July 2022

Delivery Food Restaurant Pizza Fresh Pizzeria

God’s Benefits Package

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.Jeremiah 29:13

What an unusual world in which we live! Science is advancing at a blistering pace, technology is evolving so rapidly that new products are obsolete by the time they are available in the market. Once isolated viruses are advancing at unimaginable speeds, and new medical procedures are available to you and me which would have been called magic five years ago.

Truly, the world we called home five years ago is nothing but a memory; it bears little resemblance to the one we live in today. Mercurial social definitions, strange weather patterns, and the unraveling of the delicate balance among geo-political powers stagger our minds. Just the thought that vehicle manufacturing would grind to a halt because of the lack of $2.00 integrated circuits.

Speaking of grinding to a halt, church attendance has significantly contracted. This pulling away is affecting Christians, Jews, and Muslims! According to a Gallup Poll:

  • In 2020, 47% of U.S. adults belonged to a church, synagogue, or mosque
  • Down more than 20 points from the turn of the century
  • Change primarily due to rise in Americans with no religious preference

It would seem justifiable for people to throw up their arms and say, “Enough, already!” But, if you are a true Christian, all of these changes and fearful cries can’t move us. We walk in joy because our obedience to Jesus promises joy. (John 15:11) We walk in peace because Jesus promised us peace. (John 14:27). We walk in love because this is Christ’s command. (John 13:34)

How can we be moved by the world? God lives in us. (John 17:20-21) So, here we stand, as guideposts, pointing to the world the way to salvation and all of its benefits. We are ambassadors for Jesus, representing Him in the affairs of humanity. We are love, not lustful love, but the love that comes from God. We are confident, we are bold, we are humble, we are knowledgable, self-controlled, steadfast, and godly. We show brotherly affection and love. (2 Peter 1:5-8)

We have the fruit of the Holy Spirit at work in us. These are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Google; paupers. Facebook; wannabes. Amazon; amateurs. We have the most comprehensive benefits package that has ever existed. So, let’s consider today’s verse.

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

There is no circumstance or situation that we are in bondage to – except that which we bound ourselves to. In a moment, a mere heartbeat, we can find God when we seek Him with all of our hearts. How can life be better than to be known by the creator of everything? He knows us by name. He knows how many hairs are on our heads. He goes beyond knowing us; He loves us. And I’ve not touched on being saved from God’s coming wrath and the promise of eternal life with Jesus. Let’s celebrate and shout for joy for what God does for us!

Image by Sam Williams from Pixabay

You may like: Love In Communities

Man Writing Laptop Computer Write Studying

Look Beneath the Surface

“Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.”
John 7:24

Whatever Scripture” we study, we should look under its surface. I’m going to use a couple of words that many people don’t know, but I’ll explain them. To “look under the surface” in God’s Word requires us to use exegesis and hermeneutics.

Exegesis refers to interpreting a specific Biblical text, while hermeneutics means interpreting the meaning. Exegesis is the process of discovering the original and intended meaning of a passage of Scripture, while hermeneutics is the method used for the operation of finding the original and intended meaning of a passage of Scripture. Hermeneutics includes which principles we will use to interpret the text.

Biblical exegesis is the actual interpretation of the sacred book, the bringing out of its meaning; hermeneutics is the study and establishment of the principles by which it is to be interpreted.

The critical study of biblical literature: exegesis and hermeneutics

Forms of the word hermeneutics are found in several places in the Bible. John 1:42 uses the word hermēneuetai, meaning “is translated as.” And Acts 9:36 uses the words diermēneuomenē, “is translated.” So the idea of using a method for understanding Scripture is “baked in.”

When we do a Bible study, we may use a concordance to learn the original words and the meaning of each word. We may use commentaries to gain insights from theologians on a passage of Scripture. We may use Bible dictionaries and books that tell us about the culture surrounding the passage of Scripture. We do this to look under the surface. In this process, we often need to understand how the Biblical culture influences the Scriptures.

So, when the Apostle Paul wrote, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15), We need to understand that Paul was implying that Timothy needed hermeneutics, a reliable method or process for “looking under the surface” of the Scripture we are studying. And he needs exegesis; he needs the commentaries written by Pharisees and scribes over the past 1,500 years.

