We Are Family

Last night, I was thinking about my family. I have five younger siblings. As I’ve watched them grow into adulthood, it’s been interesting how different we all are. We have different music interests, movie likes, convictions, etc. And yet we also share memories, stories, private jokes. I think deep down we also have a commitment to not allow things to become so mountainous that it negatively affects our relationship. Sure, we might strongly disagree with each other but most of our disagreements are not worth losing the friendship we have.

bodyofchrist

This is how the Body of Christ should be as well. If we really understood that “we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another” (Romans 12:5), maybe we would cherish each other more. If you were in an accident and lost your hand, you would no doubt try to find it and take it to the doctor to see if he could sew it back on. Yet, when a Brother or Sister cuts himself or herself off from the Body, we hardly notice. We may even think “good riddance.” I wonder if we would see more people come to know the Lord if they saw genuine love and care from God’s people.

This coming year, let’s ask God to give us greater hearts of love. Ask Him to give you His heart for those around you. I believe you would begin to look at people differently than you ever have before. God doesn’t look on a person’s outward appearance. He looks at the heart. We must learn to do that as well. As we draw near to Him, I believe He will help us to do so.

Desiring to Change

My “must watch” Christmas movie the last few years has been A Christmas Carol with George C. Scott. I realize that it can be spooky and a bit scary for some, but it is thought provoking and has a great message if you can get past the eeriness.

I’m sure almost everyone is familiar with this classic about Ebenezer Scrooge, the mean, selfish, wealthy miser who cares nothing for anyone but himself and despises Christmas as a day when people want to deprive him of his hard-earned money. The thing that makes this story great, however, is that it does not end on that note. By the end of the story, Mr. Scrooge realizes that, “If those courses be departed from, the end must change,” and he becomes willing to make those changes. The next morning (Christmas day), no one recognizes him as the man they had seen the day before. Sure, he looks like himself, but he does not act like Mr. Scrooge at all. He is a new person, and it is noticeable to everyone he comes in contact with.

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Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone changed that easily? We all have roots of pride and selfishness but, many times, we choose to ignore them and fail to see what effect those things are having on others.

“We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we might be enslaved to sin” (Romans 6:6).

“And he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:15).

When we come to know the Lord, Christ begins to live in and through us. We become a new creation as old things pass away (2 Corinthians 5:17).

My prayer this coming year is that people see more of Christ and less of me. I don’t want to hang on to any “sin that so easily ensnares” (Hebrews 12:1). This week, as the year winds to a close, I encourage you to take the time to look at your life. Are you doing what God wants you to do? Are you impacting people for His Kingdom? Are you walking in faith and victory, full of anticipation for what God is doing in your life, or are you depressed and downhearted? These are questions I am asking myself. It’s not easy but I am making myself be quiet and trusting that God will continue to speak to me this week. I hope you will take time to do that as well. The world desperately needs to see God’s people walking differently than the rest of the world. God, help us to desire to change!

Billy Graham’s Gospel

Many people have benefited from Billy Graham and many of those never examined what Graham has been teaching these many decades. We read in the Word of God this brutal judgment:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.  As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. 

Here is a 40 minute review of Billy Graham’s gospel and how it compares to the biblical gospel. Contrary to those who consider Billy Graham to be their pope, may this sermon open your eyes. (Note – the preacher errs in thinking law is part of the biblical gospel – that is as wrong as Graham’s gospel.) http://www.sermonaudio.com/playpopup.asp?SID=86111517593

My Strength and My Portion

Psalm 73:25-26 Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.

As I look back over my life I am struck by the many times I’ve failed the Lord and others. I’m also struck by the many times family and friends have failed me. Each thing that I do is tainted with sin even when I think I’m doing things for the right reasons.

Whom have I? I think I have friends and family that will love me and never let me down but they let me down. I think I will be able to move forward and never let the Lord down or my friends and family yet I continue to do so. The reality is that I have no one except the Lord Who never lets me down. He is the only One!

Whom have I in heaven? Everything in this life points to the Lord Jesus Christ no matter what it is. The look of love from your sweetheart, the great fellowship within the church, the time of rest given where you recuperate from the cares of life, a wonderful day in which everything goes right, etc. are all pointers to the Person Who made all these things possible. Each gift we receive is from the Lord and should point us to the Lord. Our response should be total and complete adoration of God, the Giver of all good and perfect gifts. James 1:17

Whom have I in heaven but Thee? People will fail you so you cannot keep your focus on them, it must be on the Lord. Leaders can fail and preach something that is contrary to the Word of God but we are to study God’s Word so we know God Himself. This will keep us from falling into the trap of false teachers. How do I know which teacher is false and which is true? The Word of God gives me discernment as I study it. I don’t study the Word of God just to gain discernment. I study it so I will know God and, in knowing Him, I discern who is teaching truth and who is teaching lies.

jesussatisfies

So the question is, Whom have I in heaven but Thee? This leads into the answer, there is no one but the Lord. Not only in heaven but on earth. There is none upon earth that I should desire beside Thee. If anyone or anything comes before the Lord then we are in sin against God. Our love, worship, and adoration of Him should be such that everyone and everything we care about is like hate compared to our love for Him.

