To Contend

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. Jude 3-4

Change. That one thing that is constant. Look around and you see change in everything under the sun. Even now, nature turns it gaze from growth and green to death and cold. The time for change can be good, as in the trees and grass slumbering for a time before a rebirth comes at spring time. Change also has its follies and failures. Taking truths and changing them has consequences. From the magnificent changes such as seasons and times to minuscule changes that can mean either little or a lot, change must be always be attended too. 

There is a problem of great proportions in the world today. It is one that sweeps across invisible lines, affecting young and old, rich and poor, male and female. It permeates society and, yet, is perhaps one of the most over used, misunderstood, and often flippant expressions said by people today. That is the word Blessed!

I cannot express how sick I am of hearing people constantly using that word, thinking that anytime they get or have something they “want”, they are blessed. Or they’re so blessed because they have family or friends in their lives. No matter the declaration of why they are saying that they are “blessed”, it is used beyond excess. In other words, it really annoys me! 

But why? Why would people saying they are “blessed” be such an annoyance? To start with, most people don’t have a clue as to what the word even means. When you look up the definition, there are several adjective uses for it. And since the foundational beginnings of the word relate to sacred or religious meaning, the word nowadays is demoted to a platitude expression. I guess I could go on the record as saying that it’s use today borders on sacrilege. This is a change unacceptable! Unfortunately the so-called “church” of today, specially in America, has run the sacrilege flag up the proverbial pole to declare that God does nothing else other than bless. 

In Biblical perspective, since the first appearance of the word in Genesis 1:28, where God blessed Adam and Eve, the word has been solely pinned to a level of religious honor from either God to man, man to God, or man to man. But unfortunately, due to time changes, it has devolved into something that the vast majority of people today use it as a catch-all phrase that something good has happened to them. This once beautiful word has subsequently become something for self-serving, “look-at-me” people to spout off with. 

The word bless shows up in the Bible 133 times. Blessed is used 311 times. There are 81 uses of the world blessing, and an additional 27 times that blessing has an “s” on the end. 15 times the adjective blesses is used and blessedness makes a pair of appearances. In most cases, the words are invoking a request to consecrate, to make holy…passing on divine favor. So, to use the word in a callous, worldly way really strips the specialness of the gesture. 

Essentially, the true meaning of blessed has become secularized to the point that people don’t even have a clue what it truly means in a Godly context. In fact, the whole exercise of being holy, set apart…consecrated…has become muddied and diluted so much that the world sees true Christianity as nothing less than an archaic religion, devoid of truth and reality. And the saddest part of all is that the church has let it all happen by blending and melding with the world themselves!

These are the type of changes that have caused damage. When truths are distorted and not corrected, then those truths tend to be relabeled. They are deemed outdated. Relics. Ancient. Irrelevant. All words that many ascribe to Biblical Christianity now days. They now use terms like fairytales. Fiction. Myths. Fables. These are the current views that many have regarding the Bible. And again, this is often the view of those who claim themselves inside the church body. 

Most of this has evolved through changes in truth. Over time, the distortions have become accepted and the truth has faded into memory. Even though the absolute words are clearly together, unison in thought, written down for all to see, people have slowly, and diabolically redefined the Bible and its truth, piece by piece, concept by concept, until most believe the new view as right. And, again, this includes those who claim themselves a Christian church.

Jude had a bit of change in his epistle. He started out writing to discuss common salvation that was amongst the brethren, but was compelled by the Holy Spirit to address a more pressing matter. It seems that even back then, they were facing issues of people changing truth already! So Jude starts off by telling the folks to “contend for the faith” that was once for all delivered to the saints. The word contend is such a powerful word. It speaks of struggling against, or wrestling for something specific. As an example, since my memory isn’t the greatest, I have to contend with my memory in order to remember Scripture verses. In other words, this is an action that takes effort and time and strength to accomplish. Jude wants his readers to contend with their faith. Why?

Because in verse 4 he points out that certain people are infiltrating the church body and spewing lies and deceptions. They were teachers who twist truth, changing the Gospel, and leading weak believers astray. They perverted the truth! And sadly, this is still going on today! When you look at the vast majority of “churches” today, they all show signs and symptoms that they have changed the meaning of God’s own Words! They’ve replaced truth to become more “seeker-friendly” and essentially do what the people, the worldly people, want. And, we know from Scripture that people don’t want to follow God and His decrees!

Jesus said that if we abide in His word, we are truly His disciples and we will know the truth, and the truth will set us free! Obviously, there are many who have created their own truths by redefining or rewriting the reality of God and His Word to fit their narrative. They think that they can mold God into their narrative by altering or deleting the Scriptures. But the reality is that God doesn’t change. His word abides forever! You can say what you will about the Bible, but that will NOT alter His will and ways! 

The world thinks that it has out-smarted God by quenching His truth. Yes, many have been deceived by the devil’s works, but we don’t have to be in that count. The folks blinded by the world don’t see their way as folly. In Proverbs chapter 9 we read about the woman Folly and how she easily sways people who are “simple”, who don’t want to know and seek the truth.

The woman Folly is loud;
she is seductive and knows nothing.
She sits at the door of her house;
she takes a seat on the highest places of the town,
calling to those who pass by,
who are going straight on their way,
“Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!”
And to him who lacks sense she says,
“Stolen water is sweet,
and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.”
But he does not know that the dead are there,
that her guests are in the depths of Sheol.

Her followers are told exactly where they end up. Hell.

This doesn’t just apply to unbelievers alone, but also to many belonging to today’s apostate church. And this is really an act of God. God did say in Romans chapter 1 that He would give them over to the lusts in their bodies, letting them continue to “live their best life now!” You see, the cleansing that is going on is actually a separating of wheat and chaff. We know that there will be many who will fall away. But their falling may not be into a realm of atheism or agnosticism, but simply belonging to a self-titled “church” that doesn’t teach the truth of God. It could be that church that espouses nothing but feel-good teachings, just like New Age shamans and pagans. The places that say “if it makes you happy, it must be good”! The groups that push out the negative of Scripture and only focuses on peace, joy, love. 

But we know from the complete Word of God that “the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons.” And as the world continues to redefine what is and isn’t truth based on their standards, they will turn an accusatory eye upon believers who still hold fast to the faith that they were taught from the Bible. The time for persecution continues to grow. And God is going to allow this to happen in the Church. 1 Peter chapter 4 says “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”

But before that 17th verse I just mentioned, Peter says of this coming suffering “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.”

With the downfall of true Biblical teachings, with the decline in faithfulness to God’s Word, and the willing acceptance of lies from the devil himself, we need, more than any other time in history, to stand fast, hold firm, contend, and be vigilant in our faith. We need to truly know what we believe and why. We need to put on the full armor of God to stand against the enemy of God. Knowing the truth, and knowing that the truth will set us free, is so key right now! 

We have been set free, no longer captives to the sin that plagues this world. Jesus gave us that freedom by His work on the cross and his overcoming the grave! His resurrection to the right hand of God the Father is our hope and strength for us to press on to the goal that is set before us! He gave us this gift of salvation, not to squander by conforming to the patterns of this fallen world, but to encourage us to contend to the very end!

I close with Peter’s great exhortation to the saints: 

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Clear instructions. May we  stand firm, contending for the faith in our day to day battles! 

Amen.

Don’t Be A Grape (Of Wrath)

Mine eyes have seen the glory
Of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage
Where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning
Of His terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.

Chorus
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

The great Battle Hymn Of The Republic! Words penned by Julia Ward Howe in 1861 to rally up the troops at the early stages of the Civil War in America. The beginning stanza instantly creates images of the Lord’s return, as shared through the Holy Spirit to John in the book of Revelation. In chapter 14, we see the angels of the Lord harvesting the “grapes” for the wrath of the Lord.

[18] And another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has authority over the fire, and he called with a loud voice to the one who had the sharp sickle, “Put in your sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe.” [19] So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. [20] And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia.

God’s wrath. 

