Today’s Blog

Thursday, 4/11/19 – Discipleship: Priorities

Are you beginning to think about spring cleaning?

Soon this annual task will be forefront on everyone’s mind: What to keep? What to toss? And where to put things once we decide?

close up photo of hang clothes in wardrobe

One problem I frequently face when trying to organize is that I would begin with one area and decide okay I have to put this sort of thing over here — in ‘spot one,’ let’s say. But of course because I’m just getting started, ‘spot one’ already has stuff in it. So then I think, okay let’s look at this other pile over here, and then I’ll put these sorts of things in ‘spot two’ over there. But, wouldn’t you know it, ‘spot two’ is also currently occupied. Frustrated, I decide to postpone the challenge to another day. But of course by then the task has only grown more difficult!

This problem must be common to many who find themselves disillusioned and disorganized — as the popularity of books advocating a more simplified and organized way of living appear to testify (e.g The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up, The Joy of Less, etc…).

One such book promotes a process which typically begins by making a huge pile of everything you have in the middle of your living room floor! This sounds radical but the advantage is that now every storage place in the house is empty ! Next, you begin picking through the pile — not taking things to their destinations right off the bat, but by making many separate piles of related items all around the floor. In addition to these ‘category piles’ you will also make a pile for ‘items needing more thought’ (where to assign them). You will also build a pile for ‘items to give away,’ and another for things to trash.

batch books document education

Finally, after many hours work when you have your house full of sorted piles and your storage spaces still empty, you can begin to assign storage locations with capacity appropriate for to the quantities of items you have for each category. The bigger the pile the bigger the storage area necessary for that particular group of related items. (This is why you make the piles first rather than take items directly to a particular storage area. Only when you are done sorting into piles will you know how large a storage area will be needed for each pile.)

Well our lives can get all a-clutter too! They can lose their focus and start going in many directions at once. It becomes time for a personal inventory and resorting.

bible book close up eyeglasses

One definition for “organization” is “a group that is ordered around a particular purpose.” As a new or seasoned follower of Christ you have a new “particular purpose.” Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” (Matt. 6:33). This is the central pile from which to sort out all the other components of your life. Some parts will need to be trashed, some may be gifted to others. But the stuff you hold on to will have renewed focus and purpose.

It’s a big task, but you are not alone in working at it. You have Christ Himself, His indwelling Holy Spirit, and the Word of God to help you. You have the wisdom and fellowship of other believers to guide and encourage you, and you have the hope of eternity to inspire you.

“…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” (Phil. 2:12, 13).

Press on…

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, 4/10/19 – Pressing on…

adult dark depressed face

Today I am still feeling utterly miserable! My busted ribs still hurt, the nausea persists and I’m getting “couch sores” that I just can’t seem to squirm away from without the ribs stabbing back at me. I grumble a lot, and I don’t like being with myself, and I’m certainly not being very fruitful! I hate being such a burden to my caring wife — and she’s not feeling all that hot either!

But this is the real stuff of life. You know it. And if faith in Christ is of any worth at all then it must be of worth on days like these also.

I want to write more about staying connected to Christ, the Vine, and producing spiritual fruit (Pastor Steve’s Sunday message). It’s not coming. Frustrated, I pick up today’s reading in Bonhoeffer instead.

man s hand in shallow focus and grayscale photography

He reminds me of Paul’s words to the Galatians, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal. 6:2), and, “…as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (v.10).

I’m am doing neither of these things this day. Instead, others are doing these things for me! Bonhoeffer’s ‘Journal Reflections’ tightens my thumbscrew more and asks, “Think of the people in your life. To whom are you a burden? How does it feel? In what ways do the people in your life help bear your burdens?”

