SEPARATED NOT ISOLATED…


2 Corinthians 6:14-18 – “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? 16 Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, ” I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. 17 ” Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,” says the Lord. “AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; And I will welcome you. 18 ” And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty.”  NASB

I hear more preaching on man than God in the church today and that troubles me.  It is not that I don’t want to help man or believe that we can be far more than we are in this life.  It is that I have learned by experience and from the Word of God that man, left to himself is corrupt and will descend deeper into a state of depravity and selfishness that limits our ability to have a relationship with God or to win the lost.

The Bible teaches us in 1 Thessalonians 5:22, to ‘shun the very appearance of evil.’   We are to be ‘salt and light’ to this world and if we are just like them, where is our saltiness or the light emanating from our lives?  We are epistles know and read of me and if the letter or story of our life is no different from the person outside the Body of Christ, what message are we sending.

I know believers who refuse to associate or do business with ‘non-Christians’ claiming this text as their foundation.  Paul taught, Jesus demonstrated, and the Bible is filled with references telling us that our conduct is to be different, but if we treat the lost as though they were a plague how do we reach them?  Jesus demonstrated love to the lost and even said to His critics that, “It is not the well that needs a physician but the sick.” 

I am not suggesting that we party with the revelers and engage in their debauchery.  I am not suggesting that we approve of their lifestyles and endorse them by failing to give them the truth.  I am suggesting that if we attempt to isolate ourselves and insulate ourselves we will become uninhabited islands and fruitless trees having no value.  If we are to reap the harvest, we must go into the field where the crop is.  If we are to be fishers of men we must go into the sea of humanity and drop our nets. 

I have found that some of those I have reached would never have been reached if I had not been willing to do business with them and even have a meal with them or some other association.  No, I do not drink with them, curse with them, commit acts of immorality with them. I attempt to live before them rightly.  I have had people who are lost call me to pray for them or their family and as a result, won them to Christ.  I do not want to be isolated from the world but in the world, I want to be salt and light, and I want to be a witness through my example. 

The Pharisees, in the Bible, looked down on anyone not following their particular religious beliefs or tenets.  They viewed them as “SINNERS” and would say it with a condescending tone and used it as a word of utter disgust. It was a slur!  They repeatedly attacked Jesus for eating with publicans and sinners.  After all, those people were of such lesser importance and value, the believed Jesus should not even give them the time of day.  Jesus demonstrated the fallacy of that view and sent His disciples and us into the world.  He even prayed that the Father not take us out of the world but protect us in the world.

You are not more valued by God than the lost, you have simply received His Grace and experienced His mercy in Salvation.  Jesus said, “Freely you have received, freely give.”  You can’t give from your sanitized ivory tower, so instead of fearing that the world will taint you change it and infect it with your love, His grace, and bring light into their darkness. 

God bless you as you proceed on your pathway of life on this beautiful day He has given us in which to live and enjoy!

WHAT AM I TO PUT AWAY As a Christian?


Ephesians 4:29-32 – “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. 30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” NASB

Ephesians 5:1 – “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.”  NASB

What do we have to Put Away as Christians?  What are those things that the Holy Spirit identified through the apostle Paul that we, as believers, are responsible for dealing with in our lives?

THE NUMBER ONE THING IS BITTERNESS.

That is numero uno!  It is the big boy of things that we must deal with in our lives if we are to move into the Grace of God and mature as believers.  I would suggest to you that ‘bitterness’ is less about what you Do than what you Do With. Bitterness is a way of being.  It is something that has descended so deeply inside our beings that it is rooted to the core of who we are.  It is a state or a constant that too many either do not know exists or refuse to acknowledge. 

Bitterness can be directly related and connected to an experience. That experience may have happened years earlier and likely did because now the hurt, disappointment, pain has become full blown Bitterness!  Remember that Paul is speaking to believers!  I know that is difficult for some but he is speaking to believers who still have problems. 

He is speaking to people that have brought some ugly baggage with them into the Christian experience.  He could have said, “Hold it!  You brought some things with you that are part of the old life and you are still bitter about them.’  Things that have become such an ingrained part of our being that we often do not even know they are there.  Big or small it was something that you never forgot or let go of and now it has taken root deep inside of who you are and has to be dealt with.   Remember what the Bible says about a ‘root of bitterness’ and it springs up and ‘many are defiled.’

Research has proven that ‘bitterness’ can release poisons into the blood stream that can be measure in a test tube and those poisons can actually bring on sickness and disease.  We expect that of sin or what we identify as sin but do we really understand the danger of bitterness?

