Thursday, October 18, 2018

Vote for Righteousness

Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” Proverbs 14:34

With just a little more than two weeks before the most important Mid-Term election of our lifetimes, I wish we had perfect candidates we could eagerly support. But we don’t. And as Christians responsible to be good citizens we must cast a vote. So, how do we choose between two flawed candidates?

Ultimately, it comes down to a question of which candidate is most closely aligned to the moral values I hold precious? In my opinion, here are the most important moral issues:

Life – Which candidate holds life most precious by opposing abortion and valuing the infirm and elderly?

Character – Which candidate lives a life that most closely represents the spiritual and moral values I hold dear?

Which candidate seems to be the most truthful in what he says and does?

One indicator of a man’s character is to take note of the people who he has chosen to surround himself with.

Marriage and Family – Which candidate can be trusted to defend Biblical marriage and the traditional family?

Trust – Which candidate can be trusted to be a good steward of the massive power of the Presidency?

Philosophy – Which candidate adheres most closely to the conservative philosophy of a smaller, less intrusive government as outlined in the United States Constitution?

Freedom – Which candidate seems to hold the strongest respect toward individual freedoms as outlined in the U. S. Constitution?

Leadership – Which candidate seems to possess the best leadership skills required to execute his Constitutional duties and effectively administer the U. S. Government with all of its offices and agencies? Also, which candidate can best command the confidence of our allies and demand the respect of our enemies on the world stage?

Economy – Which candidate is best able to restore fiscal soundness to the U. S. economy and show the fiscal discipline to bring the debt and deficit under control thereby restoring confidence of investors and entrepreneurs?

Remember, we are not electing a pastor or spiritual leader. We are seeking to choose the better of two flawed men who have been selected by two far from perfect political parties. Since none of us are perfect, we should not expect to be led by a perfect man. However, the one thing that DOES need to be perfect is your judgment!  That will be the result of much prayer and thoughtful consideration of where each candidate stands on issues such as those I have mentioned.

Don't just vote for Republicans or Democrats or Independents. Vote for righteousness.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

October 18, 2018

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am." John 14:1-3

There is something comforting and soothing about the word "home". Home is our favorite place on earth! Rightly so! But, knowing that most of our lives will be lived in eternity it is good to know that he will have an eternal home!

Jesus promised that He would prepare a home for us - a home near His so we can be with Him in His forever place! This week we are going to take a close up look at that marvelous place called "HEAVEN"!

Henry C. Morrison was a great missionary who served the Lord in Africa for over 40 years. On the way back to United States, he began to wonder “will anyone remember us? Will anyone recall who we are? Will anyone meet us at the boat?”

Well, unknown to Henry Morrison and his wife, Teddy Roosevelt, President of U.S., was also on board that ship. He had gone to Africa for a hunting trip. When ship pulled into New York harbor he looked to see if anyone had come to welcome them back home. Thousands of people were there cheering. Bands were playing. There were signs, banners, and billboards everywhere saying, “Welcome Home”. Henry and his wife were so excited about the crowds of people that were there to welcome them home and they went down to get their luggage, came back to the deck of the ship to get off and they realized that the parade of people were already gone. They had come to welcome Teddy Roosevelt.

Henry Morrison went to his hotel room with a heavy heart. As he sat there on the bed, he asked his wife, “Honey, I just don’t get it…for 40 years we poured our lives into ministry and service. And yet we come back to America and not a single soul comes to welcome us home!”

His wife came and sat down next to her husband, she put her hand on his shoulder, and comforted him with words that he would never forget, “Henry, you have forgotten something, you’re not home yet!”And may that be of comfort to you. It does not matter what takes place in this life, your reward is in heaven. Always remember, “You’re not home yet.”

Heaven will be the ultimate eternal place that believers can call home! That place is being prepared for you right now! One day you will receive a royal, "Welcome home!"

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Walking By Faith Means...

"We walk by faith, not by sight" II Corinthians 5:7

This is a very simple sentence and it sounds relatively easy doesn’t it?

Walking by faith implies trust on something known but unseen.

It brings to mind a time Barbara and I were driving the Blue Ridge Parkway in the late afternoon just before dusk. As the sun dropped lower and the air cooled, fog began developing. We were near Boone, NC and were trying to get to US 421 and get down the mountain before the fog became too thick. It was a nice plan but it didn’t happen. So heavy was the fog that I could not see more than ten feet ahead on the roadway. I didn’t know it I had room to pull off to the right side. Sometimes there is room on the shoulder and sometimes there is a several hundred-foot drop off so I did not want to risk that. All I was able to make out the center line so I slowed down and focused on hugging the center line. Literally, I was driving by faith in the center line rather than by sight. To this day I do not know how far we drove before we got out of the fog but it seemed like one hundred miles. Pavement never looked so good!

