Monday, December 5, 2016

The Yoke of Christ is not a Burden


Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” – Matthew 11:29

In context, this verse is to those who are workers, tired and weary, bearing a lot of burdens, and instructing them how to find rest.  It is odd, when you first read it, that the instruction is to ‘take my yoke upon you’, adding more to the load of the weary it would seem.  But not all loads are heavy.  You won’t feel as tired carrying a box of pillows as a box of cinder blocks.

What is different about the load that Jesus instructs us to carry is that it is first not a load, but a yoke.  A yoke is used go guide a farm animal through a chore like plowing land.  Jesus asks us to let him be our guide by taking on His yoke.  There are two things he tells us about that yoke.  It’s gentle, and it’s “lowly in heart”. 

Meekness is the opposite of prideful, and is what “lowly in heart” means.  Pride will cause a lot of undue stress and struggle in your life.  It’s a will to never feel second place, when in fact, the will of God is that we all be servants, which means we will all be second place on this earth.  That servant attitude is not only for the recipient – but also for the servant.  Humility is a good thing, reducing our self-pride and causing us not to think higher of ourselves than we should (Romans 12:3).  You’ll be less likely to live with the stress of what others thing of you when your pride replaced with a “lowly in heart” attitude.

The second attribute of the yoke of Christ is that it is gentle.  I think this is best described in a few verses where the word is used.  Titus 3:2 says “To speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.”  James 3:17 says “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” Ephesians 4:2 says “With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love”.  To be gentle is to live with others peacefully and through God’s wisdom.  Gentleness is how a shepherd treats his sheep, and how we should treat each other if we are to show the love of Jesus.

Living with a selfless gentle attitude is part of the sanctification process of believers.  It makes us more like Christ, whom we profess to follow.  And while it may seem like we’re taking on yet another “chore” or yoke, and carrying yet another burden to hold ourselves accountable to, the truth is that this is the way to rest in this world.  This is the working of righteousness in us.  Lord, let this be our daily yoke! Guide us to always be gentle and humble.

The work of righteousness will be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever.” – Isaiah 32:17

Saturday, November 19, 2016


I’m often amazed at how God leads me into study.  Today it was the most unlikely word: mention.  Why “mention” I thought? 

As it turns out, the verse is used several times in the Old Testament with reference to the false gods that were being worshipped, and how we exalt God with our words.  Here are some examples:

“And in all that I have said to you, be circumspect and make no mention of the name of other gods, nor let it be heard from your mouth.” – Exodus 23:13

and lest you go among these nations, these who remain among you. You shall not make mention of the name of their gods, nor cause anyone to swear by them; you shall not serve them nor bow down to them,” – Joshua 23:7

If this teaches us anything, it should be that God is jealous.  He wants our entire worship, and nothing less.  He wants our praise, the “mention” of His name.

While today, at least in the US, we don’t have a plethora of gods that we worship, we have exalted a lot of other things to god-like levels.  We “mention” them all the time.  We do it with our jobs, our money, our homes and belongings, our social status, our children, and you pick it – there’s a long list!

The time we spend talking about these things….I just have to wonder….is God jealous?  My heart answers back…yes, He is.  Yet, I believe He gives us things like our jobs and children for our own delight.  So how might we turn the tables on what is being exalted?  Perhaps it’s just the mention of His name? “I thank God for my job, my house, my children, my friends, my family...” See how easy that is?  Praise isn’t complicated.  It’s just the mention of His name.  That has to be the most effortless form of worship.

My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness
And Your salvation all the day,
For I do not know their limits.
I will go in the strength of the Lord GOD;
I will make mention of Your righteousness, of Yours only.” – Psalms 71:15-16

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Chains in Christ

But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” – Philippians 1:12-14

I’ve heard it said hundreds of times, ‘hindsight is 20/20’, meaning that once we get into the future, we can look back at our situations and see things clearly.  We can then understand why God placed us on that tough path.  Paul in this passages was expressing this same fact.
At this time Paul was in prison in Rome and had been asked to give an account for the things he preached.  While being in prison isn’t a good thing, it did provide him one of the greatest opportunities to preach to those who were in high government positions in Rome.  His words that “my chains are in Christ” state that it wasn’t evil things that put him in prison, but the will of God so that His work could be done.  Paul states that he had become “more bold to speak the word without fear.” 