Something that is often times avoided in conversations is the reality of God’s wrath.  Sadly, it is seldom spoken of in today’s pulpits. I have to believe that it is because church leaders don’t want to scare people away from attending church. The people of today have turned from accepting harsh and demanding teachings to making  their own demands for soft and easy-to-digest therapy sessions. Yes, historically there have been extreme levels that the church took, when everything they presented was all hell, fire, and brimstone…a repetitive damning message that threatened everyone’s souls every day. But I have to agree with R C Sproul when he said that “people aren’t afraid of the wrath of God anymore, because preachers are out there telling people that God loves them unconditionally.” 

Most of todays’ teachings within the walls of modern churches are clearly unbiblical. The wide scope of Biblical topics within the covers of Scripture have been extremely diluted, or even removed, so much that His Word has become a flower garden of sunshine, rainbows, and soft, fuzzy kittens. The modern teachers will completely avoid anything in text that shows God executing His full wrath! And yet the Bible clearly has plenty to say about His wrath and judgements onto the earth…specially in the last days!

Christ’s return to earth is to be the complete and final judgement, a time to separate true believers and non-believers. Further on in Revelation we read in chapter 19, verse 15, that Christ will strike down the nations. He will “tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.” God’s wrath has been, and will be, a reality that should strike a fear within the hearts of people. 

There are two ways to define fearing God: fear of His anger and wrath (like a frightened child facing an angry parent), and fearing God with reverence and awe. Proverbs 1:7 and 9:10 both declare that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Psalm 111:10 says The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow His precepts gain rich understanding. His praise endures forever! 

We can both fear God and fear God! But to those who have salvation through Jesus Christ, we can stand in peace from the fear of God’s wrath because we won’t be classified as a “grape” that will be tread upon in the winepress! But no matter if you are a Christian or not, all the people should be praising God right now for His patience with this world. 

We see in the Old Testament the level of God’s patience when dealing with Israel. We also learn from the historical records that His patience has limits. When even a chosen people of God, blessed above all nations, had to be judged and punished for their complacency and sins, that should be a warning to us Gentile believers as well that no one is exempt!

In Genesis 18, we read the account of God’s patience with the most wicked of cities at that time; Sodom and Gomorrah. God’s decree was to destroy those evil places by fire from heaven. But Abraham’s pleading with God to forgo His wrath for a time, so as to rescue the (the few) righteous people that are within the cities, delayed that destruction. God had even dispatched two angels to get Abraham’s nephew, Lot and his family, out of the city! But, this delay was for just a short time. God is patient, merciful, and yet, just. With this patience we do not want to make a mistake of thinking that God will not judge just because something doesn’t happen instantly!

In 2 Peter 3:9 we see that “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” Meaning we need to recognize that the time of His wrath could come at any moment. In the very next verse we are warned that “the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved”. There is a clear and definite absolute that the God of heaven is going to exact His wrath upon the earth and those who have thumbed their nose at Jesus and the gift of salvation will face an eternal judgement of damnation. 

Hell 

That destination for those that reject the mercy and grace of God through Jesus Christ will not be a beach paradise and eternal party that so many of this world seem to believe. What is worse is that there are many people who sit in today’s churches that are on the list of rejection by the Savior. Jesus said “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ The churches have grown exceedingly weak in their preaching and teaching of the Bible, thus allowing many to have a dangerous complacency and casualness in light of sin’s consequences. They are the people who look to have their feelings satisfied instead of satisfying the demands of God laws.

Without getting into a legalistic path, we do have obligations on our part to obey God and His Word. God has set forth His commandments within the Scriptures. Our duty is to obey them. Jesus even summed up the whole of God’s requirements in Matthew 22 by stating that “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And the second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the Prophets.” But if we examine our hearts and minds in the light of the Scriptures, we know that we fall short of following the commandments of God. After all…it says in the Bible that “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8)

So, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. What shall we say then? We are sinners. And sinners don’t get into heaven. In fact, God has a winepress of wrath readied! And His justice will be meted out when He comes on the Day of the Lord. Pretty scary stuff when you think that there are eternal consequences for our actions in the here and now. But thankfully, there is a way; a hope, that reaches down through eternity and gives us hope and peace from that wrath! But it is not something to be taken lightly!

You see, when people say a prayer to accept Jesus as their Savior, they need to realize that these are not just some magic words to bail you out of lake of fire. Nor is having a membership to a church or being baptized your get-out-of-hell-free card Being saved from the coming judgement will not be avoided by having several Bibles in your home or by doing lots of good things for others. All of those things are important, but they are not your salvation from the wrath of God. So many people can say a prayer, go to church, do good things, and yet still miss out on God’s call. People want all the gifts and blessings from God, but all without following God’s requirements. God doesn’t give His Word as recommendations. They are commandments! And it is a daily struggle, battle, and conscientious decision every moment of every day to chose this day who you will serve!

Salvation: A gift from God

Salvation from the wrath to come is one side of a two-sided coin. Salvation is a gift from God to redeem us from the punishment of our sins. But, there is responsibility on our part as well as we journey the new path. We have to strive daily. In Hebrews 3:6 it says “but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope (firm to the end).

If indeed we hold fast in our hope firmly to the end. We cannot just make some gestures one day and then coast the rest of the way. We have actions do daily. We have battles to fight daily. We have changes to implement daily. We have to start and end each day with a checklist of commitment to God and His Word. 

Lip service versus actions. 

1 John 1:5-10 says:

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”

We must take action, every day. We have to walk the walk. We confess daily our sins to God. The word confess is translated from the Greek word homologeo which actually means of one mind. It means to speak the same language, agree with, acknowledge. When we confess, we are agreeing with the God of the universe who already knows our hearts and minds, who already knows our sins. We are telling Him that through the Holy Spirit illuminating us within, we recognize our trespasses against His laws. We plead through our advocate, Jesus Christ, who has already paid the penalty for the sins. And we repent of the actions by turning away from the sins. 

A daily battle, a daily conscience effort! And God gives us the strength to win by the power of the Holy Spirit! God promised that we who believe, when tempted, will be given a way out! We need to daily meditate on the Word, keep in prayer, trust Jesus through faith, and run the race with endurance!

There are only two paths in this life. Not three. The middle ground is also called “lukewarm” and is not a path to eternal salvation. The lukewarm folks are what populate most churches today. Unfortunately they will end up being added into the path inhabited by those who reject Jesus Christ. And all on that path are heading straight to the winepress. They will fall under the wrath of God and be cast into the lake of fire. It is very clear in the Bible. Despite what people might imagine how their god should act like, the God of the Bible will punish those who have violated His Commandments.

For those who enter in through the narrow gate, stay firm on the narrow path, and walk in the Light of God’s Word every day, there will be eternal reward in Heaven for their faith and steadfastness. Those who walk this path will be tempted, stumble, and encounter many pitfalls and snares from the enemy. But Christ has overcome the world! He is our guide, our strength, and our Savior! So be encouraged and trust daily! Never taking our eyes off the prize! Always doing the will of the Father!

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2:15-17

Idol Gomer

I have moments where I will smile, shake my head, even roll my eyes with a chuckle, as I reflect on my old life, when I was living without a thought of God in it. Not surprisingly, and due to my ignorance and rebellion back in the day, there were many situations that, had it not been for the hand of God interceding, I would probably be dead. I was always slow to learn and even slower to recognize that God was, and still is, in control, despite my dangerous decisions and activities. And because He has plans for me, there was nothing I could have done that would ever thwart His plans! I’ve come to accept that I didn’t have a lot of wisdom flowing through my brain cells, nor was sound discernment involved in many of my decisions. I chased after my own gods, idols, desires; to do what I wanted in life. I thought I was a god.

Whoever is wise, let him understand these things;
whoever is discerning, let him know them;
for the ways of the LORD are right,
and the upright walk in them,
but transgressors stumble in them.

This Scripture verse is the last in the book of Hosea, chapter 14 verse 9. I start here because it speaks of two paths we all have the choice to venture down: God’s way or our way. Unfortunately, most people who read the book of Hosea never get past the storyline regarding his marriage to his God-given, yet wayward, wife. Beyond the marriage issues lie the important message that is in the heart of this great book of warning. And because some people will assume it to be directed only to a certain people of a certain time, the bulk of the chapters (4-14) often get overlooked. But the message has great application to the church today. And since our Savior Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, it is imperative that we understand how the warnings should impact our lives in this day and age. 

