Mornings With the Master

Readings from

Isaiah 26:9
With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early: for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.

 My dog Sunday has a room in the house where she sleeps each night. We have a baby gate on the door that is not nearly tall enough to keep her from jumping over it if she wanted to, but she has never tried.

Every morning when I get up, I have to pass in front of her room on my way to the living room where I have my morning devotions and coffee. Every morning when she hears me, she comes over to the gate, lays down, tail thumping the ground, hoping that I’ll stop and talk to her or reach down and pet her. I always do. It’s our little ritual. Our day wouldn’t be complete without it.

My Lord spoke to me one day during this little ritual. He spoke in that still, small voice of His and said, “James, are you as eager to see me in the morning as Sunday is to see you? Do you hope to hear my voice and desire to have me place my hand upon you as Sunday hopes to hear your voice and feel your touch? Is your day incomplete if we don’t spend time together?”

 Proverbs 8:17
I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me.

All Our Sins

Reading from 1 John 1:6-7

6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

 
Satan forgets our name anthe-blood-of-jesusd calls us by our sin while God forgets our sin and calls us by our name. My sins are plenty and I’ll bet yours are as well. But we have the sublime blessing of knowing that all our sins are under the blood of Calvary. When Jesus Christ died on the cross over two thousand years ago, all my sins were, at that point in time, still future. I had not yet been born. I had not yet committed any sins, yet, when Jesus died, he died for all the sins of mankind. He did not die only for those who sinned against God up to that point. He died for the sins of those who were yet to be born. He died for future sins, which means he died for my sins; all of them. Many people believe he died on Calvary for their sins and trust in Him for salvation, but they have a difficult time believing that sins committed after salvation will not condemn them. Many believe they must earn God’s future forgiveness, and so they spend their Christian lives trying to measure up, never realizing the fullness of joy that comes from an understanding of full salvation. Jesus died for past sins, present sins, and future sins. If he didn’t die for future sins, then he didn’t die for any sins. If his precious blood shed 2,000 years ago didn’t have the power to wash away all the sins of the world, then it had no power at all.

The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ satisfied the demands of a holy God. Mankind’s debt has been paid in full. The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. No further payment is necessary.

 

Why Doesn’t God Do Something?

riots-2

Reading from 2 Peter 3:8-9

8 But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us- ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

The question is often asked by the lost, “If God is so loving and good, or if there is a God at all, then why does He allow such bad things to happen?”
The answer is partly found in Genesis and partly found in 2 Peter.

In Genesis, God gave man dominion over all the earth-a perfect earth. But man disobeyed God and forfeited the title deed to the earth to Satan. Now, he, Satan, is the god of this world. Sin brought calamity to the earth. God did not bring calamity to this earth, man did. “Ok, so why doesn’t God stop it?” The answer to that question is found in 2 Peter, chapter 3.

God did stop all the perversion and wickedness and lawlessness in Noah’s day. He sent a world-wide flood and wiped out the entire human race saving only Noah and his wife, their three sons and their wives. However, sin was still in the heart of man, so calamity continued.

God has a plan for redemption and his plan is transpiring as we live. His perspective of time is not the same as ours. We see days and weeks and months and years, but God sees eternity. His desire is to allow all men the opportunity to be redeemed. When his time clock has run its course, He will execute the final portion to secure a new heaven and a new earth, perfect once again with sinless beings. Amen! Even so, come Lord Jesus!

The Lord Hath Need of Thee

Reading from Mark 11:1-3
And when they came nigh to Jerusalem, unto Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount of Olives, he sendeth forth two of his disciples,
2 And saith unto them, Go your way into the village over against you: and as soon as ye be entered into it, ye shall find a colt tied, whereon never man sat; loose him, and bring him.
3 And if any man say unto you, Why do ye this? say ye that the Lord hath need of him; and straightway he will send him hither.

