Monthly Archives: November 2014

A Thanksgiving Silhouette

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As I sit here watching the Thanksgiving Day sunrise outside the windows of my den, and see the grays slowly turn warm purple, and the pinks begin to morph into a blazing red, I am reminded of the awe of the Lord God.  I see the silhouettes of the mostly leafless trees against the backdrop of this Artist’s canvass, and I am reminded of the dull and plain condition of my life, in comparison to the vast, indescribable beauty, of this Great God.

Then the wind begins to blow through the limbs, and they start to dance!  As a result of the beauty of their backdrop, even the simplistic, non-featured limbs and trees begin a beautiful, intriguing, and fascinating performance of worship to His Glory.

Isn’t that just like us and God?  Our lives are dull and plain – mere silhouettes of barren trees – until the beauty of The Lord becomes our backdrop.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me…
…To grant those who mourn in Zion,
Giving them a garland instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.
So they will be called oaks of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.

(Isaiah 61:1a, 3)

So, on this day of giving thanks, as I ponder the long list I could make of true blessings for which I am sincerely grateful – I can only pause and realize that among them all, there is truly only One that matters.  For without Him having turned my mere silhouette of a life into something more than ashes, nothing else would be of significance – nothing else could even matter. And for that, my Lord and King, I am eternally grateful.

May this life of mine, that was once a barren tree, indeed now be called an Oak of Righteousness, because You, my Jesus, have planted it for Your Glory.

May the canvass of Your beauty – be the backdrop of my life.  Amen.

#HappyThanksgiving #NoSpectators

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Watching, Perceiving, Abstaining & Frank Sinatra

The same passage of Scripture (1 Tim 4) that begins with these words: “in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons”, ends, 16 verses later with these: “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”  In between is talk of things which are permitted, encouraged, taught, preached, lived, and forbidden.

But what are we to make of these words “Watch your life … closely”?  Given the dramatic start of this passage, I have a suspicion that these closing words are of utmost importance.  With that in mind, I ask myself, “what do they mean to me?”

Recently – as many times before – I was browsing the Facebook pages of my friends, and I saw some photos of folks whom I know to be followers – even disciples – of Christ, photographing and displaying actions and behaviors, that for some among us, would be considered – at best, questionable – and at worst, sin (or at least “self-serving”).

I am NOT the perfect human – but I am humbled that perfection, in the person of Jesus Christ, does indeed live in me!  I am not perfect, but am called to be holy, as He is holy.  I am not perfect, but I am called to be certain that any liberties that I might perceive myself to have, are not a stumbling block to my brother or sister, or a reproach, to the watching world.

Among the fruits of repentance is ‘self-denial’ for the sake of others, rather than ‘self-serving’ actions for my own pleasure.  I might foolishly say: “I can’t help what others think of me – that’s their problem.”  That may be true, however, I can control the image they are given, from which they formulate their thoughts towards me.  Their perceptions will be, what they will be – yet, I can bear the fruits of repentance, by showing concern and forethought in my actions and behaviors that might aid them in making wrong perceptions. 1 Thess 5:22 comes to mind here: “Abstain from all appearances of evil.”

Sure, we can we debate alcohol, tobacco, tattoos, immodesty, cussing, and the like, until Jesus Himself returns.  But the questions we must ask ourselves – in light of the Life that lives in us – is this: “Am I exercising my perceived rights to self-serving pleasures, or am I going to elevate myself to self-denial, in the name of ‘bearing fruits of repentance’ for the sake of my weaker brothers and sisters, and the Lord’s testimony to a watching world?  Simply put… am I going to obey the admonishment of 1 Tim 4:16 and “Watch [my] life … closely. [that I might] save both [my]self and my hearers” and watchers?  Or will I enter eternity rejecting the fruits of repentance, while singing that old nightclub *hymn*: “I did it my way”?

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Believe!

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John 6:53-69 reads:

53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. 54 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.”

