Now to Him

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NASB

It is so easy to be judgmental based on how a person looks. We can look at someone on a street corner & think “Get a job! Quit begging!” But do you know their circumstances? Personally, I find it difficult to understand how – and why – anyone is homeless with all of the resources available now… And yet, I spent several months living on the street years ago because of my own bad choices. I was too proud to reach out for help, so God used others to help me out of that pit. Not with money, because He knew that wouldn’t help me, but with a place to stay and food to eat until I got my health back, and I could get a job and my own place. We look at the outside, but thank God that He looks at the heart!

“I thank Him who has given me strength, CHRIST JESUS our LORD, because He judged me Faithful, appointing me to His service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received Mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief*, and the Grace of our LORD overflowed for me with the Faith and Love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received Mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Timothy 1:12‭-‬17 ESV

*Unlike Paul, I was not ignorant of God, nor was I an unbeliever. Still, in His infinite Mercy and Grace, the LORD of the Universe forgave me and took me back into His arms. How thankful I am for His Mercy and my wholly undeserved forgiveness! I remain convinced that of those people who helped lift me out of the muck, some had to be angels in disguise. Take time today to thank God for what you have, and do something good for someone. We never know when we might be entertaining angels!

“Now to Him Who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20‭-‬21 NASB

False Teachers

Peter warns us of the people who want to take advantage of us:

1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. 2 Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; 3 and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” 2 Peter 2:1-3 NASB

Jesus warns us in His Sermon on the Mount:

“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” Matthew 7:15 NASB

The Apostle and Physician Luke traveled with Paul, and is believed to have written the book of Acts. He also warns us of false teachers.

“I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.” Acts 20:29‭-‬30 NASB

We receive ample warning, but do we really listen? We know that people will emerge from among the church; subversive traitors who secretly introduce false ideas and concepts with conviction, to cause people to choose error over truth. The enemy is insidious in his quest to destroy us. Heresy is the view of ultimate reality that is wrong and therefore bad for you. By nature, heresy is destructive. It is distorting the truth.

We identify false teachers by asking questions. Do they believe (and teach) there is definitive right and wrong? Do they teach that you should believe in yourself and ask God to help you reach your goals. Is God real? What is their view of eternity? Is Christ Divine; is He their LORD and King? Ask: Who is Jesus Christ?

Nothing is more foundational than how you believe the Bible. It is not from man but from God, the ultimate authority. Denial of God’s Laws leads to seductive activity that cater to the flesh. These are lies, because impure living is heresy for anyone claiming Christianity. False teachers feed on people’s desires. They are greedy and in ministry for the benefits they receive, instead of of bringing people to Christ. They use false words, plastic theology, that is molded to deceive, and stretched and twisted to mean anything. These are lies from the father of lies.

Listen to them. Are they teaching the Triune God? Is their behavior Christ like – is it pointing to themselves or to Christ? Look at their actions; hear what they are saying, and compare it only to the Word. They are pervasive, destructive, seductive, and manipulative.

“I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me.’ I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You; Therefore I retract, And I repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:2‭-‬6 NASB

Testify!

Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God! Jesus *said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” John 20:28‭-‬29 NASB

When I was 5 years old, I knelt with my daddy and prayed for Jesus to come into my heart. Yes, I was rather a precocious child. Strong willed. Over the years and into my teens, we had numerous missionaries in our home and church, teaching and preaching and discipling. Active in all aspects of church life, going to camp in the summer and lots of activities revolving around Jesus, it was easy for me to believe. As a teen, I knew I was called to serve God as a missionary. At 18, I left home to attend college, determined to follow my LORD. I attended a Christian college where I would be surrounded by by my peers, and I would be supported on my journey.

