THE BRET KAVANAUGH HEARINGS…AND MY NAME

REVELATION 2:17: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Ruach is saying to Messiah’s communities. To the one who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone—and written on the stone a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it.” TLV

OBSERVATION: What is my name? This may seem like an odd question. Who doesn’t know their name? I am not speaking about our given name. The name I am referring to is the name we call ourselves. The name that defines us. The name that we live by.

I have always been intrigued by the story of the demonically possessed man in Mark 5:1-20. When Jesus confronted the man who was demon possessed he asked him – “What is your name?” Most people think that Jesus was addressing the demon, because it is the demon who responded. However, I believe that Jesus was addressing the man. The man’s identity had been lost in his captivity to the demons that held him captive. And so many of our identities have been lost to the brokenness and sin in our lives.

I have been watching the historic Senate confirmation hearings of Judge Bret Kavanaugh. What no one seems to understand is that our culture has put both the accuser and the accused into the same position. They are no longer two individuals for whom Christ has died. They are two broken and flawed people for whom sin has declared its victory. One is a victim, and one is a perpetrator. And all of this without any solid evidence. Two entire lives are given new names simply because of one purported mistake in the past.

The Psalmist writes,

  • “If You, ADONAI, kept a record of iniquities— my Lord, who could stand? For with You there is forgiveness, so You may be revered.” Psalms‬ ‭130:3-4‬ ‭TLV‬‬

Do we want to encourage a society where one’s entire life, one’s entire worth, is dictated by a single event or failure in their life? As the Psalmist declares – “…my Lord, who could stand?” Yet, the promise is found in the next verse. As believers in Jesus Christ we believe in redemption. We believe in the transformation of the human soul. We believe that the power of forgiveness breaks the power of sin. And when we repent, when we turn to Jesus Christ for forgiveness, He not only saves us – HE GIVES US A NEW NAME!‭‭

  • “To the one who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone—and written on the stone a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it.”

It is not an arbitrary name. It is a name written in stone! It is our new identity as a child of God. This name is greater than the names of brokenness and failure that we have lived by in the past. It is our name as a child of God.

When I look at these Senate confirmation hearings I am deeply saddened. So much more is at stake then merely the confirmation of a Supreme Court Judge. The very decency of our nation is at stake. And as sinners saved by grace, we must see beyond all of the brokenness on both sides of the isle. We must pray that both victim and accused find their name and identity, not in the things of the past, but in their future which is found only in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Lord, have mercy upon us as a nation. Have mercy upon me. I pray that today I can live by the new name You have given me. And I pray that all men and women will come to know their new name in Jesus Christ my Lord.

In Jesus Name!

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THE SIN…NOT UNTO DEATH

I JOHN 5:16-17: “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he should ask, and God will give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death—I am not saying you should ask about that. All unrighteousness is sin, but there is sin not leading to death.” TLV

OBSERVATION: What is the sin not leading to death? This question could open up a myriad of responses. I think the best way to answer this question is not to create a list, but to eliminate what it is not. It is not the sin unto death. John makes it clear that we are not to pray for that. What is the sin unto death?

Jesus said that all sin will be forgiven man, except the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. This is the sin unto death. The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is attributing the works of God to Satan. In other words, it is completely hardening one’s heart to the Holy Spirit so that the heart is no longer reachable. It is was Paul refers to in Romans 1 as the reprobate heart. (Note: If you have ever worried that you have committed the sin unto death, don’t worry! The fact that you are even concerned and asking the question is proof that you have not!)

So what is the practical application for our lives? It speaks to how we view and deal with a brother or a sister who falls into sin. We call this backsliding. We all have backslidden from walking with the Lord in sincere faith. It is not whether one will backslide. The question is how do we deal with the backslider?

Since backsliding is not the sin unto death, we are to pray for them. John writes that as we intercede for this person, God will give life to those who commit the sin not leading to death. What is that life? It is the precious Holy Spirit wooing them back to the Father. It is the Holy Spirit who convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment. It is the same Holy Spirit that led them to embrace Christ as their Savior and Lord. This is a promise of God.

How do we usually deal with the backslider, especially if they are a family member? We are naturally hurt and disappointed when someone backslides, when they not only leave the Lord, but when they also leave their responsibilities in life unattended. The human response is to pull away from that person. It is hard for us to be with them because we are so hurt and disappointed. But, is this the way we should respond?