Hosea is filled with warnings to the Israelites (using his own marriage as an example) that they have committed spiritual adultery against the Lord God. They have chased after other gods and have become idolaters instead of worshipping the one true God. The prophet spent about 45 years preaching this message to a stiff-necked peoples who wanted to live life their way. (Sound familiar?) If it wasn’t for the amazing love and mercy of God, they would have been vanquished from His sight forever. Yet, despite their unfaithfulness, God is always faithful. Despite their lack of love towards God, God still loves them. 

To understand the reasons of God’s anger because of their violations, we need to review the first three Commandments, or Laws, that God has given to mankind. Exodus chapter 20 covers them:

1- “You shall have no other gods before me.”
2- “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
3- “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.”

In respect to the beginning storyline of Hosea and his “extracurricular” wife (chapter 1:1-9, chapter 3:1-5), I will throw in the seventh Commandment from God: “You shall not commit adultery.-Exodus 20:14

Without overstating the obvious, we can clearly see that our God is a jealous God. “You shall have NO other gods.” In clarifying terms; any religious activity focused on someone or something outside of the God of the Bible is clearly a violation of His Commandments. There is not a lawyer or judge that could double-speak any other interpretation based on God’s decrees. So, with that said, it is clear why God is justified in His anger. Whether you call it spiritual adultery, spiritual idolatry, or spiritual apostasy, it is a sin against the Holy God. But this is not just an issue that Hosea was facing during the Old Testament writing, it is also an issue of today’s church. We are living and acting no different today than the Israelites were back then!

The book of Hosea’s warnings are applicable to the people of God as a collective, yet also have deep relevance to individuals as well. If you and I were to stop for a moment, to truly and honestly reflect on our life; all our thoughts, our lifestyles, our focus, our priorities, our inner desires, our goals…we would see that we have been living a spiritually adulterous life. We fill time, effort, and energy on temporal things far more than we do spiritual. Jesus warned us that we are to store up our treasures in heaven, not on earth. He also said that “where your treasure is, there your heart will also be.” (Matthew 6:19-21) If our heart’s desire is on the things of this world more than God, then perhaps our passions are skewed.

The number of idols, or gods, that people worship in their daily life are far more than we might think.  For some, it could be the drive for great success at work. Some might put emphasis on chasing after money and prosperity. Some might place their highest importance on appearances. Some might seek fleshly pleasures, while yet others may be seeking to fulfill inward emotional needs. Some seek praise and popularity. Some cherish other people more than they do God. And some will chase dreams of fame. But regardless of where they are focusing their heart’s desires, they all want it according to their will, their way, their timing, their effort. And all the while they are placing God on the back burner of their lives. What is most sad about these people, those who are busy in their daily idol worship, is that they are usually the people who claim to be church-attending, Bible-believing, Christians. And while there is nothing wrong with working hard, making an income, taking care of others, and having a respectable image, what matters is their source: God or self.

If we truly understand God, how He explicitly time and time again warns people through His Word to stay clear of idols, that we are to be on our guard against them, and to not even mention the name of other gods (Exodus 23:13), we would be more conscientious regarding the things we place as important. Even within the walls of the church throughout history, priority has been misplaced on things like status, buildings, mannerisms, and even material objects…so much more than the truth of God. And despite what you would think about the church today, idolatry is still a very prevalent problem. When non-believers struggle to see the difference between the world and the church, you have rampant idolatry happening. 

Psalm 106:35-36 points out the issue; how the church has diminished their worship of God, “but mingled themselves with the nations, and learned their works, and served their idols, which became a snare unto them.” And in 1 Corinthians 10:21-22, Paul warns that “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He?”

So how do we respond to this? Have you chosen this day whom you will serve? Do you cherish with lust the material things of this world or do you place importance on fulfilling the desires of God? Do you focus on pleasing others by your outward appearance or focus on how to present yourself before the living God? Do the things of this world take precedence before your walk with God? Has television, media, social media, computers, phones, tablets, games, become gods to you? Even many of the spiritual leaders (false teachers) of today have become so engrossed with garnering worldly idols that they even invent ways to obtain more through their misguided followers. The multitude of idols are there, all aiming to fulfill you with immediate gratification. And all of these idols are what people use to replace God and His Word as the sole want and desire in life.

Gomer was given to Hosea by God to be his wife. Yet, she wanted something else. Her selfishness was a higher priority over God’s ways. And when she went out to fulfill that desire, it fueled her pride and made chasing after her lusts irresistible. Don’t we all have that at times? Where we crave something that might be outside of God’s will? Something that we might place as high priority, even though we know it goes against God and our duties to Him? And though we might have a momentary bit of success that gives us a boost in our ego and we feel accomplished, the insatiable desire never subsides. We just want more. Thus, our downward spiral to idolatry.

As I mentioned before, God’s plans for our lives will never be altered; even by our waywardness and sinful passions. Yet, when we chase after our own wants and needs, we are literally committing spiritual adultery. We are prostituting ourselves out to the highest bidder, as it were, so that we can get what we want, when we want it. Our pride then closes our ears to the Word of God and fills us up like poison…leading us slowly away from the true joy and peace that only God through Christ Jesus can provide. 

I like to compare this overriding pride to driving a car in traffic. When I drive, I do it in a certain manner on the various roadways. Yet when others around me don’t drive at the speed or fashion I want, I find my impatience growing and my attitude toward them becoming hostile. I flair up with frustration that they are impeding my way! I plan on driving at such-and-such speed, yet the person in front of me is going slower than what I want. What’s really happening is my personal pride and demand for things my way are being challenged. We have this very same attitude with God and His Word! His ways are not our ways, yet we want things our way! And with that, we become hostile toward God, ignoring His Word, and ending up being a prodigal chasing after our own gods.

Can you imagine the heart of God as He watches the people that He not only created, but also loves with an everlasting love; continually turning their backs on Him and chasing after statues and false gods and lusts of the flesh? And though His love transcends the understanding of man, He still wants our complete and full love and adoration and obedience. We are created to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. His love is unfailing. Yet, we fail Him by turning our devotion to things created instead of the Creator. In Romans chapter one, it says that “…they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” That is what the fallen do. That is what the unbelievers do. But, sadly, that is also what many professing believers do…worship any and every thing other than our Lord God.

God shows us by examples throughout the Old Testament that He is the only true God, a patient God, and yet a jealous God. God’s love and patience is beyond understanding, yet it also has limits. There has been in the past, and will occur in the future, God unleashing His wrath on the wicked and unrepentant. The Israelites learned this time and time again. Look at how many times they were punished and lost favor with God for their sinful rebellions and idol worshipping! How many of God’s people were destroyed eternally because of their impenitent hearts? But for the people who repent of their pride, their waywardness, their selfish desires, He welcomes them back! Those who turned away from idols and ceased worshipping other gods were granted forgiveness! 

And we also see this very love from God in the New Testament. That God manifested Himself in His Son Jesus to come and bring His elect a way of salvation from the coming wrath, by paying the penalty for our sins on the cross, so that whosoever believes in Him and repents of their sins (turning away from them), and puts their faith in Him, will be forgiven! When Christ rose from the grave, he defeated the last enemy, death, so that we, who have received His mercy of forgiveness, will have eternal life with Him! We worship God alone through Christ Jesus alone by the power of the Holy Spirit. We shall have NO other gods before Him. 

God is mercy and His grace is given to those who put away their idols and follow Him. It says in the Scriptures that He calls you back if you will “Only acknowledge your guilt, that you rebelled against the LORD your God and scattered your favors among foreigners under every green tree, and that you have not obeyed my voice, declares the LORD. Return, O faithless children, declares the LORD; for I am your master; I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion.” -Jeremiah 3:13-14

I can attest that I have had my attention distracted by wants and desires very easily at times. I end up taking my focus off of the prize, the goal set before me (Philippians 3:14). It’s a daily struggle. I doubt anyone can say that they don’t encounter this in their lives from time to time. But it’s when we find or create idols that consume our priorities, when we put our hope, trust, and faith in them, it’s then that we lose out on precious fellowship with the Lord. It’s worshiping these other gods that create an emptiness in our spirit and causes God to become angry. A. W. Pink said “So long as we are occupied with any other object than God Himself, there will be neither rest for the heart nor peace for the mind.” This is a war that we must fight to win, because our souls, and perhaps the souls of others, depend on it! 