In MarThe_Donkey_and_Her_Coltk 11:1-3, I find a portion of scripture very encouraging to my heart. The bible says, speaking of Jesus, “The Lord hath need of him.” It’s hard for us to imagine the Lord actually needing anything. Oh sure, as a man he needed certain things to stay alive, but this is not in those terms. What was being implied was that Jesus needed something in order to fulfill prophecy. In this case, he needed a colt of an ass to ride into Jerusalem, or what we now call, “The Triumphal Entry.” This provoked the thought, Does Jesus need us? The answer is yes. That’s not to say that Jesus is needy but that he has so ordained things to happen in a certain way so that we are a necessary part in its fulfillment. Jesus said, “I will build my church…” but he instructed his disciples to be the mouth piece he uses to accomplish this.

Hey, child of God! The Lord hath need of you! He needs you to care about the souls of those for whom he died. But how can you? You can by allowing His Spirit to reign in your heart. Love what he loves. Hate what he hates. Grieve over the same things He grieves over.

He needs for us to sacrifice for them. He needs for us to give above and beyond. If it doesn’t cost then it’s not sacrifice. The sacrificial lamb was not to be lame, blind or diseased, but the first lamb of the flock, a male without blemish. The sacrificial lamb was to be the one with the most amount of value attached to it.

He needs for us to tell others how they can be saved. Yes, He could make the rocks cry out, or the birds to sing the gospel sweetly in the trees, or the animals to preach it. He could have written it in the sky for all to see and believe, but he ordained the preaching of the gospel by saved sinners to lost sinners. Dear Christian, the Lord hath need of thee.

Satan Takes No Holidays

 

 

Reading from Mark 5:2-5

And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, 3 Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: 4 Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him. 5 And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones.

We cannot take a day off from communion with God. Many may go on vacation from work, or vacation from the daily grind, or perhaps just to get a change of scenery for a while. Whatever the case, may I encourage you to never take a day off from reading the Word of God, speaking to Him in prayer, and being aware of His presence throughout your day. Why? Because Satan never takes a day off!

Satan has not changed since the time spoken of in our text. The only difference between then and now is the fact that Satan has upgraded his weapons and tools as society changes. His goal is still to destroy you; to render you an ineffective testimony, a stumbling block to those around you.

When Jesus enters the scene and rebukes the devils and tells them to leave this man alone, they have no choice but to obey. The man, for the first time, enjoys presence of mind, a true purpose, a calm spirit and the love of God.

Take a holiday from the routine rigors of life if you must. But never, ever take a day off from communion with God.

 

 

Against the Wind

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puppy in windThe nickname given to Corpus Christi, TX is “The Sparkling City by the Sea”. As anyone living in a coastal city knows, there is usually a prevailing wind that constantly blows from off the water. Ours isn’t too bad, generally about 12-15 mph on most days. Many days the wind picks up quite considerably. In fact, the wind can become so fierce here that a rather expensive separate wind storm insurance policy is required for all homes under contract.

Yesterday was one of those extremely windy days. Anything not nailed down in the yard was fair game for becoming a kite. The 7 ft. privacy fence in my back yard was waving back and forth like the old, historic Narrows Bridge. I was forced to clutch the steering wheel with both hands and take extra precautions as my SUV was pushed around on the highway while on my way to church. The doors were either hard to open or were whipped open, depending on which one we were opening. It was a very windy day to be sure, but not one uncharacteristic for this part of south Texas.

Of all the events I could list here regarding that windy day, the one that stands out the most in my mind is the visual lesson God painted for me through a solitary bird.

My routine on Sunday morning is to unlock doors, turn on lights, get coffee started, set out donuts and set out the signs before heading out to pick people up in the van. When I went to set out the signs, God directed my attention to a small bird trying his best to fly against the wind and make it to one particular tree. I watched him briefly and thought to myself, “Why don’t you just let the wind take you to another tree and stop fighting and wearing yourself out trying to get to that particular tree?” I was captivated as he seemed to tuck his little beak down and flap his little wings for all they were worth. I watched and noticed that from my Bird in windvantage point he seemed to be making some progress. By now, I was cheering for the bird. I wanted him to beat the odds. The winds were whipping at least 35 to 40 mph and this tiny bird, which couldn’t have weighed more than 1 lb. at the very most, was pushing forward, straining against the wall of wind around him. I continued to watch for what seemed like minutes as the bird went up then down, then flapping its wings but not moving at all, simply hovering against the wind. But, finally, the wind changed direction, or died down for just a moment, and the bird reached its destination. I was jubilant inside as I pictured in my mind’s eye a mother bird hushing and comforting her frightened little babies.