There is none anywhere whether in heaven or on earth that should be so adored as our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. No one should be so desired as He. As we struggle through each day what can we find that is so desirable? Can the world satisfy us? Can our flesh satisfy us? Can others satisfy us? Can addictions satisfy us?

No! A thousand times no! My flesh fails me all the time. When I think I found something that makes my flesh happy and satisfied, it crumbles like the dust and soon I have nothing but bitterness and sin. My heart fails me, as well. The Bible is clear that my heart is wicked and sinful. Jer. 17:9. It is totally corrupt and nothing good about it. My flesh and my heart fails me continually but….surely something satisfies?

Yes, God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever! So, in finishing up contentment we find that only the Lord can satisfy. When I was a child, a song came out that we sang a lot at church and home.

Only Jesus can satisfy your soul.
Only He can change your heart and make you fully whole.
He’ll give you peace you never knew
Sweet love and joy, and heaven, too
For only Jesus can satisfy your soul.

The Lord is the only way to true satisfaction and contentment. He’s the only way to be able to change and grow, whether physically or spiritually. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life! Nothing and no one can live apart from Him because, in Him we live, and move, and have our being. Acts 17:28. Praise God that He is the strength of our hearts, those who are true believers, and our portion forever to make into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ! Amen!

Bending Our Will To His

As we pray to the Lord, His power changes our lives. I can’t remember who said it but someone made the comment that when we pray to God we don’t pull Him to us to do our bidding but He bends our will to His. This is similar to anchoring a ship to the land. You don’t pull the land to the ship. Instead, the land holds the anchor and the ship is then pulled to the land. I like this analogy as it reminds me that prayer is one of God’s means of changing me to become like Christ not changing Christ to do what I want. As we pray, the Lord changes us and gives us a view of Him that we wouldn’t otherwise see.

In this body of sin, it’s so easy to forget Who is in control of all circumstances and think we have to be the ones controlling the situations to force everyone to do what we think is right. It’s like the little girl, who is a master controller and manipulator, going into the kitchen and telling her mom, “I’m making up the food today and you will sit down.” That, instead of asking her mom if it would be alright for her to make the food and would Mama like to sit down and rest awhile? That is fine between adults but a little child has no business demanding that her parents obey her anymore than we have the right to order God around, even if we think it’s for a good cause.

godswill

We should be so contented with the Lord’s dispersion that our hearts go out to Him in worship and praise through each situation. Of course, we cannot simply sit there and say, “Que sera sera!” We are commanded to pray and do it fervently. James 5:16-17. We are commanded to be kind to our enemies and pray for them who despitefully use us. Matthew 5:44. We are to do many more things because we love to obey the Lord’s commands but our contentment should be found in Him and not in ourselves or this world.

May our hearts be so overwhelmed with the Lord that we can say with the Psalmist, “Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever!!” Psalm 73:25-26.

Growing Old With Grace

When I was young, old age never bothered me. In fact, I would be hard pressed to even remember a time when I wondered for a fleeting moment what it would be like to grow old. It was other people that grew old – like grandparents. However, it is amazing what almost five decades will do to one’s perspective.

Yesterday, I was reminded again of the passing of years as someone I really did not know passed away and went to be with the Lord they loved. This individual was quite elderly and known to others I love. This brother in Christ had spent years sharing and teaching the Word of God. Despite being racked at times with pain, the main diseases that was eating him away was not what ultimately took him from this life of toil and pain. He closed his eyes in sleep as his heart gave out and woke up in a place where he would never sleep or be in pain again.

When I heard the news, I was reminded again that time is creeping up on us and flies back so quickly. James put it so succinctly when he said in James 4:14, “Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”

vapor

As I write this, it is a special day for another reason. Forty-four years ago today, in the cold, wind-swept, bone-chilling landscape of the country of Iceland, a healthy young boy was born. Almost from the first day my brother was brought home from the hospital, he was happy. He was the life of the party and often the clown. Yes, we had our ups and downs, but John David made the most of whatever oppositions got in his way.