Bitterness never remains buried it has a way of being released by the tongue!  We see it in ‘wrath’ – flying off the handle and rage and it comes from a fire that burns deep inside.  We see it in ‘anger’ – you can see it in the eyes, by the body language but they are nice people and don’t let it out but it is there.  We see it in ‘clamor’ – uncontrolled shouting, loud arguing and no control over the tongue.  Those in the clutches of bitterness will beat you up verbally.  We see it in ‘evil speaking’ – deliberately spreading gossip and harmful stories about people to hurt them.  In the Greek it is called ‘blasphemy’.   We see it in ‘malice’ – a settle determination to hurt others.  They may have hurt you and you are ‘getting even.’ 

Paul says and God says – – PUT IT AWAY!  You do not have to be bound by bitterness Jesus died for your victory and freedom!

May God bless you as you go through your day!

I REFUSE TO BE A VICTIM – I am a Christian…


Ephesians 4:29-32 – “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. 30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” NSAB

Ephesians 5:1 – “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.”  NASB

Yesterday we discussed this a little and I want like for us to move further into consideration of the mindset of ‘victim’ vs. ‘Christian.’  I truly believe that one of the reasons that we fall into that trap is that we fail to understand Grace.

Sometimes it seems like we think Grace is simply God being gracious to us.  I think the schoolmaster ‘The Law’ that brought us to ‘Grace’ has become a problem in that in The Law or any Law says if you behave, I am satisfied.  Grace does not issue that edict but demands more.    The Law simply deals with my behavior but Grace deals with my heart.  I can look the part, act the part, and appear to be Christian but inside be full of filth.  Grace deals with my heart and regardless of how I look on the outside it is working on the inside or The Heart!

Grace is not focused on behavior but the Church largely is.  We fulfill the scripture that ‘man looks on the outward’ to a tee!  Grace deals with our want to and begins the process of change there at the seat of the problem and the core of our being.  Then, when the heart is changed the behavior follows naturally.  Sadly, behavior is too often nothing more than a mask that professors of Christianity wear and hide who they really are from the world but you cannot hide from God!

Notice Paul says, “The Grace has come to you….”  In other words, it has invaded who you are.  Now it is up to us to cooperate with the Spirit of God and allow change to be effected in our lives on the inside.  Grace did not just bring us deliverance from the world of sin it brings us Salvation that takes place every day of our lives.  It brings us daily wholeness! 

The Grace of God makes us ‘spiritually healthy’ and ‘whole.’  There is a truth that I won’t get into here but sometimes we are sick in our bodies because we are sick in our heads and hearts.  I have heard medical doctors claim that upwards of 90% of all diseases are psychosomatic.  I don’t know that I would go that far but I do know that our attitudes can affect our health.  Please do not assume that I am saying if you were right spiritually you would not battle any physical ailment.  I did not and do not say that!

Paul tells us that there are some things that we must do as believers.  There are some things that we do not just pray about but take ownership of and act on.  We are to put away – malice, bitterness, and evil speaking.  That is pretty radical but the Holy Spirit emphasized the Put Away which in the Greek means ‘make a decisive choice.’  It is like saying, ‘Do it man!  Make it happen!  Don’t pray about it!  Don’t say I will try!  JUST DO IT!’

I want us to look at what we are to Put Away but time and space won’t permit adequate examination so I will stop here and pick this up in a later devotional.

God bless you as you go through your day!

STOP BEING VICTIMS – – We are Christians…


Ephesians 4:29-32 – “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. 30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” NASB

Ephesians 5:1 – “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.”  NASB

The more I read and study the writings of the apostle, Paul, the more I am convinced that he saw a life that most professing believers either never see or do not believe is possible.  Paul repeatedly speaks of leaving the “old” – world, way, man and everything that belongs to the realm of sin and the fallen race of Adam and moving into the new creation, self, man, birth and encouraged his followers to  Act Out or Live Out the Christian experience through their new source of Life – Jesus!   His message was one that continually called for those who experienced the ‘new birth’ to Become who they really are in Christ!

The new birth is about the process that happens after the experience of salvation.  In the new birth, we were translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light.  We were not and are not the finished product but are in the process of becoming!  So for the rest of our mortal existence on earth, we are moving from one experience to another and being transformed into something!  We are no longer what we were and are not yet what we will be but we are moving toward that goal.  It is time that we allow the newness of the Life in Christ to permeate every crevice of our lives and touch every facet and dimension of our being.  It is a passage from the ‘old’ to the ‘new’. From ‘sin’ to ‘total transformation.’  It Is Salvation!

