March 2023

Student People Latin School Person Group College

What Grade Did You Get?

At the end of a course, when I went to college, the professor would type a one-page list showing each person’s name (no political correctness) and the final grade they received. He or she would then take a thumbtack and post the final grades on a corkboard outside the professor’s office.

When the students found out that the grades had been posted, they rushed to learn their grades and the other students’ grades – we wanted to see how we’d done compared to all the other students.

What Will Be My Eternal Grade?

Occasionally, I think about what it will be like when I die. I agree with the apostle Paul: “For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better 1.” Then, in heaven, when Jesus Christ judges each of us for what we did in our lives2, I think it will be kind of like those final grades from college.

As children of God, our judgment is not about heaven or hell – our Savior has redeemed us – but it is about gain and loss. God separates the lost from the saved. But even when we are saved, we can score well or poorly on Christ’s test of what we did with the life He gave us.

“12 Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. 13 But on judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. 14 If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. 15 But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.” – 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 NLT

Good News

Like in college, I am both eager and apprehensive about my “grade.” How did I do? Where do I rank with my fellow believers? What is it that I should have done now? Our “grades” hold eternal gain or loss, but we have no fear of God’s condemnation 3, for Christ, our King, has rescued us from eternal punishment.

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[1]: Philippians 1:21 NLT – For to me, living means living for – Bible Gateway
[2]: Romans 14:12 NLT – Yes, each of us will give a personal – Bible Gateway
[3]: Romans 8:1 NLT – Life in the Spirit – So now there is no – Bible Gateway

red and orange apple fruit

Always Fruitful

fruit tree on a riverbank
But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.

My wife told me about an elderly woman that suffered from advanced dementia. She had no short-term memory, but what she had was Jesus. Whenever anyone spoke to her, she’d ask, “Do you know Jesus?” That was all that remained of this child of God. Still, until she passed, she remained fruitful.

We may be sick, tired, disabled, elderly, or dying, but if Jesus lives in us and we are in Him, we will never stop being fruitful for God’s kingdom. He causes people to see in us His life. People see fruit in us that we may not even know there. If we are God’s fruit tree, we will never stop producing. I’d call that good news!

Helping Hands Climbing Rescue Rescuing Man Men

Pass It On

Back in 2000, there was a film titled “Pay It Forward.” The gist is that when we receive a good deed (are blessed) from someone, we do that same good deed (blessing) to someone else. The movie so impacted our culture that this phrase and intent is still active twenty-three years later. I’m sure the filmmakers did not consider Paul’s instruction to Timothy.

You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.2 Timothy 2:2

Confirmation

Notice that Paul is not writing about abstract ideas. He writes that the things he taught have been “confirmed by many.” Chief among them is what Paul taught about Christ’s death for our sins, His burial, and His resurrection1. This was confirmed because at least 500 people saw Jesus after His resurrection2.

Paul wrote about things that are beyond natural actions yet established as true. He wrote about the disciplines and gifts the Holy Spirit gives to us. He wrote about miracles and healings. He wrote about the righteousness of Jesus being our righteousness when we are in Christ Jesus. He wrote about Christ’s second coming. People heard Paul preach and saw the Holy Spirit confirm his teaching.

Now, Paul is writing to his “spiritual” son and telling him to have confidence in what he taught because reliable witnesses have confirmed each truth. Therefore, because Timothy should not doubt these truths, he should teach the same to others and be confident that God will prove the truth of Timothy’s teaching. And through the confirmations, these truths should be passed on and on and on.

So, two thousand years later, we have that same confidence in what was written by Paul in the Bible. And when we receive this instruction, we can be sure that the Holy Spirit will confirm these truths, and the supernatural actions of God will accomplish this confirmation – anything God does is done by the maker of nature and, therefore, greater (superior) than nature. If we don’t believe this, then what can we hope for when we pray?

Good News

As believers in Jesus, we have been commissioned to be in the world but not of the world. While in this world, we are to teach Jesus Christ, His death, burial, and resurrection. We are to demonstrate Christianity’s uniqueness through our incomprehensible love for each other and by the supernatural works that God does through us. These confirmations are, first, a testimony to the divine nature of Jesus, our Savior, and second, God’s confirmation of our commission to be representatives of Jesus in this world.

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[1]: 1 Corinthians 15:3–4 
[2]: 1 Corinthians 15:6

Family Generations Great-Grandparents Son Father

Aging Parents and Grandparents

You may read the title of this post and say, “I don’t have either. This isn’t for me.” Still, I hope you take a few minutes and read this as a reminder and for the good of our society.

