Archive for September, 2012

Some might think that after more than 20 years as a full-time apostle used SO powerfully by God, the Apostle Paul should have developed enough spiritual wisdom, boldness and strength to could cut the apron strings loose from time to time regarding his moment-by-moment dependency upon God.

After all, isn’t every believer tempted to think they can lean on their own understanding and power, charting their own course through the minefields and deserts of life?

I face that temptation and I’m sure that you do, too.

We’re wrong when we do so, however.

And we’re setting ourselves up for failure, something I’ve experienced on more than one occasion.

The fact is that our battle is not against flesh and blood but against powers of darkness and against our own fallen nature that tends toward sinfulness and independence from the voice of God.

Paul didn’t write much about his own battle with sin and independence from God, though he did acknowledge it in several of his letters.

He clearly recognized that his mission to share the Gospel with people was greater than what he could accomplish on his own.

As smart as he was, he knew that he wasn’t smart enough to outfox the Devil.

As careful as he was to keep his body in a condition to keep traveling, to keep teaching and sometimes to keep working for income purposes, Paul knew that his obstacles were greater than his flesh and that his fears were sometimes greater than his faith.

That’s why he prayed as he did in the desire for God’s provision and protection. And that’s why he asked the church at Ephesus to offer the same prayers in his behalf.

“Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel” (Ephesians 6:19)

As a minister of the Gospel, I know that my effectiveness is limited when I’m leaning too much on my own abilities and strength. I don’t want that. I want to imitate Paul who knew that he needed God’s help when doing God’s work.

He knew that his human nature was outgunned in the battle with Satan and that he’d pull back if he leaned on himself.

That’s why he asked for the prayers of others.

That’s why I need the prayers of others.

And that’s why I encourage you to ask others to pray for your courage and wisdom so that people in your life will hear the message of God’s love.

As always, I love you

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The Devil wants us to think that God loves us only when we do impressive things or at least don’t do stupid things.

He wants us to think that our status with God is based on performance, not relationship.

It’s true that how we conduct ourselves does have a bearing on how God responds to us, but it never has a bearing on whether God loves us.

We’re loved despite the fact that we’re sinners.

That’s why Jesus came to be our atoning sacrifice showing God’s unmerited love for the humans He created.

If God loves us through no effort of our own, is there any reason to live a life that pleases Him?

Can we just party all night long with no regard for goodness and still coast into glory?


Listen, God’s love for our tainted souls abides no matter what. That’s unconditional.

But God’s offer of eternal life IS conditional.

Salvation comes to those who live to please God.

Here is a passage that points to that promise, a passage from the last chapter of Isaiah:

These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my Word.” (Isaiah 66:2)


That’s easy to understand.

We just have to do the hard work of living humbly with a willing-to-repent attitude and awe-inspired respect for the Bible’s teachings.

You and I will likely come to at least one intersection today where we’ll choose the path of humility or the path of pride.

We might choose, at least initially, the path of pride. If that happens, we’ll need to be contrite before the Lord which means willing to confess our sin, ask forgiveness and commit to looking again at the Bible in order to make the better choice next time.

If this is our response to our sin, it will be clear to God that we want to please Him.

And He will show us favor just as He promised in Isaiah 66:2.

It will be better, though, if we don’t make a wrong turn. We’ll receive the blessings of being His “favored” and He won’t have to deal with the disappointment of seeing us turn off His path, even for a brief time.

As always, I love you

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It’s never a good idea to take off sweaty, stinky, stained clothes and immediately put on clean dress clothes.

A shower or bath to get the crud off the body is clearly needed at such a time.

Spiritually speaking, though, we’ve all occasionally fallen into the trap of doing just that when we were convicted of the need to change how we’ve been doing things.

Perhaps we were caught in what seemed to be a revolving door of sinful choices that stained us, wounded others and disappointed God. We decided that the pattern was no good and we needed to stop and make amends.

We didn’t want to repent, though, because that would wound our pride and so we simply started walking the correct path and hoped that was good enough to appease God.

In effect, we put on the garments of goodness so that we looked like we were Christians but we didn’t do anything about the attitude and values that got us into trouble in the first place.

That’s better than no spiritual change, of course, but it is also less than what God wants.