Had Paul not endured prison, he may have never gotten an audience with the people in Rome that would hear him.  Yet, because of the “chains in Christ”, he was given an opportunity to do something very special for God.  Later on he speaks of this opportunity saying “in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.”
Sometimes the “chains of Christ” look like an evil thing has been done to us.  We don’t see the good in it.  Yet, God tells us that he seeks to do good by us, and to give us a hope and a future.  We have to trust in that when the “chains” feel more like a burden than an opportunity.  Hindsight is 20/20.  Trust God and wait for the future to remove the veil and show us His plan.


Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Mystery of Turning Bad into Good

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” – Romans 8:28

This is one of those verses that can make your head spin in light of events in your life that are for all intents and purposes not good at the time they happen.  How can God use the death of a young child for good?  How can God turn the murder of innocent people into something good?  How can being diagnosed with cancer become something good?
I’ve been through a few of these types of events both personally and through friends and family.  What I can tell you is that the one good I have seen come from them is in our relationship with God.  It’s in those lowest of lows that we experience that we learn that we can only trust in God to turn the situation around.  It’s in a situation that you cannot change that you have no choice but to trust that God is still God, almighty, in all authority, and allowing things that may not appear as good in order to achieve something greater.

The story of Job comes to mind.  If you read the book you find that Job did have plenty of questions as to why God allowed him to lose all his children, all his livestock, and to even be given a horrible disease of boils all over his body.  His own wife lost faith in God, which only made his experiences in that valley even harder.  She was the one love he had left, and she wanted him to just curse God and die.  While she may have spoken those words out of compassion for his suffering, and thinking he would no longer be in pain, the fact is, she gave up on God.  When two become one, and one does not have the faith to stand in the valley, things become harder for the one that does.  Job endured a lot.  And in the end God blessed his perseverance and the fact that even though he questioned God, he never stopped honoring God. 

Trusting God in the valley is a faith growing experience.  But it can be that season of winter when all the sap in that tree of faith dries up, and you just have to hang on for spring.  Just do that.  Hang on. 
This song by Lauren Daigle has become one of my favorites.  She sings about this very thing.  When we don’t get our way, when our prayers are not answered the way we want, we just trust in God with all we have to offer Him.  That is loyalty.  That is obedience.  That is faith.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

When God says Pray - PRAY

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” – Romans 8:26

Coming out of Nashville during rush hour traffic Thursday, my nerves were a bit frazzled.  I don’t like driving in Nashville, and I’m sure many of you can relate to that!   I was on Briley Parkway, already past the Opry Mills Mall, and watching traffic with all I had in me.  Suddenly from deep inside I heard “Pray”. 

Sometimes the Holy Spirit in us will direct us to do various things.  He will tell us who to talk to, to pay that extra bit for the person in front of us at the checkout, to help a mom with her crying child, or to cook for those who are too sick to do it.  But this time it was a simple “Pray” command.  I started praying.  I prayed for my safety, and the safety of those around me, looking at each car and the person inside and asking God to grant them mercy. 

This prayer was shorter than I expected as suddenly on the hillside to my right, about 20 yards from me, I saw a huge cloud of dust.  There was a concrete wall below the hillside, which was going toward an off ramp.  Suddenly a dark blue minivan appeared tumbling through the dust and then headed nose down to land on the off lane beside me.  Traffic went from barreling down the road at 80+ MPH to around 50 MPH.  I think it gave us all a good warning.

I’ve gone through all the news channels trying to find out what happened to the passenger and how they got in that predicament.  All I could see to explain it was one small red SUV in the area between the ongoing traffic lanes and the exit lane.  I don’t know if one squeezed into the wrong lane or what, but she ended up going in the opposite direction and high up the embankment above the concrete wall.

All that to say this.  Earlier this week without being able to spend time doing my daily devotional as long as I wanted, I relied on the Daily Bread app on my phone.  The September 1 article is titled “Because You Prayed”, and talks about how King Hezekiah received a scroll from King Sennacherib telling him that he was going to destroy his kingdom just like he had all the others.  King Hezekiah took the scroll to the altar of them temple, spread it out before God and prayed and asked God for help.  Soon after that the prophet Isaiah was sent to Hezekiah with a message found in Isaiah 37:21-35.  It starts by saying, “BECAUSE YOU HAVE PRAYED TO ME against Sennacherib king of Assyria…”. 