Our only solution is keeping God as our only God (first Commandment) and by keeping the Word of God in our hearts and minds by daily meditating on it (Psalm 119:9-11, 2 Timothy 3:16-17), and continually asking God’s Spirit for leading (1 Thessalonians 5:17), so that we can overcome this world and be ready for the glory of the next! 

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” -Hebrews 12:1-2

If we are wise and discerning, we know that the Lord’s ways are perfect when compared to our ways. Because his plans will not be ruined, we should walk in His ways, upright, not stumbling about as the lost are in this lost world. Hosea paid the full price to restore his bride back to himself. God paid the full price for the penalty of our sins through Jesus to restore us to Himself. 

Our sign of true faith is our obedience, keeping His Word, and worshipping the one true God. We shall have no other gods or idols. Instead of worshipping ourselves, submit to God and “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” -Romans 12:1

By this, we shall revere and honor and obey the True and Living God! 

Amen

Removing God And His Word

So we claim we are a fallen nation. A peoples that complain about the influx of evil within our borders. Striving hard to embrace a mentality of love, peace, and happiness. Throwing social consciousness at perceived problems so that equality and justice prevail for all. That together we can overcome the issues that plague our nation. Well, I’m sorry to inform you that these matters will not be corrected to their desired ideology. You see, the self-driven motives do not fix the true, underlying, problem. First thing is to identify not what is wrong, but why things are wrong. So, how did we get here?

  • The problems escalated when prayer and the Bible were removed from schools so that secular indoctrination training could begin.
  • The problems amplified when “churches” took the Bible out of context; subsequently removing its authority as the Word of God.
  • The problems flourished when sin was embraced as good and the truth of God was jeered as bad.
  • The problem is man worshiping man and not God. Man desiring the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life over God.

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Romans 1:21-23

The issue is that many claiming to be believers have left their first love: God.

Jesus answered the religious leaders by summarizing the entire Old Testament under the two main points of God’s commandments, which man is supposed to follow: 1) to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind; and 2) to love your neighbor as yourself. This is where the churches have failed. 

So much emphasis has rested on the second part from the modern pulpits. And because the first part has been challenged and questioned so much in the past as to what it really means to love God with your entire being or who God even is, the clouds of uncertainty created by man has cast the definition as unanswerable. And, since they have diminished and pushed aside God by this flagrant and irreverent act, they have essentially mimicked the footsteps of the Israelites in the Old Testament. As God proclaimed through the prophet Jeremiah in chapter 18;

For my people have forgotten me, they have made offerings to false gods; and they have been made to stumble in their ways, in the ancient paths, to walk into side roads, not the highway; to make their land an horror, a thing to be hissed at forever; every one that passes by shall be astonished, and shakes his head. I will scatter them as with an east wind before the enemy; I will show them the back, and not the face, in the day of their calamity.

If you think for one moment that God’s decrees are only applicable to the Old Testament Israelites, you don’t know the Bible. Because God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He never changes. Times change, people change, circumstances change, but His Words never change! You look around today and you will see the same mentality on display by self-proclaimed “Christians” as you did with the Israelites and early churches. The church is filled with Pharisees preaching secular ideologies and man-made doctrine. The people have put aside the God of the Bible for their own gods. Society has erected temples to pagan gods and vilified God’s people. The very same thing that angered God in the past is happening still today!

The clearest remedy for all people is simple: repent and turn to the Lord. Turn aside from your ways and follow God’s ways. No, you don’t have to put on sackcloth and sit in ash piles and lament your sins. Our cultural identities may have altered, but the Bible even defines our modern age: to rend your hearts and purify your minds. Confess your sins before God through Jesus Christ and be baptized into newness of life. Then, and only then, do you begin to walk a new path in life. Not returning to your old ways, but onward walking in His ways. 

And though many attending church started this way, a lot of false professions of faith easily crumble. Even though some would have a season or two attended to God and His Word, the lure of worldly things easily draws people away from God and shifts their focus back on to their own lusts. This falling away eventually leads the secular world, who rejects the God of the Bible, to seep into the church walls and disintegrate doctrinal truths and Biblical beliefs. Essentially, the very same thing that caused sin to enter humanity is the same infection today: “Did God say…?”

With a diminishing understanding of who God is, the modern church has had an easy conversion to secularism because the weak leaders desire only to fill up their congregant’s itching ears with superfluous fluff and feel-good teachings. Eventually, they incorporate programs designed to soften theology enough to allow introductions of other religious practices such as numerology, social sciences, philosophy, and mysticism. And by redefining or rewriting what the Bible actually says, the messages of repentance and reverence take on new meaning (or is avoided all together) and is replaced with the notion that everybody gets a free pass into heaven, completely skipping God’s commands and duties. Completely removing God’s wrath to come.

Quoting from Deuteronomy 6: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.” This statement from God through Moses is followed with instruction that we are to “…fear/revere only the Lord your God; and you shall worship/serve Him and swear by His name. You shall not follow other gods, and of the gods of the peoples who surround you, for the Lord your God in the midst of you is a jealous God; otherwise the anger of the Lord your God will be kindled against you, and He will wipe you off the face of the earth.”

That is a serious and a very clear command! That is not a soft threat. That is the God of the universe, the One who created and sustains ALL things, speaking. He didn’t stop after Israel either. He didn’t change after the Old Testament. He didn’t send His Son Jesus to pay the penalties for our sins on the cross just to sit back and let us run amok on this planet, waiting for us to ‘get it out of our system’ so He can bring us ALL home to heaven for eternity. No! That is NOT what the God of the Bible is doing! Again, if you think that, you don’t know the Bible!

His patience with His creation is but for a short time. 

Because of the lack of reverence, awe, and honor to God and His Word, the complacent attitudes of people have usurped Biblical morality and shifted to a debased primal ideology that worships evil, hedonism, and chaos. Again, that doesn’t change who God is. His wrath is coming soon and those who deny Him will face eternal damnation. And as for the pastors, preachers and false teachers who twist, distort, and deny Scripture, they will find the greatest condemnation from God! Leading flock astray is an abomination to the Lord! No one who denies God will be spared!

“The Lord is King for ever and ever: the heathen are perished out of his land.Psalm 10:16

Why have we fallen? Why is the world headed in the destructive and evil path that it is? Because of the rampant sin throughout the world! And it is ordained by God that the devil and his minions will continue their demise over this planet. God knows what is going to happen, and best of all…knows how it will end! The prophecies of the Bible spell out the end times coming. Those who have trusted in Jesus Christ as their savior will endure to the end and will be taken up out of this world into eternal glory with Jesus! Those who remain will be brought through a literal hell-on-earth. Unless God in His mercy extends His grace to them, they will all be forsaken by God and cast into the lake of fire for their unbelief. His warning in Jeremiah should frighten all those who claim themselves heaven bound; “I will show them my back, not my face, in the day of their calamity.”

So what do we do? First things first; repent of our sinful ways (which means to turn around and away from where you are) and follow Jesus. In Matthew 16:24-26 it says; Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” We walk in this world, but we don’t have to participate with the evils in this world. It may seem that giving up friends, family social interactions, and the like will cause ridicule, conflict, and chastisement, but better that suffering for a little while now rather than the suffering for eternity. 

Next is immersing yourself into the complete Word of God! Psalm 119: 9-12 says “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes!” That is our map, our compass, our guidance, our strength, our encouragement, and our hope through the storms and challenges we will face. Most of all, the Word is our knowledge of who God is, His words spoken to us, His plans for our life, His promises of inner peace and joy, His way that is the true way to the Celestial City! 

Afterward, there will be a new heaven and a new earth. The old will pass away.

Jeremiah 6:16a: “Thus says the Lord, “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you will find rest for your souls.” But many churches are refusing this by answering ‘We will not walk in it.’ (Jeremiah 6:16b)

The modern church has left the Word for the world. They embrace the new side roads and not God’s roads.  So it is imperative that you seek out a Bible-believing church to fellowship with, learn and grow with, and commune with people that revere the God of the Bible. People who submit to His Word and His ways. People who, like the Bereans, search the Scriptures daily to see if what is being taught or preached is according to the very Words of God.