59 These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.

60 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble? 62 What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would [j]betray Him. 65 And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”

66 As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. 67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?”68 Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.69 We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”

Though the reading of the Gospel accounts, it is clear that there were 4 types of people that typically encountered Jesus:

1) Those that opposed Him

2) The massive crowds that came to see Him

3) The thousands that followed Him

4) Those that were His Disciples (Not just “The Twelve”)

In every town, there were massive crowds that came out to see Jesus.  But when he left, they went home – anxiously awaiting his next “tour date” in their hometown.  There were also those who followed Him, faithfully, from town-to-town, enduring much, to hear his next public teaching, and to see His next miraculous display.  Among those the followed Him, were those who made up the group commonly referred to as the disciples – this group would have included several women – likely His mother Mary, the other “Mary’s”; his half-brothers; and from time to time, Lazarus, Martha, and several others.  But then still, there was the inner circle of disciples, often referred to as “the twelve”.


Now, probably no one would suggest that “the crowds” were “saved” (however, I bet if they were asked on a modern-day survey what their “religious affiliation” was, they would say “Christian”.)  But in reality, they were more like modern day “fans” of a rock band – looking forward to the annual “show” in their area, talking about them, and making reference to them, as if they know them personally – but they don’t.

A step of commitment beyond, was that of “the followers“. Indeed this is a title we often give ourselves when we speak of our “Christian Experience”, but that too takes a turn for the lesser in this passage, as clearly not all who were in the “crowds” were “followers”, and not all who followed were counted among His disciples, though they clearly exhibited a sacrificial determination to get closer to Jesus – but what was their motives, really?  Many among us would call ourselves a follower, and rest well with that distinction, proclaiming ourselves to be a “saved Christian” – yet, hold on… Jesus makes yet another, seeming final distinction.

The Lord went on to call some of these followers, “disciples“.  There can be no argument, that not all who came to hear were followers; and not all who followed, were disciples – and certainly to be a disciple, is a far more committed role in the “Christian Experience” than that of just a follower, as we see from the passage above, and many others in Scripture.  Clearly those who were disciples – and maybe many of us –  rest confident in being called and numbered among this “elite” group of devotees.

Think of it… I am a “disciple of Jesus”!  Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it.  I am an apprentice of the Savior come from Heaven, being taught at the feet of the master Himself – being privy to parables explained and mysteries revealed.  But wait… there’s more!  Look carefully at the beginning of verse 64: “there are some of you who do not believe” – some of who?  The crowds?  The followers?  No, the disciples!! Look at the verses just prior to this, and the one immediately following (60, 61 & 66): “Therefore many of His disciples,” – “His disciples grumbled at this” & “many of His disciples withdrew.”  As frightening as it may seem, even being a disciple, does not appear to be adequate for salvation!

So if being among the crowd who hails Jesus as the best motivational speaker in the region – those who never miss hearing Him when he comes to town is not enough… if being so “inspired” by His teachings that you make great sacrifice to follow Him from town-to-town, is not enough… if committing to sit at His feet, and be listed among those crazy disciples is not enough… then the question begs to be asked “What in the world does this Jesus want from us anyway?!?”

Verse 64 provides the answer: “believe”.

It seems we have it backwards.  We call folks to first “believe” (thereafter pronouncing them “saved”), then tell them to follow Jesus all the days of their life.  And, if you really want to get carried away, you might consider becoming a disciple – but we treat true discipleship as if it is optional, and only for the “extremists” among us.  However, the Holy Spirit teaches us in this very passage, that many among the crowds will begin to follow Jesus, and some among the followers will become disciples, and few among the disciples will become *believers*.

Is this not what our Heavenly Father is seeking… *True Believers*?  Not casual fans – not even committed followers – nor just extreme disciples!  He is looking for those who will be satisfied with none of that – remaining hungry for more – and willing to cast aside all caution – BELIEVE the radical, life-changing, history-altering message of the King, come to earth, to save His own from themselves, that they might return to Him with desperate, reckless, selfless, passionate abandon – surrendering fully to all His seemingly foolish and outrageous words, and yielding the throne of their lives, to His rule and reign, in their hearts, for all their days.

And when these *True Believers* emerge from the ranks of those being discipled to Jesus, then – and only then – will the watching world look at them, and with pointed fingers, with a bit of mockery – and, as they did in Antioch (Acts 11:26) – call them “Christians” – for in this way, they have become just like that crazy Jesus guy!

