Month: February 2021

woman caught between side of a crevasse

Stuck in the In-Betweens

Many years ago, in a lifetime far, far, away… That’s how my Star Wars began. When we look back over our lives, and it seems like we’ve lived multiple “lifetimes?” – our childhood life, our stupid years life (ages 17-22), and so on.

My life feels like lifetimes

Perhaps it’s just me, but my life was so different when I was young, compared to my life now. One of my “lifetimes” was when I spent many wonderful years playing bass and six-string guitar in gospel groups. That “lifetime” is extra beautiful since that is how I met my wife.

During that time, I used to write gospel songs, and one that I wrote was “Caught in the in-betweens.” A line of the song goes like this:

Title: Stuck in the In-Betweens

Now there’s a pain that’s deep within,
and God’s light just cannot be seen.
You’re tossed and you’re turned,
but you never quite learn
that you’re caught in the in-betweens.


(c) 1978, Gary W. Moore

Stuck in the In-Betweens

There are times in our lives when it is easy to get in a rut or become desensitized to the Holy Spirit or to insulate ourselves and run from circumstances or run from the call of God. I call this “stuck in the in-betweens.”

This condition is complacency. The next step on that journey is apathy. Apathy is the old-man’s (Romans 6:6) coping mechanism. It is an approach that human nature uses to keep us caught between the healing of God and the will of self.

Our human intent is to keep us “caught in the in-betweens.” We try to live without care. That’s not fulfilling and let’s face it; it’s not how Jesus called us to live. Apathy is spiritually dangerous. We find a reference to this condition in the book of Isaiah, which says: 

The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught…”

Isaiah 29:13

God’s rescue plan

So how do we open our scars and allow God’s healing salve into the wounds that put us into this do-not-care condition? God’s tool of choice is praise:

Sing to God, sing praises to his name;
lift a song to him who rides through the deserts;
his name is the Lord;
exult before him!
Father of the fatherless and protector of widows
is God in his holy habitation.

Psalms 68:4-5

God cares. He is a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows. Our God cares and He cares for us, but we must open ourselves up to God for His healing to enter us, and for our praise to go to Him. Praise is the best way for us to allow the Holy Spirit of God in our lives and for Him to pour oil on our injuries, just as the good Samaritan did in Christ’s parable (Luke 10:25-37).

God’s rescue plan is for us to open our mouths, thank God, and sing to Him even if we don’t feel like it or know what to say or sing. The point is to thank God, have faith in God, and declare our love of God aloud to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. We must be determined to find our joy and purpose in Him. As the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to write in Ephesians 5:19, “speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord,..

Amen

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musical notes painted on the side of a building

God’s Vision is Complete

…but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. – 1 Peter 1:19-21

Seeing it all first

Before God ever created anything, the triune God had decided that the second person of the Godhead, would wrap Himself in flesh, and provide the salvation that was impossible for us. God had the complete plan of salvation worked out with exact clarity.
 
It’s said that Mozart, the great music composer, never wrote down a single note until he had his musical composition completed in his mind. When it was finished in his mind then, with fervor, he scored the musical composition, releasing all that was built up within him. I don’t know if that legend is true but my wife, for one, has that same proclivity, so Mozart had nothing on her.
 
My wife, Diana, is a creator of things. From bookshelves to stuffed animals, she can make them, and they are excellent. Curiously, she has said to me on more than one occasion, “I can’t start until I’ve worked the whole thing out in my mind.” Now I’m not saying she’s a Mozart, but there is a connection there.
 
This “see it all first” talent is a testimony to our God; it’s one of the countless human characteristics that we received by being created in the image of God. Scripture is full of examples of God’s way of “seeing it all first” and working within “His counsel” (Ephesians 1:11) to accomplish His will.
 

God’s work will be accomplished

There is nothing in the universe that can stop the will of God. So, we are encouraged when we read in Revelation 22:13:
 
I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.
 
Jesus is the Omega (“the last”). He will have the last work, the last decision, and the last word. Moreover, be encouraged for God’s Word states, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6); Completion is omega, “the last.”
 
We can’t see our ending from our beginning, but God does. To make this a little more personal, God holds you in His heart, and, in Him, you are complete, if you receive the salvation He planned before creation; that plan is Jesus.
 