I don’t know why that bird felt such a need to find refuge from the wind in that particular tree, but God sure spoke to my heart as I thought of how often I have the tendency to allow the storms of this life blow me away from the very one in whom I can find refuge and comfort. How often God has allowed the winds of adversity to blow so that I can mount up with wings and persevere against all the wickedness and corruption and godlessness of this world by flying to Him. Being a Christian isn’t always easy and many times we must fight against what seem like unbeatable odds, but we are encouraged by God’s Word to stand strong in the power of His might. We are told to put on the armor of God that we might be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. We are told to stand. Then, when we can’t do any more than stand, stand! Eventually, the wind will die down and God will reach out and pull us in close to his heart and allow his peace and comfort to come over us like a flood.

The next time the winds pick up and I feel tempted to give in and simply ride a convenient gust to some easy place and wait out the storm, I pray that God will allow a little bird to come into view and remind me to not be weary in well doing. For in due season I will reap if I faint not.

Long Live the King’s Brother!

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The Frightening Consequences of Fragmentary Knowledge and Partial Understanding

This is a bit of flash fiction I wrote a few weeks back as an introduction to a sermon. The message was that our level of personal sanctification will be in direct proportion to our view of Jesus Christ. When we don’t take the time to know and understand the fullness of who Jesus Christ is, we cheat ourselves.

giphyOne day an old gentleman of means and reputation was traveling through the forest on horseback to visit with his daughter, son-in-law, and their strikingly-handsome, newborn son when a terrible storm began to arise. Thick, ominous clouds moved in, enveloping the dense forest in a shroud of darkness. Thunder began to roll across the sky in dreadful moans. With a blinding flash, lightning reached down through the night-like sky and violently struck a tree directly in the path of the already skittish and leery horse. A deafening clap of thunder immediately following the lightning frightened the horse and sent him high upon his hind legs, spilling the old man to the ground. As the steed ran away at a full gallop, the old gentleman’s yells could not be heard above the noise of the storm.

Realizing he could not sit there in the rain, the old gentleman gathered himself and continued through the forest. He pulled at his cloak as the fierce winds threatened to rip it from his grasp. Several times he lost his footing and slipped, falling to the rain soaked floor of the forest. Once, the wind ripped a branch from a tree overhead, sending it careening through the air, missing the old man’s head by just a few inches, snagging and ripping his cloak before it continued down the path behind him. The skies grew darker, but finally, ahead in the distance, he saw a faint light beckoning from inside some sort of edifice. With hopes of shelter from the storm, the old gentleman increased his gait. As he drew nearer to the light, he realized it was coming from inside a cottage. His spirit brightened at the thought of sipping a warm mug of cider next to a cozy fireside.

By now, the driving rain was coming down in sheets and pelting the old man in the face, blinding him so that he did not even see the slough before him. In he tumbled. Choking, gagging and fighting against the thick, murky liquid, he flailed and kicked, struggling to keep his chin above the watery grave.

“I am on my way to see my first grandchild” the old man thought. “To die here, in a stranger’s yard and to be swallowed into the abyss by a slough will not do.”

In a final, desperate struggle for life, he reached the edge of the precipice and with all the strength he could muster, he pulled himself out of the sloppy, muddy, murky, pit and made a quick dash to the shelter of the front porch of the cottage.

Anxious to be relieved of his misfortune, he frantically beat upon the door, knowing that inside were the promises of a roof, warmth and hospitality.

The door slowly opened as those within could not imagine why anyone would be out tonight or why they would be calling upon them. As soon as the lady of the house saw the wet, filthy, bedraggled, shriveled up, old man she let out a shriek that brought her husband running to the door with a quirt. Without even giving the old man the opportunity to speak, the young man shoved him off his porch and sent him flying back into the mud. “Get out of here you filthy beggar. Times are hard everywhere. We don’t have anything for you.”

