Saturday, January 16, 2016

Appearance of Evil

Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. 1 Thess 5:14-22 (NKJV)

Near the end of 1 Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul used a shot-gun approach by giving the Church several random short commandments. I want to focus on the last burst which states: "Abstain from every form of evil." This happens to be one of those verses that lost some of its spiritual impact, because of the translation. A more literal translation carries the following thought: "Avoid the very appearance of evil." What does this mean? That Believers should make an effort to refrain from any activity that would call into question their commitment to Christ.

A couple of years ago Polish tennis star Agnieszka Radwanska was dropped as spokesperson by a Catholic group in her home country. At the time, Agnieszka was the fourth ranked women's tennis player in the world and had been appearing in a commercial for the Youth Crusade, which runs a campaign with the slogan “I’m not ashamed of Jesus.” Why was she dropped? She still claims to be a Believer, but she also appeared in ESPN's "Body Issue" sans clothing. While the nude picture is not explicit a spokesperson for the Catholic Youth Crusade explained their decision: "Personally I am very sorry that someone declaring herself to be on the side of Jesus has at the same time played up to the mentality of those who treat people as just a thing to be looked at."

Let me translate: While not evil--this has the appearance of evil. In a world fascinated by the the exploitation of women and the plague of internet pornography, Believers are not well-served by having a 24 year old tennis star posing naked while telling people,"I'm not ashamed of Jesus." I do not know if Agnieszka understands what is at stake, or if she regrets her decision to pose for ESPN--but, all around the world, young girls looked to her as a role model, at the very least, her testimony is now tarnished.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Happy Man

Happy is the man who finds wisdom, And the man who gains understanding; For her proceeds are better than the profits of silver, And her gain than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies, And all the things you may desire cannot compare with her. Length of days is in her right hand, In her left hand riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, And all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, And happy are all who retain her. Prov 3:13-18 (NKJV)

"Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding." That is one powerful claim--is it true? Are the people who live according to God's wisdom appreciably happier than those who live life according to their own natural desires? Years ago the late great AndraƩ Crouch wrote a song titled "If Heaven Never Was Promised to Me." (I'll let the lyrics speak for themselves)

You may ask me why I serve the Lord. Is it just for heaven’s gain?
Or to walk the mighty streets of gold, And to hear the angels sing?
Is it just to drink from the fountain That never will run dry.
Or just to live forever, ever and ever In the sweet ol’ by and by.

If heaven never was promised to me, neither God's promise to live eternally.
It's been worth just having the Lord in my life.
Living in a world of darkness, You came along and brought me the light.

If there were never any streets of gold, neither a land where we'll never grow old,
It's been worth just having the Lord in my life.
You've been my closest friend down through the years,
And every time I cry You dry my tears.

I remember well a conversation that I had with my mother years ago. She told me to live life in light of the legacy that I would be establishing. In other words--what will be the fruit of my life when I come to the end? Will my life have counted? Did I encourage and help others? Will my children and grandchildren want to follow in my footsteps? Did my life make a difference or did I just live for myself? I took my mother's advice.  Some would say that I've missed out. But, what did I really miss? No one night stands--no DUI's--no hangovers--no messed up children--no divorces... I must stress that I have not lived a perfect life, but I have fully embraced the idea that living according to God's wisdom does indeed lead to a better life and an exponentially superior legacy. (It is not even close) To live a life that has very few regrets is the life of a happy man.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Finding Favor

Let not mercy and truth forsake you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart, And so find favor and high esteem In the sight of God and man. Prov 3:3-4 (NKJV)

Do you get along with other people? Everyone has those few impossible people, but as a general rule, do you get along with the people around you? If trouble is always swirling around you--if controversy is typically trailing in your wake--if you can not "hear" certain names without flinching--if you involve yourself in gossip on a regular basis... Then you are without a doubt a part of the problem. Please hear me--you can begin to turn it all around by embracing and putting into practice some wisdom that comes from God.

Make a choice to live a life full of mercy and truth. Let mercy and truth be at the center of the relationships that you develop in life. This starts with your family and extends out to the very edges of people that you are barely acquainted with. Pour out mercy; meaning, YOU stop being judgmental. Too often, we judge others unfairly and then compound the problem with confrontation and/or gossip. We are so effective when it comes to picking the speck out of someone else's eye, but too easily forget about the great log that makes it impossible for us to see clearly. Was Jesus right by calling us "hypocrites" in this matter? "Yes," Jesus was always right!

How do we discard hypocrisy? It starts by accepting the truth about ourselves. When the Holy Spirit gives us His honest evaluation, the result will be a new baptism of humility. We will never fulfill the Apostle Paul's call to "Esteem others as better than ourselves," unless we have an honest, truthful view of ourselves. Humility allows us to extend mercy and grace when others fail to live up to our expectations. Humility allows us to speak the truth in love for the purpose of reconciliation. When we walk this way, the Word tells us that we will, "find favor and high esteem in the eyes of God and man."The result is worth the effort!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

God in Us

"If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever--the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. "A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you." John 14:15-20 (NKJV)                                                  

The Gospel of Matthew, quoting the Prophet Isaiah, refers to Jesus as Immanuel. "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us." Matt 1:23 (NKJV) As He walked with His disciples on this earth--taught with amazing authority from the Father--did miracles that no-one else dreamed of attempting, including raising people from the dead...Jesus was "God with us!" What a comfort it must have been to be walking down the dusty roads of Israel in the literal footsteps of the Creator.