There are no missing pieces. If we will only stop trusting ourselves and put our trust in Jesus and be reconciled back to God, then we will live God’s plan for us. That is the desire and intent of God. Our Heavenly Father has a vision of you and me, and He has already stored up all we need to live out His plan. He saw our completion, before we saw our beginning.
 
This is not “fate” or “meant-to-be” religion. God has made salvation a complete package, but we can only receive His gift and begin our adventure by first receiving God’s Son. Amen.

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modern point of sale terminal

Buy God

Anchor Verses

Before we can dive into buying God, we need some anchor verses, verses that keep us in alignment with the will of God.

Now when Simon [the Sorcerer] saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money,” (Acts 8:18) “But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!…” (Acts 8:20)

I’m sure many of us have heard sermons based on this passage in the book of Acts. Yet, I would ask that we look at the issue of trying to buy what God gives.

Faithless giving to gain

You may think, “Oh, that is ancient history. I’ve never heard of someone trying to buy something from God.” Really? How many Christians have given a little extra in their alms (money after paying your tithe), hoping God will bump their blessing up to a 100x blessing? “Oh, I’ll be happy with 30 or 60, but I sure hope God gives me that 100-fold blessing.1” That is trying to buy God.

At the core of trying to buy God are a lack of faith and evil intent. Consider the raising of hands during church worship. This physical praise can be lovely and pure when our hearts demonstrate our love of God and appreciation of His mercy and grace. God’s Word calls this a sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15), not a gain of praise.

Our actions can be an attempt to buy God if we raise our hands, not to praise him but to get in on His blessings. We see other people raising their hands, and we want the same blessings they appear to be receiving. It’s an affront to God when we try to buy what He gives freely to those He wishes to bless.

Good news

I’ve heard testimonies that were nothing but advertisements or attempts to gain recognition. One time, a man stood up and told the congregation how his great grandmother had written a hymn that was in our hymnal. That’s a good human-interest story, but I knew this person. He was trying to elevate himself by what someone else had done. That’s buying God.

The good news is that, as Christians, you and I know God’s promise in 2 Corinthians 9:6-7: “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

This passage is not a “name it and claim it” faith. It is not a give to receive faith. It is a knowledge that we gain as we live with God in us. As we change, leaving behind worldliness, we begin to think like Jesus and to live like Jesus. We are not trying to be another Jesus, rather, we are striving to live like Jesus, to be holy, to be completely sacrificial, to love as God loves.

God’s blessings

Please allow me to share a personal testimony. Many years ago, I was preparing to become a missionary and to take my family with me. At that time, I didn’t have two nickels to rub together.

A few months before, I had developed a new product and just as things looked grim, I received a royalty payment. I started to feel a bit of relief, but God stepped in. I felt God urging me to give all that royalty check to the missions’ organization. That was a tough struggle for me, but I did what the Holy Spirit was prompting me to do.

I didn’t give that money to receive anything. That didn’t cross my mind. My battle was, “Is this God or is it a foolish thought?” I realized it was God, so a gave. Very shortly thereafter I was hired as a contract programmer.

That contract provided me with enough money to pay off all my debt and move my family and me to Eastern Europe, and it funded the beginning of our missionary work. We were blessed to work with an American missionary, Ruth, and a Romanian missionary, Sandor. God created a missionary team out of thin air. To me, this was God’s miraculous work; where He guides, He provides.

However, at no time did we “give to get” or “name it and claim it.” I was obedient in a very small thing, and God poured out His blessings until it overflowed in my life and over into the lives of others. That’s love. That’s God.

God doesn’t take bribes

When we love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and give of our time, our skills, our finances, all in faith, with pure intent and humility, then we will live within the will of God, we will be pleasing to God, and receive what He knows we need. All of this without ever needing to bribe God. I think that’s good news!

  1. (see Matthew 13:8 to learn about the 30, 60, 100-fold increase

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white ceramic mug filled with black coffee

Warning: This May Offend You

There are times when communicating God’s Word runs counter to popular beliefs. This message is one of those times. Now, what I’m about to write would not make the top ten most controversial messages from God. You may still somewhat disagree – does “somewhat disagree” even exist anymore? Our society seems to be in violent disagreement or violent agreement on any given topic.

Within this paragraph, I’m going to quote a verse that may raise the hackles of some folk. By the way, hackles are the hairs on the back of an animal’s neck, which stick up when the animal feels fearful or angry. Hear me out on this. Here’s God’s Word: 

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.

