He Is Not Here

He Is Not Here 

April 16, 2022

“Father! In your hands I place my spirit!” ~ Luke 23:46 

He knew before it happened. He and His Father were the only ones who did know. The knowledge brought great agony for Jesus, the perfect man, the Lamb led to slaughter. In the garden before he was arrested, he agonized over his obedience to the horrible, tortuous truth about to unfold. But even more unthinkable to Jesus was his brief separation from The Father…that terrible moment when He would become sin for the whole world. Was there any other way to accomplish what had to be done? 

Luke 22:41-44 “Then He went off from them about the distance of a stone’s throw and knelt down and prayed. “Father,” He said, “if you will, take this cup of suffering away from me” (there must have been a long pause as the man Jesus waited for a reply different from what He knew to be God’s will). “Not my will however, but your will be done. Then an angel from heaven appeared to Him and strengthened him. In great anguish He prayed even more fervently; His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”  

And then, in a tumultuous swirl, he was arrested, questioned, horribly beaten, convicted, condemned to death, mocked, hated, spat upon, forced to drag his own cross up crude roads, experienced excruciating pain of nails driven through his hands and feet as He was abruptly attached to the cross as the taunting continued…and then, amazingly, forgave the very people who did this to Him as life was passing from his body.  

Luke 23:44-46 “Suddenly God blackened the brightness of the mid-day sun for three hours! At the same time, the huge curtain (approx. 60 feet high) hanging in the temple was torn in two (from top to bottom). Then Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father in your hands I place my spirit.” He said this and died.” 

“Very early on Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James arrived at the tomb of Jesus to apply the spices and perfumes to his body. They found the stone rolled away and did not find the body of Jesus in the tomb. Suddenly, two men in bright shining robes appeared and the women bowed down to the ground. 

“Why are you looking among the dead for One who is alive? He is not here; He has been raised. Remember what He said to you while He was in Galilee: The Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, be crucified, and three days later rise to life.” 

“Then the women remembered His words, returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven disciples and all the rest.” (Luke 22:44-46) 

The impossible happened, Jesus was dead and is now alive. Just as the Bible predicted, He was resurrected from the dead. His sacrificial death, the blood of the Lamb of God, provides eternal life and forgiveness of sins to all who believe.  

Perhaps you are more hesitant to believe such a story, perhaps you are like the apostle Thomas who proclaimed, “Unless I see the scars of the nails in his hands and put my finger on those scars and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25) 

A week later, Jesus appeared to Thomas and said, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands; then reach out your hand and put it in my side. Stop your doubting and believe.” Thomas answered Him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:27-28) 

Now what? What is Jesus doing now, after His majestic resurrection? The answer is found in Hebrews 1:1-3 “Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.”

“Who then will condemn us? Will Christ? No! For he is the one who died for us and came back to life again for us and is sitting at the place of highest honor next to God, pleading for us there in heaven.” (Romans 8:34-35) 

“Who then will condemn us? Will Christ? No! For he is the one who died for us and came back to life again for us and is sitting at the place of highest honor next to God, pleading for us there in heaven.” (Romans 8:34-35)

Would It Be Different?

“He made a whip from ropes and chased them all out…” John 2:15

It was a pleasant Saturday afternoon in the city, with shoppers looking for bargains and negotiating for the best prices. They learned to favor the tables and stalls in the portico of the church. It was cooler and one could take time looking over the animals, goods and produce. Although it was on church grounds, buyers knew these sellers were crafty and wily.

Because of the Passover feast, sales were brisk at the market as the people needed sacrificial animals. Commerce had crept into their worship so thoroughly that no one noticed; except for one man on this day.

Jesus and his disciples were in Jerusalem to celebrate The Passover and remember God’s deliverance from the Angel of death. The blood of an innocent lamb brought their deliverance, just as His blood, the Lamb of God, was about to deliver all people from the penalty of their sins.

John 2:14-16 In the temple he found people selling oxen, sheep, and doves, and he also found the money changers sitting there. After making a whip out of cords, he drove everyone out of the temple with their sheep and oxen. He also poured out the money changers’ coins and overturned the tables. He told those who were selling doves, “Get these things out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!”