I think the intention God was to give me in this was to show me that my prayers do matter.  Sometimes we can pray for months, years even, and not see a result.  We feel like giving up, like God isn’t interested in our concern.  But God hears them every one and His word says that if we delight in Him, He chooses to give us the desires of our heart (Psalms 37:4).  Continuing “steadfastly in prayer” (Romans 12:12) is to not give up when the acts of God are not visible, but to allow that time of waiting to increase our faith.  We speak to Him with expectation of His answer, of His either changing our will to serve His purpose, or answering our prayers as we saw fit, with a Yes and Amen.

Driving past that dust bowl and minivan sitting nose down on the highway, I saw a police car behind us with blue lights flipped on.  He was there when he needed to be.  Coincidence?  I think not. 

None of the cars around me, including the small red SUV parked between the traffic lanes and the exit ramp, were hit.  Coincidence? I think not.

God has a reason for the things He asks of us.  Prayer is as simple as a conversation with God.  He’s been far too good to me to ever tell him “sorry Father, I’m too busy for you right now.”  When He says Pray, I will pray. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

Three Lies Satan Tells

My study this morning was in Matthew 4.  It was on the heels of God giving me a battle cry yesterday: “This is war, I know my enemy, and I will not retreat.” I must have heard that come through my head a dozen times yesterday.  In some ways I did retreat, I walked away from a battle I think I could have fought and won with God on my side.  But sometimes, during the battle, the victory isn’t seen so clearly.  I believe what I read this morning uncovered some of what I was facing.

You see, in the midst of spiritual battles, satan will lie to you.  He did it to Jesus on the mountain, and his tactics have not changed.  This morning while reading about Jesus’ temptation by satan, I saw three lies he tells us.

Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” – Matthew 4:3

The first lie he tells us is in questioning our identity.  He said to Jesus “IF you are the Son of God”.  If he can get you to believe this lie, that God is not with you and not concerned about you as His child, the battle is over my friend.  With God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26) and without Him we can do nothing (John 15:5).

“and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’” – Matthew 4:6

The second lie he used was to question God’s word.  He used it to tempt Jesus, but he also twisted God’s word ever so slightly.  The truth is in Jesus’ reply: “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.  If satan can get you to believe his version of God’s word, it soon will all fall apart, and you’ll question God in entirety.  Be careful what you believe to be truth.  If it’s not in God’s word, it’s not truth.  God warned us to study to show ourselves approved, as a worker who does not need to be ashamed and is able to use the truth (2 Timothy 2:15).  God’s word is the full measurement of truth and in it you will find all your answers.

“Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” – Matthew 4:8-9

Ah, satan is such a liar!  The earth and the fullness thereof belongs to God (Deuteronomy 10:14). There’s NOTHING here that he can give you but grief and pain.  Ask yourself, what did he give Job when God allowed him to invade Job’s life? 

Yet, he tried to tempt Jesus with riches.  Friends, many of us fall in and out of that trap on a daily basis.  But in Jesus own words in Mark 8:36 He warns us, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?”  No doubt Jesus was reflecting on satan’s attempt to make him sell out on that mountain.  But satan can not give you what he does not own.  Instead, God offers us the riches of this world and beyond.  Read Deuteronomy 28:1-14 and the blessings of obedience to God, or Malachi 3:8-12 regarding the blessing of tithing.  If you want all the things in this life that will make you happy, my friend, they are in God’s hand, and He is willing to give them.  But He will not give them at the risk of having you worship them above Him.  He knows your heart.  When you put God first, blessings abound, because that is His will towards His obedient children.  Ephesians 3:20 tells us He is able to do more than we can even imagine. 

Yes, this is a war.  It is a war in the soul.  But my friends, we must stand our ground, remember who you are, remember what God's word says, remember who he is NOT, and tell the enemy “I will not retreat.  Not today satan, not today! And tomorrow’s not looking good for you either!"  With God with us and within us, there is victory.


Friday, July 8, 2016

The Division of ONE

“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word;  that they all may be ONE, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be ONE in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be ONE just as We are ONE:  I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in ONE, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” – Jesus Christ, John 17:20-23

Some days I just grow tired of hearing all the hate in this world.  But the problem is, I don’t grow tired enough of hearing about it to do anything consciously different.  Father, do not let this day be one of those.
Waking up this morning and hearing of the sniper shots that has killed and injured 10 police officers in Dallas, Texas, is heartbreaking.  It is always heartbreaking when the innocent suffer at the hands of those filled with hatred.  It hurts when it’s children in a school, when it’s women at the hands of their spouse, when it’s children at the hands of their own parents. 

