Month: October 2020

You put to death the deeds of the body

Fear

I have an innate fear of heights. It’s silly and has proven embarrassing, but it has remained with me my whole life. Maybe I got that fear when a friend knocked off the roof of a shed when I was six years old. Maybe it was amplified by the time a forklift operator stranded me on the 3-foot square plywood platform with no walls or safety rails twenty feet in the air, above a concrete floor, for over an hour.

I like to blame this fear on external events, but it’s probably just some wiring in my brain. Nevertheless, I know the effects of anxiety. However, God made a promise to His children that they do not need to fear anything. 

You put to death the deeds of the body

The 8th chapter of Romans has been called:

A vast rhapsodic expansion of the analysis of Christian assurance and hope contained in 5:1–11.” – R.C. Sproul, RSB

I humbly agree. So for today, let’s gaze upon God’s wisdom from Romans 8:12-17 (emphasis added) with extravagant enthusiasm:

12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father [Daddy]!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. 

We no longer owe a debt to the worldly life

As Christians, we no longer owe a debt to the worldly life. We don’t owe it to ourselves, or others, to be foolish, self-seeking, schemers, gossips, and so forth. The ways of the world will text us, Instagram us, and TikTok us, but we owe nothing to them. The responsibility to toss them in the trash bin of life is on our shoulders. Verse thirteen says, “you put to death the deeds of the body.” The Holy Spirit helps, but we have to take action.

Being a reborn person puts us in a different sphere. The world demands fear but we are not to fall back. Fear of global warming, COVID-19, the election, and social issues are tools of this world to repress us. The list is endless. It’s not that we aren’t to care and to act for we are, but we must not act out of fear. We are the adopted children of God. Can you picture Jesus being afraid? Neither can I.

Receiving the power of the Holy Spirit enables us to overcome fear. Being led by the Spirit testifies to our adoption as children of God. And God is ready to deliver us from fear faster than Amazon can fulfill an Echo dot order!

God’s promises have conditions 

God’s condition for these great promises to us rests upon this: provided we suffer with him [Jesus]. The Spirit of God sometimes delivers us from suffering, but it is only by suffering for Jesus that we can enter into the communion Jesus desires to share with us.

Thank you, Daddy!

Come on, brothers and sisters, let’s shout, “Thank you, Daddy!” What jaw-dropping spiritual blessings our heavenly Father wants to shower upon us. Let’s rejoice in the Spirit and consider worldly things for what they are, trinkets and trash.

Photo by Tim Trad on Unsplash

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question mark neon signage

Tell Me The Why!

Tell me the why

I’ve written a few articles for Medium, an online publishing platform. Those articles focused on business and management but their underpinning is God’s Word. For example, one article I wrote is titled, “Tell Me The Bad News, Please.” It’s about finding the value in bad news.

I wasn’t happy with the first couple of articles I wrote for Medium. Well, actually, the first article I wrote, It’s Time to Sell California,  continues to resonate with readers. Anyway, knowing I need some help with my writing, I went to Fiverr.com and hired an editor to read one of my articles. I was blessed by finding Jessi_a, a proofreader and editor.

Jessi_a critiqued my article. She provided valuable feedback, but none more so than this: “I’d go one sentence further explaining this concept. You’re almost there, but you stop before the why.”  She was right. And I went back and reviewed a few other things I’d written and found this was a weakness in my writing. Her modest fee was worth it all for providing this insight.

God rarely says why

If I think back to elementary school, my teachers taught me in my English lessons that explanations should include the who, what, when, where, and why. At some point, probably by the end of fourth grade, the “why” fell off that list. (This might be the cause of the occasional marital misunderstandings during the last few decades. 😟 )

When it comes to our relationship with God and His Word, there are very few times that God tells us why. He’s God. He doesn’t have to explain the reasons why He does what He does. And if He did tell us, we couldn’t understand it because, well, He thinks like God.

Sometimes God does say why

Here are a handful of examples of God telling us why:

  • Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.1 Corinthians 6:18
  • And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief. Matthew 13:58
  • So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief. Hebrews 3:19

Processing faith

The difference between the need to know God’s why and the resting in God’s what is like the difference between a person’s profession of faith and a person’s possession of faith. God’s why doesn’t change anything just as a person professing faith in Jesus; nothing changes. But when we accept God’s what and even rest in it, we discover peace and His comfort. Likewise, when we possess faith in Jesus as our Savior, we find rest, peace, and comfort.