Life; the world, intervened. Let me assure you, Satan is alive and well at Christian colleges, looking for any cracks and openings in our shields of faith. “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

He found my weakness, and I fell to his tempations. I strayed from my Lord and stayed away, running from God, for many years. Like Moses, I spent 40 years in the wilderness, only mine was a wilderness of sin. God gave me many opportunities to see His Mercy and His Grace. I mostly ignored Him, and chose to blame Him for my circumstances. I even fell back on that Mercy when I found myself in dire circumstances, but I wasn’t ready to let go of my worldly ways, so I would plunge back into that life.

I have compared my lost years to the Israelites 40 years of wandering in the dessert. I started out trusting God, then I slipped away from Him. The Israelites received His Mercy many times throughout their journey – manna and quail when they were hungry and had no food; water where there was none; deliverance from the Egyptians. His Mercy fed and clothed me at times, and He delivered me from certain death more than once. God didn’t destroy the Israelites because of the prayers of the righteous, and He didn’t destroy me – or allow the enemy to destroy me – because of the prayers of my family.

Some of us have to hit our “bottom” before we can see Jesus. We don’t take anyone’s word that He is real, He loves us, and He wants to forgive us. Sometimes we are like Thomas, Doubting Thomas, and we think we have to “put {our} fingers into His wounds” before we believe.

“One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came. They told him, “We have seen the LORD!” But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in His Hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in His side.” Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” He said. Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at My Hands. Put your hand into the wound in My side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” “My LORD and my GOD!” Thomas exclaimed. Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO BELIEVE WITHOUT SEEING ME.” John 20:24‭-‬29 NLT

I’m so far from perfect, it can’t be measured, but the LORD GOD of the Universe thinks I’m worthy of His pursuit. What a humbling thought! I continue to sin and to stumble. I have doubts and I worry. But…..

I am so grateful that He doesn’t give up on us; on me!

We Will Be Persecuted

“These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them. And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.” John 16:1‭-‬4 NKJV

Just a little bit scary, and yet, looking through history, Christians have been persecuted since the beginning. I don’t think I would be very brave in the face of real, physical persecution; I’m afraid I would be like Peter when he denied knowing Jesus. Every day, Christians face persecution from the enemy in the form of illness, job loss, failed relationships, financial hardships, and more, but we know that we share these difficulties with the world. See, I think the enemy wants us and the world think that we are all the same; that we are deluding ourselves and them by thinking we are different. In one very important way, and the only one that makes a difference is the reality that we have accepted Jesus as our LORD and Saviour. That single difference sets us up in the eyes of the enemy as targets. He hates to see people accept Christ! His goal is to fool as many people as possible to him as the superior over Jesus, and in doing so, sets us up for persecution and – he hopes – defeat.

He can’t do it. Defeat belongs to the enemy, not to the LORD.

Are you prepared for persecution? Have you thought about being physically persecuted, like Peter, Paul, or Stephen, or like countless of our contemporaries in other, non Christian nations? Even here, in a country founded on Christian values, we are daily facing attacks, mostly nonphysical (for now), but there are starting to be more and more incidents of physically targeting Christians. What do you think these church shootings are about?

I believe in a strong response whenever possible, but I concede that the time is coming where we will be put into situations of having to choose between defending Christianity, or giving in to the enemy.

“It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. If anyone has an ear, let him hear. If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed. Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.” Revelation 13:7‭-‬10 NASB

Where is your name written?

I Am Strong

From God’s Not Done With You, a devotional by Tauren Wells, on http://www.Bible.com:

“When we admit that we are prone to failure, that our strengths aren’t strong enough to save us, we find the power to live righteously through Christ….. When sin affects our opportunities to use our strengths, a perfect situation can become a perfectly wrong situation.”

“Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:12‭-‬13 NASB

Did that hit you like it did me? It’s when I stand on my strength, and rely on my abilities, that I fall. It’s that old “I can do it” attitude. When I rely on me, I fail. I’m a “fix-it” person. If there’s a problem, let’s fix it. Don’t wait, don’t take time to pray about it, just get it done. I’ll do it if it kills me.

Sound familiar?

I’ve known so many people with that attitude. Then there’s the opposite: those who sit back and do nothing, expecting God (or man) to step in and take care of the problem with no effort from them.

