Chief of Sinners

Certainly the apostle Paul lived a godly life after his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. Though he had lived as an exemplary Pharisee, the best of the best in human Jewish terms, it was not until he met Jesus that he began to see the utter sinfulness of his life – the pride, the hypocrisy, the utter evil of his own actions he thought he was doing in God’s name.

What changed? He had heard plenty about Jesus from others, both those who opposed him and those who believed in him, but now he met the Lord personally. None of us can begin to comprehend who Jesus is until we do the same. Second-hand faith is hearsay, not true faith. How can we be sure what we hear is accurate, or that we are not deceiving ourselves? Like Paul’s life before Christ, it could all be a lie – a dreadful lie that put him against God, not for him.

Certainly Paul’s recognition of his serious mistakes and misunderstandings were enough to shake him to his core. My own sinfulness, once recognized and comprehended, was devastating to me, and I’m no Paul. His focus before Jesus was not selfish, but rightly-intended for God. He just didn’t know God. He listened to others and lived in the second-hand faith of others who also did not know God, even though they were the ones leading everyone else – the leaders of the chosen people of God. How could that have happened?

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Too Much God

This morning I woke up with the song “Footprints of Jesus” going through my head. It kept playing over and over. As soon as I got up the song switched to “Enough for My God”. After finding my favorite rendition of the first song on my computer and playing it, I sensed God give me the idea of the theme of my quiet time today – “Too Much God”. I’m not sure where this will lead, but I want to follow God and learn from him and hear his voice and worship him today!

One sadness that started yesterday in my thoughts was how few people today talk about God or wanting more of him in their lives. I don’t know if many hearts have grown cold towards God and spiritual things or if something else is in play. While I’m sure there are many for whom that is not the case, for many more this world and its cares and attractions offer plenty of distractions from seeking God. Perhaps for them the idea of following in Jesus’ footprints seems like an old phrase used by older Christians in the last century rather than a deep desire for most believers in this one. I wonder if something like this is what happened to the Children of Israel after he had blessed them in so many ways and they were living in the promised land among the folks who didn’t know God, the ones who helped influence them away from God to idols.

Surely today we have plenty idols to pick from and they can be so distracting we set God on the back burner or forget about him altogether. The danger is not getting too much God, but in ignoring him or even denying him. Even with all the time I have now that I am retired I can easily get busy doing other things and waste hours on useless things.

Scattered

At the end of John 16 Jesus said these words to his disciples:

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A Comfort in Times of Trouble

Surely, today we are living in troubled times. In a country where, during my lifetime, we have faced relative peace and security and freedom within our borders, we are being told there is an ongoing pandemic that necessitates an array of restrictions to our freedoms. These restrictions, which are often quickly passed, temporary laws or statutes imposed by various levels of government, supposedly for our safety and intended to stop the spread of this alleged novel virus, and supposedly based upon good science are destroying our economy and redefining our way of life for the future.

This scenario is true of most of the rest of the world today as well. Regardless of the cause, it seems to be an opportunity for a group of powerful individuals with a decided business interest to drive us towards a new world order. There are many signs visible if we look around and listen to their words. God even told us what was coming, so we should not be surprised that this could be true. What if it is?

Good-bye America based upon what?

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The Voice of the Holy Spirit

In John 16:12-15, Jesus tells his disciples:

12“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

Even they were not able to bear all Jesus’ words at that time because of their sorrow – at that time it was because he had told them he was leaving them. God is aware of our emotional condition as well as all our life factors at any given point in time, and just as in 1 Corinthians 10:13, where he will “not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear” at a given time, but will “provide a way of escape so we can bear up under it”, he also does not dump on us more than we can handle about other matters, whether earthly or heavenly.

Regardless of our circumstances, however, we can trust God that he knows and he is in control and is doing what is best for us and his kingdom. He knows the future and he holds the future. God always tells us the truth, unlike much of what we hear today from others.

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Only Jesus

Only Jesus can redeem us,
When our hearts are stained with sin,
Only Jesus can convict us
When we’re full of self within.
Jesus knows our every weakness,
He alone could pay the fee.
Only Jesus Christ my savior
Had the blood that sets men free.

Only Jesus left his glory
And from heaven he came down,
Only Jesus chose a manger
And a cross, and not a crown.
Only Jesus loved this sinner
And denied himself for me,
So that I might be forgiven
And from sin’s death grip be free.

Only Jesus has the power
To break chains of sin and pain.
Only Jesus has the mercy
To restore our hearts again.
Only Jesus has the love
To give new life if we believe,
Only he could pay the ransom
With his life so we can live.