1 Corinthians 16:13

Be Servants

There, I hope you didn’t find that offensive. Strong Christian men need to teach and show this truth until men become strong Christian men. Somewhere along the transformation of our culture, men became prideful. Some prideful men became bullies, which led to confusing a strong man with and a bully. 

At least in the New Testament, God hasn’t called men to beat people into submission. No, God has called men to be strong enough to be a servant. They must be strong enough to take a beating that belonged to someone else, strong enough to be lied about, ridiculed, and demeaned yet still love their oppressors. They must be strong enough to provide for their families and show Jesus to a cruel world. The Apostle Paul didn’t pen this next passage of Scripture from a five-star hotel.

Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.

2 Corinthians 11:24-27

Act like men, be strong

So, when the Apostle Paul wrote, “act like men, be strong,” he wasn’t just talking the talk, he was walking the walk. And now, more than any other time in our nation’s history, we need Christian men to be strong Christian men. Women deserve strong Christian men, wives deserve strong Christian husbands, children deserve strong Christian fathers; society deserves strong Christian male role models. 

I’m quoting from memory, so the words will be wrong, but the message will be correct. While in prison in Romania during the era of the Soviet Union, Pastor Wurmbrand was tortured for his faith. In his book, he made a fascinating statement. Again, quoting from memory, he said, “If you fear beatings, then have your wife take a broom handle and beat you. You’ll find that you can survive it. You should not fear it.”

Brother Wurmbrand was serious, and I know my wife is more than willing to give it a go. 😉 Still, I’ve not felt an unction from the Holy Spirit to ask her to test my ability. Even so, all Christian men must be strong men. Strong is not synonymous with muscular. It means not to melt when put in a flame (my words).

Being a man of God is a dangerous business

Jesus was crucified, John the Baptist was beheaded, Stephen was martyred, Paul was stoned, and either was dead or was left for dead, James was executed, and the list goes on. Being a man of God is a dangerous business, but it’s God’s business. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25). Jesus wasn’t murdered. He willingly took our punishment, so husbands do the same for your wives.

No man can fulfill his calling unless he is a strong Christian man. No married man can be a good husband unless he’s a strong Christian man. No church can fulfill Christ’s purpose for her unless the men of the church are strong Christian men. And no nation can fulfill God’s purpose without strong Christian men fulfilling God’s call on their lives. This message may not be popular, it may cost me followers and raise your hackles, but it’s the truth of God.

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 

1 Corinthians 16:13
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a club party

A Godly Life May Require More

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age. – Titus 2:11-12

Conversation killer?

Many would call Titus 2:11-12 a conversation killer. I don’t know; try it out. Find a crowd of people – this may prove to be quite difficult. Be sure that everyone’s cutting up, making jokes, and in a rowdy mood. Now quote Titus 2:11-12. Please put it in your own words, so it sounds like it’s authentically you. Observe the response.

Don’t expect some slaps on your back and the crowd yelling, “Well said!” Somewhere during the development of our modern culture, three profound changes took place. These are:

  1. A belief that camaraderie can only be achieved while using crude language and delving into shallow, worldly topics.
  2. A disdain of the use of words that nuance more meaning than their simplified counterparts.
  3. A general disrespect for education and conversations that leverages the education for which we so dearly paid.

A Godly life may require more than what we usually consider. Let’s delve into these three points in more detail.

Camaraderie

Instead of drilling into sociology or psychology, let me provide three anecdotal examples from my family.

My dad earned his Ph.D. in higher education and was a professor for most of his life. Our dinner table was always a moral debate with food on the side. We tackled all topics, and if no one had a topic, my dad or I would play devil’s advocate to stir up a debate.

These daily discussions helped to form my sister and me. How surprised we’ve been, now in later years, to hear my Mom or Dad speaking (figuratively) “from the grave!” Their words and beliefs continue to live in us and often pop out at the oddest times. It’s disconcerting, but it brings joy to us when we hear our parents again.

My sister and I learned to love the English language through these debates. We often used newly discovered words like trump cards in Euchre. And we became adept at steering our debates through myriad questions, and we learned the proper order for topics. Shallow debates are about people. Common debates are about things. And the best debates are about ideas.

We never achieved memorable debates if we chose topics like the Beatles’ haircuts or the hypothesis that the stock market rose or fell based on the hemlines of women’s dresses.

Disdain of useful words

Have you noticed that every movie and TV show uses the crudest language they can get away with, and usually paints professors and teachers that use “Scrabble®” words as villains or weirdos?