So, the next time you come across John 7:24, remember that for us to look under the surface of God’s Word, we need hermeneutics and exegesis. These are tools we need to be adept at using.

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

You may like: Pray in Faith

Watercolor Silhouette Woman Tree Landscape Surreal

Say You Told Me So

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power to prevail.” – James 5:16

I was listening to one of the pioneers of what is now called Contemporary Christian Music. Back in the late 60s and early 70s it was called Jesus Music, and one early singer/songwriter was (is) named Nancy Honeytree. And I had the privilege, in the early 70s, to attend a concert she held at a local university. Anyway, the Honeytree song I heard was “Take me back (and say you told me so).” I’ve searched the Internet for the lyrics but to no avail.

What I found interesting about this song is that Honeytree was asking God to take her back; sin separates us from God. We don’t lose our salvation, but God becomes distant. Our go-to verse to receive forgiveness is “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) God’s purification and righteousness restore our closeness with Him.

The words, “take me back,” also tell us that she needed to go back to the spot where she sinned, and see where God’s Word told her that her action would be a sin. Then she promised to make her sin public so that she would be clean and in harmony with God.

This message floored me. Scripturally, her song is a bullseye. Her lyrics are a message we rarely hear preached today and one I needed to hear. I would add – maybe it’s in her song – that a public confession frees a person from all the power which that sin held. Even when a sin has been forgiven, once it comes into the light, Satan no longer has that sin to take to the Father to accuse us1.

This confessing assumes that the person or people to whom you confess to are truly obedient believers. Spoken to the wrong group, a confession becomes gossip and judgment. So, for this and many reasons, we need to be in a God-fearing congregation.

I know this is a small message, but maybe it will help someone. Take me back, and tell me you told me so.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

You may like: Confess your sin, quickly.

1: Revelation 12:9-11

a pic full of rocks with a question mark painted on one of them

Between My Ears

Anyone who wants to serve me must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me.

John 12:26 NLT

Jesus spoke this text shortly before He was arrested, tried, crucified, and then resurrected. Forty days later He ascended into heaven (Acts 1:1-3 NLT). His message to us is straightforward. We must obey the spiritual law of sacrifice. Our goal is to be made useful and serve Jesus where He is working – this is our reasonable sacrifice (Romans 12:1). To follow Jesus leads us straight to the cross. To serve Jesus we must die to the ways of this world and be born again. Only then can we serve Christ Jesus in His work in this world, and someday serve Him in heaven. If we are obedient to these things then the Father will honor us. How amazing is that!

Photo by Ana Municio on Unsplash

potter turning a small pot

What is Your (Pharisaical) Sabbath?

13 Then they took the man who had been blind to the Pharisees, 14 because it was on the Sabbath that Jesus had made the mud and healed him.John 9:13-14

The Pharisees became apoplectic (overcome with anger) when Jesus made mud on the Sabbath. If Jesus had just healed the man1 by speaking healing the Pharisees would still have been angry. But, for Jesus to actually do physical work – making a tiny amount of mud – was so beyond their thinking, that all they could think was to kill Jesus.

What are Our Pharisaical Sabbaths?

So, do we have pharisaical (like a Pharisee) “Sabbaths”? What is there that we would never allow anyone, even Jesus, to touch? Perhaps there is a passage from God’s Word that we have made a Sabbath. Every time we read it we close off the Holy Spirit. We don’t want a deeper understanding; we like what we have.

Our Prayer Time?

We may have made our prayer time a pharisaical Sabbath. We’ve created a method we use to pray. What would we do if the Holy Spirit came upon us and called us to pray more deeply, more intimately, less formally? Could we do that?

The Holy Spirit?

Have we put the Holy Spirit in a pharisaical Sabbath? Do we only allow Him to speak to us about Scriptures but lock ourselves out of the gifts of the Spirit? Do we constrain the Holy Spirit, as our Helper2, Comforter3, Advocate4, and Lord5?

The Version of Our BIble?

Perhaps we have made our Bible reading a pharisaical Sabbath. Only our version of the Bible is true. When it comes to Bible versions, we should know the following statistic:

In 2018, a record 67.3 million U.S. residents (native-born, legal immigrants, and illegal immigrants) spoke a language other than English at home.