The old man feebly cried out, “I only seek shelter and warmth. Can I not come in and get warm and dry?”old_homeless_man_by_smythe01-d3j19dy

“What? And have you bring your filth into my home? I think not.”

“I can pay you” the old man cried.

The young man sneered at him. “What will you pay me with, old man, your stink and your dirt? Get out of my yard. You don’t have anything to offer me. Hurry up and scat before some of my neighbors and friends see you on my property and think I actually invited you.”

When the old man didn’t make an effort to move, the young man stepped forward with his quirt and gave the old man a contemptuous whack across his back. The old man cried out in pain, but crawled away and finally stood erect in the rain. He eyed the young man, lifted his jaw, turned and headed back to the forest.

 

The sun rose upon that little cottage the following day bringing prisms to life as glistening rain drops rested upon blades of grass. Spiders were busy rebuilding while birds chirped and checked on their young. Butterflies danced at their newness of life, and the day was full of promise.

From inside, the young man’s wife heard the sound of hoof beats upon the earth and roused her slumbering husband. “Husband, husband,” she said sleepily, “someone comes to call.”

The young man rolled over to meet the day and welcome his company when suddenly pieces of the front door went flying through the cottage as royal soldiers of the king burst through. Without a word, iron clad hands seized the young man and his wife and led them outside.

A soldier still sitting astride his mount gave the order, “Burn it!”

“Wait! No!” The young man pleaded while his wife looked on in mute horror. “This is all a mistake! I promise! You have the wrong man. You have the wrong house. You have the wrong family. We are nobody! Why are you doing this? What have we done?”

“Sir”, asked the royal guard, “last night, did you not beat a man with a quirt, refuse him shelter from the storm and send him back into the forest?”

The young man began to tremble, “Yes, but it was just a beggar, a dirty, filthy old man who wanted to bring his filth into my home. He was nobody. He was just a beggar.”

“Sir, did he not offer to pay you?”

The young man was beginning to regret his rash behavior, his condemning spirit and his condescending attitude. “Yes,” he said, a little quieter this time. “But he didn’t scared_man_by_lozzastiltskin96-d4cpaxrlook like he could pay. I told him I didn’t want what he had.”

“That man, sir”, explained the sentry, “is the brother of your King. He lives on the other side of the forest beyond the palace, and was on his way to visit his daughter and grandson.”

As the soldier unfolded the events which led up to the royal brother’s arrival at the cottage, the young man began to quake in fear, “Please, I didn’t know. I didn’t know. How could I have known?”

“Silence!” commanded the Royal Soldier. “You and your wife will henceforth be brought to the judgment hall of the King to be tried. But before you go, you should know that the King delegates all the business and authority of the courts in to the hands of his brother.”

A Response to a Dissilusioned, Independent, Fundamental Baptist

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This was written as a response to a blog in which a disillusioned, Independent, fundamental Baptist was giving his reasons why being a fundamental Baptist was no longer “exciting”. While he made some valid points, I felt he was throwing the baby out with the bath water and swinging the pendulum to the extreme other side. However, this response to his blog was excellent (In my humble opinion).

“Having been raised in a “true” denomination (Baptist General Conference) I was drawn to IFB because of its independence, passion, strong stand for “thus saith the Lord”, and it’s courage to pick up discarded doctrines (separation, true Biblical authority, the crystal clear Gospel, personal evangelism). Once “in” I was disillusioned by the lack of true independence it really had. While the pastor’s didn’t have a denominational director, per se, the pressure to fit in and appear conforming was the invisible ex officio denominational director in every flavor (aka camp) of IFB church.

When super structures are created and are as revered as Scripture then a group or movement is doomed to the “crabs in a barrel” phenomenon.

Having said that, we need to be thoughtful to not allow our current culture of fast-paced neuro stimulation addiction to revise the truth of the Early Church (or the Early IFB Church). I do not believe these times were “exciting”. I believe we read that they were quite the opposite: they were riddled with hard work, persecution, suffering, fear, discouragement, heart-break, physical injury and death (or the threat of both), financial challenge, etc. The NT epistles are basically correction for carnal believers, encouragement for persecuted believers, and sound doctrine for growing believers full of commands, exhortation, rebuke, edification, example, and evangelism.