What would happen if we took all of this hurt and disappointment and directed it to intercessory prayer for this individual? What would happen if we began to deal with them, not based on what they deserve, but based on the same mercy that God has shown to us in our times of backsliding? What if we asked God to give them life?

I believe the Lord always answers the prayer for life. This does not guarantee that an individual will respond to this life. However, they will be given every opportunity to respond. As we pray, the Lord will pour out the Holy Spirit upon their life to check them in their sin, to call them back to repentance, and to lead them into the pathway of restoration. And, if we have been praying this way, when they do return, we will be positioned to receive them with joy.

To ask God for life, we first must ask God to give us His grace. We must humble ourselves before the Lord, lay down our hurt and disappointment, and refuse to pick it up again. We need to begin to pray for life and blessing upon the backslider, for it is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance. And when they return, as the father did with the prodigal son, we need to run to them, embrace them, and restore them. Our brother or sister who was lost, has now returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of their souls!

Lord, this morning as I type these thoughts, I ask you to give LIFE to one very special person on my heart. Pour out Your Holy Spirit upon them. Draw them back to You. Renew their heart. Give them victory over the sin that so easily besets. Restore in them the joy of Your salvation. And as you do, guard my heart from a judgmental and critical spirit. Help me to be positioned to love and restore. Help me to see them as you see them!

In Jesus Name!

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I AM A WHITE, CHRISTIAN, MALE

I JOHN 1:8-10: “If we say we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.” TLV

OBSERVATION: I am a White, Christian, Male. In the culture of our day I am presumed to be guilty of crimes and attitudes I have never committed or held. I am marginalized as the problem for the ills of our society, simply because of the color of my skin and the faith that I hold.

Yet, I am not innocent. I am a sinner, plain and simple. My sins are worthy of God’s judgment. Yet, I have found a Savior, Jesus Christ my Lord. I have come to Him, confessing my sins, and He has graciously forgiven my sin and cleansed me from all unrighteousness. This is why I am a Christian. I recognized my sin, and I brought it to the Lord Jesus Christ. I did not earn His forgiveness. It was freely given to me, as it is to everyone who repents of their sin and calls upon His name.

I was born white and male. I did not ask to be white, nor did I ask to be male. This was the work of the hand of God. It was the result of the union of my parents. It is hard for me to understand why I am being judged for something that I had no control over. And it is amazing that my heart is judged simply because of my skin color and my gender. No one knows my heart, except God. How can I be judged as a racist, bigot, hater, and the cause of this world’s ills?

Yet, I am not innocent. I am a sinner, plain and simple. My natural tendencies are to be selfish, judgmental, and unforgiving. However, I have found a new capacity to love, give, and forgive. The same grace that was poured out on me through faith in Jesus Christ, is also transforming my heart. Not only am I forgiven and cleansed from my sins, my heart is being renewed and restored to God’s original intent. I know have a new capacity to love others, even my enemies. It is the Lord Jesus Christ within me that allows me to pray for those that accuse me of the things that in reality I too abhor.

I believe in redemption. I believe that every person can be redeemed and restored by the grace of God. From the vilest sinner, to the one who thinks he is a moralist and is not even aware of his sin. God’s grace can forgive, cleanse, and transform every broken life. It is restoring mine. Therefore, I cannot hate someone simply because of the color of their skin, their gender, religion, or political viewpoint. How can a sinner, destined for hell, but redeemed by the love of God, pass judgment on anyone else?

Please don’t hate me because I am a White, Male, Christian. Please don’t discard me as damaged goods. Please don’t label me as racist, bigoted, or hateful. I am simply a sinner, saved by the grace of God. I love you and I am praying that you too can find the wonderful power of His transforming love.

  • “Now this is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you—that God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with Him and keep walking in the darkness, we are lying and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of His Son Yeshua purifies us from all sin.” 1 John‬ ‭1:5-7‬ ‭TLV‬‬

It is only when we experience the transforming power of God’s love through Jesus Christ that we are able to walk in true unity and fellowship. And as we do – the blood of Jesus Christ will continue to wash us, renew us, and transform us in His wonderful image of love.

I am a White, Christian, Male, a sinner saved by God’s Grace – and I love you!

In Jesus Name!