I don’t endorse speaking above our audience; that is birthed from pride. If we are asked to speak to our employer’s staff, we should not weave a tapestry of unassailable verbiage designed to demean the listeners while elevating ourselves; that’s not Christ-like.

Here is the flipside. If addressing a college graduating class, we are speaking to a cohort of newly minted graduates. It is disrespectful to say, “Let me say this simply.” We shouldn’t dumb-down our elucidations to people that have completed the mazes and hurdles that academia demands. Graduates are eager to use their newly acquired education. We should learn $5.00 words for more than Scrabble®. And we shouldn’t judge or cast aspersions upon people that wish to use their education.

Conversations can be rich and fulfilling when discussing classical literature, post-modern art, or the Early Church Fathers’ history. Somehow these have been inventoried and stored at the back of American’s vulgar (i.e., characteristic of or belonging to the masses; common.) vocal emanations.

Disrespect for the use of education 

Early on in my career, I was a full-time instructor for our local community college. During my tenure, I told every new class that education was the only commodity that people were eager to pay for but didn’t want to receive. I went on to say that it was my job to discover how to transfer their paid-for education from that institution into their minds. I would find a way because I did not want to be found derelict in my duties.

On more than one campus, I’ve heard students speak of “cram dump.” Before a test, students try to cram into their brains the correct answers; after the test, they dump those facts in preparation for the next exam. I have come across many of these graduates in large corporations, but few in small companies; it’s hard to hide in a small company.

Commissioned for Christ

A Godly life may require more than what we think. We that abide in Jesus are commissioned (Matthew 28:19) to tell the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a winsome and transparent way. We are expected to comport ourselves as officials in His kingdom; many do not. Nevertheless, in our public servant roles, I have met many Christians whose lives are uncommon and challenge me to be better. Let’s all be in the “be better” group.

As we just read in Titus 2:11-12 we should continually train ourselves to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age. Part of our training is to learn how to be cordial, be compassionate, and to be effective at presenting the Gospel at all time and in all situations. Our soul purpose in life is to tell the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all people regardless of their culture, class, level of education, or station in life. We depend on the Holy Spirit but still God expects us to train.

So, “Rather train yourself for godliness… (1 Timothy 4:7)”

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fast moving stream

Man Proposes God Disposes

1 The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord;
    he turns it wherever he will.
Every way of a man is right in his own eyes,
    but the Lord weighs the heart.

Proverbs 21:1-2

He moves them by His will

Every generation of Christians, back to our 1st-century brothers and sisters, have prayed Proverbs 21:1. Leaders are the ones at the forefront of every battle. They often become weary, receive devious council, have gaps in their faith, or no faith at all. The difference between us and them is that when they miss the will of God, the whole nation suffers.

Man proposes, God disposes

We “high mileage” Christians have seen with our own eyes unexpected events. Interventions by the hand of God that turned the hearts of world leaders as well as local officials. We have first-hand knowledge of Proverbs 21:1 and Psalms 19:21:

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.

Psalms 19:21

God’s will is always fulfilled

What we see today is nothing new. Jesus was born into a nation occupied by the most powerful empire of that time. Attacked by His people and crucified by the Roman empire’s hand, all by the will of God. What about Christ’s apostles and believers? The apostle Paul wrote, For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” (Romans 8:36)

God did not steer the leaders away from crucifying Jesus or the martyrdom of Stephen or the onerous conditions enacted against millions of Christians down through the centuries. Nevertheless, God’s will is always fulfilled. God has changed the decisions of countless “kings,” usually without our knowledge of it. And all leaders are accountable before God for their actions.

Our biggest challenge

Perhaps as Christians, the biggest challenge we face is the temptation to make this world our home; it’s not; we’re just passing through.

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yield sign

We Interrupt Our Normal Post

I have posts that I want to publish, but I was reading a “Be Blesstified” blog post by Minister Aldtric Johnson and what he had to say is more important. So please read his post, “BLACK HISTORY MONTH: PLEASE SHOW SANITATION PROFESSIONALS SOME LOVE…

I’ll be back next time. Thanks.

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baptisms

Expressed Through Me

Divided by a common language

Why is it that humans have such difficulty communicating with each other? A while back, I was in Droitwich, England, working with some great people. After I repeatedly asked an Englishman to repeat himself, he said, “We are divided by a common language.” He was correct. He struggled as much as I in our conversations.