We’ve seen what happens when man compromises faith and trust in the one true Lord God. Not only do the cities and governments of the world crumble into evil, but so do its’ citizens. Choosing to leave the ancient roadway to heaven, they sacrifice eternity for temporal pleasures on the side roads of this broken world. 

Time is short

The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. 1 Thessalonians 2:9-11

Where do you stand today?

Amen 

Forgiven And Forgetting.

Satan does not fill us with hatred of God, but with forgetfulness of God. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

One of the many battles that some people face is memory. I happen to have horrible short-term memory. I will often think of something I need to do or get while I’m out driving and by the time I can stop and write it down, it’s gone! I’ve had to learn to use voice memos so that I can note the task while driving and later write it down. In fact, I’ve resorted to using an app on my phone that not only states what I need to remember, but I can also set an alarm for a day and time! It has been a lifesaver!

The hardest part of memory issues for me though is remembering the Words of God. Many devout Christians will memorize Scripture. The Bible says in Psalm 119:11 “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” The more words from God we carry in our hearts and mind, the stronger we become standing firm against the evils of this world that try to derail us in our walk. In my previous writing and podcast (Things I Preach To Myself About…“Where’s My Sword”), I talked about the importance of reading the Bible and how the Bible is the Sword of the Spirit, the Sword of Truth. With this at our side at all times, we can defend ourselves from the attacks of the enemy.

But is our forgetfulness simply a psychological or physical matter? There certainly are many contributing factors that affect our capabilities to remember things. Everything from stress and anxiety, depression, injuries to the brain, all can affect someone’s short-term (and/or long-term) memory. But today I want to delve into another area that can be a factor against our ability to remember God’s word: Sin

One thing that can thwart our ability to memorize Scripture is sin. Within each of us is a disease. It is a disease that we have carried since birth. This sin disease will be with us until our last breath. As with any disease, it affects various parts of our body (mind and soul). And, as with any ailment, once it’s discovered, it has to be addressed and treated; often daily! When we identify that we have this sin nature and we want to be rid of it, we begin a working process to keep it from flaring up in our lives.

As sin erupts, God becomes quite distant to us. Our only desire during this moment is for self-gratification. Our natural inclination leans toward the flesh, the strongest pull at the time. Without help, we become weak and powerless to resist. James puts it this way in chapter 1, verse 14; “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” As Bonhoeffer says, we are not hating God, but forgetting God.

The Ten Commandments

Yes, we do have a natural animosity against God and His ways. Since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, we have been natural-born sinners! Psalm 51 says “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” We enter into this world already at odds with God and His laws (10 Commandments). And until the Spirit changes our hearts, we relish sin over salvation. But when God does quicken us, we are then able to see Him in a different light; now wanting His ways in our life, not the world’s ways! We are able to believe and trust our life to Jesus Christ through his death, burial, and resurrection from the grave. We enter into newness of life! Now we place Jesus as our Lord and Savior!

That doesn’t necessarily make the disease go away though. What it does do is cause us to actually see the disease and want it gone! Thus, our trusting in God and His Word is key to the process of fighting this sin! 

Which brings me back to memory. As I’ve said before, Christians will often memorize Scripture as a means of strengthening their walk and building up a defense against the devil’s lies. Being able to quote Bible verses from memory is paramount to a growing faith. But for some of us who struggle to even remember what we were going to do as we walk into another room, or forget our ideas or tasks the moment our attention is distracted; we need a different remedy.

One thing I’ve discovered lately is to meditate on Scripture. There is a difference between memorizing and meditating. Memorization is planting something into your mind for recall whenever needed. Meditation is delving deep into something so intently, that it becomes imbedded in your heart. Learning a set of words by rote memorization is essentially a mechanical or habitual repetition. But to thoroughly and intimately learn, we meditate on the Word of God. 

I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. Psalm 119:15

Many of the great Puritans devoted vast amounts of time delving deep into the Bible, meditating on them to fill their hearts complete with the truth of God. Dr. Joel Beeke, in his essay on “The Puritan Practice of Meditation,” lists some benefits that meditating on Scripture has to offer (compared to just memorizing):

  1. Meditation helps us focus on the Triune God, to love and to enjoy Him in all His persons (1 John 4:8)—intellectually, spiritually, aesthetically.
  2. Meditation helps increase knowledge of sacred truth. It “takes the veil from the face of truth” (Prov. 4:2).
  3. Meditation is the “nurse of wisdom,” for it promotes the fear of God, which is the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 1:8).
  4. Meditation enlarges our faith by helping us to trust the God of promises in all our spiritual troubles and the God of providence in all our outward troubles.

These are just a few that Dr. Beeke lists. But what it does point to is the importance of absorbing God’s Truths deeper into our being rather than just reciting words. For a deeper insight to the Puritan study of God’s Word, I would also recommend the book “God’s Battle Plan For The Mind: The Puritan Practice of Biblical Meditation” by David W. Saxton. The book not only shows the necessity for personal meditation on the Scriptures, but also gives motivation by showing us how the great Puritans meditated on the Word themselves! 

There are so many great benefits to meditating on the Word of God instead of just memorizing them. And don’t get me wrong, memorization is a great option for many who can do it and it does work. But we all need to imbed these truths in our minds, as well as our hearts, no matter the method. But, for those of us who struggle with the duty of memorizing, we do have an option that can actually take us deeper into His word AND get those words within us to recall when needed!

In the Garden of Eden, the first challenge to Eve by the serpent (the devil, himself) was to ask “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” Thus, seeing if she knew the words of the Lord. As we face the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes, and the pride of life that surround us every day, we need to be on guard with the Sword of the Sprit, the Word of God! We won’t always have an opportunity to sit down and look up Scripture to challenge back the temptations set before us. In most instances, we will need to draw on our understanding and knowledge of the Word of God that is deeply set within us. Words of Scripture that we have committed to our hearts and minds for just such an occasion! 

Not only do we strive to know God through His word daily in our lives, but we are called to persevere onward in our sanctification, always remembering that God is working in us through His Son Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit! Joshua 1:8a says: “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.” 

Amen

Where’s My Sword?

Oh, pilgrim!

If you think God is nothing but love, love, love…you are sadly mistaken.

God is love, but he is also a God of wrath against the wicked! And lest Christ as Lord, you are wicked!

So flee!

Flee from the wrath to come!

Flee!

Into the arms of the Savior!

-Rich

I cannot count the number of times, over my many years, that I have wandered through life with my mind solely focused in the world, completely unaware of God’s presence. I lived like I am the one who controls all that I say and do. I don’t give a moments concern to the Heavenly realm or my future home. I think, therefore I am.

As such, I can do what I want, when I want, however I want! I can indulge myself to the satisfactions of the flesh. And if even a tinge of guilt or concern should wash over me, I can dismiss it quickly; never worrying about the consequences my activities might reap. After all, I’m not hurting others. Nor does a little here, a little there, really do any damage to me at all! It’s just a little thing, nothing really that bad after all! Like a little white lie. Sometimes it is necessary to spare people of a grievous hurt! It’s just a minor infraction when measured against all the bigger, badder things people do! If anything, it makes everyone feel good at the moment and there really is no reason to make a fuss. God understands!

“Those little things are harmless,” we think. When you look at the bad in this world, these little things are small. They can be compared to, say, a brick. You pick it up, enjoy it, set it down in front of you. No big deal! Then the you pick up the next one. Use it, enjoy it and set it down next to the other. Again, no issues! Then another. Then more. And before you know it, you have made yourself a nice little wall of “my ways”. But, since you started to run out of room in front of you, you’ll have to keep adding all the upcoming ones all around the sides until…You are completely walled in by your own desires, deceits, and doings!

The wants and ways you’ve been enjoying until now have surrounded you, entrapped you, and are causing misery and anguish because all those little things have now become a huge mess that is consuming your life! Amazing how those little things you thought were harmless have added up so quickly! You find yourself overwhelmed and drowning, all as a result of your dabbling with those little sins. Sins? Yes, sins! And, there are no degrees or sizes of sin to a Holy God. Sin is sin! And it only takes one sin to keep a person out of Heaven!