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HOW DO YOU SPOT A “FALSE TEACHER?”

II Peter 2:17-19: “These people are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. The gloom of utter darkness has been reserved for them. For by mouthing grandiosities that amount to nothing, they entice in sensual fleshly passions those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption—for a person is a slave to whatever has overcome him.” TLV

OBSERVATION: How do you spot a false teacher? How do you discern sound doctrine from spurious teachings? In these last days, when prophets and teachers abound, when there are so many voices vying for our attention, it is important to heed the words of Peter.

One of the first giveaways of a false teacher is that they speak in grandiosities. They purport teaching a new truth, something that has never before been understood. Their speech is not straightforward, but it is filled with mystery and endless twists and turns that are difficult to follow. And, in their teaching, they bring glory to themselves for their great understanding and insight.

Peter says that such teachers are springs without water, mists driven by a storm. Proclaiming to be moving in the fullness and power of the Holy Spirit, they are actually devoid of His presence in their life. And, unlike the God who never changes, their teachings and focus moves and changes with the wind. As soon as their current “new teaching” begins to gather dust, and when the excitement wanes, they miraculously have a “new revelation.” And guess what? It is something that no one else has ever discovered!

Why do they seem to have such influence? Why is it so easy for them to gather a crowd and a following? It is because their teaching is not about the cross or Christ (even though they invoke His name). Their teaching is always about the temporal, not the eternal. It appeals to the sensual appetites of the human condition. It is always about breakthrough, success, finances, and the miraculous. Their teachings are never about the cross, sacrifice, faithfulness, and the call to be a servant.

  • “For by mouthing grandiosities that amount to nothing, they entice in sensual fleshly passions those who are barely escaping from those who live in error.”

And, while they tell their hearers that this revolutionary teaching will lead them to freedom and blessing, all the while they are bound by their love of money and position. They boast about their achievements, and with their deceptive speech they lead others into the same bondage that they are in. They are the blind leading the blind. They are the modern day Pharisees.

Here are some red flags to watch for.

  • They claim to have a “new” revelation or teaching.
  • They use their success to validate their teaching.
  • They focus on the temporal things of life rather than the spiritual and eternal.
  • They talk a lot about money, your money, and how you need to give it in order to enter into the blessing of this new revelation.
  • They talk more about blessings than the cross, more about themselves than Christ, and more about giving to receive than giving to serve.

Peter says of these so called teachers,

  • “For if—after escaping the world’s pollutions through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Yeshua the Messiah—they again become entangled in these things and are overcome, the end for them has become worse than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than after learning about it, to turn back from the holy commandment passed on to them. What has happened to them confirms the truth of the proverb, “A dog returns to its vomit,” and “A scrubbed pig heads right back into the mud.” 2 Peter‬ ‭2:20-22‬ ‭TLV‬‬

You might ask – “Who are they?” “Name some names!” Peter did not name anyone, he simply warned us all. If you keep your eyes on Jesus, if you take up your cross daily, if you humble yourself under His mighty hand, you will not find it hard to spot these false teachers. The truth is always Christ centric. The truth always leads us to the cross. The truth always gives all the glory to God. And, the truth is never about something that was just discovered, it is about the eternal truth that has been proclaimed through the ages – that never changes!

The truth is Jesus – the same yesterday, today, and forever!

In Jesus Name!

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WHAT…ME WORRY!?

I PETER 5:7: “Cast all your worries on Him, for He cares for you.” TLV

‭‭OBSERVATION: What, me worry? Worry is antithetical to faith. Yet, still I find myself worrying. I worry about the present, I worry about the future, I worry about what I cannot control. Am I just simply a failure in my walk of faith?

I love God’s Word because it is so brutally honest in dealing with our human condition. Somewhere along the line we take God’s Word and begin to turn it into something it was never meant to be. We use it as a litmus test to judge one another’s faith, rather then using it to build up one another’s faith. Just as God’s Word is blatantly honest, I too must be.

In this life – I worry.

I think the Lord knew this would be one of the plights of our human condition. It is not just the condition of those who do not know the Lord, it is also the condition of the child of God. So does God berate us for our weakness? No! Instead, He gives us a glorious provision and promise.

  • “Cast all your worries on Him, for He cares for you.”