What does it mean to “walk by faith and not by sight”?

Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

Walking by faith means pleasing God!

God is pleased by our obedience and He is pleased by our dependence upon His Word. When you live to please yourself or you choose to do what you want rather than do what pleases God you are not walking in faith.

Walking by faith means proving God!

God is pleased when we believe what the Word says about Him and live for Him. He wants to be known and He delights in us actively seeking to know Him. Pursuing Him is evidence that we believe He exists. Three ways to believe He exists are: 1) His Creation, 2) His Christ and 3) Changed lives! Allowing Him to change our life is the greatest proof!

Walking by faith means pursuing God!

Like the line on the Parkway in the fog, faith fixes a focus on God and follows Him. Faith earnestly seeks God to know Him, to be known by Him and to make Him known. Faith keeps pursuing God even when life is hard to figure and God is hard to find.

Are you walking by faith?

Are you living to please God?

Are you living proof of God’s existence?

Are you pursuing God passionately?

October 16, 2018

..........and to godliness, mutual affection......" II Peter 1:7

"Mutual affection" or "brotherly love" is the soil in which seeds of fellowship and discipleship sprout and grow. It should not be a surprise that this great virtue should be included in this description of spiritual maturity.

This love is a frequent theme of the New Testament writers in their admonitions for spiritual maturity. I have listed several of them in this post.

"A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." John 13:34-35

Not only is loving one another a command. Not only is it a sign that we are a Christian. It is also a sign that we are saved.

"We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." I John 3:14-16

The love Jesus is talking about here is an act of the will. It represents not so much an involuntary response to conditions, as it does a deliberate choice, a calculated set of the mind. Love is not an emotion. It’s a policy.

Aristotle said, "a man cannot expect to be loved unless he is deserving of love." But the kind of love that Jesus teaches us to have says: "I love you -- with no strings attached." It is a love that is the result of being devoted to one another.

"Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves." Rom 12:10  (NIV)

This kind of love should be nurtured so that it will grow.

"May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you." 1Thes 3:12  (NIV)

Paul’s admonition to the church is that brotherly love is a given. It is a part of Christian living.  It is a lesson that God himself teaches us.

"But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another." 1 Thes. 4:9

Paul’s description of love in I Corinthians is not just for marriages. It is the Bible description for real love.
When we truly love others, No laws will need to govern our behavior or conduct, for love goes above and beyond any law.

"The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. Gal 5:14-15 (NIV)"

 "Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:" 1 Pet 1:22

"This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you." John 15:12-14

"These things I command you, that ye love one another." John 15:17

"In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous." I Jn 3:10-12
You've got to love it!

Monday, October 15, 2018

October 15, 2018

"His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge;  and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection....." I Peter 1:5-6

I believe that healthy local churches are the hope for our world. No other organization has more potential to positively transform people who can then be used by God to change marriages and families that God can then use to change schools and neighborhoods and businesses.

The example of this would be the Church in the Book of Acts. First, they "turned Jerusalem upside down" and then they changed the world despite the fierce opposition of the  powerful Roman Empire.

If we ever needed healthy local churches it is now!

What do I mean by a healthy church? In short, I mean a church that is guided by "mutual affection". There is nothing more powerful than a community of Christ-followers who commit to each other, "I'm going to love you to life!"

Love you to life? 

What does that mean?

What it means to me is I care as much about your spiritual welfare and growth as I do my own. Not only will I - "make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love" - but I will make every effort to encourage that growth in you!

Wouldn't a place that loved like that be powerful?

Wouldn't you love to belong to a place that loves like that?

Would you begin to love like that?

Will you love someone to life?

October 14, 2018

"and to godliness, mutual affection........" II Peter 1:7

Peter has effectively and meticulously laid out the process of spiritual growth - "His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature,having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, MUTUAL AFFECTION;"

Each of us must take responsibility for our own spiritual growth. After all, God has given us everything we need to live godly lives. He has given us great and precious promises. He has given us the Word and He has sent His Spirit. Everything He can do He has done!

It is up to us to "make every effort to add". Literally that means to give our full effort and attention to supporting the work God wants to do in us.

God has given us one other thing to help us - each other!

That is the essence of this virtue of "mutual affection". We each care for the other enough to give encouragement, accountability, and prayer support to nurture spiritual growth for the other. In the process of doing that, affection grows and faith grows and fellowship strengthens!

One of the reasons I harbor such a passion for local churches is because it is within the unity and fellowship of a local church we can literally love one another to life! It is within the safety of a grace-giving community we can call out the best in each other patiently, yet persistently. We can challenge each other when necessary but at the same time we cheer one another.

