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

Friday, January 8, 2016


Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3:13-18 (NKJV)

In his book entitled, "People of the Lie," author, M. Scott Peck talked about the relational difficulties that arise when in a relationship with an individual who is playing by a different set of ethical rules.  This person seems to thrive on controversy, loves a good fight, and is continually sowing seeds of trouble through gossip and slander. The reaction of a normal person is confusion. "What is going on? What did I do wrong? How did I get in this situation? I just don't understand?"

We have probably all been there. Simply confused by a relationship that went south for no apparent reason.  Suddenly, you are the object of an unwanted adversarial relationship. On the receiving end of unwarranted rejection. In a situation that causes amazing emotional pain. All of it unexpected--landing where we are vulnerable--creating another opportunity to grow in humility, patience and forgiveness. How can we guard ourselves from these "people of the lie?"

Start with this understanding: You will not be able to avoid these situations as long as you are living on planet earth. Jesus suffered as the object of Satan's wrath. He was accused of sin that He never committed. He was betrayed by a close friend and deserted by the rest in His hour of need. The lesson to be learned? LIFE IS NOT FAIR! So, where does that leave us? At times, confused--but, all the more dependent upon the Lord. It also gives us an opportunity to be "people of peace." We do not fight fire with fire. We do not fight against flesh and blood, and our weapons are not carnal. We meet the challenge of confusion with all that is Godly and good
, while leaning on the one who is not confused by it all…the Rock of our Salvation!

Thursday, January 7, 2016


"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matt 6:19-21 (NKJV)

The "No Fear" clothing line used to have a T-Shirt that read: "He who dies with the most toys is still dead." There it is--the truth--all unpackaged and laid bare. Solomon took a hard look at this truth--weighed in the sum total of the way he spent his time on earth and concluded that everything in life was "vanity." Once again--Solomon was wrong. If there is no life beyond the grave--if our lives have no impact on the people around us--if there is no Kingdom to build--and if our real treasure is left behind when we die...then Solomon would have been right in his assessment of life.

However, there is life beyond the grave. The witness and example of our lives can have a great positive and lasting effect on the lives that surround us. The life of a Believer is filled with purpose as we build His Kingdom. The treasure that we have found in our relationship with God is only enhanced as we leave this world behind. The Christian life is not vanity, it is a life full potential, promise and eternal value!

It all boils down to this--how are you spending your life? Are you pursuing an eternal treasure or are you living for the sensual purpose of satisfying the cravings of the flesh. What are the sensual purposes of the flesh? To be seen and known--like a celebrity. To obtain material wealth for the sake of having it. To have the power to be in control of my life and the lives of others. To get whatever I want--when I want it--regardless of the consequences. O--trust me, life can be Solomon's nightmare of vanity; but, it can be so much more. We can pursue God, just as He has pursed us. We can lay up treasures in heaven. And ultimately, we can give ourselves to a cause that is worth dying for--and better yet--worth living for!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

All In

Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works." Matt 16:24-27 (NKJV)

I have a friend who did not grow up attending a church, but had a measure of faith in his heart that caused him to believe in God. He did not have a relationship with God, but he believed that God existed. He started attending meetings at a church and became a Believer. He recently told me the following: "When I started attending church I was clueless--I didn't realize that this was an all or nothing proposition--I didn't realize the magnitude of the changes that God would make in my life. I'm all in!"

Can I even say those words honestly: "I'm all in?" Or do I have closets in my heart that I've locked away from God. O--I already know that God can see inside those closets--He knows exactly what is going on in my life. Is it possible that I am still grasping to maintain control of some areas in my life where I do not want to give up control--places in my heart where God has not been given permission to clean me up? How long will I hold out against the Holy Spirit and not realize the full measure of His blessing?

What does a surrendered life look like? You surrender to God--deny yourself, pick up your cross and walk in complete obedience. What are the possibilities? Ask yourself this question: "Do I have a better plan for my life than the plan that God has for me?" That has got to be a rhetorical question, because the answer is obvious. My plans cannot measure up to the destiny that God has in mind for me. Time to surrender--time to go "all in."

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Secret Place

"And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him." Matt 6:5-8 (NKJV)

In the movie, "The Hollow Man," (A movie that I would highly NOT recommend) Kevin Bacon makes a blood chilling statement as a man who happens to be invisible: "It's amazing what you can do... when you don't have to look at yourself in the mirror any more." No doubt, it is difficult, perhaps impossible, to fully understand ourselves. We seem to have a fuzzy notion of who we are and are sometimes compelled by internal forces that we do not comprehend. 