As Jesus approached His own death, He made it clear to His disciples that they would not be orphans when He was gone. Jesus assured them that another Helper would be sent to them from the Father. That another, of the same essence as Jesus Himself, would be sent to abide with them forever. Jesus was referring to the Holy Spirit. Historically, this prophetic word from Jesus was fulfilled a short time after His death, when the followers of Christ were gathered in an Upper Room in Jerusalem, and on the Day of Pentecost, God, the Holy Spirit landed.

Where did the Holy Spirit land? He landed in the midst of those gathered praying--He landed in their hearts--He landed "in them." Jesus was "God with us." The Holy Spirit is "God in us!" Wow!!! What are the possibilities for a person who has God literally living in them? The bigger question is this: "How do we access the power of the Holy Spirit that is living in us?" I think that there are three attitudes that need to exist in us that open the gates of God's power. We must "Believe." We must be "Humble." We must "Obey." God living in us is not a fictional idea--it is a fact and God's power is released through faith, not unbelief. We need to stop trying to boss God around--we must humble ourselves and acknowledge that He is in control. When God speaks to us--we need to listen to His voice and obey. Belief, humility and obedience allow "God in us" to use our lives and will lead us into the center of our God-designed destiny.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Evangelism Starts Here

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear. 1 Peter 3:15 (NKJV)

When it comes to our involvement in Evangelism, where do we begin? I believe that the Apostle Peter gives us some great insight and wisdom in answer to this question. In a compound sentence Peter gives us three important ideas that should be helpful. The first idea deals with the nature of our relationship with God. The second idea deals with our preparation in being able to articulate our faith. And lastly, the third idea speaks about the attitude we should have when engaging in evangelistic activities. Let's take a closer look at these ideas.

"Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts." What does this mean? It means that you are creating a sanctuary in your heart for God. This is a protected place where faith in God is unwavering--a place where your relationship with God is deep, ongoing and active--a place where God has the final say in your life--a place that is set aside for the purposes of God. Effective evangelism flows from a heart that is unshakable in its faith and where that faith is continually demonstrated in the actions of living.

"Always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you." You do not need to attend a Seminary before you engage in evangelism, but let me be honest, the more Bible knowledge you have; the more time that you spend contemplating the answers to the kind of questions that non-believers are likely to ask; the more you understand, "why you believe what you believe;" the more effort you make to understand your own faith... (Did that run on long enough?) The more prepared you will be when it comes time to articulate your faith. Be encouraged with this thought: The Holy Spirit will be with you as you share your faith. He will guide your words and inspire you as you engage in evangelistic activity.

Talk about your faith with an attitude of "meekness and fear." A more contemporary way of expressing this idea would be: Engage in evangelism with a "humble attitude;" Not as a prideful person with all the answers. Jesus, who was God in the flesh, engaged people with a humility that allowed Him to speak into their lives. We also need to engage in evangelism "carefully." Always remember that an eternal soul is in the balance and the words and attitudes that you express count! Are you ready? Get ready and see what God can do!

Monday, January 11, 2016


For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height--to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Eph 3:14-21 (NKJV)

The chorus started with the following declaration, "My strength is in You Lord..." It is a good thing that my strength is in the Lord, because it certainly is not found in and of myself. I never had real issues with my back until recently.  Now, if I pick up something heavy (like a grandchild or salt pellets for the water softener) I pay for it with pain in my lower back. I am finding out that in spite of my work-out regiment, I'm just not that strong. I guess that the same measure could be applied to all areas of my life. (Self-Discipline--not strong. Emotional Stability--not that tested. Spiritual Tenacity--timidity. Intellectual Prowess--weak. General Health--compromised) "OK, I'll admit the truth...on my own merit, I'm not very strong!"

"But--wait a minute--my strength is in the Lord!" Humans are weak by nature. Almost every Bible hero was hampered by character flaws and personal failures, and yet, they are heroes by any definition. The difference maker was always God. Empowered by God, Moses stretched his rod over the Red Sea and the waters parted. Empowered by God, Joshua led the Children of Israel to shout and the wall of Jericho fell down. Empowered by God, Peter stepped out of the boat and walked on the water. Empowered by God, David slew the giant Goliath.

This was the type of strength that Paul was referring to when he prayed that we would,"Be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man!" God can and will bring His strength into you, if you let Him in. The cry of Jesus to the churches listed in the early chapters of John's Revelation was and is to open the door and let Him in. Jesus is knocking at the door of the heart--the inner man--waiting to come in. The very moment we let Him in, is the very same moment that our inner man is strengthened and our possibilities are exponentially greater!

Saturday, January 9, 2016


Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men! For He satisfies the longing soul, And fills the hungry soul with goodness. Psalms 107:8-9 (NKJV)

Years ago I was working on a musical track for an album. It was late at night--everyone else in the house was asleep--and I was putting on the finishing touches. It was a song called, "There's a Longing in My Soul." The lyrics to the chorus go like this:

There's a longing, in my soul,
There's a longing, in my soul,
And there's nothing in this world 

That can touch my soul,
Like the Spirit of the Lord.

There's a hunger, in my soul,

There's a hunger, in my soul,
And there's nothing in this world

That can fill my soul,
Like the Spirit of the Lord.

The song ends with a repetitious vamp that states over and over, "The Spirit of the Lord is touching me, the Spirit of the Lord is touching me..." The track was finally completed and I sang with it. When I came to the vamp, the Spirit of the Lord literally descended on me and the personal prayer and worship service was on! If any of the family members had stumbled upon my "studio time" in the prayer closet--they would have known that God was at work in my soul.

I was moved to tears--my hands were lifted towards heaven--and only the angels were witnesses to the personal touch of God on my soul. I found out that night--and well as many other times in my life--that God is able to satisfy the longing of my soul like nothing else found on this plane of existence. I have also found that James was right. "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." James 4:8