“But, God loves us and understands and he won’t condemn us for a couple of minor infractions!”

Because God is Holy, and sin is the breaking of His laws (see the 10 Commandments), and God cannot permit any type or degree of sin to go unpunished, he will condemn. The Bible clearly says that the “…wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23). And Biblical death refers to the eternal lake of fire or hell! Not the place you want to spend forever!

“But, Jesus died for our sins so we can all go to Heaven!”

Absolutely he did! Romans 3:22-24 says we can have “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”. Which is to say that he paid the price for our sins on the cross and rose again to make intercession for us to the Father in Heaven! But there are conditions!

Unfortunately, many of the worldly “churches” leave out parts of the Bible. Specially important ones that say things like “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2). To continue to build up our wall of sins, brick by brick, means that we have not repented, forsaken the world, and turned our lives to God through Christ Jesus. The Apostle Paul continues on in chapter 6 of his letter to Romans saying “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you over its passions.” (Verse 12). There is a choice to be made and there is NO middle ground!

This is a daily choice as well. We need to be reminded that we “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” daily. God tells us that his mercies are “new every morning”. So what we have here is a battle between the our fleshly desires and God’s ways. We are either building our wall of sins and living entrapped in them, or we are walking in the freedoms of God’s grace and forgiveness! Now don’t get me wrong, we will sin…often. But when we do, we must repent (which means to turn away from those sinful ways) and strive harder to follow God and his ways, leaning on the Holy Spirit for strength to do this. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

Ok, so we have made a decision to walk in righteousness with Jesus as our Lord! Great! But, the battle is harsh and I fail quite a bit. The world is ever before me and I easily revert to my old ways. This is the struggle that many poor pilgrims have during their journey! And, unfortunately with a weak faith, the sojourner can at times fall and not get back up! Many souls lost are littered along the very road we travel on toward eternity with God. But know this; that God does provide us with the means and way to faithfully arrive at his calling!

First, he provides a helper to guide and strengthen us. God is faithful to be with us! Even for the Israelites that he brought out of Egypt, God, in his “great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness” (Nehemiah 9:19). Jesus promised that the “Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things”. The Holy Spirit resides within us, guiding us, encouraging us, and showing us the darkened areas of our lives by illuminating the truth of God and his word to us.

Which leads me to the Word of God, the Bible (or Scriptures).

In our daily battles, like any good soldier, we need to be equipped to stand against the enemy of our souls, and even defeat them. Sin is our enemy. It is the very cause of destruction in so many lives. The enemy of God, the devil, wants us to sin against God. God wants us to defeat sin in our lives. So, God provided his word! The Bible refers to the word of God as the “sword of the Spirit” and “the sword of truth”.

“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,”
‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭10:4-5‬

In Ephesians 6, God gives us a list of spiritual armor to wear as we battle the forces of evil in this world. The weapon in our hand is the “sword of the Spirit”, which is the word of God. In order to use any weapon, the first thing we have to do is physically pick it up in our hands! It would be shocking to how many “professing Christians” have Bibles sitting in their homes, yet have rarely (if ever) picked them up to read. Based on conversations with people over the years (many of whom own several Bibles), there are very few people who have even the slightest clue as to what is really inside the pages. The sword is worthless if it is sitting on a book shelf or in a closet or tucked away in a drawer somewhere.

The other issue is knowing how to use it. Once it is in your hands, you have to know what to do with it! As with anything, taking time to get acquainted with it is paramount. Anyone can pick up a Bible, but to know what it contains and where to look for truths to help in your daily walk is not something you know instantly. There are 66 books contained within the covers of the Bible. Knowing what each book says and teaches takes time and effort. You don’t have to become a Bible scholar or take deep theology courses to understand it, but you do need to open the pages and read them for yourself! The Holy Spirit is there to illuminate those words to you!

Another thing is that you should not rely solely on others for how to use the sword as well! What I mean by that is in today’s technology-driven culture, people seem to resort to videos and Google to shortcut everything. Someone might go to a church once in a while and listen to a pastor teach, then watch some videos or read something online and get a brief overview and think they are ready for war. But that doesn’t replace knowing for yourself how to read and interpret the Word of God and apply it to your personal walk! Just as watching someone wield a sword in a video doesn’t make you proficient to use one in an actual battle, the same goes with watching a 10 minute video of someone else’s interpretation of Scripture, how that doesn’t equip you for the battlefront in your spiritual walk.

That is NOT to say that listening and learning from others is wrong. On the contrary, just as in Acts chapter 8, the Ethiopian eunuch needed Philip’s help in understanding the Scripture he was struggling with, we all need helps understanding various parts of the Bible! But we have to read the Bible for ourselves so that the Holy Spirit can open our eyes and heart to receive the words and store them up inside! Psalm 119:9-12 says “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes!”

There are many great teachers and teaching aids out there to help us with our study of the Bible. But personally knowing the Scriptures helps us identify what is right and what is wrong teaching. The devil uses many false teachers and preachers, heretical churches, and twisting of Scripture to knock pilgrims off the course and even bring them to ruin. Having a good personal study of the Bible strengthens us to stand firm to God’s truth and avoid the lies of the enemy. The Jews in Berea studied the word of God and would daily search the Scriptures and compare what they read to what was being taught or presented around them. Like them, we must take the time to search the Scriptures…daily!

The Bible is right when it says that “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak”. I get it. It’s a struggle some days just to get out of bed! We struggle not only with daily duties, but we get flooded with the chaos of the world and eventually doubts and fears start to take hold of us! I pray almost continuously to God saying “I believe, help my unbelief!” But the deeper God brings us through sanctification, (our walk with him), the more we see our faults and weaknesses before him. This helps us know where we need to focus and grow so we can draw closer to God! And it is through his word that he opens up those areas! One of God’s commands to us that many overlook is written in various places within the Bible (Leviticus, Joel, Ephesians, 1Peter, to name a few): “sanctify yourselves therefore, and be holy; for I am holy”.

He humbles me greatly, daily to see my sins.

He lifts me up by showing me his grace.

Oh, that I may know him more, follow him more, glorify him more!

We flee from sin. We flee to Christ!

Each day is a battle that we need to take seriously and diligently. We first need to put down the bricks of sin, even the “little” ones. Life already gives us plenty of extra weight to carry every day, we don’t need to add extra! Hebrews 12:1 says to “lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” God sets a fountain to cleanse us from all sin and impurity. But if we continually return and wallow in the filth over and over, all we are essentially doing is deny Christ and rejecting his work on the cross.

“…shall we continue in sin…?”

We also need to take up the sword of the Spirit, the Word…daily. Don’t neglect it. How can anyone fight the good fight when they don’t know where their weapon is or how to even use it! The great Puritan leader, Richard Baxter, said “study hard, for the well is deep, and our brains are shallow.” There is so much to learn in our walk with God! And reading Scripture with a glancing blow hardly ripples the surface of the truth within. As with gold, you must dig deep for the best deposits. You will never become rich with just pebbles.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! Romans 11:33

God’s wrath is being stayed by his love. Yes, for God so loved the world that he did give us a way from the wrath to come; his Son Jesus. That whosoever shall believe in him will be saved. We commit our lives to God through his son Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit by repenting of sins and being baptized into new life!

Prepare! The battle is here!

Amen

Sons Of Belial?

Some pretty deep and prolific words are found within the covers of the Holy Bible. There is no doubt about that. Even pagan religions have a level of reverence when it comes to the Christian Bible. It is filled with historical truths, poetic visualizations, proverbial guidances, and revelations of the very nature of God Himself. To read the pages is to get introduced to the God of the universe, to understand His will and ways, and to hold a roadmap for our life.

Yet as powerful and impacting as the Words are, it is amazing how people still live like the Scriptures have an insignificant influence. Even people who claim to be followers of Christ Jesus, the Messiah, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, still live daily under the control of worldly ways instead of God’s ways. Obviously we reside in this world and, as such, we have to contend with it no matter how holy and pious we try to be. But you can tell a lot about what has the strongest inclinations or sway in someone’s life by how that person lives.