I have been blessed to devote my life to the church because the church has blessed my life beyond measure! I can't imagine where I would be or who I would be without all the mutual affection I have received from pastors, Sunday School teachers, youth pastors, college professors, and brothers and sisters in Christ! I love because of the love I have received. I offer the fruits of that love to help others add to their faith as I have been helped.

That is how God designed it! It is how God desires it!

Do you have a fellowship where you can find mutual love? Do you have a group of believers who are as committed to your spiritual maturity as they are their own?

That is mutual affection!

October 13, 2018

I get daily email articles from Outreach and they are always good. This one is especially good and timely for us. Thom Rainer is a former pastor who now does surveys and research to help strengthen local churches. I pray you will find it a bit challenging but mostly encouraging! You will notice I added several comments in the margins.

What Non-Christians Really Think about Christians

These surprising insights about what non-Christians think of Christians can profoundly impact your outreach.

One of my greatest joys in research is talking to and listening to those who clearly identify themselves as non-Christians. Don’t get me wrong—I’m not celebrating their absence of faith in Christ. My joy comes from listening to those who don’t believe as I do, so I might be better equipped to witness to them.

Over the past several years, my research teams and I have interviewed thousands of unchurched non-Christians. Among the more interesting insights I gleaned were those where the interviewees shared with me their perspectives of Christians.

In this article, I group the seven most common types of comments in order of frequency. I then follow that representative statement with a direct quote from a non-Christian.

Read these comments and see if you learn some of the lessons I learned.

1. Christians are against more things than         they are for.

“It just seems to me Christians are mad at the world and mad at each other. They are so negative, they seem unhappy. I have no desire to be like them and stay upset all the time.”   (OUCH!)

2. I would like to develop a friendship with a   Christian.

“I’m really interested in what they believe and how they carry out their beliefs. I wish I could find a Christian who would be willing to spend some time with me.”  (OUCH AGAIN!)

3. I would like to learn about the Bible from a   Christian.

“The Bible really fascinates me, but I don’t want to go to a stuffy and legalistic church to learn about it. I would be nice if a Christian invited me to study the Bible in his home or at a place like Starbucks.”

4. I don’t see much difference in the way       Christians live compared to others.

“I really can’t tell what a Christian believes because he doesn’t seem much different than other people I know. The only exception would be Mormons. They really seem to take their beliefs seriously.”  (GOD HELP US!)

5. I wish I could learn to be a better   husband/wife/dad/mom, etc., from a         Christian.

“My wife is threatening to divorce me, and I think she means it this time. My neighbor is a Christian, and he seems to have it together. I am swallowing my pride and asking him to help me.”  (SEE THE POWER OF GETTING IT RIGHT?)

6. Some Christians try to act like they have       no problems.

“Harriett works in my department. She is one of those Christians who seems to have a mask on. I would respect her more if she didn’t put on such an act. I know better.

7. I wish a Christian would take me to his or   her church.

“I really would like to visit a church, but I’m not particularly comfortable going by myself. What is weird is that I am 32 years old, and I’ve never had a Christian invite me to church in my entire life.”

Do you see the pattern? Non-Christians want to interact with Christians. They want to see Christians’ actions match their beliefs. They want Christians to be real.

In one study we conducted, we found only 5 percent of non-Christians are antagonistic toward Christians. It’s time to stop believing the lies we have been told. Jesus said it clearly: “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest” (Luke10:2, HCSB).

Thursday, October 11, 2018

If We Lose Our Focus...

"For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness;" II Peter 1:5-6

A mother came to visit her son at college in the first semester of his Freshman year. She was very excited to see him but her excitement turned to disappointment when she visited his dorm room and noticed their was a dozen or so posters of scantily clad young ladies posing in provocative positions.

Though greatly troubled by what she saw the mother bit her tongue holding her opinions to herself. On her way back home she prayed for her son and asked God for wisdom on how to address this concern.

About a week later her son received a package in the mail. When he opened it he found a beautifully matted and framed picture of Jesus. He took the picture and proudly hung it above his desk.

As he backed away to view the newly mounted picture he decided to take down the poster nearest the picture of Jesus. And over time, as he continued to gaze on the picture of the Savior, the posters continued to come down until the last one was thrown away and Jesus alone was displayed on his wall.

The mother knew she had put the right kind of stuff in her son as she raised him. She realized he had lost his focus on Jesus and believed that once he regained that focus he would begin to act more godly. She was right.