The “why” is important for person to person communications and seems to carry some measure of import in a marriage.😉 As followers of Jesus, we don’t need to know God’s why, but sometimes He tells us:

  • Who – Jesus – Acts 4:12
  • What – Salvation by grace through faith – Ephesians 2:8-9
  • When – Now is the time, while it’s still called “Today” – 2 Corinthians 6:2
  • Where – Right where you’re at – Acts 8:26-40
  • Why – For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16

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Undeniable Hope

Undeniable hope

Are you a Christian? Me, too. When you wake up in the morning and have had your mug of coffee, tea, or (God have mercy) Pepsi, what do you sense (not feel) inside you? Yes, that’s the Holy Spirit. You may be in a “good place” in your life or a dire situation, but there’s hope there; it’s undeniable hope. Abraham, too, had this kind of hope.

In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” – Romans 4:18

Hope is not at all like wishing

Abraham was old enough to be a great, great, grandfather, but still, God’s promise to him had not been fulfilled. Nevertheless, he hoped. This very same nature of God is alive in you. You have that hope.

And hope is not at all like wishing. It’s not like daydreaming. And it’s certainly not the misguided teaching of “name it, and claim it.” God’s Word tells us, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)” It is that assurance that acts as a scaffolding for the life of a Christian.

Scaffolding of our life

Our lives are under construction. And where we find construction, find scaffolds that enable the builders to move around the structure, making their repairs and building whole new things. The Holy Spirit, who lives within us, does the construction for our life in Christ Jesus. Our assurance is our confidence in God’s work in our lives.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” – Romans 15:13

Do we make mistakes? Yes. Do we suffer loss from our trust in others? Yes. Is there anything, anywhere, at any time, that can separate you from the love of God? No!

God is for you

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

Is this hope the same for the people that have not accepted God’s free gift of salvation? No. “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:8)” So be full of joy, be kind to the hateful, be at peace in your world of chaos. God is for you. “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)”

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This World

We are in this world but not of this world. As Jesus said, “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” – John 17:16

Video by Ruvim Miksanskiy from Pexels

The Patina of the World

Perhaps you saw the meme which reads, “God, please give us precedented times.” Wow, has 2020 been unprecedented, at least in our lifetimes? Still, we have so much to thank God for.

Purveyors of the Gospel

Certainly, all around us, we see destruction, deception, and disruption. Hatred, harassment, and harm seem to be the order of the day. But we, as followers of Jesus, the Beloved Son of God (Matthew 3:17), see the world differently.

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. – 1 Corinthians 2:14

How can we be purveyors of the Gospel of Jesus Christ if we absorb the nature of the visible world? The answer is, “We cannot.” The good news is that we don’t have to! 

We read in Ephesians 2:2 (NLT), “You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God.” How do we remain Teflon to the nature of this world? The key is found in John 8:36, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Now that is not just good news; that’s great news!

The Patina of the World

So, I encourage you not to take on the patina (i.e., the impression or appearance) of the world, but instead, be transparent, so the light of Christ (John 1:4-5) shines through you to all to whom you come in contact…while maintaining social distancing. 😉

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God Has Never Learned Anything

God has never learned anything. Wrap your mind around that! Well, we can’t. God is unknowable. Yes, as a follower of Jesus, I know God, but I don’t know him as my wife or child. I can’t know God because He is, in every way, different from me. Am I sure? Yes, He told me so:

Behold, God is great, and we know him not; the number of his years is unsearchable.Job 36:26

Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite. – Psalm 147:5

We are made in his image

We can rightly claim that God made us in His image. Yes, just as we can say that a penny is made in the image of Abraham Lincoln, but a penny is nothing compared to President Abraham Lincoln. So it is with us; we are nothing when compared to God. Isaiah prophesied:

Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales; behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust. – Isaiah 40:15

For he [the LORD] knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. – Psalm 103:14

God has never learned anything

Right about now you’re thinking, “Hey, tell me some GOOD NEWS.” I just did. 😉 God has never learned anything because He has always existed and has always known everything. Now consider your needs, your problems, your hopes, your heart. God knows all of them. God cares. “Casting all your care on him; for he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7 AKJV)”

What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. Matthew 10:29

So God is not just aware of us. He knows us intimately. He knows us continually. He comprehends us.