In late 1995, John had just left the USAF with an honorable discharge and was making a home for himself in North Carolina. He had found a body of believers that he dearly loved and he had spent time with the men on a retreat where his heart was stirred to be more like the Lord Jesus Christ.

However, all of that changed when he went to work one cold November morning. I received a call that I should meet at the hospital. Arriving, I found out that my brother, who was less than 5 years younger than me had passed away at the young age of 22. He had acquired an infection in his heart and when his heart exploded, he was gone before he hit the floor.

That was 21 years ago. There are still times the pain and loneliness of not hearing his voice or the endless jokes is emotionally difficult. Even back then, we spoke of him lovingly at the funeral and afterwards, but old age was still a long ways off. I didn’t really dwell on the reality that it was still going to come for all who are left to face the world.

Far from this maddening world, my brother no longer has to walk the dark paths of these Shadowlands, as C.S. Lewis called them. John’s path led him to a promotion that is far better than anything he could have experienced in this life. In fact, the moment he crossed from death into life, the joys he would have known would have been crowned by meeting the Lord Jesus Christ face to face. That is not something that any true believer would want to take away from another believer. Yes, we miss those who have gone before us, and we can hope that others will miss us when it comes time for us to depart this life.

However, until it is time for us to close our eyes to sin, death, and the grave, we must focus on living our lives in such a way that we will hear, “Well done, you are a good and faithful servant! Enter into the joy of the Lord!” We have no reason to fear the door of death. For the believer, the door is only the opening to the wonders of what eternity holds and the half can never be told this side of heaven.

To me, this world is not really my home. I grow tired of the pain and the struggles that assail the flesh and the heart. If I should be left another 10, 20, or 30 years, I struggle to accept that more illnesses and heartache may well be my lot in life as it has been for much of my life.

inheaven

Each year that passes, I strangely find that growing old is something that did not really sneak up on me. Each year was filled with memories that resonate in my mind and heart. Each memory, whether good or bad or indifferent or sad or happy, was created as I lived the path that God had ordained for me to walk. One day, those memories may be forgotten as I get even older, but it will not diminish what I have been allowed to do by a gracious God who has been more merciful and gracious to me than I have or will ever deserve.

We live from minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day, month to month, and year to year. The time is precious and should be spent without regrets before the Lord. I do not fear the age I have become, but I welcome it because it puts me closer to the day when I will see the saints who have gone before me. I will see my grandparents, my brother, and friends who loved the Lord as well.

Growing older does have both advantages and disadvantages, but knowing what comes next makes the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. As believers, we are called to endure this race. Whether we are called to go at a young age or at an elderly age, our race is being encouraged on the sidelines of heaven by the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us. Therefore, it behooves us to run the race while looking to Jesus Christ alone!

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1, 2

Power Of Prayer

Having looked at contentment in general and thankfulness, I think we have to be careful that we don’t forget about prayer. This is a fantastic way of coming to know the Sovereign of heaven. We really cannot be content or thankful without the Lord giving us that ability. As it says in Acts 17:28, “For in Him we live and move and have our being.”

Prayer is the power of the true believer but not in the way people think. We don’t pray to God and expect answers as if He were our genie…you know, rub the magic lamp and He will grant all your wishes. It is beyond that! Think of it like this: when I have a relationship with someone I don’t just give them my wish list and say, “This is what I want. Give it to me.” On the other hand, I don’t hide away from them and pretend I don’t know them. if I truly want a relationship with someone I will go out of my way to work on that relationship.

As we pray to the Lord, His power changes our lives. We grow in the Lord just as a baby grows. We wouldn’t expect a baby to stay little the rest of his/her life and neither should we stay a babe in Christ. Somewhere in the middle of that growth we stop fretting and our contentment in Him grows. The peace that passes all understanding fills our hearts which allows us to guard our hearts and focus on the Lord instead of things around us.

prayer

Does this mean it will happen overnight and we will never fret or worry again? Of course not! For some it will be a steady growth uphill and a believer who grows strong quickly. For others it might be a slower pace with lots of ups and downs, then for others it could be very slow growth but each true believer will grow. In 2 Peter 3:18, he tells us, “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever. Amen.”

This is just one reason for our thankfulness towards our Heavenly Father, Who loves us so much that He sent His only Son to die on the cross for our sins. What a lovely picture this is and how appropriate that each thing we are commanded to do fits so perfectly together! Let us show Him our love by spending time with Him.

I love Romans 11:33, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” He is beyond our understanding, yet how beautiful He is and our praise towards Him should fill the heavens!