Taking into consideration that all will stand before the judgement of God at the end, which will determine where we spend eternity, one would think that a decision to follow God’s way would be an easy choice. Now, for some, that decision is easy. Yet, many others don’t want to give up the creature comforts of the secular life. They may find that walking in the ways of God is not easy or too burdensome . Plus, we need to note that there is another side to things working in our lives that also has great influence: sin. Sin’s influence goes against God’s ways, yet is very strong and many have fallen by its trappings. 

“Now the sons of Eli were worthless men; they did not know the Lord” 1 Samuel 2:12

While reading through some Old Testament scripture, I came across an interesting verse that caused me to stop and think. What caught my attention in 1st Samuel chapter 2 were the words “They did not know the Lord”. Looking at the context of that statement, it shows a sad and harsh reality that I think can apply to many within the very walls of today’s church. Let me explain.

Eli was a descendant of Aaron, the brother of Moses and the great high priest. Eli was a high priest in the temple at Shiloh. He was a godly man who was one of the judges over Israel. He had two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, both of whom were raised to be in the service of God. But for Scripture to describe them as ‘Sons of Belial’, (which means worthless, and is also used in the New Testament to describe Satan!), it really shows the true nature of those boys.

To earn such an evil moniker from the writer of First Samuel, we need to understand what they were doing. First of all, as workers in the temple or sanctuary, their job was to gather and prepare the sacrifices prescribed by the Law and follow the exact instructions. The problem is that they were selfish, greedy, and very much living in the flesh for themselves. Instead of sacrificing the best cuts of the meat, they would take the best cuts of meat from the sacrifices for themselves. Adding to their debauchery, these married men would commit adultery with the various women who served at the sanctuary gates. (And we all know how clergy adultery turns out, even in our modern day and age!)

Of course these activities garnered the anger of God. Eli was admonished to scold his sons for their behavior, but he did it so lightly that they didn’t listen to him. Long story short; subsequently both of the sons would end up dying on the same day that the Philistines defeated Israel in a battle and captured the Ark of the Covenant. Their father, Eli, would subsequently fall over and die of a broken neck upon hearing of the loss of his two sons and the Ark. Shortly after all this, Phinehas’ wife gave birth to a son when she heard of her husband and father-in-law’s deaths and the loss of the Ark, thus causing her to name the child Ichabod (which means the Glory Has Departed). Afterward she would also die. All this came about because God cursed the lineage of Eli and his sons for their behaviors.

So, what does all this mean?

This serves to show that even people who stand in the most reverential of duties, who interact in the most religious of environments, and who have the appearance of walking with God outwardly, might not truly know God!

That is a very scary prospect to think about! Jesus said in Matthew 6 to “beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” Psalm 139 says that the Lord has searched us and knows us! Verse 4 says “Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.” These are truths that should have us reflecting not only on our outward life, but on our hearts as well!

You can be the most pious, religious, and reverential person on the entire planet in front of the people around you and still not know God. There are countless religious leaders that go through the motions, and yet don’t have a clue who God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit of the Bible truly are. Hophni and Phinehas went through the motions daily with their father, a high priest, yet they did not know God. Just because you say and do the right things or have great knowledge about the Bible, doesn’t make you right before the Lord.

So why is this? How can someone be exposed to the truth every day and still not know?

God’s way or sin’s way? Let me point out here that there are two motivations people face when entering into any type of religion or ministry; God or self. The Apostle Paul was a good example of a Godly motivation. He declared in 2 Corinthians 5 “For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.” Paul did everything for God through Christ Jesus and his love for God’s people was beyond a heartfelt passion. He did nothing in selfishness that can be shown in any of the Bible! He wrote to the Church in Rome Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. (Romans 12:1)

But there are many examples of people in a ministry platform strictly motivated by self. We see a prime example in Acts Chapter 8. In Samaria there was a magician named Simon who many claimed that “this man is the power of God that is called Great.” When the Gospel of Christ was preached in the area, many became converts and were baptized, including Simon. He became very zealous, working with the evangelist in the area, and saw the miracles performed. When the Apostles Peter and John came to the area, they laid hands on the people to receive the Holy Spirit. Simon saw this and offered to pay them money for “this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” He wanted to keep his great reputation before the people. But he was admonished by Peter saying “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God.” (Acts 8:20-21). Peter demanded he repent from his wickedness and intentions as he was in the bond of iniquity.

Another prime example, (that I won’t go into great depth right now), are the Pharisee and Sadducees. They enjoyed the praises of the people, walked in the highest honors in the cities, and enjoyed their power. They were also used by Jesus as examples of holy and pious men whose hearts were far from God. Jesus called them “whitewashed tombs, filled with dead men’s bones”. Sepulchres that look great on the outside, but inside were vile and filth. Their motivations were known to God; greed and selfishness. Essentially, hearts filled with sin.

The question we need to ask ourselves is; are we like Hophni and Phinehas? Are we claiming the Christian walk in appearance like the Pharisees, yet without Christ as our motivation? Are we talking a big game of being right with God, yet wanting the accolades from people? You might be able to deceive your family and friends with an illusion of Christianity by going to church. You might be able to talk all the Christian jargon online and post Scripture verses to strangers. You may even have Bible verses and stories memorized. But if your heart’s motivation in all these things is for self adulation, then not of your relationship with God is true. If you going through the motions to impress or puff yourself up, then you are only lying to yourself and those around you, which will only lead you to the lake of fire.

You see, God knows your heart. He knew Hophni and Phinehas. He knew the Pharisees and Sadducees. He knew Simon. He knows all things; and the heart of man is especially known. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” Jeremiah 17:9-10

Eventually, like the two sons of Eli, all things we say and do will catch up to us and the truth will be revealed. As mentioned above, all will stand before the throne of God to give an account. Now is the perfect time to check your heart, check your motivation, your standing with the living God. Saying some words that you believe in Jesus are just that; words. It comes down to your true motivation. God or sin? Don’t let it be said of you “they did not know the Lord”

Amen

To Mask Or Not To Mask: Sin

With the inundation of mask-wearing around the world, people are losing out on seeing full facial expressions during face-to-face conversations.  In a conversation, there are 3 parts that are essential to a complete understanding of what is being said: verbal, non-verbal, and visual. I, for one, am someone that really relies on seeing the facial expressions when I am talking with someone. You can get a lot more information about the deeper intentions of the discussion by watching the person’s eyes, lips, and other facial movements. Sure, we can hear the fluctuations of the words or can see the obvious visual displays such as hand gestures and such, but we miss out on crucial insights when we lose the non-verbal expressions of the face!

Obviously, the mask is to blame. Throughout history, the mask has been used in all sorts of ways to disguise or shield the face and to keep others from knowing the true identity of the wearer. (Think Zoro or the Lone Ranger!)

But, we don’t always need a physical mask to conceal who we really are though. People will either lie about themselves or just not share the whole story at all. We all tend to keep some aspects of our lives guarded and secret. Even in close relationships people might withhold a portion of their true self that they don’t necessarily want to share with the other. Similarities can be applied when we talk about our sin nature. We all have sin in our life, but we don’t necessarily go around announcing them daily to everyone we know or meet! 

As Christians though, we have a conundrum we need to address regarding sin and our desire to mask them. Why do we hide sin? The very thing we do, though we don’t want to, we become convicted over and ashamed. Inside we know that sin is an abomination to God and that sin is what separates us from Him. But doesn’t God know everything? Including our sins? O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you. — Psalm 69:5.

The Scriptures say “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.” — 1 John 1:9-10. Of course this confession does pertain to talking with God directly; repenting before Him through Jesus Christ and walking anew. But there is another aspect of confessing our sins when it comes to others. Our sinful actions, whether direct or indirect, can, and often does, affect those around us and cause problems or harm. And when it does, it is important to repent and seek forgiveness from those who have been hurt by the sins. 

By confessing to others, you are essentially pulling off the mask and showing your true face. This can be very difficult for many people because we like to keep all our little secrets, well…secret! Our human nature likes to keep us from embarrassing situations, thus we easily hide the dark parts of our lives from others. Just know that all secrets do eventually become exposed though. And if not now, they certainly will before God on the day of judgement.