In my opinion, both attitudes are equally wrong. The Bible doesn’t say that God takes care of those who take care of themselves. It also doesn’t say to be lazy and expect others to take care of you. God gives us our strengths, our talents, to use in conjunction with Him and His Will. Do I do that? Unfortunately, no, not like I should. Sometimes I’m determined to do whatever it is on my own. No help. Other times, I give up, and want someone to to do it for me. I’ve turned many opportunities into disasters with these attitudes. Even Peter, the Rock, loved by Jesus, fell when he tried to stand on his strength over the Lord’s.

“And Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, “Before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.” Matthew 26:75 NASB

We need to weep for the many times we have denied Christ by trying to stand on our strengths rather than His. I weep for all those times, past, present, and future that I stand on my own. I’m human, I will continue to fail, but I am also a child of the King, forgiven for my failure.

Lord God, help me get rid of that stinkin’ thinkin’ that I can stand without You; help me to take heed of Your Will so that I will not fall. I know that no temptation has ever overtaken me, or will ever overtake me, but such as is common to man; and I know that You are faithful. You will not allow me to be tempted beyond what I am able as long as I depend upon You, and with the temptation, You will provide the way of escape also, so that I will be able to endure it. Amen.

Treasure Hunting

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; …..Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.”
2 Corinthians 4:7‭-‬9‭, ‬16 NASB

It occurs to me that the majority of humans, me included, spent our lives searching for treasure. Monetary treasure, relational treasure, the treasure of children. We think these things will complete us, and bring us satisfaction. It’s so sad when we realize that none of these, nothing that we can do or obtain on this earth, will bring real, heart-filling satisfaction. There’s only one way to reach that. It isn’t politically correct, or socially acceptable, to say this. In many parts of the world, you can lose your life for telling others this truth….. but that doesn’t make it any less true.

One way to reach the real treasure, satisfaction, completion, in our lives. One way. The real “Golden Ticket”.

“Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.” Isaiah 53:4‭-‬5 NASB

Through the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, through His Blood that was shed in His torture and ultimately in His hanging on the cross, we receive our satisfaction and our completion. It is the only way. Even when we don’t think we are broken, we are. The saddest thing in life, to me, is to see people who are “above” it all. Those people who believe in their power, that it is through their efforts that they will find their treasures. Believe me, I am not in a position to judge anyone, because I am the most guilty of all.

God loves us most when we recognize our brokenness; when we finally realize that there is nothing we can do the fix ourselves. No matter how talented or smart or wealthy. We are totally dependent on Him. I’m working on switching my focus from the treasure hunting of this world to the anticipation of the treasures of heaven, where our hearts are full of the Glory of the LORD! I’d like to have an easier life, and I’d rather be with a companion, a partner, than to continue to be alone, but I’m trying to focus on the right things, the God things, instead of the earth things.

God turns our brokenness in a beautiful treasure!

HOLY

A.W. Tozer said “Our image of God shapes what we value, what we pursue, what we don’t pursue.” That should initiate some soulful searching. What, exactly, is my image of God?

Who is God?

He is His Holiness (Tozier “The Knowledge of the Holy”). His main attribute, according to the scriptures, is that He is Holy. Holy Holy Holy; My Holy Name. In Ezekial 39:7, the LORD says My Holy Name I will make known in the midst of My people Israel; and I will not let My Holy Name be profaned anymore. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, the Holy One in Israel.”

“And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, The whole earth is full of His Glory.” Isaiah 6:3 NASB

Over and over, He refers to Himself as Holy, the Holy One, My Holy Name. The writers of scripture acknowledge that He is Holy and He is Glory: Psalms 99:5,9, 103:1, 111:9; Isaiah 40:5, 57:15; Revelations 15:4 “For You Alone are HOLY…”

“Then He [the LORD] said, “Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is Holy ground.” ” Exodus 3:5 NASB

To whom then will you liken Me That I would be his equal?” says the Holy One.” Isaiah 40:25 NASB

“I will not execute My fierce anger; I will not destroy Ephraim again. For I am GOD and not man, the Holy One in your midst, And I will not come in wrath.” Hosea 11:9 NASB

The centrality of His Holiness is shown by His Son as He teaches us the way to pray in Matthew 6:9 –

“Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed – HOLY- be Your Name’, or as some translations say “may Your Name be kept Holy.