We hate others for so many reasons.  We hate them because they’re different than us, whether it be their gender, their race, their social status, their sins, or even their tattoos.  It seems that as a society, we can look at any person and instead of finding reasons to love them, we find reasons to hate them.
I know ya’ll get tired of hearing this from me, and to be quite frank about it…that doesn’t bother me.  What this world needs is love, and God is LOVE in its purest form (1 John 4:8).  Love is the ONLY thing that will conquer hate.  It is the ONLY thing that will unite us as ONE again, and remove these divides in our society.

Jesus prayed for exactly that.  Before His death, He went to pray alone, and prayed for those of us that are living today – you and me.  His prayer wasn’t that we be rich and famous, have everything we need, be healthy, see the world, or even live happy lives.  What He prayed was far better than ALL of that.  He prayed that we would be ONE as He is ONE with God, “I in them and You in Me”.  That is the solution to the hatred of the world.
“I in them” is His Holy Spirit coming to live within us when we accept Him as our Savior.  “You in Me” is His Holiness as the Son of God, which He has always been (no, Jesus didn’t just come about when He was born into this world).  The closeness He has with the Father makes them ONE.  For us to share that closeness as a society, we need to be ONE with Him.

Does that mean all saved believers huddle together in a church three times a week and thank Him for our oneness? No!  Absolutely not!  In fact, if that is what we call Christianity, friends, we’ve got it all wrong.  Every one of us is to be a disciple to those around us who need His love.  That means YOU.  That means ME.  If you only show your Christian love in church, well, that’s more like showing up at a club meeting and showing off your membership card.  It doesn’t add to the society of ONE.  It doesn’t share God’s love.  It doesn’t change anything in this world.
And I’ll go a bit further and say that if all the world hears of your Christianity is how horrible they are and how much they need Jesus, well, that’s a turn off.  There’s no love in that at all.  How would you like it if that was the message you got from those you respect.  “Sister Dogooder, you just need to change your ways and be more like me.”  “Brother Betterthan, you need to stop that lifestyle you’ve chosen.”  Notice the focus is on criticism, not love.  See friends, those who we find fault in don’t see their faults.  Pointing out what we see is nothing more than pointing out what we don’t like (hate) about them. 

Your job is to love them. Let God change them.  That’s how your sanctification works.
The clock is ticking.  Hatred is ruling.  People are being killed because of their choices in sex partners, because of the color of their skin, because they wear a badge, because they watch a movie, and yes, occasionally because they are Christians as well.  I say occasionally because the truth is, unless we’re all huddled up in a church building somewhere, it’s hard for anyone to identify us to hurt us.

Our love for others must become our identity.  When John said “God is love”, he wasn’t saying God is a big read puffy heart.  He was saying that was God’s identity, His character, day in and day out.  LOVE overcomes hate like water overcomes fire. 
So now I ask you, when did you last show love for someone completely different than yourself?  Will today be different?  It will for me.  I do solemnly swear to you that hatred will not rule in my life. 

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, if we don’t show love to the world, who will?  Without our example, why would they choose to become ONE with us?  It was Jesus’ prayer.  Let’s not be an obstacle to grace.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Hidden Manna - White Stone - New Name

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the HIDDEN MANNA to eat. And I will give him a WHITE STONE, and on the stone a NEW NAME written which no one knows except him who receives it.”’- Revelation 2:17

When Jerusalem was taken over by the Chaldeans, King Josiah hid the ark of the covenant, which contained the tables of the commandments, a pot of manna, and Aarons rod. Prior to that, these were in the tabernacle behind a second veil in an area called “Holiest of All”.  The priest would go in there once a year carrying blood as a sacrifice to offer for the forgiveness of the sins of the people that were committed in ignorance (Hebrews 9).

Jesus is now that “Holiest of All”, our sacrifice for all sins, who overcame the laws on the tablets of stone, who is our “Bread of Life”, who is our blood sacrifice.

The white stone has two meanings.  Judgments were passed on people using black or white stones.  A white stone was an in innocent verdict, and a black stone was a guilty verdict. Those that overcome sin through belief in Christ are forgiven all their sins, and given a white stone.

But it’s not JUST a white stone.  It has a name engraved on it.  This also has ancient meaning.

Those who were winners in the public games (think Olympics, but far before) were given a white stone with their name inscribed on it.  It was an honor bestowed on them that gave them the privilege of being taken care of by the public for the rest of their lives.  It acted as the keys to the city, an open invitation to sit with Kings and great officials, to be fed, clothed, given transportation, and provided for in every way.  This was called as “Tesserae”.  The white stone we will receive grants us the provisions of life at the cost of someone else, namely Jesus Christ.  We have become children of God through His sacrifice, heirs to all that He has to offer.