Center for Immigration

That number has surely grown in the last four years. With so many people in America who do not speak English at home, in our churches, and in our sermons, we should use Bible versions that are Scripturally accurate while being easily accessible. We never know who will show up in our churches.

Let Jesus In

If you have a pharisaical “Sabbath,” let Jesus do for you as He did in today’s text. Allow Him to be Lord of any pharisaical “Sabbaths.”

Image by Kristin Eisner from Pixabay

You may like: Vigorous Christians

1: Matthew 12:13
2: John 14:16-17 KJV
3: John 14:26 KJV
4: John 14:16
5: 2 Corinthians 3:17

Construction backhoe driving down the road

Get to Where God is Working

Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.”

John 6:29

So, what work does God require of every person that desires salvation? That work is to believe in the One – Jesus the Messiah – that God sent for the salvation of all who seek with sincerity. And faith can only be holy faith if it works with love. (Galatians 5:6)

Our salvation comes by using the faith God has given each person. Everything we hope to accomplish in and through and for God is secured by faith. The very same faith that we used to believe in Jesus was active in us when our faith combined with God’s grace and transformed us from death to life.

23 Now before faith came, we were kept in custody under the Law, [perpetually] imprisoned [in preparation] for the faith that was destined to be revealed, 24 with the result that the Law has become our tutor and our disciplinarian to guide us to Christ, so that we may be justified [that is, declared free of the guilt of sin and its penalty, and placed in right standing with God] by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under [the control and authority of] a tutor and disciplinarian. 26 For you [who are born-again have been reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, sanctified and] are all children of God [set apart for His purpose with full rights and privileges] through faith in Christ Jesus.Galatians 3:23-29 AMP

This faith is the same that we use to bear our own cross. It is the faith we use in prayer, which results in healed families, and the recovery of wayward children, allows the Holy Spirit to heal our mortal bodies, and will someday hear Christ’s trumpet call. It will be by faith that we rise to meet Jesus in the air.

And what is this faith? The very thing that allows us to enter the throne of God and make our petitions! God’s Word tells us that it is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1) The building material of our hope is faith. And faith is the thing that enables us to have a vision, a goal, a purpose and to see it fulfilled by the power of the Holy Spirit working in us through faith.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 5:1

So, what is it that God has laid on your heart? What have you “seen?” God’s Word says, “The people perish without a vision.” (Proverbs 29:18) The “vision” in this verse refers to divine communication as from a dream, revelation, or prophecy.

So, with what is the Holy Spirit challenging you? Only through faith can any work of God be accomplished. Faith is not an “end” in itself, It is like a vehicle on God’s highway. It’s the transportation that gets us from where we are to where God is working.

Image by RandomPhotos101 from Pixabay

You may like: Work Isn’t a Four-Letter Word!

Tree Tribe tree Trunk tree Bark thicker Stem root

All Creation Shares a Common Root

I recently watched a documentary about linguistic archeology. This is the study of discovering the branches of a language and finding the root language from which our modern languages developed. Here’s an interesting quote from Dr. Paul Geggarty1, an expert in archaeology and Language:

Human societies don’t just come from nowhere, and nor do the languages we speak. And unlike the archaeological record, our languages are still living lineages, inherited directly from how our ancestors spoke. Romanian is a direct linguistic legacy of Rome, for instance — and so too are Italian, Spanish, French, and various others. Whereas English is most definitely not.

This characteristic found in languages is a good example for us. It reminds us that Jesus created everything, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible. (Colossians 1:15-18); everything has its root in Jesus, and all things are held together by Him.

This isn’t a stretch for God’s Word. John wrote concerning Jesus that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1) and in the Creation account in Genesis, we find: And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.” (Genesis 1:3) Notice the words, “And God said.” These words testify to Christ’s work of creation.

Now consider something C.S. Lewis said, “Birds, flowers, trees, and mankind have all sprung from the same root, which is the word coming forth from the Father.” So, we can say with great confidence that humanity (something visible) and the laws of physics (something invisible) share a common root, Jesus Christ, the Word of God.

When anyone creates something, an artist creates a painting, or a welder welds a joint on an oil pipeline; the creator leaves an invisible part of themselves in everything they create. This is true with Jesus, also.

