Tuesday, 1/8/19 – Pressing on…

Yesterday we looked at James 4:7 “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from youSubmit, and Resist: two things we are told to do. But the passage continues…

woman standing in front of mirror
Min An, Pexels.com

Come near to God and he will come near to you.” Like the image in a mirror, as we take a step closer, the image moves in too. James spoke of a mirror earlier in chapter one of his epistle:

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. (James 1:22-25).

We need to gaze continually at Christ, coming near to Him in worship, prayers, obedience and study.

person wash hands
rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Wash your hands, you sinners…” Isaiah prophesied something similar: “Your hands are full of blood; wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil.” (Isa. 1:15,16) We cannot just come for forgiveness; we must where possible make amends, change our course, sin no more. As James earlier demanded, “…get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” (James 1:21).

design ground heart love
Pixabay on Pexels.com

Purify your hearts, you double-minded.” Here too James has previously spoken, “…you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.” (James 1:6-8)

rear view of a boy sitting on grassland
Pixabay on Pexels.com

Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.” There comes a time when silliness just simply must end. Serious business must be done in this life. It is the one brief moment which determines our eternity.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (James 4:8-10). We can have no other logical stance as we come before our Maker. He owes us nothing. We owe him everything, but have nothing. It is only by His grace He may give us salvation.

More tomorrow…

Monday, 1/7/19 – Pressing on…

A missionary once summarized, “Home missions are good, foreign missions are better, but submissions are the best!” “Submit yourselves, then, to God.” writes James, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

20190106_162532We don’t generally like the idea of submission though, do we? Merriam-Webster defines submission as “to yield oneself to the authority or will of another.” Cambridge defines it as “to allow another person or group to have power or authority over you, or to accept something unwillingly” To our ears submission smacks of being dominated, perhaps even controlled, by some other power or entity. Huxley’s Brave New World or Orwell’s 1984 come readily to mind and we rebel.

What we don’t as readily recognize is that we are already in submission to three very cruel taskmasters indeed: the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matt. 6:24). “Friendship with the world means enmity against God,“ states James (4:4).

Paul adds,

Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. (Rom. 6:16-18)

So, if we are going to submit to something, then we had better choose well the master we wish to serve.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Note this well: You can’t accomplish the resisting until you first establish the submitting.

When we submit to God we do not find Him a cruel taskmaster, but a Loving, all-powerful Father, before Whom the devil must flee.

Submissions of this sort are the best submissions of all!

More tomorrow…

Friday, 1/4/19 – Tough Question

“How can I grow spiritually in 2019? — A shocking wake-up call for procrastinators!”

black calendar close up composition
Empty boxes

Perhaps entering this wide-open, full of days New Year you might think ‘This year I am going to devote more time to the Lord! I will read my Bible, pray, witness, memorize, meditate!’

Great goals! Nothing wrong with the goals. But don’t let all those empty square boxes on your calendar dupe you into thinking you have plenty of time. In fact, for most, even a 70 year lifespan yields far less fruitful hours for spiritual discipline than most imagine.

Someone once figured it out like this…

20181231_171903Taking that 70 year lifespan as a base, and 365 days in a year for ease of calculation (I’ll leave you to factor in the leap years!), this amounts to a 25,550 day lifespan. The average individual gets about 7.9 hours of sleep nightly… across these 25,500 ‘sleeps’ this amounts to 8,395 24-hour days spent asleep, reducing our waking count to 17,105 24-hour days.

Of course each of these ‘sleeps’ requires a certain amount of ‘getting-ready-for-bed’ and ‘waking-up-for-the-day’ time. Tasks such as bathing, dressing, brushing, and whatever all that stuff is that ladies in particular do! Essential time for her, down time for him as he taps his foot in the hall. Then there’s the dressing up or down through the day for a gala event, or the yard work. Altogether over the 70 year lifespan this eats up another 730 24-hour days! Eating, over the sink, at home (including cooking and wash-up), cued in a drive-thru, or at the Olive Garden, accounts for a further 2,190 24-hour days!

To pay for all this you must have a job, perhaps not every day but most likely for five days of every seven. Over your career work time uses up another 5,840 24-hour days. On average we spend about the same amount of time commuting to work, doing errands, and other travel as we do eating, 2,190 24-hour days. Unless you’re sick: 1,460 24-hour days!