Will all the names on the stones be the same?  No, for God knows His children individually.  Each of us will be given a name that only we know by God.  Oh, I cannot wait to hear what He calls me, but I most definitely know that He knows my name.

Friday, June 17, 2016

God's Timeline

But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day….” – 2 Peter 3:8-9

I’ve been guilty of praying and thinking God isn’t interested in answering my prayer.  But that just isn’t true.  He does answer it, just not the way I want or when I want. 

We all live in such a microwave minute type of life.  We want everything at the snap of our fingers.  Heck! I’ve even quit waiting till the weekend to pick up stuff I need (thanks Amazon Prime, I’m addicted!).  We just do not have patience to wait.  And yet, He tells us that we are to wait on Him, and when we do we will be strengthened (Isaiah 40:31).  When he says that, He’s not talking about strength in our biceps and triceps.  He’s talking about strength of spirit, our ability to rest in Him, knowing He hears our prayers.  Waiting produces patience, and patience we’re told completes us so that we are lacking nothing (James 1:4).  It’s kind of a big deal to have patience, don’t you think?

I think we humanize God sometimes, imagining Him to be more like us that He is.  We (me included) need to remember that God has a different timeline than we do.  His stretches all the way through eternity as if it was a single day.  So when we ask for things in prayer, we have to trust that He always hears the prayers of His children, and that His view of life includes the future as history.  Sometimes it is best that we wait for what we’ve asked for - and that is what He does.  Sometimes it’s best that we don’t get what we’ve asked for - and that is what He does.  And sometimes, yes sometimes, He has got to say, “Seriously Faithie, you have got to be kidding me! A million dollars would just make you fat and lazy!”  But regardless of the answer, we can trust Him to do it all in our best interest. 
He’s a great Father.  He knows how to give the best gifts, and to withhold those that would harm us.


Sunday, May 22, 2016


“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials,  that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” – 1 Peter 1:6-7

There are times in life that you just feel like every day is a Monday, ya know? It’s like from every angle of your life there’s something to worry about, something to fear or be down about.  We have two options when we get to this spot in our journey.  We can let it break us, or we can let it make us.
You can let it break you by concentrating on the problems.  Sometimes they are mountains and you just cannot find a way around them.  Health issues, financial issues, relationship issues – they can all create worry and stress that just seem to have no end or solution.  It’s like your life has become a horror movie, and you just don’t look away.  When you don’t look away it just gets worse and worse, and your head fills with doubts, and those doubts grow into possibilities, and those possibilities start to keep you up at night until you are broken.

But God tells us in the above passage that these times come to us not to harm us, but to grow our faith, to make it genuine, to make it more valuable than gold.  It comes to allow us opportunity to praise and honor God.  We’re told in Hebrews 11:1 that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things NOT seen”.  In order to grow that faith, we have to stop concentrating on the problem, and start looking at the solution God will craft from our faith.  If you keep looking at the problem, you’ll be broken.  But instead of doing all your thinking on the problem, start thinking of the solution God will provide.  Looking forward to what is not yet seen will grow your faith.  It will give you hope.  It will make you stronger instead of breaking you. 
Friend, concentrate on the blessings of the past, the times He has brought you through the fires and storms of life.  He has a great plan for each of us.  We just need to remain faithful, remain streadfast, abiding in Him.  There is nothing in this life that is too big of a problem for Almighty God.



Monday, May 9, 2016

Unequally Yoked - Picking the Right Spouse

But King Solomon loved many foreign women, as well as the daughter of Pharaoh: women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites—  from the nations of whom the Lord had said to the children of Israel, “You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart.  For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David.  For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites.  Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not fully follow the Lord, as did his father David. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, on the hill that is east of Jerusalem, and for Molech the abomination of the people of Ammon. And he did likewise for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods.  So the Lord became angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned from the Lord God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice,” – 1 Kings 11:1-9

We often hear at marriages that “two become one”, and don’t fully understand the meaning.  When you marry, your spirit is intertwined with your spouses.  You share life together in such a way that you become like each other, finishing each other’s sentences, often dressing alike, and even saying the same things.

God’s warning to Solomon came from His knowledge of what marrying those that are not Christians would do to his relationship with God.  If you marry someone who has no relationship with Christ, their lack of faith and desire to serve Him will affect your relationship with God.  You will be torn to love God, and love your spouse with their own selfish desires. 