Hey!–How’d he know I felt myself a burden to others? But he was right. While I much prefer to “Cast my burdens on the Lord” (Ps. 55:22), it seems in many instances the Lord prefers to support me by passing them on to His Body, the Church—you and I. Regardless of what I may prefer, this time I am the recipient, not the benefactor, of this ministry.

artistic blossom bright clouds

How do they help bear my burdens? Well they have done so by God’s love… His life flowing through them. They have shown this in their goodness and kindness, words of encouragement and prayers. They have demonstrated patient endurance, gentleness and joy. They have ministered to me with the fruits of the Spirit! Aha! How sly of the Lord! The very thing I was supposed to write about this day, yet which seemed so far from me, He has brought round to me through the back door… right into the living room of my small miseries.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Gal. 5:22, 23)

Stay connected to Christ, this Vine. Not only for your own virtue, but for all of those who will from time to time need spirit-borne fruit to sustain them. And when it’s your turn to be nourished through others, be thankful. It is all from our loving Lord.

“You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.” (Ps. 145:15,16)

Press on…

Follow Pastor Steve’s new message series on the Gifts of the Spirit online: look under ‘Media’ at the Lincoln Baptist Church website.

Tuesday, 4/9/19 – Pressing on…

I’ve been reading a devotional book by Dietrich Bonhoeffer throughout this Lenten season. In a recent entry Bonhoeffer asks the question, “Is it easier to complain about what God does not give us, or to be thankful for what God does give us?” Initially I misread the second question. I thought it had asked, “…or to be thankful for what God does not give us.”

20190406_155659In a way I think my misread makes an even more interesting question. The first question about complaining suggests a presumed right which none of us fallen mortals should dare think is ours. God owes us nothing. The very fact that we can approach Him at all and ask for anything… why… its absurd! Its as though a gnat were to have audience with a king and request a lifetime supply of…. well, rotting fruit (Gnats like that, I understand)!

art carving close up crown

OK, OK, I know gnats only live 7 to 10 days and that a single bad apple would certainly be enough to amply fill the bill, but you catch my meaning. We have no right to complain for we have no right to request anything in the first place. We who have done nothing but buzz annoyingly about the face of the Almighty deserve rather the swat of His Hand or a hearty blast of bug killer.

Yet, if this king were to grant this gnat its request–and even more–most surely this insect should be thankful. It was received into the throne room, its petition had been heard, and the royal response had been more than favorable. It had been given what it did not deserve. That is grace.

The gnat must be thankful also that it did not receive what is more fitting for an insect before royalty – a swift dose of poison and it’s final demise. It had not been given what it did deserve. That is mercy.

food healthy dirty leaf

This past Sunday Pastor Steve’s message was “Staying Connected to the Vine.” (see John 15:1-13). This is essential for fruitfulness. We must also remember that it is by grace that we are in connection to that Vine at all! Do you see good fruit in your life? If so, do not become proud… rather give thanks to God.

Paul adds to our understanding…

If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but tremble. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either. (Rom. 11:17-21)

green leaf fruit tree selective focal photo

What Paul really has in mind here the distinction between Jews and Gentiles, but it is equally true that all people have been separated from that Vine by sinfulness. It is a Holy Vine, it must bear Holy branches and Holy fruit.

Yet this is exactly what God, the Good Gardener, intends to make of us! It is exactly how He sees us now, “…a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Pet. 2:9,10)

Praise Him — and be fruitful!

More tomorrow…

Monday, 4/8/19 – Pressing on…

Many readers of this blog will know these past several days I have been nursing a couple of broken ribs. Wanting to give them the best chance possible to heal I asked my family doctor (among other questions) what would be the best way to position myself for sleeping at night. Her reply was concise and professional: “Whatever is comfortable,” she said. (It was a bit of a “Duh!” moment.)

20190407_060209But she can say that and I can accept that because we both know the value and accuracy of these bodies’ pain signals. The body knows exactly when and exactly where a problem exists. It signals the brain in a most un-ignorable and unpleasant fashion both the seriousness and urgency of the trouble.