Liars Figure

You may have heard the old saying, “Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.” It seems that one of humanity’s many shortcomings is the temptation to seek ways to manipulate laws to give ourselves an advantage over other people. Jesus challenged the Jewish leaders because He saw this manipulation taking place in a way that both caused suffering to elderly parents and also injury to the Jewish society.

The word Jesus used was “corban.” This word is only found once in the Bible, and that’s in Mark 7:11. However, we find Jesus addressing this action in Matthew 15:5. Corban means “a gift or offering consecrated to God1.” The intent of corban is found in several places in the Old Testament. However, the traditions that Jewish leaders expanded corban far beyond God’s law.

God Never Contradicts Himself

Moses had instructed God’s people to “honor their father and mother2”, but the Pharisees bypassed that command by teaching people that they could give money to the temple in place of helping their needy parents.

The Pharisees said that whatever money or possessions that sons should provide for the care of elderly parents could instead be dedicated to the temple treasury simply by calling it corban. This would exempt a son from his responsibility to his parents. In other words, the Pharisees took a legitimate corban offering and used it in an illegitimate and devious way to defraud parents and enrich themselves. They used their tradition to supersede the Law of God concerning parents.

The Sneaky Part

We won’t find any advantage to a child if we think: Give $1,000 to the church or give $1,000 to his parents. Either way, the child is out $1,000. Well, here is the sneaky part. Anything dedicated to the temple by corban belonged to the temple in theory. Land could not be permanently given to the temple. Any dedicated money or possessions given to the temple did not mean that the giver had to “hand over the goods!”

Those dedicated possessions might stay with the owners! So, by declaring things as corban, sons could avoid using their money to care for aging parents while still keeping their stuff. The vow did not require them to hand over their cash, yet they were actually prohibited from ever using corban property for the support of their parents3.

What Does That Have to do With Me

God, our Father, knows that we need stuff to live, and He wants us to enjoy the life He has given us4. Happiness is based on what happens, but joy is a gift from God5. As faithful followers, redeemed by the blood of Jesus and saved by God’s grace, it is essential that we live in obedience to the commands of Jesus Christ6.

The Holy Spirit inspired the apostle Paul to write:

Take care of any widow who has no one else to care for her. But if she has children or grandchildren, their first responsibility is to show godliness at home and repay their parents by taking care of them. This is something that pleases God.1 Timothy 5:3–4 NLT

All “care” requires some sacrifice. If it’s money we care about, then we will sacrifice other obligations for our money. We need to remember, “Love people, and use things. Not, use people and love things.”

There’s an old saying, “One mother can raise four kids, but four kids can’t care for one mother.” Searching for ways to sneak around our responsibilities to aging parents or grandparents is an act of futility. We won’t find any.

First, for obedience to our Lord, and second for the good of our parents. Third, for the good of society, and fourth, for our good when we become elderly, we need to help our aging parents and grandparents. It’s just the right thing to do.

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[1]: Easton’s Bible Dictionary.
[2]: Exodus 20:12.
[3]: International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
[4]: 1 Timothy 6:17
[5]: Romans 15:13
[6]: John 14:15

Zombie Flesh Eater Dead Spooky Scary Apocalypse

What God Hates

A while back, God impressed on me the wickedness in our nation of character assassination; it’s a multi-billion dollar industry. If some group of people decides that they disagree with the views of someone, they don’t confront that person with facts and truth to refute that person’s perspective. Instead, they attack the person. They dig for dirt. They gin up a charge and then assassinate the person by “the seriousness” of the (unfounded) charge.

I’m not limiting my concerns to national politics; I see the same actions within many denominations and local churches. I fear that we have forgotten the things God hates.

“There are six things the Lord hates—
no, seven things he detests:
haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that kill the innocent,
a heart that plots evil,
feet that race to do wrong,
a false witness who pours out lies,
a person who sows discord in a family.”

Proverbs 6:16–19 NLT

God Hates This Person

Notice the seventh thing the Lord hates. It is a person who “sows discord.” This is the person that “stirs the pot.” These people are not committed to improving the lives of people; no, they are just troublemakers; they are more than unkind. They work to shipwreck the faith believers have in Christ Jesus. God hates troublemakers.

The first six things God hates are evil actions that people do – a lying tongue, hands that kill the innocent, the heart that plots evil – the seventh is “a person.” God is a God of order and purpose. In everything He does, He brings order out of chaos and purpose out of self-destruction. A person that sows discord attempts to change God’s order back to chaos.