Even at home, communication is difficult. My wife says that when she asks me to look at something, it’s like a painting; she’s looking at the image while I’m looking at the frame. No doubt, wars have been fought over misunderstood words. Our communication failure makes this passage that the apostle Paul wrote even more challenging than it may appear.

We are Christ’s ambassadors

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. – 2 Corinthians 5:20

It isn’t just the original twelve apostles or the one-hundred and twenty disciples (Acts 1:15) that Jesus intended to be His ambassadors. If that were the case, then Apollos (Acts 19:1), Timothy and Erastus (Acts 19:22), Priscilla and Aquila (1 Corinthians 16:19), and countless others would not have been able to bring Jesus to their mission fields. Therefore, we are ambassadors of Jesus, missionaries to “the people, the place, and the purpose” that Jesus has called us. We don’t choose to be ambassadors, we are ambassadors.

Expressed Through Me

Our office, ambassadors of Jesus, brings up a profound and sobering truth. When we share our salvation testimony with others, in our hearts, we are seeking Jesus to express Himself through us to our audience, be it one or many. 

How trusting Jesus is towards us. He creates these divine appointments for us to meet with people that He has scheduled an appointed time. It is their time to hear the words of Jesus, to learn the impact Jesus made in our lives, and for the Holy Spirit to call and convict them. We have a delightful yet profound assignment.

As ambassadors for Christwe get to implore others on behalf of Christ to people to be reconciled to God. Our heart’s cry is for Jesus to express Himself through us. Our good news is that some will respond – we need to prepare for this. Others may go away with our words percolating in their hearts and minds, and some will ignore or outright reject the Gospel.

Tell the good news

All these responses are okay. It’s not our assignment to save people. We are to tell the Good News of reconciliation through Jesus Christ. If we do our part, then we have fulfilled Christ’s command. 

Jesus said, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14) We are Christ’s instruments for proclaiming the Gospel. How wonderful is that!

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toy Albert Einstein

The Quantum of Scripture

Spooky action

In physics, Einstein called quantum entanglement “spooky action at a distance.” This is because its action is counter intuitive. If you observe a particle (electrons, protons, photons, etc.) in one place, another particle—even one that is light-years away—will instantly change its properties, as if a mysterious communication channel connects the two. To most of us, this makes no sense.

Jesus, created all things (Colossians 1:16), including quantum entanglement. He applied this non-intuitive design in His spiritual laws, too. We can read one example of this in Mark 9:35: And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.

Quantum of Scripture

The book of Philippians provides us with a tremendous example of the “Quantum of Scripture.” When Paul was in prison, He wrote to the church at Phillipi, located in eastern Macedonia, north of Greece. By the way, Phillipi had a school of medicine, which was Luke’s alma mater. Anyway, Paul wrote to the church, I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. (Philippians 1:12) In our hindsight, we can see how God used Paul’s imprisonment. But for Paul to see and say this is profound.

Paul goes on to write, And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.(Philippians 1:14) So Paul being in prison emboldened Christians that were free. Would we have this same reaction? If our neighbor Susan is put in prison for her faith in Jesus, will we more boldly declare the Good News of Christ Jesus?

Spooky truth

Then Paul states a “spooky” spiritual truth. “I am put here for the defense of the gospel(Philippians 1:16). This apostle, a man that, arguably, was the most missions-minded apostle. A man who traveled non-stop to preach in places where Christ had never been preached. This man built for freedom and travel is now in the prison of the strongest empire on earth, and he says he is in prison for the defense of the gospel. Doesn’t that seem counter intuitive?

Finally, let’s glimpse Paul’s heart. He wrote, “Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry…proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. (Philippians 1:17-18)

Do we have the mindset that whether or not the preacher is preaching as a pretense or speaking sincerely, if he proclaims Jesus, we will rejoice? There is a lot of pastor-bashing right now. More than I’ve seen in quite a while. I know, to my shame, I’ve been in a few after-church lunches where we ate “roast pastor.” We must not do that. Touch not my anointed ones, do my prophets no harm!” (Psalm 105:15)

Be cautious when making spiritual assumptions

I hope that we know the heart of Jesus is not one that can be discerned by what seems reasonable. No, Christ’s heart can only be discerned through the Holy Spirit’s revelation of Scripture in us. When we start making assumptions, we are heading down the road of heresy.

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