After this shocking display the Jewish leaders demanded that he explain his behavior; to which Jesus said, “All right. Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up (John 2:19).” They didn’t understand he was referring to his own body.

Jesus broke the religious rules; he challenged the current ideas and demanded action from his followers. Walking along the seashore, Jesus called out to men, instructing them to lay down their lives right then and follow him. Not only did this cut off their earnings, it damaged the family business as well.

If Jesus barged into our church-world today, how would we receive him? If he showed up at a church bazaar, throwing tables and money about, what would we think? We would probably think he was crazy or too radical. We want church leaders who are more reasonable and predictable. We don’t want to be challenged to give up more and love more (especially to those who are slightly repugnant to us). We desire to feel comfortable in our church surroundings, smiling amiably to fellow members. We adamantly resist Jesus’ harsh light of truth exposing our easy going style of Christianity

Matthew 4:17 From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”

Matthew 4:18-22 As Jesus walked alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew, throwing fishing nets into the sea, because they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” he said, “and I’ll show you how to fish for people.” Right away, they left their nets and followed him. Continuing on, he saw another set of brothers, James the son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with Zebedee their father repairing their nets. Jesus called them and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

Jesus was the master of confrontation; the epitome of bluntness; his words penetrated the heart.

Matthew 7:24-27 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand.  When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”

Matthew 8:21-22 Another of his disciples said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Follow me now. Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead.”

Matthew 16:22-23 Then Peter took hold of Jesus and, scolding him, began to correct him: “God forbid, Lord! This won’t happen to you.” But He turned to Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan. You are a stone that could make me stumble, for you are not thinking God’s thoughts but human thoughts.”

If an elder scolded a pastor today, such as Peter did to Jesus, the pastor would couch his reply in kind and gentle terms, not wanting to offend. And yet, Jesus pierced Peter’s heart with his words, even calling him Satan! In the Gospel of John, Jesus said, “My message is not my own; it comes from God who sent me (John 7:16).”

Would it be different today? Is it? Do we expect God to work through us, through our church services, through our daily lives? Do we take up our cross daily? Are we willing to look foolish to the world; to the church, to our friends?

Luke 9:23 Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.”

One God

Bible Study

One God 

February 26, 2022

“Do not make an idol for yourself—no form whatsoever”  Exodus 20:4 

I’ll never forget the first new car I bought. I was so excited to finally have a brand-spanking new car. Shiny and clean. And I vowed to keep it that way. Even though I had a family and job, my red and white Volkswagen Bus was always clean. Rain or Shine! At a neighborhood meeting, I met a man for the first time who said, “Oh, you’re the guy who washes his bus in the rain. Boy, I thought, he is really dedicated.” 

But that was the wrong description of what I was. I was obsessed. I was inching God a little off His rightful place of worship in my life to make room for my vehicle. I loved a man-made, metal box on wheels. I was dedicated to its well being. “See my shiny new bus? See how dedicated to keeping it clean and shiny I am?” God was not pleased. 

How hard is it for us to let go of things and people we love? Very! But our Heavenly Father understands, which is why he provided Jesus as our Savior, the One who could overcome all the temptations for us. He knew and decided to commit Himself fully to us by sending Jesus to die in our place. “Amazing Grace, how could it be?” And yet, in the middle of His grace and mercy is our choice to be obedient. His death can only cleanse our sins if we choose to follow Him. Choose to be forgiven. And choose to walk in His way. 

Matthew 4:10  “For the Scriptures say, You must worship the LORD your God and serve only Him.”

Matthew 16:24-29  Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge all people according to their deeds. And I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom.”

How serious are we about following the Lord? “Here I am Lord, send me!” Is this our stand? Really? Have we counted the cost? 

Matthew 10:32-42  “Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven. 

 “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword.  ‘I have come to set a man against his father,  a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.  Your enemies will be right in your own household!’ 

  “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it. 

 “Anyone who receives you receives me, and anyone who receives me receives the Father who sent me. If you receive a prophet as one who speaks for God, you will be given the same reward as a prophet. And if you receive righteous people because of their righteousness, you will be given a reward like theirs. And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded.” 