Holy is His Name, Father, Son, Holy Spirit. He is beyond words. We should be awestruck, in awe. when we see him for the 1st time. The biggest problem for humanity is the realization that God is Holy and we are not, but thankfully, Jesus took our unholiness and covers it with His blood, making us holy through His righteousness. Because of Him, we will stand blameless before the Lord!

“Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen.”
Jude 1:24‭-‬25 NLT

HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is the LORD!

Not Me …..

“Not me!” A familiar phrase for anyone who spends much time around kids. Generally, it’s said because someone is in trouble, but consider what the Apostle Paul wrote, and what Jesus said:

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” – GALATIANS 2:20 NASB

Not me!

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” – JOHN 10:27‭-‬29 NASB

Was they making excuses so that we could live however we pleased? Knowing that our salvation is permanent, a ‘done deal’, so we can say and do whatever comes to our mind, without regard to anyone else? It appears that many who claim to be Christians use these scriptures just that way.

Joe McKeever, preacher and writer at crosswalk.com and http://www.joemckeever.com writes this:

The person who goes on sinning as before, as 1 John puts it in several places, is not saved and never was. (Emphasis mine)

The person who has no desire to live close to the Lord Jesus and to please Him and never has had, is probably not saved and never was.

However, that said, we say without fear of contradiction that in Heaven there will be people we never expected to be received. We will be surprised again and again. And, just as certain, there will be people we expected to find in Heaven who never made it.

God is the judge and not us. We see through a glass darkly, the same way we do everything else. We see doctrine through that darkened glass also, and no doubt get some things wrong.

Let us always come with humility to these matters of eternal significance. And let us pull back from the foolish who have all the answers and tolerate no dissent.

He’s right. When I accept Jesus as my Saviour, I’m asking Him to walk with me in my life, guiding my path and my decisions. Does that mean I’ll always do and say the right thing? Not at all! My free will, my stubbornness, and my vanity will continue to get in the way and trip me up, and I will want to yell “It’s not me! I didn’t do it!” …… I need to let go of all that and allow myself to relax in the arms of Jesus, He Who lives in me.

Not me, but HIM! Image from Pinterest.com

FREE GIFT

Who doesn’t like getting presents?

I mean, really! Someone hands you this beautiful gift; are you just going to set it down and ignore it? I have a nephew who takes his time, gently taking it apart so the paper and ribbon aren’t wrinkled or torn. Not me! I’m one of those people …… I have a hard time not ripping off the paper as soon as I have it in my hands! Whether you are a precise, patient unwrapper like my nephew, or an excited ripper like me, are you going to turn your back on the giver and the gift? You’d think not, but millions of people over the ages have done – and do – exactly that.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – ROMANS 6:23 NASB

Jesus Christ Himself told us “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” – JOHN 3:16 NASB

Jesus, Son of the Father, Creator of the Universe, Almighty GOD, left His place at the Father’s side, to bring us the Gift of Salvation through His death on the cross and His resurrection from the grave. We ignore that gift at our own peril!

“These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the Presence of the LORD and from the Glory of His Power, when He comes to be Glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed – for our testimony to you was believed.” – 2 THESSALONIANS 1:9‭-‬10 NASB

That gift is for you. Doesn’t matter what you’ve done or where you have been; who you are, what you upbringing or social status might be. We all stand on equal ground at the foot of the cross. God alone knows what you’ve been through, and He still wants you. He is still standing with His Hand stretched out for you to grab hold of. What are you waiting for?