The Lord knew that I would worry. Worry becomes an unbearable burden to carry in this life. So the Lord comes along side of us and says – “Let me carry that for you!” Why does He come to us with such warmth and compassion? Why does He not rather give us a good scolding for our lack of faith?

The answer is – “He cares!”

  • “As a father pities his children, So the LORD pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” Psalms‬ ‭103:13-14‬ ‭NKJV‬‬‬‬

He knows us, and He loves us! He does not come to beat us down, but He comes to comfort and restore. Yet, there is one condition. We must give Him our worries. If we do not humble ourselves, admit that we cannot carry them, and cast them upon Him, then we will not find the comfort and relief He so freely wants to give us.

  • “…God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,”. I Peter‬ ‭5:5-6‬ ‭NKJV‬‬‬‬

Pride tells us that we can handle it. Pride tells us just to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and walk in faith. Yet, this is not faith at all. It is pride and presumption. When we take this posture in dealing with our worries, we fall right into the trap of the adversary. Pride always goes before a fall. It is the humble of heart that finds the mighty hand of God removing the worry from their heart, and replacing it with comfort and peace.

This morning, as I began my time in meditation and prayer, as I pondered over the Word of God, I battled with worry. I had help too! I felt that all familiar whisper from the adversary, and the weakness of my flesh, saying – “What if?” I had a choice at that moment. As I read these verses in I Peter, I decided to take the choice of casting my worries upon Him. As I did, I began to feel the power of His love, the presence of the Holy Spirit, and the confidence of grace rising up within me.

What is this power and confidence? It is Christ alone! It is knowing that He truly cares. Lord, help me to walk in this power and confidence each and every moment of my life. When I find myself worrying, help me to run to You and give all these worries to You!

  • “Cast all your worries on Him, for He cares for you.”

In Jesus Name!

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SECRET AGENT…or…AMBASSADOR?

I PETER 3:13-18: “Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not be afraid or worry about their threats. Instead sanctify Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, yet with humility and reverence—keeping a clear conscience so that, whatever you are accused of, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Messiah may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good (if it is God’s will) than for doing evil. For Messiah once suffered for sins also—the righteous for the unrighteous—in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive by the Ruach.” TLV

‭‭OBSERVATION: Am I willing to suffer wrong for doing what is right? Is the truth more important than my personal comfort? Am I an undercover agent or a bold ambassador for Jesus Christ? In this day of upside down morality, and situational ethics, these are good questions to ask myself.

Peter reminds us that the general rule of thumb is that one is not harmed when they are doing good. However, there are times when this is not the case, and Peter acknowledges this. We live in such times. To stand up for the truth is literally to paint a bullseye on your chest and invite others to begin taking shots at you. We live in a culture where evil is spoken of as good, and good is spoken of as evil. So what do we do?

Peter gives us some solid instruction. The first thing we do is sanctify Jesus as Lord in our hearts. This means that everything in life takes second place to the Lord. Our position, our comfort, and being understood, must be laid at the altar. We must be willing to suffer for Christ’s sake, realizing that as we do the blessing of the Lord rests upon us.

  • “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great! For in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:10-12

The second thing we need to do is prepare ourselves to give an answer to anyone who questions the hope that is within us. This is not a license to argue and ridicule those who oppose the truth. Peter makes it very clear in his instruction – “…yet with humility and reverence—keeping a clear conscience so that, whatever you are accused of, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Messiah may be put to shame.”

Recently someone asked me how I could pray for our current President. They opposed his policies and felt that he was a loathsome individual. I respectfully answered them with some Scriptural instructions that guide my life and instruct me to pray for all those who are in authority over me. This set off a firestorm that I did not expect. Yet, the fire did not start with me. I simply answered the question that was directed to me. And I did not enter into an angry back and forth and debate.

In all honesty, it is easier to simply duck these situations then enter into them. However, if we never stand up for God’s Word, if we are afraid to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those who do not believe, if we hide our faith in a napkin and bury it in the ground, we are actually speaking volumes without saying a word. Yet, if we speak the truth with humility and reverence, keeping a clear conscience, we are being faithful to the Lord’s command, and we will be the recipients of His blessings and abundant grace.

Finally, it is always better to suffer for doing and saying what is right, then it is for suffering for doing what is wrong – or not doing anything at all.

  • “For it is better to suffer for doing good (if it is God’s will) than for doing evil. For Messiah once suffered for sins also—the righteous for the unrighteous—in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive by the Ruach (Spirit).”