Only Jesus can restore you
When your life is lost and spent.
Only Jesus’ grace can help you –
None but he can change your bent.
Only Jesus loved us fully,
There’s no other God has sent.
Jesus gives us life eternal,
Walk by faith, from sin repent.

Only Jesus knows our weakness,
None but he can calm our fears,
Only Jesus feels our sorrows
And can blot away our tears.
Only Jesus gives us new life
When to him our lives we trust,
None but he can change a heart
That’s filled with pride, and hate, and lust.

Come to Jesus, oh my neighbors –
Time is short, and hell is near.
Come to Jesus, oh my family,
Do not close your eye nor ear.
Come to Jesus, those who hate men,
All on earth can Jesus know.
Come to Jesus all you Christians,
Not some building nor some show.

All to Jesus we must offer,
Give our lives to him alone,
Only Jesus bears our burdens,
Knows our needs, gives a new home.
Cast you idols far behind you
Fix your eyes on him alone –
Only Jesus, only Jesus,
Only Jesus on the throne.

A Seared Conscience

I recently read on a social media service several strong condemnations of rape by several men and women from Nigeria I believe. One statement in particular got my attention, which said that there was no punishment too severe for someone who rapes. To be honest, a big part of me did not readily agree with him, and that realization took me off-guard.

Further down in the thread was a short video of a rape being done in their country. The scene looked like two people having sex, but the context was clear enough. The reader was told that this type of thing was happening unchallenged throughout the country along with many killings of innocent people.

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Only God

The past several days the Lord has taken me on a journey into the ugly depths of my heart. In the past I have just visited there and seen a glimpse of the depravity, but in these days I have determined to stay there and face the lust and the idolatry and the adultery and the lies head-on and to repent of all of them. I have, only by God’s help and power, repented of all of them so far and cast away every idol he has shown me and cast out every spirit he led me to in Jesus’ name. I continue to wait before him as he shows me more that needs to be purged from my heart.

I believe that as others have been praying for me and I for myself God is showing me one reason that he has to continue to pursue me despite all my egregious sins and rebellion and pride. Only God could take someone like me after all those personal failures of mine, the lies I’ve embraced from this world and the church in America, and the utter hopelessness of my recovery, and change me through his power, and through that bring great glory for himself because of his goodness and faithfulness. He can change even a heart like mine to one that honors him and is no longer divided or given to the world.

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Call It Something Else

Childish words?

As children, many of us were taught to use other words when speaking of sensitive topics. For instance, if we referred to using the restroom, we might say, “I need to go pee” or “I need to go poop” rather than use the more technical terms or the ones that might be considered vulgar. Perhaps the idea was a child learned a word easier to say or that fit with his or her level of vocabulary, and perhaps it was to insure the child did not spout out the wrong words in mixed company. I still prefer these most of the time.

Tactful words

Word replacement is also used when someone is trying to be tactful. Recently I was mowing someone’s lawn when an old neighbor who knew me commented on how nice the yard was beginning to look since I had started working on it. The fact is the lawn had been left mostly uncared for due to circumstances and my mowing it removed the negative impact it had. Her comment to me was, “I guess it just needed your touch!” In that one tactful phrase she acknowledged my efforts while saying nothing unkind against the one who had not been able to mow.

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Repentance – A Process

I like checklists. Tasks can be worked on and completed and checked off. You can move on to something else. Many parts of life work that way. I can complete homework and check it off my list. I can wash the car and check it off my list. Same thing with dinner, sleep, and paying taxes.

However, in life many of those tasks pop up again and again, and then need to be done again and checked off again. Another homework assignment often follows the one completed. The car gets dirty again and needs to be washed. I keep getting hungry and need to eat, sleepy and need to rest, and taxes are inevitable and never ending. Rather than a checklist event, they become repeating calendar events that require my repeated attention, either daily or weekly.

Our spiritual walk is not much different. While we like checklists that can be done and checked off, so often that is not the end of it. The trouble is much of the Christian theology today is based upon the false notion that certain actions are done once and become permanent and irrevocable. But the biblical text in the original Greek often does not support such claims. In fact, the opposite is true. Continue reading

A Look Out Back

This morning as I took a short break from my time with the Lord to look out my window and enjoy the beautiful trees and woods and fresh air he has provided to us every day, I was mesmerized by the motions of the trees. First I would see trees in the distance waving back and forth, then the ones closer would join in, and then after the wind passed, the trees would bounce back and forth a while before they settled back down.

In my mind I wondered what that might be all about. Why did God create the trees? Why did he send the wind as he does, sort of at random places and times? Why does he use the trees as a way to show us the wind when we might not otherwise see it? Continue reading