Peter reminds us that God put good stuff in the hearts of those who trust Him for salvation. But if we lose our focus on Jesus we can clutter our lives with sinful things that hinder the working out of what He put in. There are times that we have to take those things down out of our lives to let godliness be revealed through our attitudes and actions.

Is your focus fixed on Jesus or are you staring at things you shouldn't? Are there some things you need to take down off the walls of your life in order to allow to become more godly?

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

October 11. 2018

"Add to your faith.........godliness......" II Peter 1:6

Jesus is the reason we know what godliness looks like. He came to live out God's love and power in a fallen world.

Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all ; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” John 10:25-30

"Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves." John 14:8-11

In His first public teaching, Jesus described what godliness looks like, how it acts and how it thinks. We know this teaching as The Sermon on the Mount.

Godliness is where eternity intersects with time.

Godliness is where God's holiness condemns mankind's sinfulness.

Godliness is where the God's power connects with man's weakness.

Godliness brings Heavenly truths to bear against earthly troubles.

Godliness allows God's healing to touch hurting hearts.

In short, godliness brings God's Kingdom to earth so His will can be done!

Godliness came through Jesus.

Jesus wants godliness to come through you!

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Are You Godly?

"For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness" II Peter 1:5-6

I want to be godly!

You want to be godly!

Peter says that God has given us everything we need to live godly lives.

So, how do I know if I am godly?

I know I am godly if I enjoy His presence.

When there is ungodliness within me I feel very uncomfortable in His presence. I can't read His Word because it will make me feel condemned and guilty.

I know I am godly if I people are drawn to God through me.

Here's a fact, my life will either draw people closer to God or drive them further from Him. No one is neutral in their influence. You're not. I'm not. When someone interacts with me that person either walks away feeling more positive about God or less interested in Him. Which is true of my life? Which is true of yours?

I know I am godly if I find it easy to hear his voice.

In John 10, Jesus identifies Himself as "the Good Shepherd" and He said, "My sheep know My voice".

You can quickly recognize the voices of those you love. Do you recognize His voice?

I know I am godly when I have less fear and more fruit in my life.

One of the most frequently used phrases by Jesus was, "Fear not!"

John wrote, "There is no fear in love because perfect love casts out fear."

Godliness is possible!

Are you godly?

"His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of  him who called us by his own glory and goodness."

Monday, October 8, 2018

October 9, 2018

"For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; add to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness"  II Peter 1:5-6

Our guest missionary recently shared some amazing testimonies from his work in the Far East. In an area that is largely secular and atheistic sharing the Gospel ranges from difficult to dangerous. What religious practices that do exist in these places largely consist of ancestor worship.

As our guest reminded us, the demonstration of godliness in that dark area is usually evidenced in supernatural manifestations of God's power such as healings and deliverance from demons.

One of the people who sat in that service hearing about the miraculous healings done through the missionaries called me today and was having trouble processing all that he heard. He is a person I would consider to be a godly man but he was feeling a bit inadequate listening to how God used the missionaries to heal and deliver people from demons. He believed in miracles but wasn't convinced he had what it took to see them happen for him.

I put it in perspective for him like this - maybe it will help you, too!

First, as a believer he DOES have what it takes. Peter, in the beginning verses of this Chapter said this, "His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness."

What part of EVERYTHING do you not understand?

Everything means spiritual power and authority over evil in all of its forms.

Second, what our missionary actually was encouraging is four-fold:

1) Have a desire to reach lost people whatever it takes!

2) Expect God to speak to you!

3) Learn how to hear Him and recognize His voice.

4) Do whatever He tells you to do!

Signs and wonders and miracles happens like everything else in the walk of faith - one obedience at a time!

October 8, 2018

"For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness" II Peter 1:5-6

Recently I was honored when I read what one of my people had written about me. She referred to me as a "godly man".

That caused me to pause and asked myself, "Am I really a godly man? What does that mean? What does she see in me that brought her to that conclusion?"

Peter may have the answer in II Peter 1:6 - "For this very reason add to your faith.......godliness".

The word used for "godliness" conveys the idea of devoted worship of God. A godly person worships well.

But, it is more than that. As important as it is to worship well there is more to godliness. Godliness involves a disciplined witness or worshiping God so well that others notice.

Worship has a vertical relationship to it - from man to God. But it also has a horizontal relationship - from man to man. If you do not worship God well it will have a negative effect on how you relate to others. When your vertical relationship is strong it improves how you care about others. Likewise, if you are not treating other people well it will hinder your devotion to God.

Godliness then, is being devoted in both directions - upward toward God and outward toward others. If that is what she meant by  being godly, then I am deeply humbled and greatly encouraged.

I want to worship God well and I want to be a good witness for Him. That is the godliness I seek.

"Add to your faith........GODLINESS"!