How many times have I failed to stand up for what I believe, and then later carried a heart filled with regret? How many times have I acted like a secret agent for Jesus Christ, rather than an ambassador that is called, commissioned, and empowered to share the truth with the nations? The voices of those who oppose God’s truth are shouting in the streets. If those who hold His truth keep silent and hide, an entire generation can be lost. However, if we rise up, in humility and reverence, and boldly proclaim the Word of Truth to the nations, to our nation, we just might see a wave of revival fall upon our land.

If ever there was a time to be bold for the truth it is today. Like Esther, we must begin with sincere prayer. Then we must be willing to count the cost – “…for such a time as this.”

Lord, help me to count the cost today!

In Jesus Name!

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DAYDREAMER…or…REALIST? (Or something in between?)

JAMES 4:13-17: “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” NKJV

OBSERVATION: Am I a dreamer, a realist, or something in between? Do I find myself always looking forward and missing the opportunities that are right before me? Do I confuse faith with presumption my life? All of these questions come to mind when I read these verses in the book of James.

Recently I was at a restaurant that is owned by a Christian family. They have two televisions in the restaurant. One is always tuned to a sports channel, and the other to a Christian channel. As my wife and I ate our dinner a well known TV Evangelist was promoting their new book. The basic title was “If you can conceive it, you can receive it.” When I heard this title I wondered, “Have they ever read these verses in the Epistle of James?”

Is faith merely finding what we want, conceiving it in our mind, and then proclaiming it with our mouth? What does James say about this type of faith (or in reality what I would call presumption)?

  • “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”

None of us knows what tomorrow holds. The only assurance we have is that we are in the hands of the One who holds tomorrow. Any boasting on our part, or so called “faith speak,” is really boasting beyond our own knowledge. In fact, the whole concept of “conceiving and receiving” is really a misunderstanding of a couple of Scriptural texts at the best, and an outright deception of New Age thinking at its worst.

What is James answer to this? It is twofold. First, we must acknowledge that we are to submit to the sovereign will of the Lord.

  • “Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.”

Notice, James does not mince his words. We are either walking in faith fully submitted to the sovereignty of God, or we are walking in boastful arrogance. And James is clear – “All such boasting is evil.”

The second part of James instruction is to engage in what we do know, as we trust the Lord for what we cannot see.

  • “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.”

This is what I call dealing with the seen, as we walk in faith for the unseen. Since we cannot control tomorrow, we are left with what we hold in our hand today. If through presumption I am focused only on the future, and neglect the present good that I can do today, I sin. There is no other option. Jesus said that we are to live one day at a time, trusting in the Father to meet all of our need in the future. This is exactly what James is saying in his epistle.

Some may recoil in objection. “What, are you saying that you never plan for the future, that you never have dreams or vision for what the Lord has called you to do?” Absolutely not! If anyone has dreams and visions for the future it is me. Yet, I am reminded that I really don’t know fully what the future is going to bring. If I think that I can “speak the future into existence,” I am merely boasting, and I am also playing God. Yet, if I submit my dreams and visions to the Lord, and live for today, doing all the good that is at hand, I am walking in faith.

Faith is not about manipulating life (and God) so that I get what I want. Faith is about trusting God, obeying him moment by moment, so that He fulfills what He wants in my life, and in this broken world. Faith is truly praying – “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth (and in me) as it is in heaven.” The angels in heaven are not telling God what to do. One angel did that a long time ago and we know what happened to him. No, the angels are living to fulfill the will of God each and every moment and each and every day. And so should we.

The wonderful thing about living this way is you truly find peace in your life. Also, you begin to live life as an adventure. When you don’t know what to expect next, every day is a wonderful journey of walking with the Lord. New opportunities arise that you would never dream could come your way. The dreams and visions you have are often replaced with dreams and visions that are far greater than what you could have ever imagined for yourself. And you grow in a sincere awe and appreciation of the sovereignty and love of God the Father!

Lord, I don’t know what you have in store for me today. Help me to live moment by moment for You. Help me to engage in all the good that is at hand, as I place my dreams and visions in Your hand. Do exceedingly, abundantly, above all that I am able to ask or think, according to Your sovereign will and loving kindness. Truly help me to walk in faith.

In Jesus Name!

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