Tragically, far too many have the cart before the horse and are trying to change, shape up, get better, turn over a new leaf, and try harder or something.  It is the incredible need of humanity to earn something and deserve something.  God repeatedly says, “No thanks!  I accept you just as you are, where you are, and who you are because of Jesus!”  So, it is time that we comprehend and get our heads and hearts around the truth that We Are Accepted! It is in that state of acceptance that God steps in and begins the process of changing us or transforming us into His Image.

When we come to Christ we essentially have to relearn life because we have the mindset of Sin in us.  That is one of the reasons that Jesus spoke of becoming like little children.  We have to develop a new way of thinking and a new way of living.  For that to become reality we have to be schooled or trained and that is the work of the Holy Spirit and those under whose tutelage we are maturing.  

Far too many people simply add Sunday to their schedule when they accept Christ but Christianity is not that.  It truthfully is Relearning how to live every moment of every day of every week of every month of every year!  It is allowing all the distortion that is in us to be purged.  It is to allow the ‘bentness’ that is inherent in our DNA to be transformed by God’s Love, Mercy, and Grace!  It is literally having our Minds Renewed!

That is the only possible way that we can move from the human mindset of ‘victimization’ to God’s mindset of “Christian.”  We have to Relearn Life and Live that life that we have learned in Jesus!  You are a “Child of the King of Kings” not just a man or a woman.  You are God’s children and are heirs to everything that God is and has, so live like it!

May God be with you as you go through your day!  We will consider this more tomorrow!

YOU ARE A VINE BRANCH…


John 15:5-7 – “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.  6 “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.”  NASB

If Christ is ‘inside’ then the life that we live in the flesh is His life.  I’ve heard people sing or preach and someone come up to them and tell them how much they were ministered to as a result only to hear the person say, “Oh it was not me it was the Lord.”  While that is true, wasn’t that you on the platform singing or speaking?  I ask that you consider the reality that while it is truly the Lord, you are the vessel that He is using so do not draw back from celebrating your uniqueness.  He made you like He made you and gifted you like He gifted you so it is “I live, yet not I….”  It is Christ in Me!  You do not trust yourself but you are totally reliant on Him.  He is the Vine and we are the branches or a vine branch!

Have you ever considered the reality that a vine branch is utterly useless in and of itself?  If a vine branch is not producing grapes it has no use whatsoever.  I believe that God chose this deliberately to teach us a vital truth.  What is the Vine?  Think about it for a moment. If you dig deep enough you will realize that the vine is invisible.  It is an invisible life that comes up through the trunk and inevitably produces a leaf that produces a flower that produces a grape!  I have never seen a Vine but I have seen expressions of it.  Therefore, the Branch does nothing but receive the Life that is in the Vine!

Just imagine a Vine in the springtime and the branches saying, “Man I’ve got to get this leaf out so we can produce grapes.”  No it just hangs there effortless waiting on the life that is in the vine to flow through it and do the work.  Jesus is trying to convey to us that it is the same principle in the Christian Life.  We are simply flow through vessels of the Life that is in the Vine!    He is trying to convey to us that if we will just be ‘in’ Him, He will do the work and produce the fruit!

Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 11:28 when He said “Come unto me all you that labor and are heaven laden and I will give you a rest.”  The word rest could be accurately translated vacation.  What is a vacation?  It is when you stop working and rest!  Jesus was not speaking to sinners, He was speaking to believers.  He was talking to people who were trying to work enough, do enough, and please God.  So, if you ever grow sick and tired of trying to do enough to please God He is calling ‘Come unto Me, and I will…’  

Imagine that!  A Christianity that wants to deserve and earn its salvation has a difficult time with that.  If we have to struggle to please God you have a number of choices.  You can be a Buddhist, Hindu, or any other religion in the word because they are all struggling.  But, if I am a Christian, according to the Bible, I am to Stop Struggling and allow the Life of the Vine to produce its Life and Flow through me.  “I live, but it is not I, it is Christ.”  All the Branch does is remain In the Vine!  The Life that is in the Vine flows into the branch and produces the visible fruit!

So Stop Struggling and allow Christ in you to produce the Hope of Glory!  Let God live His life through you!   Christianity is a Rest not a Struggle!

May God bless you as you go through your day!

THE BLESSING…


Numbers  6:24-27 – “The LORD  bless you, and keep you; 25 The LORD  make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; 26 The LORD  lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.’ 27 “So they shall invoke My name on the sons of Israel, and I then will bless them.” NASB

I cannot do justice to this passage in a short devotional this morning. I will attempt to hit the high points and hope they will bring encouragement and blessing to your hearts as you face another day.  This was something that was said by the priests multiple times each day. They would stand and bless the people this way and the people would receive it and bless the priest back.  It was more than words to them it was a releasing of the power of God, God’s Shalom that had the energy and power to bring it to pass in their lives.