All of this we find exhausting and by day’s end we may opt to crash by the TV or internet, or take a Saturday to “go fishin’” – the average for these comes to 2,920 and 1,643 24-hour days respectively.

What are we left with for spiritual pursuits over the course of our allotted ‘threescore and ten’ (Psalm 90:10): 183 24-hour days in a lifetime, or just 2.6 days in any given year — that’s just a tad over 62 hours!

Oh yeah, and then there’s the years you’ve already lived!

“Teach us to number our days,” wrote David, “that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 9:12)

“…be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” (Matt. 10:16) cautioned Jesus.

“Be very careful, then, how you live,” Paul urged, “—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” (Eph. 5:15-16).

“Be alert and of sober mind.” Peter demanded, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Pet. 58).

Set your good goals, but get on them right away — today!

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Thursday, 1/3/19 – Discipleship: Evangelism

activity adult barbecue bbqMany Christians of all ages and stages of their growth in Christ feel they have no ‘testimony’ to share about their journey to faith in Christ. “No one wants to hear my story,” they say, “I was no murderer or drug addict. Alcohol did jot have its destructive tentacles around me. I did not come from a broken home, or endure some great trauma or trial. I do not have some great physical handicap or emotional condition which Christ has enabled me to overcome.”

“I was raised by good, godly parents, went to Sunday School and church every week, said my prayers every night and grew to love God more and more. Eventually I came to a point of personal repentance, commitment and public profession of a faith now my own.”

“Who would want to hear a story like that?”

photo of men having conversation

Well let me tell you who would want to hear it: a believer who does have a more dramatic salvation experience but  needs to know that even good people need Jesus!… a believer with a similar background to yours and who may be beginning to have doubts that they are even saved because they did not have a dramatic experience!… other ‘good’ people who think their goodness is enough!… Christ Himself! For He has said “If I am lifted up I will draw all men to myself” (John 12:32)* and your testimony, like anyone else’s, lifts up and exalts the Name of Jesus Christ!… you yourself for as you will find, any time you proclaim your own testimony you strengthen your own faith, you stand on the truth and promises of God, and you are strengthened in your own spirit!

Peter tells us, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Pet. 3:15). If God sends someone your way and opens the door of opportunity for you to share your testimony you should most certainly step through it and tell the story that is yours. I believe these moments are God-ordained moments. God brings into your path just that sort of person who needs to hear just that sort of story that is your testimony.

Be confident. Do not be ‘ashamed’ of your testimony because it is not dramatic! Make these words of Paul your own: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Rom.1:16).

Press on…

* Though Jesus is speaking here primarily about his crucifixion it is equally true that when we exalt His Name He draws people to Himself.

Are you interested in being discipled one-on-one in the fundamentals of new life in Christ?
Or, perhaps you would you like to know how to begin this journey and take the very first of the First Steps by turning from your current path and committing your path to Christ? — Use the Contact page and we’ll get you started.

Wednesday, 1/2/19 – Pressing on…

Monday we pondered our own ‘stained hands,’ the jellied hands of Charlie Brown, the weaknesses of the esteemed of this century and those of the 1st century A.D. Yesterday we looked at the importance of pondering the wondrous grace of God in the gift of Christ. His holy hands became stained also, but not with jelly, not with guilt of any shortcoming, but with the blood of His human body.

person in yellow and black backpack walking on green grass field under cloudy blue sky during daytime
Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Pexels.com

As Pastor Steve rightly commented on Sunday, our journeys haven’t ended. We’re are still journeying to Jesus, but no longer as a babe in manger, rather, as a blinding King in Eternity! This is our goal! This is why I often urge “Press on…”

Let’s remember this in our resolution making. In light of the Kingdom awaiting us and the transformations to happen to us, setting a resolution in this world to accomplish something temporal seems such an insignificance.

Peter writes of this. Let his words inspire you to set resolutions of eternal worth and to press on with eternal focus in 2019…

… the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.

Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him…  grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. (2 Pet. 3:10-14, 18)

Press on…

Tuesday, 1/1/19 – Pressing on…

ancient architecture arizona canyon
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

“And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:18,19)

Wondering and Pondering

Wondering is a feeling or an emotion caused by experiencing something very surprising, beautiful, or awesome — and awesome, in case you’ve forgotten, means mouth-dropping, awe-inspiring, not the cheapened version in wide use today. (Tickets to the Monaco Grand Prix are not in themselves awesome; appreciating the vastness of Arizona’s Grand Canyon may well be!)

Pondering is a revisiting of a thought or a wonder so to understand it more deeply, consider its implications personally and internalize its truth.

Wondering can strike immediately; pondering takes time.

Jesus birth was indeed wondrous! We even sing it “How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given…”* Why is it so wondrous? Because of the gift certainly, but also because of the ones to whom it is given – to us, the people of the stained hands!**

cars car porsche close up view

Why, this is like giving a Porsche to a flea! It is like bequeathing an estate to an idiot! It is like sacrificing your child to a cannibal! In fact, it is very much like that! “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son….” (John 3:16) We took Him, and slew Him, slowly, painfully, so painfully we coined a word by it: excruciating. From the cross He prayed “Father, forgive them… they don’t know what they’re doing.” (Luke 23:34)

Yes, this is cause for wonder; this gives occasion to ponder…

Today a new year has begun. As John Lennon and Yoko Ono sing “So this is Christmas and what have you done, Another year over, a new one just begun.” What have you done with this Jesus? What will you do with Him this year?

It’s something to ponder, and it’s something you must do..

Do you want to take this wondrous gift, understand Christ more deeply, consider His implications personally and receive Him as One True Lord today? Use the Contact page or visit us in person at Lincoln Baptist Church. See our webpage for details.

More tomorrow…

* O Little Town of Bethlehem, 3rd stanza, Phillips Brooks (1835-1893)

** See yesterday’s blog here.

Monday, 12/31/18 – Pressing on…

pexels-photo-1161542.jpeg
Stained hands – Pexels.com

Charlie Brown holds up his hands before his friend Lucy and says, ‘These are hands which may some day accomplish great things. These are hands which may some day do marvelous works! They may build mighty bridges, or heal the sick, or hit home runs, or write soul-searching novels! These are hands which may someday change the course of destiny!’

Lucy, who always sees things as they are, replies, ‘They’ve got jelly on them.’ *

Anticipation… dreams…. Hopes for the future… “some day…”

We all know what it is to dream, to hope of something better – especially on the dawn of a new year. Perhaps this year is the year of “some day…”

But we don’t need a Lucy to tell us these hands have jelly on them. Alas! There is a flaw! That very real reality hurts. It shatters dreams. We stand frozen, staring at our jellied limbs. Why try? Let me tell you why — Everyone’s hands have jelly on them!

Thomas Edison had difficulty with speech and words and a mind that wandered. Bruce Willis had trouble with stuttering. Richard Branson dealt with dyslexia. Far from just having jelly on his hands Nick Vujicic was born with no limbs at all!

The apostle Peter was rash and impulsive, always running headlong into trouble. St. Paul had a reputation as “a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man” (1 Tim. 1:13). In fact apart from Christ each of us is “without hope and without God in the world.” (Eph. 2:12). Damaged goods!

But the exciting news is this: it is the broken people who have the greatest hope!

Look at Christ’s sermon on the mount (Matt. 5:3-12), to whom is it addressed: the poor in spirit… those who mourn… the meek… those who long for righteousness… the persecuted and the slandered. See what things God has chosen: the foolish things… the weak things… the lowly things… the despised things, the “nothing” things (1 Cor. 1 :27-28). These are the ones through whom God best displays His miracles! Why? “so that no one may boast before him.” (v.29).

THANK Him for this privilege. Move into 2019 with a true hope, a solid faith, be it with a stammer on your lips like Moses, a trembling heart like Gideon, a limp like Jacob, or with jelly on your hands like Charlie Brown. It does not matter. In Him we are “more than conquerors!” (Rom. 8:37).

Ponder and Wonder “O how Great is our God!”

More tomorrow…

* John C. Maxwell, Developing the Leader Within You, Thomas Nelson Pub., Nashville, 1982, p. 151.