What? Putting on garments of goodness is not enough? How can that be?

Check out these words from Ephesians 4:22-24.

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

The Apostle Paul teaches here that we don’t get from an “old self” status to a “new self” status simply by changing our behavioral choices. There has to be a change within, a change to the attitude of our minds.

Without a change in our inner person, we’re just putting a new coat of paint on the rusted clunker of our lives before we drive off the cliff.

Listen, we’re to be involved in a congregation not just to learn socially and spiritually acceptable behavior for Christians, but also to learn the value and process for the renewing of our minds.

Romans 12:1-2 tell us that we become living sacrifices through the renewing of our minds. Please flush the non-Christlike thinking out of your minds by replacing it with Bible teachings about Christ and about other many other people of faith described in the Bible.

As you learn more about them, you’ll learn more about how their encounters with God’s Word shaped them into desiring the “new self” things that Christ demonstrated so perfectly in His life.

Our happiest and holiest days await us, my friend.

Let’s pursue them together, daily showering our minds with time in the Word.

As always, I love you

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We all grow tired at times in various ways.

We tire physically.

We tire emotionally.

And, of course, spiritually.

We’re running on fumes, it sometimes seems, and we’re tempted to just quit whatever we’re doing.

The temptations to stop going to a job we don’t like or to stop attending college classes that don’t come easily or to walk away from a contentious marriage are SO alluring.

That’s why we must look beyond the moment and think long-term.

That’s why we must remember that when we’re feeling burned-out, the better choice is not to quit but instead to more diligently look for the fountains of physical, emotional and spiritual renewal.

The most important, of course, is the fountain that flows from faith.

God promises in 2 Corinthians 9:8 that He will provide the faithful with all that they need in order to provide good deeds for His Kingdom.

This is a precious promise to me because I occasionally feel depleted because of inadequate sleep or because of an abundance of struggling people in my life to whom I am seeking to minister.

I need to remind myself repeatedly to be filled with the presence, purposes and power of God. For I am far from adequate to the task in my strength alone.

This is why I read the Bible daily. This is why I pray multiple times a day. This is why I talk with other Christians who do the same.

This helps me to become more helpful to others.

I’m encouraged when I read passages like Galatians 6:9-10. I pray that this passage will help you to help others.

“Let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.” (Galatians 6:9-10)

A heart connected to the Lord is a heart that never tires of doing good. God can do wonderful things through people who are tired physically, emotionally and spiritually yet continue to serve in the strength that He provides them.

Somebody will need your help today. Plant your seeds of faith into his or her life and you’ll be helping to bring a harvest of blessing to yourself in the days ahead.

As always, I love you

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We’re happy when we score a great deal on a purchase, getting something for much less money than it’s worth.

It’s always fun “winning” in this way and we each have success stories that we delight in sharing.

Unfortunately, we also have stories that we wish we could forget about when we’ve paid good money for bad deals.

Perhaps for a lemon car.

Perhaps for a house with undisclosed, costly problems.

Perhaps for professional advice that turned out to be useless.

Perhaps for a vacation trip that turned out to be a nightmare because of falsely advertised claims.

Such things really stink.

But lessons from such things also really stick.

Much of life enjoyment and success hinges on the choices of what we buy in life.

This is particularly true in the spiritual realm.

Consider this wisdom from King Solomon:

“Buy the truth and do not sell it” (Proverbs 23:23)

Buying truth means investing time and sometimes resources in order to learn the Word and will of God. As we learn scripture and the application of its principles in everyday relationships and business, our investment of time in reading and listening and discussing ALWAYS pays off in better life experiences, here and in eternity.

But if we choose to exchange the truth of God for a lie — such as the unrepentant sinners described in Romans 1 — we are headed toward a terrible cliff that precedes eternal torment.

The Enemy will always promise that doing things his way rather than God’s way yields more pleasure and profit in this life. He’ll always want us to sell out when it comes to trusting God.

But selling out to Satan is never right. It always leads to bad things. If there is no repentance, there will be no deliverance.

And that’s the Truth.

Please, my friend, when Satan tempts you with one of his poisoned, pleasure-promising lies, don’t buy it.

As always, I love you

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