Who is it that is blessing?  Ultimately it is The LORD! It is not just words of a man or men it is The Lord God doing the blessing.  It is an action of God Himself in the lives of the people.  It is a prayer and a promise that God would ‘bless and keep them’.  It is a prayer and a promise that God’s ‘face would shine upon them’. 

When I watch my children or grandchildren as they perform something special or well my ‘face shines toward them’, and I beam with pride and love.  It is a prayer and a promise that God would ‘lift up His countenance toward them.’  He would look upon them favorably and in so doing would ‘give them peace.’  His Shalom would go before them, work in them and lead them in the right paths.  This was something that the Israelites longed to hear and it meant something to them. 

Sadly, we’ve heard it or said it in benedictions in church and people say ‘Ho Hum’ another quotation from the Bible.  It is virtually meaningless to many that hear it and even some that say it.  It sounds good but if we examine it, believe it, and receive it into our lives it releases power from God to go before us and work in us to bring about His Blessing!  It is a release of the Covenant into our lives.  It, as are the words of the Bible, is more than just words.  It is The Word of God and the Word of God is filled with the Love and Power of God.  God’s word does not return to Him void but accomplishes that which He sent it to do.

Instead of just hearing this and allowing it to slide off like water from a ducks back take it to heart, examine it, understand it, believe it, and receive it into your life.  When I say it I expect the Power of God to be released to bring it to pass in the lives of those to whom I speak.  So in closing let me pray this prayer:

“The LORD, bless you, and keep you; the LORD make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace.”

God with God and go in peace!  Blessings!

MORE ON THE GLORY OF GOD…


Colossians 1:25-29 – “Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, 26 that is,  the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, 27 to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. 29 For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.”  NASB

We are continually being transformed into the likeness of Jesus!  As we behold Him we become more and more like Him.  Salvation is not just being ‘saved’ from Hell.  In the Greek [sozo] means ‘to make whole or well.’  The word means save, heal, and/or deliver.  The Gospel is the Power of God for SOZO or Wholeness!  It is putting us back together or total healing of our mind, body, and souls!

That raises another question – “What is sin?”  Oh I know that the standard answer is ‘missing the mark’ but can you receive that it is “Unlove!”  It is failing to love as God loves.  What does sin do to us?  What does unlove and selfishness do to us?  It literally blows or rips us apart.  That is why those living in sin are so tragic; they are blown apart on the inside!  They are not whole! 

The Good News is that with the coming of the Love of God which is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit we are made Whole!  Deep on the inside at the core of who we are we are made Well by the Love of God!   Life is filled with pitfalls and difficulties but do not despair because we are moving from Glory to Glory in God.  This is a process and it is not finished!  It is “Christ in us, the Hope of Glory!”

I urge you to call to mind that it is not you trying to ‘get glory’ or trying to ‘love like God’ loves.  It is God coming into you and living His life and loving His love through you!  You are the vessel not the producer of that love or life!  He Is!  Some seem to have the idea that if we try hard enough and work long enough, one day we will arrive and make it.  No, No, a thousand times No!  It is Christ in you, the Hope of Glory!  If you can make it by your efforts and struggles then that places Christ outside rather than inside and Christianity is an inside job.

One of the greatest tragedies and obstacles that the Church has inflicted upon herself is that we have traditionally told new converts, “You go out there and love like Jesus loved.  You work out your salvation!” 

We are told to “be like Jesus,” as if we could in and of ourselves.We are told that we are to love and forgive putting aside all resentment and anger while putting on kindness and tenderness.  But I challenge you with the thought that is Life is not an outside job but an inside job.  It is not you doing it it is Him living His life in you.  It is Christ in you, the Hope of Glory!

When the Bible tells us in Philippians 2:12 to “work out our own salvation…”  How does it tell us to do that?  I’m serious!  It says, “with fear and trembling…”   It is a Greek expression that means:  “You work out your own salvation, with no trust whatsoever in your own ability.”  That does not sound like a matter of willpower or an outside job but an inside job to me!  It is simply allowing God to have full control of your life and watching Him live His life through you!  Yes you participate because you could resist and rebel but you willingly choose to flow with what He is doing inside of you and through you.  It is Christ in you, the Hope of Glory!  I feel the urge to should this, It is In You!  In You!  In You!

May God help each of us to realize that this is an ‘inside job’ and walk in the fullness of what Jesus offers through the Cross and the Holy Spirit!

Blessings as you go through your day!