1 O LORD, You have searched me and known me.
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
         You understand my thought from afar.
3 You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
         And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before there is a word on my tongue,
         Behold, O LORD, You know it all.
– Psalms 139:1-4

Really Good News

So we have some inkling of just how great God is. And we know that He comprehends each of us intimately and continually. So here is the really good news. Neither you nor I am able to make it through life without help. Oh, what a wonder it is to throw our travail on God. “Casting all your care on him [God]; for he cares for you.” – 1 Peter 5:7

That word “casting” (ἐπιρίψαντες) means to throw. It’s like carrying 50 pounds of potatoes on your back. God says, “Throw it to me!” How wonderful it is, as a child of God, to be known, to be understood, to receive compassion; who doesn’t need these?

You have a friend

Jesus knows us, understands us, and, through salvation, becomes our friend that sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24) and He is our mediator with God (1 Timothy 2:5). We can’t fully know our heavenly Father, but Jesus does. “As the Father knows Me, I also know the Father… (John 10:15)” And Jesus declared the following from the perspective of what the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write:

For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. – 1 Corinthians 2:11

You are known by God if you’ve been saved by Jesus. 

But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” – 2 Timothy 2:19

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Enslaved

They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.2 Peter 2:19

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Praying Like Jacob

May God Almighty grant you mercy before the man, and may he send back your other brother and Benjamin. And as for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.Genesis 43:14

The Context

There is a powerful lesson about prayer in this brief passage. Please allow me to provide some context. Jacob (aka Israel), the son of Issac, the son of Abraham, spoke these words to his son Judah. Jacob believed that his youngest son, Benjamin, was being held for ransom. As far as Jacob knew at this time, he had already lost his son Joseph, so in verse fourteen, he is facing the loss of another son.

God’s Word shows us a lot about Jacob’s human nature. Jacob’s sons, Joseph and Benjamin, were his youngest kids, and it seems that Jacob may have loved them more than their older brothers. This is a common but unfortunate outcome when children in a family span across many years. However, for Jacob, his special love for his youngest sons is not without merit.

Jacob Faces a Big Problem

So, in Genesis, chapter forty-three, we see Jacob facing a challenging problem. He’s lost Joseph, and Benjamin is being held for ransom. Does he risk even more sons? Will Egypt decimate the very children called to inherit the promise given by God to Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham, the promise passed down from Abraham to Isaac to Jacob? 

Now verse fourteen shows us the faith of Jacob. Remember, God didn’t rename Abram, Israel, and God didn’t rename Isaac, Israel, but God did rename Jacob, Israel, and it is that name that God’s chosen people are stilled called today. Jacob knew God and God knew Jacob.

Not only did Jacob carry the promise of God, but Jacob also had a powerful tailwind. God personally selected his grandfather, and his dad had, by faith, submitted to his sacrificial death and had been redeemed by a substitute ram that foreshadowed salvation through Jesus. God’s favor rested upon Jacob.

Okay, that’s the context. If Jacob attended our small group meeting or our Zoom Bible study, everyone would take to heart his comments, and he would be asked to pray the closing prayer. So, in verse fourteen, Jacob shows us true faith.

Praying Like Jacob

Jacob begins his prayer, “May God Almighty grant you mercy before the man, and may he send back your other brother and Benjamin.” Jacob has asked God, just as Jesus taught us how to pray. Prayer uses the faith God has given you to ask Him for your needs and the needs of others. Jacob did this. Then a peculiar addendum is added. Jacob essentially says, “If I must lose another son or all my sons, I accept this and say, ’The will of God be done.’” Isn’t this the same humble pray that Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, saying:

Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done. (Luke 22:42)

So, what is the take-away for us? It’s a difficult lesson; our prayer of faith is faith in God, not faith in a spiritual recipe. We can’t add a bit of righteous living, a smattering of good deeds, and praying on our knees and get exactly what we asked. No, first, we must be sure that what we ask for represents what Jesus will put His name to. And then, as a child of God, we ask our Father in the name of Jesus. We place our request in the hands of God, and we say; nevertheless, Your will be done.

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Straight Paths

In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. – Proverbs 3:6

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Come to me

Jesus said: Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

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