So, we can say with confidence that birds, flowers, trees, and mankind are not that different since we all share the same root. Does this mean that Jesus created evil? Did he devise lying, cheating, and stealing? Of course not, although many people have difficulty with why evil exists in the world.

Allow me to prove that Jesus did not create evil. Jesus is the root of things both visible and invisible but consider this. Can a lie exist without truth? No, a lie is a perversion of truth, but if the truth doesn’t exist then the lie is irrational. Let’s consider cheating. Can cheating someone exist without objective morality? Of course not. If there are no moral laws to follow then it would be completely impossible to cheat. This same argument is true with stealing. Without an objective moral law, instead of subjective morality, stealing cannot exist. Only when there is a moral law against theft can stealing exist.

Now consider evil. Can evil exist without objective morality? The answer is “no.” Something cannot be evil unless something holy exists. Holiness can exist without evil, but not the other way around. All things that the Bible calls out as wrong are declared wrong because they did not grow from the root.

Evil, lying, cheating, stealing, coveting, and so forth are not from the root. They have not grown from the root; they are not derived from Christ Jesus. Evil and its many devices come from a created being that is “hell bent” on perverting the holy things of God.

So why do bad things happen to good people? Why is there evil in the world? How can a good God allow ethnic genocide? None of these evils are part of creation, their lineage cannot be traced back to Jesus the root. God has revealed His will and what is holy in His Scriptures. We know the fruit of the root. But we are all born sons and daughters of Adam. Our flesh is as hungry for sin as we get when we see Reese’s® Pieces commercial.

In this life, God has called us to be reunited with His creation, to once again be a branch from His root. Through Christ’s sacrifice, we can be free of this world. This world is an artificial, ungodly system; it has nothing to do with planet earth. To serve Jesus, He has given us promises and armor to do His will in this world, a world which we are in but not of. (John 15:19)

Image by Peter H from Pixabay 

You may like: Different Lanes Revisited

1: Archaeology and Language | FifteenEightyFour | Cambridge University Press. 17 Mar. 2014, accessed on July 6, 2022

The Beam of Light

“Though you have not seen him [Jesus], you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

1 Peter 1:8-9 

A Sunbeam in a Dark Room

Have you ever noticed how a sunbeam shining past a window curtain dominates a dark room? It usually happens when you are trying to “sleep in.” You’ve got a day off from work and no commitments, so you intend to revel in the ambrosia of sleep without demands. But, then, the sun finds a gap in the only window which sunlight can creep through and glare straight into your eyes.

No matter how you try, you can’t find a way to position your body away from that beam of light. Finally, you look straight into the beam, and when you do, you see the beauty of the day; blue sky, puffy clouds, and the sun dominate your view, filling you with awe and wonder at the beauty you see.

C.S. Lewis wrote a similar but exceedingly better analogy about a beam of light shining through a crack in a wall of an old garage. He made a valuable observation. We can either be the person that contemplates the shaft of light or be the person in the beam of light, immersed in the light and enjoying God.

Marinade in the Holy Spirit

Lewis called observing the beam Contemplation and immersion in the beam Enjoyment. For Christians, we need Contemplation – reading God’s Word, listening to a good sermon, listening to an edifying Christian podcast. Contemplation teaches us the tools we need to be effective in the Body of Christ and often leads us into the beam; into the presence of God.

Nevertheless, acquiring spiritual tools is not an end in itself. The purpose of tools is to use them, so that’s where we need to spend the majority of our time. We need to “marinade” in the Holy Spirit, having the Holy Spirit on us, in us, around us, and shining out of us; being in the Light of God is Enjoyment. That is where we need to spend most of our time – in the beam!

Westminster Shorter Catechism has this Q&A:

Q: What is the chief end of man? 1
A: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

Living in the Beam

There is a considerable difference between seeing the beam and being in it. Before salvation, all we could do was see the beam. We could contemplate it. We’d see the beam, occasionally, in someone. We might contemplate the beam on Easter and Christmas and at funerals. The saved and the unsaved can contemplate the beam, but only a child of God can enter the beam. Contemplation is vital, but Enjoyment is where we should live.