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Suppose you’ve just brushed past some brambles and gouged your ankle. Immediately the brain commands the whole rest of the body to bring its gifts to bear upon the matter – neck: move head down, eyes: focus upon the right ankle, scan for visible damage, report… hips, thigh, knee: seat the body on the park bench, right thigh, right shin: raise foot to rest on bench, shoulders, arms, hands: pull up pant leg, neck: turn, eyes: assess damage more closely, toes: wiggle… and on it goes.

This is the normal functioning of a body.

We need all its parts working together, using their various gifts. Oh, I suppose I could pull up that pant leg using my left foot, but let’s face it, calling upon the parts best designed to meet the task would prove far more satisfactory! But no parts would be called into service at all without pain’s first alarm.

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We need pain. Without pain we would just go on walking on the foot that has a rusty nail stuck in it. We would just go on feeding jalapeno peppers to that ulcerated stomach… Gruesome stuff.

But look a little deeper — what is true of your body is also true of your soul. Is your soul is in pain now? For many There is an inner angst… a fear of death. We sense inherently that death is wrong. It ought not be there… and we are correct. Do you feel it?

This pain in your soul is telling you that something is wrong… something needs your attention… What are you to do? — You can’t Photoshop real things away!

You need to see the Doctor. This is far more serious than broken ribs! In fact, you need major surgery… you need a new heart. The new heart is ready (given by a living donor, the Surgeon’s Son, at the cost of His life)… the Master Surgeon awaits….

The response is simple: agree with the diagnosis, recognize you cannot fix this yourself, believe the Master Surgeon can, then lay helpless on the table and submit to His touch….

He will do all the rest.

More tomorrow…

Note: Because of my condition I was unable to attend church this past Sunday, but will listen online and comment Tuesday. You can listen too at the Lincoln Baptist Church website, look under ‘Media.’ 

Friday, 4/5/19 – Tough Question

Why do trees bear ‘tasty’ fruit?

woman wearing pink dress holding fruit

Actually, I didn’t receive a “tough question” from anyone this week – so I’m asking my own. Well, no… that’s not quite right either. I don’t really have this as a question. The Bible answers this question right from its first chapter. I guess to be accurate I’m asking this question to the faithless. How does the atheistic evolutionist explain the one simple and delightful fact that good fruit tastes good?

On the third day of creation God said,

“’Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.’ And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.” (Gen. 1:11-13)

food healthy dirty leaf

He goes on to create living creatures of the air, the seas and land. Then on the sixth day He forms His masterpiece — beings like Himself. He creates mankind, male and female. To them He says, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.” (v.29) He provided nourishment for all the other creatures also.

Now God must have designed this “seed bearing plant” economy into the vegetation when He created it earlier. Also at that time He must have made this vegetation tasty to the as yet uncreated human palate. Otherwise why would the humans desire to eat it?

peach apple on green mat

We humans were designed a help to the vegetation also. As the first people walked about and discarded the cores or deposited their waste with seeds still in it, they provided both distribution and fertilizer for the plant species to spread beyond just the area beneath their branches.

Evolutionists will of course discount God and such intelligent design. But how do they think such a system got started? It would seem to me much more efficient for ‘evolution’ to produce trees which bear seeds directly from their roots rather than inside fruit hanging on branches. Why have the tasty fruit packaging? An underground root system producing seeds could initiate new growth far away from the tree. Why should an evolutionary tree look out for humans at all?

close up of fruits hanging on tree

In all creation we see the Nature and Character of God – His Image. Many facts of nature also serve as analogies to life, and I believe that is no accident. For example, the law of sowing and reaping (Gal. 6:9), abiding in Christ and producing spiritual fruit (John 15), and how the words of a man reveal his heart (Luke 6:44-45) – and join us this Sunday as Pastor Steve begins a new series on the ‘fruit’ of the Spirit.

The account of the sixth day ends stating “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” (Gen. 1:31). Well, I think so too, and for my money I’m going with God.

Press on…

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

Thursday, 4/4/19 – Discipleship: Freedom

The original hymn “Amazing Grace” was written in 1772 by the English poet and Anglican clergyman John Newton and published in 1779.