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. — Revelation 20:12

There is no such thing as hidden or secret sin. There is no such thing as a little sin (think: little white lie). Like a disease, sin grows and festers within us, eventually creeping into other parts of our life, until it consumes you with guilt, shame, and pain. Thankfully, God in His infinite wisdom will use the Holy Spirit to shine His light on these dark shadows and bring them into the light. “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” — John 1:5  Whether we see them on our own, or perhaps we are called out by one of our fellow sojourners, the exposure of our sins…though painful and embarrassing as it is…is to be a time of healing, cleansing, rejuvenation, and renewal in the Lord. 

“but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” — 1 John 1:7

There is nothing more freeing than having guilt and sin washed away from us through the grace and mercy of God. As I said before, we all have sins, commit sins, and we will continue to fight that sin nature within us until the Day of the Lord and His return. But in the meantime, we shouldn’t keep it masked up, hidden inside, eating us up with its desires. This is a fight, Christian! A daily fight to kill sin and walk in the righteousness of life! 

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. — Romans 8:13

Confessing, repenting, renewing, refreshing, rewarding! Remember that confessing (whether to God or God and others) and repentance is not a one time, past action in the Christian life; it’s an ongoing project. And confessing our sin isn’t just to make ourselves feel better or rescue us from Hell; the goal of our salvation is holiness to the glory of God. We are working daily to walk upright before God in the full likeness of His Son Jesus Christ. This is called sanctification.  

The Westminster Shorter Catechism, question 35, defines sanctification as this: Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.

And all this starts when we turn our lives to God through Jesus Christ; walking in newness of life. But when we keep hiding behind the masks that conceal our sin nature, that only leads to destruction…of soul and peace with God.

Remove the masks!

Amen

But now, O Lord, you are our Father;
    we are the clay, and you are our potter;
    we are all the work of your hand.
Isaiah 64:8

Take Courage!

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13.

My prayer is for you to stand firm in your faith, strong in your convictions, trusting in God’s mercies, and able to cry out to Him during trials.

When we stumble, even if we fall, we are able to stand back up in His grace, kneel before the throne of grace, and walk in newness of life by His grace.

Even though it feels like you are alone at times, we know that God is with us by His Spirit through Christ. Not only that, but God has provided true believers to come alongside you, hold you up during weakness, encourage you in darkness, and love you unconditionally in the journey.

Look to His Word, trust in His Spirit, lean on His mercies!

If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31 paraphrased)

All of this encouragement comes to you from the God of the universe! We tend to get frustrated over our shortcomings and falter in our faith. We don’t daily take up our cross and march forthright into the battles of life. It’s easy to give up, go home, quit the game and take an easier path. I know this personally. I’ve done it many, many times before. Walking away from God when the storms erupt around me.

Why? With all the positive that Jesus has showed us in His ministry on earth and the teachings and examples from the Apostles and Bible heroes within the pages of Scripture, you would think that we can just stand firm in the faith, knowing that our old man (character, leanings, ways) has been crucified and is dead and buried!

Because there is a negative side to the walk of faith. Believing in God doesn’t make the storms vanish. Trusting Christ comes with a cost. When we deny ourselves the way of our former lives, we are going against the grain of the world around us. We have made a decision to cast aside the societal norms and pursue a holiness. We choose to walk in a manner to glorify God, through Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. We separate ourselves from the world, yet still live in the world.

This is a daily battle. Daily choices are made to either indulge the flesh or cling to the Spirit. It is not a simple task. Even though we have accepted the gift of Grace extended to us by God through the work of Christ’s atonement on the cross, we are still, by nature, sinful creatures. Our natural leaning is to break the laws of God, selfishly follow our own desires, and flow without ridicule and shame the ways of this world.

Yes, it is easy to lay aside the newness of salvation, walk away from the sanctification process, and return to our old ways. But we are told how this is a race, not a sprint. That the race is long and has, at times, hills…even mountains…to climb. The terrain we travel can be rough. So many snares, pitfalls, false directions, and easier paths to waylay our journey.

The race set before us takes endurance. And to endure to the end takes fuel, energy. With God’s Holy Spirit, His Word, and fellowship of true believers, we can endure and finish this race! The letter to the Hebrews tells us that we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, who by example encourage us to continue on, by faith, trusting that “He who began a good work in you, will be faithful to complete it”!

Take courage today, everyday!

It’s All About Me Me Me

This is a minor departure from things I preach to myself about. Though this can be a preaching topic, it’s more of something that we all complain about from time to time. We observe this, yet can also find ourselves guilty of the very issue.

As we make our day-to-day travels, whether to the local store or to work, we are out and about sharing the highways and byways with our fellow humans. Because two solid objects cannot share the same place at the same time, we attempt to skillfully whisk by each other…sometimes at a “personal space” distance, sometimes too close for comfort. Either way, we try to respect the other person’s space.

But, as mankind has evolved over the centuries, we have become smarter, wiser, stronger, and more advanced exponentially. I believe this has created a greater egocentric mentality. Though not unique in human history, man seems to have grown even more ‘wise in his own eyes’ and became a chronic narcissistic in personality, even though since the beginning of time, self-exultation has been the norm.

Because of this self-adulation, people put themselves first over those around them. As a king would wave a hand to move commoners away, many have become so self-absorbed that putting others first is almost a chore, if done at all.selfish-leader-power-motive-900x400From as early as the accounts in Genesis through the final period in Revelation, the Bible has recounted stories of man’s arrogance. Not just toward God, as in man’s sin nature, but also toward each other. Many triggers are explained as to what causes men to act the way he does. From self-righteousness, greed, desire, and pride, humankind has an innate desire to ‘pat himself on the back’ and raise himself up as ‘the best’.

 

casting_the_first_stoneAll of this self-driven behavior though has caused more problems than anything else. Cain killed Able because he felt slighted by God. As in the days of Noah, everyone was wiped out except Noah’s family because of the wickedness of men…rambunctious for self-gratification. Many kings and leaders rose to power, grew egotistical, and created wars and atrocities…including their own demise…over people. Even in the end times recorded in the Bible, it’s the pinnacle of selfish pride that brings the final days of man.

Where has all this come from? If we are called to give, love, share, and ‘do unto others’, why, then, is there such a gross level of ‘me, me, me’ going on?

From the highest levels of world leaders and business greed to the simplest of people who think they have to park in three spots or cut off others in traffic because it’s all about ‘them’, humans have steadily become so selfish that even the daily commute or simple shopping trip creates such bitterness, anger, hostility, and anxiety. We all experience it, we all struggle with others and their self attitudes.

So what does all this say? It says that we need to buckle up, put on our patience-pants, learn to keep moving and stay focused! Why? Because this has been going on since time beginning and is going to continue till time ends. Absolutely nothing that you or I can say or do is going to stop the insanity of the inconsiderate egos who try to make life on this planet all about them.

You may vent until your heart’s content, but people are people, blinded by the god of this world, thinking that the more they glorify themselves, the better they will feel. They boast and puff themselves up in the hopes of gaining respect, admiration, and glory. This is exactly what the devil has been doing since the Garden of Eden. “If you…then you will be like God”. Mankind has striven for that since.

welcome2

The quickest and clearest example is: Hollywood. If ever there was a cloister of people who try to exalt themselves over everyone, it’s the ego maniacal minions of that entertainment world. They poise themselves above everyone else. They have to be first, have the best, have the most, be the biggest, be the most glamoured, be be be…me me me!

And that very mentality and existence doesn’t end there. The infection is as close as your backyard. Your neighbor, your co-worker, your children, the people we meet each and every day on those highways and byways I mentioned before.

Nothing you can do. Just be patient, love, pray, set examples, be humble, and stay focused the best you can.

Believe it or not, we all have that disease of self. With some, it shows more abundantly. But, we all have it. And until our self is quenched, we battle it inside and out every day. To overcome that problem through God, we’re taught to “put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (as stated in Ephesians 4:22-24).

But with so many who don’t seek God’s Word of redemption, the world continues to show the rampant display of selfishness, as is stated in 2 Timothy chapter 3;

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” (underline of verse 2 mine for emphasis)

We see that in every direction we look these days. Through the help of God, we can put off our old self, and walk in newness with love, peace, joy, humility, and unselfishness. Though we might not be able to fix others, we can certainly start with ourselves! Amen

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