Photo by Kaique Rocha, https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-holding-brown-leaf-290617/, accessed on July 2, 2022

You may like: Got a light?

1: Heidelberg Catechism, accessed on July 2, 2022

Photo Album Old Pictures Photos Memories Album

Release from Old Memories 

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”  

2 Corinthians 5:17

Perhaps it’s just me, but sometimes, I have flashbacks from my past, memories of things I’ve done that were selfish, socially clumsy, or countless other mistakes I’ve made. These memories only last long enough to send me down mental rabbit trails that are spiritually unfruitful. For a long time, I fought against them, seeing them as a spiritual attack. But recently the Holy Spirit showed me how to deal with them. 

I discovered these flashbacks are a two-fold blessing from God. First, the first time an old memory attacks me, I take it to Jesus. If it was a sin, then I confess it and ask Christ for forgiveness. Then I thank God for His mercy and grace that permeates this memory. Mercy, from my Father, is enough to provide a way for me to be forgiven and grace for His great love to extinguish the power of that flashback. Once it’s dealt with, it no longer has power over me. I am free indeed from that memory’s condemnation. 

The second blessing is that, from God’s grace, each flashback shows me my growth in Jesus. That old memory is not the event itself but only its imprint in our minds. It is not the wave but the imprint of the wave on the sand.  

By God’s mercy, His forgiveness drains the power of old memories. Old memories provide me with “one time” to confess and ask for forgiveness; after that, I simply enjoy my new nature. By God’s grace, I see my growth as a follower of Jesus.

These flashbacks become blessings instead of condemnations through God’s mercy and grace. That’s just how good God is to me. His mercy and grace are equally available to you. Let’s all advance with God instead of wasting His grace by putting ourselves under condemnation.

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay 

You may like: Say Grace

wrapped gift box

You in God’s Kingdom

Imagine God’s Kingdom in You

Here is a painting, in words, of God’s grace to His children.

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

John 3:3

As one that is born again, imagine that God placed in your heart the kingdom of God as a gift, wrapped in beautiful paper. Your soul looks at this gift and understands it is a gift of great value. You can’t see the kingdom of God because its beauty is hidden behind the wrapping paper. You discover, written all over the wrapping, are marvelous words. These words are living words (John 6:63), handwritten by the Father; they cover the entire gift.

As your soul studies this gift from God, the Holy Spirit says to you, tear off a piece and read it. When you do, you see that it is a passage of Scripture from God’s Word. Where the paper was, your soul now sees a small piece of God’s kingdom. The Holy Spirit tells your soul to eat what your soul tore off. When you do, a small piece of your mind is changed to think and act like a small part of God’s kingdom. You see a small part of your mind living within this magnificent gift.

The Holy Spirit tells you, again, to tear off a piece of the wrapping and eat it. When you do, another piece of your mind is transformed to act and think like a citizen of the kingdom of God. That piece moves to live inside the kingdom of God. God warns you to consume all of the Living Word. This process continues throughout your life. Scripture by Scripture, the Bread of Life feeds you on God’s hidden mana (Revelation 2:17).

Bite by bite, morsel by morsel, your mind lives inside the kingdom of God. By this, you are changed to think and act more as a child of God, and less of your mind participates in worldly thinking. You find you love people, you seek out joy in sacrificing for people, and your focus is shifting from the Bible as a book of instructions to Words that invigorate you and stir your heart to acts of great sacrifice and humility.

You cannot imagine having been transformed without the Living Word of God. And you cannot imagine living as His child without offering yourself as a living sacrifice. (Romans 12:2)

Coming to Live Within God’s Kingdom

Having been reborn, when you die and go to heaven, you find that it is not foreign to you, for you have had some of God’s kingdom in you for many years.

To say this another way, when we ingest God’s Word we discover more of His kingdom, and with each verse, we are changed to truly live more completely as a citizen of God. We live in a process of consuming and being consumed.

I do know that for me, I need to do a “health check” from time to time to ensure that I am still being transformed. The greatest loss I fear is that I desire too little from God.

If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

– CS Lewis, The Weight of Glory accessed on June 27, 2022

Photo by Kateryna Hliznitsova on Unsplash

You may like: The gift of a penitent heart

Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: