WE ARE WHERE GOD LIVES…


Acts 7:48-50 – “However, the Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands; as the prophet says: 49’Heaven is My throne, and earth is the footstool of My feet; What kind of house will you build for Me?’ says the Lord; ‘Or what place is there for My repose? 50’Was it not My hand which made all these things?’”  NASB

I want to present a thought based on the declaration of these verses and say the Church Building is not where God lives. He lives in our hearts.  We are God’s building as Paul declared in 1 Corinthians 3:9 and in 1 Peter 2:5 we are informed that we are living stones, formed into a living spiritual house   We are the focus of the Father, not the shed where the sheep gather.

Why is that worthy of addressing?  Because we sometimes forget that we are the letters of God that people read.  We forget that we are the building, the church that Jesus is building.  We are the representatives of God and are to be the vessels through which He manifests Himself to the world. 

I remember visiting Rome and going to the Vatican for a tour.  It was impressive but I came away with a sense of sadness because I saw the ornate and the lavish provisions of inside and outside in the surrounding community abject poverty.  In touring some of the cathedrals and churches in Rome I saw the incredible investment in making those facilities as ornate and beautiful as possible.  I saw ceilings overlaid in gold and many other features costing hundreds of thousands if not millions.  The guide said, “We have to make this as elaborate as possible because this is where God lives.”  I wept.

The usual contact people have with God, is a believer.  I believe in making the local place of worship nice because it is dedicated to God.  However, the more I study Scripture the more I realize that God is not into things, buildings, and shrines, He is into people. 

The reality of this is seen in the reminder that Heaven is God’s throne, and earth is His footstool.  He is the Creator of All Things and it all belongs to Him.  In building churches and refurbishing worship centers through the years, I found it impossible to avoid being reminded of Proverbs 19:17, “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and He will repay him for his deed.”

An arresting passage is found in 1 John 4:12, “No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.”  When I read that I almost always recall the parable of the Good Samaritan and the message of Jesus on caring for others and thereby bringing them into contact with God.  The religious characters in Jesus’ story, by implication, were too focused on performance and ceremony to care for a needy person.  The Samaritan, not a member of the visible religious sects demonstrated the heart of God.  Jesus asked, “Who was the victim’s neighbor?”  They unanimously acknowledged it was the one who showed mercy.  Jesus said, “Go and do likewise.” 

You can have the most elaborate, technologically modern, and ornate worship center anyone has ever seen, and it will not touch a heart like you can. If God lives in you, you have the love of God in your heart and you can bring that person into contact with God.  That inanimate building cannot.  God is not dwelling in buildings made by the hands of man He is dwelling in human hearts.  You are the world’s contact with God, so be light shining into darkness and become a vessel through which people can see God through you.

God bless you as you enjoy this day in Jesus!

GOD SEES YOU IN A WAY YOU DO NOT SEE YOURSELF…


Judges 6:12 – “And the angel of the LORD appeared to him and said to him, “The LORD is with you, O valiant warrior.”  NASB

In my over fifty years of Christian ministry I have encouraged people to become who and what God says they are not what they see themselves as being.  I am convinced that although we may have a sense in our hearts of what God wants for our lives, we often have difficulty seeing ourselves as that person.

In this Bible account, Gideon was an average man working in the family business and probably not expecting a visit from an angel of God.  The angel showed up and sat under a tree as Gideon was threshing wheat.  It would seem that the angel looked no different than other men and caused no particular stir in the heart or mind of Gideon.  Gideon was attempting to save the wheat from the marauding Midianites.  Had the angel appeared unusual, he would have been alerted to a potential threat and responded differently.  Instead, it seems that he kept working.

The angel made the declaration of our text.  He called Gideon a valiant warrior and informed him that God was with him.  The declaration that God was with him was not unusual for the Israelites but when the angel called him a valiant warrior that got Gideon’s attention.  However, Gideon appears to be challenging the declaration, “God is with you.” He offers what could be called a protest saying, “Yeah, right, God is with us.  If God is with us, then why are we having the problems we are having?”  He argued, “If God is with us, then where are the miracles and the demonstration of His power and deliverance?”  He even argued, “God has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.” 

It was here that the angel of God said, “Son, you are the deliverer of Israel. You are the valiant warrior God has chosen to bring about his deliverance.”  Gideon revealed his inability to see what God saw and in a measure his lack of faith and confidence in God.  He felt abandoned and certainly did not feel like a warrior, after all, he was having to hide to thresh the wheat. 

It was through a series of miracles and events that Gideon finally began to believe that he could be who God said he was and do what God said he could do.  Had Gideon continued looking at himself as he saw himself, he would never have become the deliverer of Israel.  Had David saw himself as a mere shepherd he would never have dared to face Goliath.  Had Joseph saw himself as a prisoner rather than believing that God would fulfill His promised he would have died a slave in Egypt.  Had, Peter continued in his despair of denying Jesus he would never have become the mighty apostle he became.

God says we are “overcomers” through Jesus.  He says, that we are “more than conquerors” through the victory of Jesus.  He says that we have “authority” over the “power of the devil.”  He says that we can “do all things” through Christ and that we are the “righteousness of God” in Jesus.  Therefore, we either begin to see ourselves as victors or we become victims.  As victims, we never dare to dream and never achieve the purposes of God for our lives.  As victors, we dare to dream and embrace the Word of God that We Can!

I suggest that God sees us differently than we see ourselves.   We see our flaws and deficiencies and He sees the finished product.  We see where we are in ourselves, He sees where we are in Jesus.  I contend that if Jesus’ victory was complete and he has truly defeated the devil and stripped him of power and authority in the earth then there is a realm we have not known awaiting us.  If Jesus has all authority and has given us that authority, then we are more than we think we are, in Him.  So, I ask, “Why Not Now?”  Why not have the victory He promised and be the people He says we are, More than Conquerors and Overcomers? 

God sees us through the finished work of Jesus, but we see ourselves in our own strength and ability struggling to become.  It is time that we shift from trying to becoming to being because it is not through our strength but His that we live and move and have being.  WE ARE OVERCOMERS!

God bless you as you enjoy this day in Jesus!

INTENSIFIED HATRED OF THE LIGHT…


John 3:16-21 – “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. 17 “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him. 18 “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 “And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil. 20 “For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 “But he who practices the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”  NASB

I write enough about political things and politics in other blogs I do not want to make this about the political.  However, I am sure you have noticed the intensified angst toward the Bible, Christianity, and things moral as described in the Bible.  I see no such assault by the people in positions of power elected or unelected against Islam.  I am appreciative when any politician defends the Bible and our right to worship according to the dictates of our hearts. 

In this text passage, most focus on 3:16 and never quote or note the other verses of this paragraph.  I acknowledge that Salvation is the beginning place and am eternally grateful that the Father would allow His Only Begotten Son to come, live, and die for mankind. 

In 3:17 we find a very interesting reality or declaration by the apostle from the Father’s heart.  He begins the verse or sentence with “For” which is a call for us to take note of what the previous sentence declared and the benefit of that verse.  God sent His Son to bring life rather than judgment.  That is not to say, God will not judge the world but the reason for Jesus coming as a sinless sacrifice was not judgment but reconciliation and restoration. 

John gives the qualifier for encountering the Judgment of God in 3:18. He tells us that the person who believes and by implication receives Jesus as their Savior is not subject to that judgment because of God’s grace.  However, on the other side of that coin is the reality that the person who does not believe or rejects Jesus is “already judged” and in that judgment found guilty bearing their own sin which has no justification.

Then in 3:19-21 we have a powerful description of what that Judgment is and how it is displayed in the earth.  “And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world…”  We could stop there and either rejoice or weep because it clearly describes the ministry and purpose of Jesus.  Light, (Jesus) has come into the world and wherever light is displayed it exposes or reveals everything it is shined upon.  If there are flaws, they are exposed.  If there is danger, it is exposed.  Light reveals and that is what Jesus did, He not only revealed the Father and God’s incredible Love but sin and its ugly destruction.

The apostle then informed us that the light was rejected by men and religion because unregenerate man prefers darkness and the shadows to light and full exposure.  They feel safe in the shadows because nobody knows the full extent of their deficiencies.  Their deeds are not fully revealed, but in the light, everybody sees and knows.

Then he reminds us that the root cause of this preference is the wrongness of the heart and actions.  He expands that in 3:20, telling us that the person who does evil ‘hates’ the light, refuses to come to the light fearing exposure.  I have seen people weep at the altar because their sin had been exposed. They were not weeping in repentance but from the shame and discomfort of their exposure.  They got caught and that was devastating, because it meant they could no longer live in pretense.

Then in 3:21, he brings us the incredibly good news that the person whose heart is right and practices the truth.  Not just occasionally does a good deed now and then, but their lifestyle is following the precepts and principles of God’s Truth, that person seeks the light.  Why?  Not to call attention to himself but to bring attention to God who is working in him.

The intense hatred for God’s Word, Christianity, and the Truth by many in today’s world is evidence of the condition of the heart.  It matters not what they profess, the fruit of their lives and their deeds betray them and expose them.  It is not enough to say, “I believe in Jesus.”  We must not only believe but receive Him in repentance and reception of His forgiveness.  When we do that, we will desire the Light rather than the Darkness.  The question could be, “Do You Love the Light?”

God bless you as you enjoy this wonderful day in Jesus!

HEARING or HEARING ABOUT…


Joshua 24:31 – “And Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua and all the days of the elders who survived Joshua, and had known all the deeds of the LORD which He had done for Israel.”  NASB

In my life, I have learned that hearing or seeing something first-hand is a far superior motivator than hearing about.  We have all heard accounts that inspire us for a time, but if we do not experience it for ourselves that inspiration wanes.  On the other hand, if we experience it for ourselves, we are much more likely to hold on to that experience for a long time, if not permanently. 

I heard about the joy of having your own children and that was inspirational but not lasting.  However, when my sons were born, the euphoria I experienced and the joy of watching them grow up and become men is something that no one can take from me.  It is personal, not theoretical.  It is not something I have heard about it is something I have experienced.

I have observed people trying to maintain the experience of their parents or grandparents spiritually.  It is never successful although some have so devotedly attempted, they became miserable trying to maintain what they heard about but never experienced. 

When I was in Bible College, I heard many stories of incredible miracles and exploits throughout church history as well as reading them in the Bible.  They were inspirational and created a desire in my heart to experience them myself.  I would become motivated by an account of someone else and for a few days, weeks, or even months I would desire earnestly the presence of God to experience that miracle or move of God.  Sadly, because I did not experience it over time it would dissipate, and I would feel an emptiness inside that could find no satisfaction.

On one weekend I accompanied the Sign Language Choir to Palestine, Texas, and was enjoying the service that Sunday afternoon at one of the local churches.  A lady from my home church turned to me and asked how my mother was.  That was a bit disconcerting because I knew she was referring to something that I knew nothing about.  I found out that my mother was in the hospital and had had an injury that was quite serious.

I immediately informed some of my friends in the choir that I was leaving to go to the hospital in Crockett, Texas, and asked them to pray and when they got back to school have others pray.  When I arrived at the hospital the appearance of my mother was devastating, and she was paralyzed from the waist down.  I felt totally helpless and knew that my prayers we not extending past my fear.

I stayed there on Monday and then traveled back to school on Tuesday only to discover that I was sick with a cold or the flu and ran a fever of 102 for two days.  On Thursday, I managed to get to chapel and the Evangelist conducting our school revival gave a testimony and prefaced it with, “I don’t know why I’m telling this, but somebody here needs to hear it.”  His testimony was about his daughter having a life-threatening illness and his time praying for days.  He was in the sanctuary of the church and sitting at the piano.  He said, “I cannot play the piano but realized that with my right hand I was playing the tune to ‘There’s a wall of fire around me, there is nothing now to fear’.”  At that moment, he felt faith leap in his heart and knew that his daughter had been healed.

I had a sense of assurance in my heart that God had healed my mother.  There were about 14 other students that came to me after the service and said, “I believe God has healed your mother.”  I went back home the next weekend and on Saturday went into the hospital room and shared with mother and the family what I had sensed from God.  I didn’t ask her to do anything differently.  The next afternoon, after church I went back, and her countenance was completely different.  She looked at me and said, “Last night I heard in my heart the Lord say, do this.”  She sat up in the bed, got up, and walked across the room and back.  She then got back in bed and informed me that she felt she was to wait for the doctor to come in on Monday and take new X-rays to confirm the healing.

I experienced or witnessed, first-hand God’s miraculous power, and from that day to this I have had an unshakable confidence that He Heals today, just like the Bible says.  I have confidence that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, just like the Bible says.  I do not base that on what I have heard or read, but what I have heard, read, and experienced.  I know that I know, that I know. That was one of several miracles I have experienced personally.

May the LORD help you to experience His person, power, and presence for yourself and give you unshakable confidence in Him.

Blessings as you enjoy this wonderful day in Him.

WHAT IS IN YOUR HEART…


Luke 6:45 – “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.”  NASB

Have you ever noticed that you cannot hide the fruit of the tree?  Have you noticed that although you call it a peach tree, if it is bearing pecans, everyone knows it is not a peach tree?  Many people call themselves various things but sometimes the fruit produced in the life belies that description.  We are what we produce not what we would like to produce.

We may conceal what is in our minds, but what is in our hearts will ultimately make its way to the outward and be revealed.  This passage makes a simplistic but incredibly true declaration – “A good man produces good out of the good treasure of his heart.”  I could say it this way and hopefully, it will resonate.  “What we do is reflective of what is truly in our hearts.”

I realize that some continually seek to earn their way into heaven and the hearts of others by what they do. That may work, for a time, with some people but ultimately the condition of the heart will prevail and reveal what is really on the inside.  It never works with God! Jesus said, in Matthew 15:18 that what we speak is reflective of what is in our hearts.  By hearts, we do not mean the organ that pumps blood but the seat of the soul, who we are.  It is our character, our makeup, our person.  It is the me that is me.  It is who I am.

If evil thoughts are in my heart, my life will reflect those thoughts.  I may be charitable to a point, but when I deem it too costly, I will cease and reveal that my heart is not a heart of charity but opportunity and edge.  I had a man tell me that he suddenly was overcome with temptation and had an affair with a woman at work.  As we discussed the situation, we discovered that it began with playful flirtation, then entertaining thoughts of possibility, and ultimately those little thoughts and actions overpowered his ability to resist and he succumbed.  It was not sudden it was gradual and was the result of what he had allowed in his heart.  Another reason to learn to and demand that every thought bow to Jesus and is brought into captivity.

Our lives are like fruit trees and whatever is in the heart will be the fruit that is produced.  Job said, “I have made a covenant with my eyes…”  (Job 31:1).  The writer of Proverbs gives incredible counsel in 4:23, 25-36 – “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.  Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you.  Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path.  Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.”  The heart’s condition determines if we produce good or bad fruit.  The heart reveals what kind of tree we are and like trees, we are to be the planting of the LORD.

I encourage you to never allow a wicked thought to remain.  You cannot keep thoughts and temptations from coming into your mind, but you can refuse to allow them to stay.  Immediately reject all thoughts that do not bring honor to God. 

God bless you as you enjoy this wonderful day in Him.

OBEDIENCE and RIGHTEOUSNESS HAVE BENEFIT…


Deuteronomy 7:12-16 – “Then it shall come about, because you listen to these judgments and keep and do them, that the LORD your God will keep with you His covenant and His lovingkindness which He swore to your forefathers. 13 And He will love you and bless you and multiply you; He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, your grain and your new wine and your oil, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock, in the land which He swore to your forefathers to give you. 14 You shall be blessed above all peoples; there shall be no male or female barren among you or among your cattle. 15 And the LORD will remove from you all sickness; and He will not put on you any of the harmful diseases of Egypt which you have known, but He will lay them on all who hate you. 16 And you shall consume all the peoples whom the LORD your God will deliver to you; your eye shall not pity them, neither shall you serve their gods, for that would be a snare to you.”  NASB

There is a progression in this passage that is worthy of note.  I love the way verse 12 begins, “Then it shall come about, because you listen…”  Wow!  Imagine that, listening has benefit.  Tragically too frequently we want God to listen to us give Him our list of requests, requirements, needs, and desires.  He virtually becomes the supermarket, shopping center, or candy store for many believers.  Prayer to them is telling God what they want then without commitment, investment, or involvement having Him provide. 

Here we discover that God says, “There are some benefits to listening to my judgment, requirements, and commandments.”  But if we only make it hearing the words, we miss what listening is all about.  To Listen is to not only hear and understand but to obey or do what is being instructed.  It is following through on the directions given.  It is fulfilling the desire of the one speaking.  No wonder some wives say to their husbands, “You never listen to me.” 

I told a couple once, “When the wife speaks and you hear her words but fail to respond positively to them, you are not listening, and she is justified in her complaint that you do not listen.”  Of course, the converse of that is also true, if the wife treats the husband as we treat God, the doer of our deeds she is not deserving of him listening.  Balance must be achieved in that both parties in the relationship have the best interest of the other at heart.  God always has our best interest at heart, and if we are to complete the cycle, we must have His in our hearts.  We are to ‘seek first’ the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.  We are to pray for His Kingdom to come to and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. 