While Solomon’s wives went after false gods, today’s non-Christians will go after false gods of a different type.  Today’s non-Christian may go after wealth, popularity, power, and the Amerian dream.  They may let their children become their idols, or their own physical appearance.  Regardless of what it is that they bring into your life as a non-Christian, it will diminish your relationship with God if you aren’t strong enough to bear it.  And the truth is, if you are strong enough to bear it, these things will prevent you from being attracted to that spouse, if not before you marry, then sadly during the marriage.

When picking a mate, look beyond the hair, eyes, and skin.  Look beyond their acts of love toward you. A strong marriage begins with strength of faith.  God commands us to look for those that are of the same faith, so that we can be “equally yoked”.  Not only do you not yoke an ox with a mule, but you don’t yoke an ox with a calf either.  If their faith is not strong enough to be the head of the house, ladies, you may end up walking off path with them.  If their faith is not as important to them as yours is to you, young men, you may end up feeling like your faith is a conflict because you cannot share it with her.  Choose wisely, because “two become one” in flesh, and in spirit. 

“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said:  “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”  Therefore “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” – 2 Corinthians 6:14-18

Monday, April 25, 2016

Where is the Love?

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.  And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I AM NOTHING.” – 1 Corinthians 13:1-2

Red hot fire and brimstone preaching.  We’ve all heard it, and some of us have benefitted from it.  But not all of it is edifying to the body of Christ.  To be edifying, it must build up, not destroy.  It must induce change and not promote hatred.  Love is the difference. 

A perfect example of this is found in Jonah 4.  Jonah was sent to Nineveh as a prophet.  A prophet hears from God, and delivers a message of things to come to pass.  But God never reveals bad things to come without the hope of repentance, change being induced from the message.  God acts in love, always.

Jonah tried his best not to go to Nineveh.  Why? Because he feared God would relent from destroying Nineveh if they repented.  And sure enough, God did.  When the people fasted and became humble, praying to God in repentance, Jonah 3:10 says “Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.

Oh but Jonah was angry with God!  Why?  Because as a prophet, he felt his creditability was ruined! He had proclaimed that God would destroy the city of Nineveh and all 620,000 people.  Yet, God changed His mind.   

In Jonah 4:1-3 we read his discussion with God on the matter:

“But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry.  So he prayed to the Lord, and said, “Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!”   

A song comes to mind when I read Jonah’s words.  “Where is the love?” (Black Eyed Peas)  When Jonah should have been grateful to God that 620,000 people were spared, he instead was angry that his reputation as a prophet had been ruined.  Instead of thanking God for showing grace and mercy, and accepting repentance, he asked God to just take his life!  There was no love in Jonah for those he was sent to minister to.  Therefore, he took not joy in seeing the change the message caused.

1 Corinthians 13 begins with a list of good deeds and gifts that we as Christians are to exercise toward all people.  But as it explains each one it says that without love, we are NOTHING.  Not just weak, not just ineffective, not just corrupted at heart, but NOTHING.  Our first gift to use in reaching others should always be love, sincere love.  Without it, we are as “sounding brass or a clanging cymbal”, just making a bunch of Christian theology noise.
Sometimes we act the same way as Jonah.  Oh, hear me out on this one.  How often do you look at the one who has strayed away as they enter church on their way back to him and remember their sins without seeing their repentance?  It seems would rather see people in their past than consider the possibilities of their future.  Yet, we believe - or say we believe - that God has given all of us a purpose and a plan for a life in Him. 

Friends, stop tying people to their past mistakes – or even their current ones.  See them as God sees them, with potential to be great in His Kingdom.  And if it costs you your reputation to get them there, is that not a small sacrifice to pay?
"Father, Father, Father help us
Send us some guidance from above
'Cause people got me, got me questionin'
Where is the love?"  


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Your Body is Not Going to Heaven and Neither Is Your Race

“For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked.  For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life.  Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord.  For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” – 2 Corinthians 5:1-8
I recently heard someone say that they didn’t believe white people and black people should go to the same church.  It just makes me BEYOND angry to hear such ignorance because it is rooted in hatred.  Yet every ignorant thought can be defeated by God’s word.  1 John 4:20 clearly says that you cannot love God, who you have not seen, if you don’t love your brother, whom you have seen.  Therefore, I will tell you that those that feel this way have not experienced fully their salvation.  Grow in grace is my message to you if you are of this ridiculous inclination!