Not only do we have secrets, in many respects we are a mystery to most of the people who know us. That brings us to God--who is in middle of our secret places. He understands us--fully comprehends what makes us tick--knows what we have need of before we ask or possibly know to ask... He is the mirror that reveals the real essence of who we are. How can we become self-actualized and begin to understand the complexity that is us? Well, you have to meet in the secret place with God.

Jesus suggests that we find a place where we can be sequestered alone with God. A place where we can shut the door, turn off the cell phone and spend some uninterrupted time alone with our Creator. What happens in that quiet time alone with God is between you and God; however, you will find that God is indeed a transforming power that is unmatched by any other in the known universe. Indeed, the time spent alone with God is time well spent!

Saturday, January 2, 2016


He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust." Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler And from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler. You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, Nor of the arrow that flies by day, Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday. Psalms 91:1-6 (NKJV)

I was raised in Idaho Falls, Idaho--which was recently ranked as the 18th coldest city in the United States. Dad turned the thermostat down at night, which made scrunching down under the covers a glorious event. In the mornings, Dad would turn up the furnace and warm air would blast up through the vents. Behind the stereo system in the living room was such a vent on the floor. I would sneak up to that secret spot every morning and cover the vent with a blanket and bask in the ensuing heat wave. I would have liked to have stayed there forever. Safe...warm...satisfied...peaceful...happy...

Then real life occurred. I found out that the world is not safe, warm, satisfied, peaceful or happy! I don't think that it takes a genius I.Q. to look at the happenings of our little planet and to accurately conclude that something went wrong. Too much violence--too much conflict--too much greed--too much laziness--too much exploitation--too much foolishness--too much self-destructive behavior--too much abuse--too much tragedy. It's really is, because, as a Believer, this world is not our home. So, what do I do in the meantime?

I need to go and dwell in the "secret place" where God is. I need to abide under His shadow surrounded by the warmth of His presence. Please understand, I'm not dwelling in this secret place to "run away" from my responsibilities or to deny the reality of the world's true nature. "No," I go to this place of refuge to be strengthened and to be filled with courage, so that when I do out into the darkness I will be absolutely unafraid. That in the midst of all that is crazy and wrong in our world--inside of me--in a secret place--God and I continue to have fellowship; and I face the, and happy!

Friday, January 1, 2016


Then David returned to bless his household. And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, "How glorious was the king of Israel today, uncovering himself today in the eyes of the maids of his servants, as one of the base fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!" So David said to Michal, "It was before the Lord, who chose me instead of your father and all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the Lord, over Israel. Therefore I will play music before the Lord. And I will be even more undignified than this, and will be humble in my own sight. But as for the maidservants of whom you have spoken, by them I will be held in honor." 2 Sam 6:20-22 (NKJV)

Are you inhibited by what other people might think? I am sad to admit that in my case it might be true... (Talk about finding it hard to be transparent) IT IS TRUE! Herein is the problem; it is difficult, if not impossible, to be an effective leader if you are always worried about what people might think. A spiritual leader is not called to be a politician, trying to make decisions based on how it effects one's popularity. A spiritual leader is called to be obedient and to lead as God instructs them.

When the Ark of the Covenant was being returned to King David's hometown, he, in a moment of great passion, threw his inhibitions aside and danced before the Ark. It was quite a spectacle as David cast off his clothes and danced with reckless abandon. As the parade came to an end, David was met by the disapproval of his wife, Michal. Her words dripped with sarcasm: "How glorious was the king of Israel today..." LESSON NUMBER ONE: If you step out in uninhibited faith--you will face criticism from some.

David responded to his wife's critique: "I will be even more undignified than this, and will be humble in my own sight." LESSON NUMBER TWO: When you step out and lead, realize that it may only be the first step of doing more of the same. You may be even more undignified--and mortify your critics. However, there are two benefits that overshadow all else: The fruit of humility is given a great opportunity to grow in our lives. Secondly, God is glorified through our acts of obedience and passion. We need to continually weigh the question: Are we trying to please man or God?

Author's note: I have a friend that was a classmate at Northwest University.  I recently saw this posted on his social media.  Uninhibited worship to the one who is worthy.  This is what God desires, a people who worship Him in spirit and in truth.  Unashamed--Uninhibited--Unafraid!  The court of public opinion should have no impact on whether we worship or how we worship; rather, we should only concern ourselves with the audience of one.  The only One that really matters.  RJ