Amazing grace
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found
Was blind, but now I see

20190402_080932Newton was born in 1725, he had a troubled childhood, in his 20s he tried to desert the Royal Navy, was abandoned by his crew in W Africa, became a slave trader’s servant, he was eventually rescued, cried out to God during severe storm at sea, but became a slave ship master for several years. After a violent illness at sea in 1754 he abandoned the slave trade and devoted his life to serving God. Newton was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1764 and wrote some 280 hymns including “Amazing Grace.”

20190403_130339Newton fought alongside William Wilberforce to abolish slavery and lived to see the British passage of the Slave Trade Act before he died in 1807. The hymn was set to its popular tune by William Walker in 1835.

There have been many renditions of this classic over the years. Familiar to many is the contemporary “Amazing Grace (My Chain’s are Gone)” version released in 2006 by Chris Tomlin & Louie Giglio. After its second stanza an added refrain explodes in exuberant praise,

My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace

Link here to a you tube video of the song.

What are these people singing about? Why are they so emotionally thrilled?

It is because of this very fact of freedom… of chains now gone. They celebrate the great truth that “…because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” (Eph. 2:4-5)

grayscale photo of the crucifix

God has done all the work. The Christian is set free from fear of death, of punishment, of self-effort to please an angry God. Paul reiterates, “…it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork…” (Eph. 2:8-10)

They have seen that God is not angry. Christ took the wrath. He has done all the work, reaching out to us when Him doing so would be the last thing we might ever have imagined God would do, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8).

We give up trying, we acknowledge the myth of the “self-made” man. We surrender to Him only to find that all the while He was chasing us not to punish but to offer pardon! Now He is ours and we are His for eternity. “God, who called me here below / Will be forever mine

The relationship is no longer judicial, but personal. We no longer desire sin… we are freed by the attraction of a greater love… a love which satisfies. We do not wait for eternity to begin at death. Eternity has begun now. “You are forever mine.” The Tomlin rendition ends.

We are free! Sin is no longer the thing which we want. Our new desire is to do what we ought.

Press on…

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, 4/3/19 – Pressing on…

white dove on white bird figure stand

We can ‘stifle’, ‘grieve’, or ‘quench’ (yet another name for it) the Holy Spirit simply by busying ourselves doing the work of Jesus.

Tozer explains,

There is no doctrine so chilling as the doctrine of the Spirit when held in cold passivity and personal unbelief. The hearers will turn away in dull apathy from an exhortation to be filled with the Spirit unless the Spirit Himself is giving the exhortation through the speaker. It is possible to learn this truth and preach it faithfully, and still be totally devoid of power. The hearers sense the lack and go away with numbed hearts. …it is as if they had been hearing an echo and not the voice, or seeing a reflection and not the light itself. – A.W. Tozer, Paths to Power.

red lighted candle

You may not be a preacher or an evangelist, but if you are a believer you are also a witness to Christ in your generation. Your presence is light and salt in this world. You have not been asked if you would like to be light and salt you simply are light and salt. Your business is to come out from under the bushel… to maintain your savor. (See Matt. 5:13-16)

Prayer is the key to being what you profess… to surrendering all to the Spirit… to stoking not quenching His burning.

belief bible book business

Prayer is spending time in the Presence of God. It need not have anything to do with petition, i.e. asking God for things. Prayer is simply choosing the better part, as Mary did while Martha busied herself ‘serving’ Jesus. It is not ‘spending’ your time like Martha, but ‘investing’ it like Mary. (Read Luke 10:38-42)

Prayer is what makes your ‘doing’ effective.

Ministry or testimony that is watered down weakens its potency and swiftly quenches the Spirit’s fire. Are you afraid of the fire? Are there things of wood, hay and straw (1 Cor. 3:12) deep within you that you want to keep? Is it possible that in holding on to these you are actually quenching the Holy Spirit?

Press on…