If we were in an audience listening to a person preaching on this subject, as they finished with this section of Scripture there would be silence in the room. Instinctively we recoil from these demands. Say it isn’t so, we quietly murmur. Surely not. God is not like this. He is a God of love. Indeed He is but He demands our absolute loyalty and focus if we are to walk on the path He’s set out before us. 

Life is spiritual and the battle is intense! We are the messengers of the Lord on earth, carrying out our orders from On High. Soldiers in battle are acutely aware of the dangers and keep their senses keenly alert. A moment of lethargy could spell disaster or—death! And that, dear friends, is our life, until the Great and Mighty God calls us home. 

Hebrews 12:1-4  “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. 3 Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. 4 After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.”

My Treasure

My Treasure
February 12, 2022

“You cannot serve both God and money” Matthew 6:24

His dream had come true, Paul won the $202 million state lottery. He opted for the instant pay jackpot of $142.2 million. He was set for life. He promised himself he wouldn’t be like so many other winners who blew through their millions. Wise investments for him he told all is friends. He thought of himself as pretty cagy with investments and money management. After all, how could he blow through $142 million, even after about 24% in taxes?
Bright and early Monday morning, Paul was in his company’s Human Resources office, giving his two weeks notice. “Paul, do you realize there is a 20% early withdrawal penalty on your retirement package? It’s pretty hefty on yours because of your years of employment. You can leave it alone and let it earn interest until age 65.”
“Thanks, but I won’t be needing it anyway, I just won the $202 million lottery, Jane.”
“Wow. How much is that after early withdrawal and taxes?”
“Well, I actually take $106 million home. But that’s plenty for the rest of my life. I’m not going to just throw it all away, you know. Investments for me. I’ve always been pretty good with money.”
Two weeks later, to mark his retirement and lottery winnings, Paul invited 50 of his friends to a party at the Hilton hotel. Not wanting to be cheap, he hired a band with full catering. He wanted everyone to remember him. The cost was $2,450! He was not going to be like those other losers who threw their winnings away.
After their around-the-world tour, purchase of a $4 million house, $120,000 for two new cars, $80,000 for his new pickup, $135,000 for their splendid yacht, $785,000 for that cabin in the woods they had always dreamed of, Paul and his wife settled in for the perfect life of riches that was flowing their way.
One year later, Paul and his wife were parting ways. She left with her share of the winnings and things they’d bought. Paul was depressed and lonely now in spite of his money and stuff. Five years later, after several business investment failures and a cheating accountant, Paul had $185,000 in the bank and no future earnings. He was only 52-years-old.
The Bible warns us about depending on money, thinking it will bring satisfaction and happiness. It never will because true happiness comes from the joy of knowing the Lord. Worldly happiness is very elusive in this life. Using happiness as a bench mark for contentment will bring disappointment and sometimes, depression. Paul was jubilant when he saw his winning lottery numbers. But a few short years later he was discouraged and depressed.
Matthew 6:19-34 19 “Don’t store up treasures here on earth where they can erode away or may be stolen. 20 Store them in heaven where they will never lose their value and are safe from thieves. 21 If your profits are in heaven, your heart will be there too.
22 “If your eye is pure, there will be sunshine in your soul. 23 But if your eye is clouded with evil thoughts and desires, you are in deep spiritual darkness. And oh, how deep that darkness can be!
24 “You cannot serve two masters: God and money. For you will hate one and love the other, or else the other way around.
25 “So my counsel is: Don’t worry about things—food, drink, and clothes. For you already have life and a body—and they are far more important than what to eat and wear. 26 Look at the birds! They don’t worry about what to eat—they don’t need to sow or reap or store up food—for your heavenly Father feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than they are. 27 Will all your worries add a single moment to your life?
28 “And why worry about your clothes? Look at the field lilies! They don’t worry about theirs. 29 Yet King Solomon in all his glory was not clothed as beautifully as they. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, won’t he more surely care for you, O men of little faith?
31-32 “So don’t worry at all about having enough food and clothing. Why be like the heathen? For they take pride in all these things and are deeply concerned about them. But your heavenly Father already knows perfectly well that you need them, 33 and he will give them to you if you give him first place in your life and live as he wants you to.
34 “So don’t be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time.
Worry: Mark 4:18; Luke 10:41; Philippians 4:6; 1 Peter 5:7; Proverbs 12:25