He says, in this passage, that true listening produces some incredible benefits.  He will keep His covenant and demonstrate His longsuffering and lovingkindness.  He will bless us, multiplying us and that is more than simply giving us a house full of kids.  It is our seed, our produce, and our protection.  It is to have Him become our healer and protector against infectious disease and other harmful things attempting to attack.  It is to become empowered by the Spirit of God to enable us to ‘pull down strongholds’ and ‘overcome the enemy.’ 

Although we cannot earn God’s Grace, we can have His favor and should never forget the declaration of Samuel in 1 Samuel 15:22 that “Obedience is better than sacrifice…”  God wants His children to “come out from among them and be separate.”  No, He is not asking us to isolate and insulate from the world but to infect the world with our faith and demonstrate His favor as we walk in obedience. 

The Psalmist informs us that the Psalms 33:18-19 – “But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, 19 to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.”  My encouragement is to seek to please the LORD in all things and at all times, making Him first in your life.

God bless you as you enjoy His benefits of obedience!  Have a Great Day in Jesus!

WHERE IS YOUR TREASURE?


Luke 12:34 – “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  NASB

It would be beneficial to read from verse 22 through verse 40 to see the big picture, but the words of verse 34 are powerful and revealing.  One of the major things Jesus emphasized to his disciples was Living or Real Life.  He stressed living not living stressed!  He said, in John 10:10 – “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”  Jesus taught that the seat of human emotions was the heart and we see that in Proverbs 23:7 – “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”  In Matthew 15:19, “out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.”  Jesus also taught that until the heart is tuned into the right wavelength there can be no real spiritual life – Luke 12:34.

Whatever takes top position or priority on our list of values, wants, desires, and goals is where our heart will be.  That is where our loyalty will be placed, and our love and devotion will be centered.  Our lips may cry out expressions of love for God and the things of God, but unless our lives demonstrate the same it is not real.  The reality will be that we are expressing, by our actions a devotion to the carnal not heavenly.  Luke 12:34.

Jesus brought several things to light in His exhortation found in these verses that are extremely valuable and important for Life and discovering Real Life.  The Life that He came to bring – Abundant Life!

Jesus Reveals the Foolishness and Futility of Being Bound by the Emotion of Worry.  In verse 22 He said, “Don’t worry about, life, food, clothing, etc.”  Rather than fretting over what you do not have or what you perceive you need, focus on God’s Promised Provisions and His Provisions.  He reminded us of this in the parable of the Rich Young Ruler and the incredible loss that young man endured because of his love for possessions.

Jesus reminded them and us, that God has everything in control.  His person brings comfort that He is able.  His power demonstrates He is able.  His plan reveals the depth of His love and concern for man.  His promise is incredible.  If God is not in control, then we are far worse shape than we thought.  He is in Control.

Jesus Emphasized the Call to Pursue Holy Things.  The natural man is concerned with the natural things and takes great pains to care for the natural needs or perceived needs.  Why?  The simplest reason is, that is all he knows.  1 Corinthians 2:14, “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 

The call of God is for us to pursue Spiritual Things.  The apostle John said it beautifully in 3 John 2 – “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.”  Our work, education, family, etc. are all important and things we should take care of but our relationship with God is the most important of all.  If we get that right, the other things will also become right.  Colossians 3:1 advises, “If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” 

We focus on Holy Things because Eternity depends on it.  John 3:3 warns, “…except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”  Matthew 10:28 comforts us saying, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”  We are told to “come out from among them and be separate” and to “be holy because God is holy.”

The Father has commanded us to live holy lives and pursue Him first above everything else.  The Bible declares that God has bound Himself by His word to give us “abundant life.”  That life comes through obedience.  Everything must become secondary to Christ.  (Matthew 10:37-39).

God will not tolerate divided affections (Matthew 12:24-25, 30).  Whatever keeps us from serving God with a whole heart will keep us out of fellowship with Him. Heaven is too valuable a prize to miss due to divided loyalties and affections.  Loving the world and attempt to love God at the same time.

Where is our treasure?  If it is earth and earthly things then this is our reward, but if it is in God, then we have the reward of Abundant Life here and Eternity with Him!  Worry screams that we do not truly believe what God has promised.  Failure to pursue God and holy things testifies of a life of divided loyalties and affections.  Where is our Treasure?  2 Corinthians 13:5-6, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you — unless indeed you fail the test?”  Where is your treasure?  It is where your heart is.

May the Lord richly bless you and give you peace.  May this day overflow with the joy of the Lord!