Aiding and Abetting

This truth about God hating anyone that sows discord is continually in my thoughts these days. I have not found a good way to express the danger to anyone that is “that” person. We that love God must not tolerate troublemakers because they harm believers and drive the lost away from the Church. We need to counsel and pray for them, but if we extend our “covering” to them, we are guilty of aiding and abetting God’s enemies – yes, it’s really that serious.

It Cuts Both Ways

Every person is made in the image of God; we don’t know what purpose God has planned for him or her. That person may be you or me. In our desire to defend the Body of Christ or our nation, we may fall into satan’s trap. We may seek to harm the personal reputation of someone we disagree with. That’s a precipitous path.

We should call wickedness what it is, but we need to remember that Jesus said, “Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.” And in the book of James:

But even Michael, one of the mightiest of the angels, did not dare accuse the devil of blasphemy, but simply said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (This took place when Michael was arguing with the devil about Moses’ body.)” – Jude 1:9

Zombies, Yes!

For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies…1” This one verse settles the matter. It’s okay if we’re fighting zombies 😉, but a living, breathing person is not our target. And, when it comes to spiritual battles, we must not step over the line from using offensive weapons and defensive armor God has provided us and into saying, praying, or doing things that are tools of the devil. As Jesus plainly said, “How can Satan cast out Satan2 ?

Good News

God hates troublemakers. If we discover that we are becoming one, we should repent and run to Jesus. He will forgive us if we turn away from this sin, but we’re in for a very tough time if we try to justify our actions to Christ, our Master.

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[1]: Ephesians 6:12.

[2]: Mark 3:23.

Feet Footwear Laundry Funny Legs Shoes Sneakers

Getting the Inside Out

“The author who benefits you most is not the one who tells you something you did not know before, but the one who gives expression to the truth that has been dumbly struggling in you for utterance.”

Oswald Chambers

Stuck in the Wash Cycle


Am I the only person unable to give a voice to what God lays on my heart? I don’t mean to imply that I have received more revelation than you or any other fellow believer in Jesus. What I mean is that the nuggets God has revealed to me continue to slosh about inside me like blue jeans in a washing machine. They always seem to need more time to get past the spin cycle and become ready to come out clean and well-fitting. What’s inside my washing machine takes forever to come out.

I am not implying that I have nothing to write about. I have plenty of words, but when I give them some breathing room, I often find them lacking. It takes time and a delete key to provide a voice for something suitable for spiritual consumption. Do you ever feel this way? 

You may want to communicate a deeper understanding of a passage of Scripture or an insight that you know came from the Holy Spirit, but it seems stuck. No matter how you say it, it doesn’t communicate what you mean.

Spin ‘Till Dry

Whether informal or formal, God sets a high bar when we endeavor to teach. Concerning teachers in local churches, the book of James warns us, “for we who teach will be judged more strictly.” (James 3:1–2 NLT) It is often good for us to let our thoughts age for a while. We should revisit them regularly but not always to edit them. We just need to be sure that what we state as truth is really Truth. Attaching God’s name to our words carries great responsibility. We must teach, we must preach, and we must demonstrate unconstrained love for each other, for this is the command that Jesus gave us.

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:34–35

Remove Before Wrinkling

We should not hold back what the Holy Spirit has shown us something that needs to be communicated. But when we do, let’s be sure that we are proclaiming the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).

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Group Of Men Paddling While Inside Inflatable Boat

Cling On!

I am amazed that the English language has become so broadly used worldwide. The title of today’s post is “Cling On,” but if I said this, you would probably think I was referring to Star Trek Klingons!

I was thinking about something the apostle Paul wrote to the young man that he counted as his son. Paul wrote:

19 Cling to your faith in Christ, and keep your conscience clear. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked.

1 Timothy 1:19 NLT

Sins

What would compel a person to violate their conscience deliberately? Doesn’t that seem odd, certainly foolish? The word “deliberate” tells us that Paul is writing about someone who commits the worst unrighteous acts. In God’s Word, we are taught that a person can do three types of unrighteous actions against God. These are sin, transgressions, and iniquity.

Since we use English, we lump all three into the word “sin,” but God doesn’t. In Psalm 32:5, the psalmist wrote, “I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.’

We commonly define sin as “missing the mark,” which is accurate but misses the mark. 😉 Sin usually is birthed by our idea instead of something from the Holy Spirit. It may be a great thing, but not the right thing to do. It may be something we commit to doing, but we try to do it with our ability. Or, it might be something we decide to do while never considering God’s will. All of these actions “miss the mark.” They are sins.