Elijah The Prophet

Elijah the Prophet

January 29, 2022

“The Lord heard Elijah’s prayer, and the life of the child returned” ~1 Kings 17:22

Elijah, whose name means, My God is the Lord, was sent by God to confront, not comfort. And he spoke God’s words to a king who often rejected the message just because it was Elijah who brought it. Elijah was faithful to carry out his ministry for God, and this caused great tension and animosity between him and the king, who wanted Elijah’s loyalty to be directed toward him. As a result, Elijah was on the run at times, having to hide from the angry king who meant him harm. Alone and isolated from the fellowship of others who were also serving God. Elijah sometimes wondered if he was the only person left in the land who was faithfully following his Lord.

During a severe drought (that Elijah predicted), God sent Elijah to live with a widow and her son. She only had enough flour and oil to make one loaf of bread for her and her son before they died of starvation. According to God’s instructions, Elijah told her to make bread for him and her as he told her, “There will always be flour and olive oil left in your containers until the time when the Lord sends rain and the crops grow again!” 1 Kings 18:14

Some time later the woman’s son became sick and died. The distraught woman confronted Elijah and said, “O man of God, what have you done to me? Have you come here to point out my sins and kill my son?” Elijah carried her son upstairs and laid him on his bed, stretched himself out over the child three times and cried out, “O Lord my God please let this child’s life return to him.” The Lord heard Elijah’s prayer, and the life of the child returned!

Later on, in the third year of the drought, the Lord said to Elijah, “Go and present yourself to King Ahab. Tell him that I will soon send rain!”

16 So Obadiah went to King Ahab and told him, and Ahab set off to meet Elijah. 17 When Ahab saw him, he said, “So there you are—the worst troublemaker in Israel!”

18 “I’m not the troublemaker,” Elijah answered. “You are—you and your father. You are disobeying the Lord’s commands and worshiping the idols of Baal. 19 Now order all the people of Israel to meet me at Mount Carmel. Bring along the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of the goddess Asherah who are supported by Queen Jezebel.”

20 So Ahab summoned all the Israelites and the prophets of Baal to meet at Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah went up to the people and said, “How much longer will it take you to make up your minds? If the Lord is God, worship him; but if Baal is God, worship him!” But the people didn’t say a word. 22 Then Elijah said, “I am the only prophet of the Lord still left, but there are 450 prophets of Baal. 23 Bring two bulls; let the prophets of Baal take one, kill it, cut it in pieces, and put it on the wood—but don’t light the fire. I will do the same with the other bull. 24 Then let the prophets of Baal pray to their god, and I will pray to the Lord, and the one who answers by sending fire—he is God.”

The people shouted their approval.

25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Since there are so many of you, you take a bull and prepare it first. Pray to your god, but don’t set fire to the wood.”

26 They took the bull that was brought to them, prepared it, and prayed to Baal until noon. They shouted, “Answer us, Baal!” and kept dancing around the altar they had built. But no answer came.

27 At noon Elijah started making fun of them: “Pray louder! He is a god! Maybe he is day-dreaming or relieving himself, or perhaps he’s gone off on a trip! Or maybe he’s sleeping, and you’ve got to wake him up!” 28 So the prophets prayed louder and cut themselves with knives and daggers, according to their ritual, until blood flowed. 29 They kept on ranting and raving until the middle of the afternoon; but no answer came, not a sound was heard.

30 Then Elijah said to the people, “Come closer to me,” and they all gathered around him. He set about repairing the altar of the Lord which had been torn down. 31 He took twelve stones, one for each of the twelve tribes named for the sons of Jacob, the man to whom the Lord had given the name Israel. 32 With these stones he rebuilt the altar for the worship of the Lord. He dug a trench around it, large enough to hold about four gallons of water. 33 Then he placed the wood on the altar, cut the bull in pieces, and laid it on the wood. He said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it on the offering and the wood.” They did so, 34 and he said, “Do it again”—and they did. “Do it once more,” he said—and they did. 35 The water ran down around the altar and filled the trench.

36 At the hour of the afternoon sacrifice the prophet Elijah approached the altar and prayed, “O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, prove now that you are the God of Israel and that I am your servant and have done all this at your command. 37 Answer me, Lord, answer me, so that this people will know that you, the Lord, are God and that you are bringing them back to yourself.”

38 The Lord sent fire down, and it burned up the sacrifice, the wood, and the stones, scorched the earth and dried up the water in the trench. 39 When the people saw this, they threw themselves on the ground and exclaimed, “The Lord is God; the Lord alone is God!” 1 Kings 18

God has work for us to do even when we feel fear and failure. And God always has more resources and people than we know about. Although we might wish to do amazing miracles for God, we should instead focus on developing a relationship with Him. The real miracle of Elijah’s life was his very personal relationship with God. And that miracle is available to us.

The Advocate

In the beginning, God created!

“He will give you another Advocate who will never leave you”  John 14:16 
 
The men were wrapping up their weekly Bible study, choosing last minute snacks for the trip home, putting away the fold-up chairs and shifting into another mode of Dad, husband and sports fan. In the midst of this, Norm took Al aside and said, “Do you have time for a question, Al?” 
“Of course. Let me tell John I’ll lock up.” 
Five minutes later the two men sat alone. “I am really confused about the Holy Spirit, Al. Just when I think I understand His purpose, I hear another sermon that sends me in a different direction which makes me scratch my head and wonder. I need some simple guidance to understand the Holy Spirit.” 
“Ok, let’s look at the Gospel of John and follow what Jesus said.” 
John 14:16-17 ~I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. 
John 16:13 ~When the Holy Spirit, who is truth, comes, he shall guide you into all truth, for he will not be presenting his own ideas, but will be passing on to you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. 
Acts 1:8 ~But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power to testify about me with great effect, to the people in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth, about my death and resurrection. 
1 Corinthians 12:1-11 ~Now, concerning what you wrote about the gifts from the Holy Spirit. I want you to know the truth about them, my friends. There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit gives them. There are different ways of serving, but the same Lord is served. There are different abilities to perform service, but the same God gives ability to all for their particular service. The Spirit’s presence is shown in some way in each person for the good of all. The Spirit gives one person a message full of wisdom, while to another person the same Spirit gives a message full of knowledge. One and the same Spirit gives faith to one person, while to another person he gives the power to heal. The Spirit gives one person the power to work miracles; to another, the gift of speaking God’s message; and to yet another, the ability to tell the difference between gifts that come from the Spirit and those that do not. To one person he gives the ability to speak in strange tongues, and to another he gives the ability to explain what is said. But it is one and the same Spirit who does all this; as he wishes, he gives a different gift to each person. 
“There it is, Norm, straightforward and clear. Jesus told his disciples that He would ask God to send an advocate, a comforter, who would never leave them. Never! And then He tells them He is the Holy Spirit who will lead them into all truth. That is part of His job, leading all followers of Christ, you and me included, into all truth. 
“He goes on to explain that the world, those who do not believe in Christ as Savior, cannot receive the Holy Spirit but you and I know Him because he lives in us! Now that is a mind-bender to think that the Holy Spirit lives in us but it’s true.” 
“When I became a Christian, I was taught to ask God for wisdom each time I opened the Bible, Norm, and I pass that advice on to you. God wants us to know Him, His Holy Spirit and the Lord Jesus. I recommend that you take your Bible and read all the verses you can find about the Holy Spirit, ask God for wisdom and believe He will answer you. One day you will be teaching someone too.” 

Am I Selfless?

Bible Study 

Am I Selfless? 

“For the love of Christ controls us…”  2 Cor. 5:14 

He was a pastor and quite well known in church circles. Not only within church circles but as of the past two years, after publication of his book, his name was seen across the internet in opinion pieces, essays, and talk-show interviews. His fame was growing as was his church. He was indeed a powerful man of God. Or so it seemed. 

