produces a jaded and bitter heart. At the end of this broken trail is spiritual death. It is not the cessation of existence. Spiritual death is a life that will go on eternally, separated from God, and overcome by regret. All that one can see when they look through this rear-view mirror is a pathway of missed opportunities and broken dreams.

It is important to choose our sorrow wisely!

When we choose godly sorrow we experience the paradox of faith. God takes our broken lives and transforms them into something beautiful by His grace. He begins to redeem our past and propel us into His future for our lives. Suddenly our attitude and our choices begin to radically change.

  • “Just see what this godly sorrow produced in you! Such earnestness, such concern to clear yourselves, such indignation, such alarm, such longing to see me, such zeal, and such a readiness to punish wrong. You showed that you have done everything necessary to make things right.” 2 Corinthians‬ ‭7:11‬ ‭NLT‬‬

How can two sorrows be so different? The answer is Jesus! Jesus is the rear-view mirror that gives us life. He redeems our past and future. He fills us with the Holy Spirit and leads us in the paths of righteousness. He redefines our life and purpose. He transforms our sorrow into joy!

  • “To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.” Isaiah‬ ‭61:3‬ ‭NLT‬‬

It is important to choose our sorrow wisely!

Lord, this morning, help me to adjust my rear-view mirror. Grant me the grace to see Your Cross proclaiming my forgiveness and freedom. Help me to choose my sorrow wisely! Lead me from godly sorrow to Your overflowing joy!

In Jesus Name!

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