This kind also believes that in Heaven we will be our current race: Black, White, Asian, Indian, Spanish, and others.  Oh brothers and sisters in Christ!  Please let this sink in.  We are ONE race, and we are ONE body of Christ.  Or do you expect the One Body of Christ to be separated into various colors, one Black body and one White body?  God asked us to live in unity, and Christ even prayed that we would be one as He and God are one.  This kind of ignorance has to stop!  It is rooted in hatred, and that has no place in the heart of a Christian.
God’s word defeats all false notions we have, regardless of the topic.  In this passage from 2 Corinthians 5, Paul clearly tells us that “this tent”, our earthly body, will be destroyed and we will be clothes with a new house not made with hands.  We will be “absent” from this body when we are “present” with the Lord in Heaven. 

The word ‘tent’ used in this passage is from the Greek word “skēnos” (Strongs G4366) which means a temporary dwelling.  Specifically it refers to our body, which is a temporary dwelling for our soul.  Our soul will not enter Heaven in this body, but will be “clothed” in one not created by hands, but created by God.  The word ‘clothed’ is “endyō” in Greek (Strongs G1746) which has a beautiful meaning of “sinking into clothing”.  Our new ‘house’ is a permanent dwelling, coming from the Greek word Oikia (Strongs G3614) which means “an inhabited edifice, a dwelling”.

Galatians 3:27-28 says For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  Well, guess what! The words ‘have put on’ are also translated from the Greek word ‘Oikia’.  And there is no ‘Jew’ or ‘Greek’, the rivaling races of that time, in the body.  Likewise, there will be no racial division in the bodies in Heaven. 

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, if God thinks so lowly of this body that it will be destroyed and replaced, why should we recognize the color of its skin?  Nowhere in God’s word will you read where He has asked us to be separated – not in worship, not in marriage, not in community, not in any way what so ever.  I challenge you to find otherwise.  We have created these boundaries out of the stupidity of hatred and tradition, and these walls have to fall.  When Christ said ‘love one another even as I have loved you’ He meant love everyone, not just those like you. 

 “But someone will say, “How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?”  Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies.  And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain—perhaps wheat or some other grain.  But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body.

 All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is ONE KIND OF FLESH OF MEN, another flesh of animals, another of fish, and another of birds.

There are also celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory.

So also is the resurrection of the dead. THE BODY IS SOWN IN CORRUPTION, IT IS RAISED IN INCORRUPTION.  It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a NATURAL BODY, it is raised a SPIRITUAL BODY. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.

However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual.The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.

Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:35-54

…and that, my friends, will be the end of racism once and for all!  Praise God!


Monday, April 18, 2016

Banah, Ben, Bath, and Beith

Unless the Lord builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the Lord guards the city,
The watchman stays awake in vain.”
– Psalms 127:1-2

This verse has so much to say about why families fail.  This was written by King Solomon, which God’s word says was the wisest man to have ever lived.  Yet in all his wisdom, Solomon disobeyed God and choose many wives that were idol worshippers.  King Solomon endured problems in his family due to his cursed marriages, and it cost him his kingdom (1 Kings 11).
At first glance it would seem that Solomon was talking of construction, and security.  But in fact, he’s talking about family.  The word “build” comes from the Hebrew word “banah”, which is also the root word for son (“ben”), daughter (“bath”) and house (“beith”).  It is the sons and daughters that build up a family, the home, as much as wood and nails build a house.

The blessing of God upon our sons and daughters will build a strong house from strong children who will bring honor to their family.  In this world, satan has a trap around every corner for our kids.  He starts early with social media, video games, television shows, music, and all sorts of ways to take over their minds and corrupt them into a neutralized view of sin.  If he can make sin acceptable, make it “politically correct”, their guard is down, and the door to temptations is left wide open. 
Friends, keep your kids close to God because He is your guard against all the evil of the world.  His word will teach them the truth about sin.  They will not find that truth anywhere else.  If your house, your family unit, will sustain the temptations that will come in later years, your children have to be strong men and women of God.  They must be empowered to make good decisions and see sin as the trap that it is. 

I’ve often quoted what a good friend told me one time.  “God is the best babysitter you can ever have, because He is with your children when you cannot be.”  God has to be your watchman or you will spend many sleepless nights in a failing home.

Friday, April 15, 2016

God Speed!

Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah THE SECOND TIME, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, A THREE-DAY JOURNEY IN EXTENT.  And Jonah began to enter the city ON THE FIRST DAY’S WALK. Then he cried out and said, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”´- Jonah 3:1-4

There’s so much to be learned from Jonah’s return to God after trying to escape his calling to Nineveh. His prayer of repentance was one filled with not only sorrow for what had happened to him, but also gratitude, and his commitment to God to do His will.   But what is most remarkable to me is the energy he put towards that return.  He turned a three day journey to Nineveh into less than ONE DAY!  Now, when I walk the little 1.25 miles in my neighborhood, it takes me about 18 minutes.  I can tell you with certainty, if I were to do that in one third of that time, as Jonah did his “walk” to Nineveh, I would not be walking – I’d be running!  Jonah gave a whole new meaning to “God Speed”! 

But I guess if I had been swallowed by a big fish due to my disobedience, I’d probably do all I could to quickly return to God’s will too.  That is, if I understood that the big fish episode wasn’t just a coincidence, but God’s punishment.
I don’t believe in coincidence.  Romans 8:28 says “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”  All things.  That means “ALL”, the good, the bad, and the ugly.  God is ALL-mighty.  Otherwise, He isn’t God.  That means that if it happens, He has either willed it, or allowed it.  Nothing and no one is outside of His reach.  He controls everything from the wind and waves, the rising of the sun, to our daily existence which He has proven many times in the Bible that He can end at any time.

Father, help us to see our disobedience in all things, and return to you with the speed of Jonah.  Let us not stray from the perfect path for our lives you’ve given us, but strive to follow only your lead.  We love you, and thank you for the breath in our lungs, the life you have given, and your sovereignty over our lives.   You’re the Good Father. Amen.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

When God Says GO

“Now THE WORD OF THE LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.” But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.
But THE LORD SENT out a great wind on the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship was about to be broken up. 

Then the mariners were afraid; and every man cried out to his god, and threw the cargo that was in the ship into the sea, to lighten the load. But Jonah had gone down into the lowest parts of the ship, had lain down, and was fast asleep.  So the captain came to him, and said to him, “What do you mean, sleeper? Arise, call on your God; perhaps your God will consider us, so that we may not perish.” – Jonah 1:1-6

Poor Jonah.  Anyone who knows his story knows his disobedience to God.  How hard it must have been for him to be known for his fault instead of his faithfulness.
Imagine being Jonah.  You’re called to go somewhere you don’t want to go.  According to “Veggie Tales” cartoons, he didn’t want to go because the people there “slap people with fishes”.  But that wasn’t the case.  The people there were sinful, evil people.  I suppose Jonah was disgusted with their lack of respect for God, and didn’t want to bother himself with them.  A little self-righteousness?  A little self-pride?  Probably so.

But when God says “go”, no matter what the circumstances or the location, obedience is always better than disobedience. 
God will sometimes take our “no” as an answer, and leave us in our disobedience.  While it may feel like we’ve dodged a bullet, the truth is we haven’t.  Disobedience causes a wedge between your heart and God.  That closeness and soul communion with Him is broken, much like strong words between a parent and child.

Then there are times that God refuses to take “no” for an answer.  Jonah found out what that was like.  On a ship, about to capsize and throw him into the deeps of the ocean, He must have thought about his decision with great sorrow.  But God, knowing the future as history, expected this to bring about his repentance.  God even “prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah”. 
The story books all show Jonah sitting upright within the belly of a large fish, considering his situation.  But the truth is a fish’ stomach isn’t make like a room in a house! It’s an in-and-out drainage for all sorts of ocean edibles.  If you’ve ever cleaned a fish, you know this is not a place you want to put your nose, let alone your whole body!  Jonah’s “no” came with consequences. As Jonah put it in his prayer to God from within the fish, “The deep closed around me;
Weeds were wrapped around my head”.

And Jonah’s “no” also came with forced obedience.  The fish could have spit him up anywhere in the world, even in the bottom of the ocean where he would have died.  But it didn’t.  In God’s mercy, he was spit up on the shore, just a three day journey from Nineveh. 
God used Jonah to bring about a great revival in Nineveh, who all fasted and prayed for God to spare them.  But that’s not what he’s known for.  He’s known for his disobedience and God’s punishment.  Few preachers have been used in such a great way as Jonah, but it is his disobedience they remember. 

When God says “go”, take it as a command, not an option.  Obedience has great rewards, and disobedience is always a downfall.  Jonah’s reputation could have been much different if he had just submitted to God’s will.