To over-sensualize these “movements” is to create a false sense of hope that Christian work is somehow exciting and fun if we’d just make some changes. Paul needed to exhort them (and us) to “be not weary in well doing.” Serving God in a wicked, cursed world is hard…not exciting. Are there moments of excitement during the battle? Yes! But the routine of daily warfare is hard (2 Tim 2:3).

Remember, this is a war and our time is short. There is a devil. He and his host do not sleep. This is not the child of God’s time to build a comfortable life for themselves in Babylon…but to war and fight and rescue for our King and His Kingdom.

At the same time there is never any room for pride, envy, strife, self-righteousness, selfishness, politics (within the church), etc. MOST of the New Testament repeats this ad nauseam…this is not a new problem and this is not an IFB problem…it’s a sin problem. Sin always hinders the work of God and our effectiveness in the field. Sin taints our love for others, our ability to care and have compassion, our desire to “go” when “staying” is more fun (Netflix, Facebook, Video Games, Sports, etc). IFB is simply a reflection of you and me and the choices we’ve made and, like a real mirror, we don’t like what we see when we stop and stare. The solution? Others, Lord, yes others; let this my motto be: help me to live for others, Lord, that I might live for thee.

Note: Samuel grew up under the pastorate of Eli, Phinehas, and Hophni. Not once do we find recorded in Scripture Samuel’s dissertation of the problems with the EHP movement….but, rather, we see an individual who surrendered himself to the Lord and served the Lord all the days of his life.

Your church is only as strong as the individual members that make it up. Your duty is to be and to stay surrendered to God and encourage others in your church to do the same….firstly, by example, and secondly, with words.

Herein is true humility, righteousness, and leadership practically lived out. Herein is where Bible-based and Spirit-led improvement to the IFB exercised.

May God bless your submission to His Will and your Obedience to His Word and Spirit as you passionately serve Him!”

Our Walk Before God

Zch 8:8 (KJV)
And I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in truth and in righteousness.

If God is truth and righteousness to us, then how can we be any less to Him? When we come before God, we are to come in truth…

According to John 4:24, God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. Therefore, before we can effectively worship Him, we must be sure that our lives are governed by truth. All truth is of God. There is no secondary source for truth. The plum line is God’s Word. John 17:17 tells us Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth”. As we read and meditate upon His word, His Spirit illuminates our mind and gives us understanding. He guides us into all truth, for He is the Spirit of Truth. John 16:13 tell us, “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.”

 We are to come before Him in righteousness. We are clothed in the righteousness of Christ by faith, but is our walk righteous? Are our words righteous? Are our works righteous? How do we know? We will know we are approaching God in righteousness when we are walking in his Truth. Walk in His truth and His truth will work in us. When our walk, our works and our words are governed by His truth, it will produce worship that is in truth.

Stonghold in the day of Trouble

Nahum 1:7
The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.

Notice that verse 7 is sandwiched between verses which speak of God’s wrath, condemnation, and destruction. In the midst of all this vengeance, God stops for a moment and placepassover bloods a parenthetical to let us know that He knows them who are His own.

This reminded me of Israel in the days of their Egyptian captivity. Pharaoh was trying to match wits and magic against the miracles and judgments of God. Finally, after nine other horrendous plagues, God said the first born of each house would die. During this entire time of God’s dealings with Egypt, Israel was protected simply because they were His people. This time, when God was to pass over Egypt, he told the Hebrews to place the blood of the sacrifice over their door and he would pass over them. True to His word, the judgment of God crept through the land of Egypt and every home realized the justice of God except those where the blood had been applied. Those where the blood was applied experienced mercy and grace.

Brethren, we are assured in the word of God that we are not appointed unto wrath. God knows those who trust in him, and in that day of trouble, rather than being a wrathful God to be feared, He will see the blood of Christ applied to our hearts by faith, and will be our stronghold of mercy and grace.