Transgression

A transgression is when we intentionally choose to do something that we know is against God’s will. We know that we should not tell lies. We know that satan is the father of lies1, so when we choose to lie, we aren’t missing the mark; we are deliberately transgressing God’s will. The same is true if we deliberately put our interests ahead of others or someone tells us a need, and we have the resources to help, but we send them on their way empty-handed. Transgressions tarnish the Bride of Christ.

“Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.”

Psalm 32:1 ESV

Iniquity

Now we come to the worst actions against God’s will: iniquity. Iniquity is a premeditated action that we know is against God’s will; it’s like premeditated murder. Iniquity is when we choose our will over God’s will and continue to do it without repentance. Iniquity is embezzlement; it’s sleeping around; it’s being narcissistic. But Jesus saves and forgives.

When Jesus called Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector, to share a meal, Jesus extended forgiveness to a man whose profession was one of iniquity. Iniquity is terrible, but it is not beyond God’s forgiveness.

For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.

Hebrews 8:12

Let’s Cling On

Whew! That’s a lot of background information, but we need to understand what Paul knew and what he deeply desired for Timothy to know. Paul wrote from painful experience, “Cling to your faith in Christ, and keep your conscience clear.” Being a “Harvard” graduate Pharisee, his classmates continually challenged him. They hated what he taught, and they hated him for teaching the Gospel of Jesus. Paul never wavered but fiercely held on. He was not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ Jesus2.

Paul had seen the shipwrecked lives of Christians who demonstrated great love and humility for Jesus, but they caved into peer pressure. They tried to straddle the fence and suppress the Holy Spirit’s life in them. The result of their actions was that they ended up with no faith. Like a ship without a rudder, they were tossed about3 and finally shipwrecked their lives in Christ.

Good News

Paul made it clear that Timothy must cling to the Gospel like a man or woman in the ocean clings to a raft. The same is true for each of us that are in Christ Jesus. Ciing On!

Photo by Tom Fisk:

#Biblestudy #devotional #christianposts


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[1]: John 8:44
[2]: Romans 1:16
[3]: Ephesians 4:13-15

Picture of Keith Green.

His Promises Remain

My eyes are dry
My faith is old
My heart is hard
My prayers are cold
And I know how I ought to be
Alive to You and dead to me

But what can be done
For an old heart like mine
Soften it up
With oil and wine
The oil is You, Your Spirit of love
Please wash me anew
With the wine of Your Blood

My Eyes Are Dry by Keith Green.
YouTube of Keith singing this song

You can be twenty years old and have an old heart. Being in love with Jesus, keeping it fresh and eager every morning to learn what God has given you to do that day, is easily lost. A memorable line from the movie “Parenthood” is when Steve Martin, in a moment of frustration, says, “My whole life is ‘have to’s.” So, for three minutes today, lay down your burden and allow me to encourage you in the Lord.

Just because the Bible contains words that were first penned two thousand years ago, and more, does not mean that God’s promises are no longer effective. Those prescriptions have no use-by date. Actually, those promises came from the eternal, one true God. From God’s perspective, His promises were just given; they were written just a moment ago, and they contain all the strength and potency God intended, and they are for you if you are in Jesus.

You may say, “I prayed for my beloved mother, a God-fearing woman, yet she still died too soon.” Do you think that since her passing she has ever had one regret for leaving this wretched world and being forever in the presence of the Lord?

You might say, “I have prayed and sought Jesus to bring my local church back to the way it was when I was young.” I’m with you on that one, but we serve “I AM.” God works in the now, and He is moving us and the world in preparation for the return of Jesus. We can love what we have, but as servants of God, we must keep up with Him. He has an agenda, and in His love and grace, He has included you. We celebrate what God did, but we work in what God is doing.

Does your heart feel old? Do you feel like your life is not the one you saw when you were first saved? Do you feel like your life is all “have to’s?” Then I recommend what Keith Green wrote. I pray that you allow the Holy Spirit, who is already alive within you, to pour fresh oil and wine upon you. The oil is the Spirit of God, and the wine represents the sacrificed blood of Jesus.

Your first love, when you were saved, is not lost in the past. It is right beside you. It has never left. Ask Jesus for freshness, a soft heart, and a hungry soul. He will give them if you ask in faith.

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

1 Thessalonians 5:23–24

Eseymour at en.Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


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