In the inner circles of his church and his book publication team he was more controlling and demeaning. His icy looks, his stern “suggested” paths to take or friends to keep were becoming legend. And for those of the most inner circle, family and pastoral associates, his control was even more infamous. During a meeting in his office with an elder he told him that his friend, who seemed to be taking too much of his time away from the church, was not to be seen again! The elder walked away heart-broken and confused. 

And what of us? Are we leaving our lives in the hands of God or are we “helping” Him? Do you find yourself suggesting who people should see or what they should do? Have you taken time to pray and ask God before sharing your opinion or do you prefer those spontaneous words from the Lord? 

Are we handymen, looking for projects to fix or are we focused on being a new creation, formed in the image of Jesus, looking for people to love and serve? 

C.S. Lewis: “Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to the death of your ambitions and your favorite wishes every day, and the death of your whole body in the end, submit with every fiber of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look out for yourself and you will find, in the long run, only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ, and you will find Him, and with Him, everything else thrown in.” ~Mere Christianity

Galatians 2:20-21  “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.” 

Matthew 20:25-28  “But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” 

Colossians 3:12-15  “God has chosen you and made you his holy people. He loves you. So always do these things: Show mercy to others; be kind, humble, gentle, and patient. Do not be angry with each other, but forgive each other. If someone does wrong to you, then forgive him. Forgive each other because the Lord forgave you. Do all these things; but most important, love each other. Love is what holds you all together in perfect unity. Let the peace that Christ gives control your thinking. You were all called together in one body to have peace. Always be thankful.” 

If Jesus Himself came to be a servant, how can we possibly ignore the same mindset? Don’t be like the world, He reminds us, be like Me! 

Time To Come Out

Time To Come Out 

January 3, 2022 

“Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord”  2 Cor. 6:17 

            While reading an article, extolling the virtues of a famous person recently, I was amazed by his accomplishments and honors. Wondering how he had come to such a life I was struck by how easily I could admire someone whose life was deeply embedded in the world and its charms. And then I wondered if I had come out? 

            To come out is not a phrase unique to the 21st century and needn’t be limited to one’s sexual preferences, instead it is a command of God for His followers…you and I, to come out from the world. To be separate from the world. Have I? Or am I blended like homogenized milk, an equal part of the world with my faith? Does my lifestyle illuminate the darkness in the world or have I reduced the flame to an ember so as not to offend? Have I come out? 

            2 Corinthians 6:14-18  Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? 15 What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil? How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever?

            In case you are wondering how God sees our coming out from the world, it is important that we understand what He is NOT saying as found in 1 Corinthians. 

            1 Corinthians 5:9-12  “In the letter that I wrote you I told you not to associate with immoral people.10 Now I did not mean pagans who are immoral or greedy or are thieves, or who worship idols. To avoid them you would have to get out of the world completely.11 What I meant was that you should not associate with a person who calls himself a believer but is immoral or greedy or worships idols or is a slanderer or a drunkard or a thief. Don’t even sit down to eat with such a person. 12-13 After all, it is none of my business to judge outsiders. God will judge them. But should you not judge the members of your own fellowship? As the scripture says, Remove the evil person from your group.” 

            Ephesians 5:1-3  “Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. 2 Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. 3 Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people.”

                Often, when faced with a life change, we naturally seek a set of rules to help lay the groundwork, light the path or make the change easier. However, we seek for them in vain since God has made it clear it is what doctors might describe as, “a heart condition.” Coming out for us requires our effort, our diligent effort. But if that were all, then the most disciplined person among us could proudly proclaim their success and right-standing with God. 

            Coming out from the world is a result of our faith at work (Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith; Heb. 12:2). Reading the Bible, praying, choosing to call upon the Lord when we are weak, admitting to Him we are incapable in ourselves and praising and worshiping our Savior. Contrary to the world, God uses our weakness and dependance on Him to accomplish what is humanly impossible. 

            1 Corinthians 1:27-31  “God purposely chose what the world considers nonsense in order to shame the wise, and he chose what the world considers weak in order to shame the powerful.28 He chose what the world looks down on and despises and thinks is nothing, in order to destroy what the world thinks is important.”

            Coming out from the world is not a thing I do, it is a life I live, through the grace of God.

Book of James

 James 1 

December 11, 2021

“Consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds” James 1:2 


James 1:1-4 

“This letter is from James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am writing to the “twelve tribes”; Jewish believers scattered abroad.
Greetings! 

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”

Matthew 5:11-12 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad.”

When I was young and foolish—ok, stubborn and self-serving too, I often suffered for my choices. Typically, when caught, I cajoled and moaned, smiled or cried, and begged for mercy. Often, mercy was in short supply. But behind it all, I knew I deserved whatever punishment came my way.

  After accepting Jesus Christ as my Savior, of all the differences I may have anticipated, suffering for my faith was certainly not one. Suffering for doing wrong is expected but suffering for doing right? And then considering those sufferings as light and momentary? (2 Corinthians 4:17, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all”) Can I be stretched that far? Won’t I explode? But Lord, aren’t you satisfied with my expressions of faith and times of prayer and reading your Word? 

And then I began to see that accepting trials and tribulations as an element of faith, I was simply following in the footsteps of Christ. He suffered for me and now I can imitate Him. And, oh yes, no complaining please. Count it all joy! Yes, enduring is not good enough, we must learn to count it as joy. 

By the way, He knows we will have worlds of trouble accepting suffering joyfully, that’s where His mercy and grace come into play. He loves us that much.

James 1:12 “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.”

1 Peter 1:6-7 “…though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith, of greater worth than gold. . .may be proved genuine…” 

1 Peter 4:12-19 “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ…”

Romans 5:3-5 “…We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” 

2 Corinthians 4:17-18 “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 

What’s It Mean?

“A righteousness has been made known” ~Romans 3:21 

   After their weekly Bible Study, Phil and James always took time to share coffee, muffins and their thoughts about the study at The Daily Grind.

“Do you have a Bible reading plan, Phil?”

“I used to, but no matter which system I’ve tried it always ends the same with feelings of disappointment, guilt and frustration that I don’t keep up the pace.

“The last one I began combined the Old and New Testaments with portions of the Psalms and Proverbs.”

“I don’t get it. That sounds like a good idea, Phil. How did it bring about a negative experience?”

“Life! All the requirements in my life got in the way. I found that attempting to add one more obligation was one too many. Instead of looking forward to reading the Bible in a year, it became a weight on my shoulders. Just another “thing” I had to accomplish. After the first month, I found myself significantly behind which brought guilt and disappointment in myself. Instead of basking in reading through God’s Word, I felt like a loser once again. I knew I would never catch up. What was wrong with me? I couldn’t even read the Bible regularly”

James chuckled as his friend poured out his heart. “I’ve been there and done that just like you. And guess what? I had the same results each time. So don’t feel like a loser. You just have to find a system that works. We know the Lord wants us to read the Bible which means I can go to Him for help.”

“Funny,” said Phil. “Going to the Lord asking for help in reading the Bible seems like a no-brainer but I’ve got to admit, I haven’t done it. At least not specifically.”

“What I do is really simple. I choose a section of the Bible to read with no time constraints at all. I may read a chapter at a sitting or I may read one verse. The Holy Spirit guides me with no regard for accomplishing anything. Instead, my goal is to understand what God wants me to understand. The number of verses does not enter into the experience. As you know the Book of James reminds us we can ask God for wisdom but we must believe without doubting. I discovered that asking God for wisdom should always precede our Bible reading and study times. For example, let’s see what God wants to show us in a couple of verses in 1 Corinthians.” They prayed and then opened to that section:

1 Corinthians 2:1-2   

“When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified.”

If you’ve not tried this method, do so now. Ask God to give you His wisdom regarding this section of 1 Corinthians and believe that He will. Then take your time, don’t hurry through thinking it’s important to achieve a reading goal. That’s not important. What is important is what God will reveal to you and how that will change your life in some way.