Reader, it’s time for some soul searching… what role does Jesus Christ really play in your life?  Is He really nothing more that “favorite motivational speaker”?  Or have you committed to following Him – yet still at a distance – offended at some of His audacity, and ready to “walk” as soon as He gets too close?  Or, are you among those who would proudly wear your “Jesus is my homeboy” t-shirt, since, after all, you number yourself among the inner circle… but in your heart, do you believe all His outrageous and extreme claims – really?  He is calling you to believe!  Believe with all your heart!  Believe without reservation! Believe with reckless abandon that “Jesus alone has the words of Life, and that He is the Holy One of God”! Believe!

Kingdom Notes & Quotes

(Originally written/posted on September 19, 2012)
People do not drift toward Holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.” ~ D.A. Carson

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Sin is not harmful because it is forbidden; it is forbidden because it is harmful!” Thank God that Grace doesn’t just “cover my sin”, but by His Spirit indwelling & inhabitation my life – and by a *grace-driven* surrender & yielding to His Life – Grace empowers me to be RID of sin, to His Glory!!!

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4 things that we need to have/be to experience “Deeper” in Christ: 1) Humility, 2) Childlike Faith, 3) Determination, & 4) Unashamed. Consider both the woman with the issue of blood, crawling to Christ & Blind Bartimaeus, crying out without regard. (Inspired by Blake & Perri at Everburn 8/10/12)

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“Heaven is not a place for people who do not want hell; heaven is a place for people who love God.” ~ Matt Chandler

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“The characteristic of a man who has come to God is that you cannot get him to take anyone seriously, but God.” ~ Oswald Chambers

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The Gospel of The Kingdom is likened unto this: The front walkway, the front steps & the front door are of first-most importance to entering the domain of another. In fact, it could be said that they are the ONLY WAY to lawfully gain entrance. However, the purpose of them, is not themselves alone, but to ALLOW entry to the domain of another, where the Owner of that domain resides. If we only admire, accept, or otherwise embrace the “entry” alone – never utilizing them as a means of entrance – we render them of no effect! So is it with the Death, Burial & Resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Let him who has ears to hear, hear. ~ Grrr

Guard Your Heart

“If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:7)

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There is probably no other urgent word I could give to all my Christian brothers & sisters that I believe to more important in these days we live in than: “Guard you heart!”

Friends, liberality is all about us. I am not talking about the liberty that we have in Christ to be free from sin, but a liberality that influences us to call darkness – light, and lies – truth. (Isaiah 5:20)

We must be on our guard (1 Peter 5:8); we must protect the treasure that our testimony is (Rev 12:11). Liberality leads to compromise; and compromise to sin; and sin to death. It always starts so innocently…. a little of this; one of those – just one; it won’t hurt; all things in moderation; I can handle it; I am free; all things are permissible….. and on & on we go… til we are trapped in sin & facing death!

“We” must look carefully at our lives, our choices, our words, our actions – in the convicting & purifying light of the Holy Spirit – and live our life worthy of the calling that we have received in Christ Jesus. (Eph 4:1)

Compromise, sin & death don’t come to us wearing a sign that says “Hi, I am compromise, I will lead you to sin & death.” No, it comes subtly, quietly, even innocently, disguised as liberty, freedom, pleasure & permissiveness. False teachers & false prophets won’t come teaching all lies… who would listen to such as that, and fall for their deceit? – no, they will come preaching mostly truth (“in My Name, claiming I [Jesus] am the Messiah” Matt 24:5) with some lies mixed in… a partial truth, is a whole lie! RUN – run fast & hard! (2 Tim 2:22)

Brothers and sisters, the days are growing short. May we all “be on our guard, sober & alert, guarding our hearts against the *innocent* evils that come our way seeking to seduce us into sin & death. WE ARE NOT IMMUNE! (Matt 24:10)

For our Lord’s Glory, and the sake of His Name, and His Kingdom…. guard your hearts!

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Proverbs 4:23 reads: “Watch over (guard) your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.”

(Originally written in November 2012)

Biblical Judgement – Oxymoron?

(Originally written in November 2012)

Let me share a little about “judging” based on my limited study of the whole-counsel of scripture, and the original Greek text. First, this study written for Christians – And I am making the assumption that as a professing Christian, you are actually a Christ-follower. If that is not correct, disregard the rest of this post.

There are 3 important things to know about “judging”. 1) Jesus DID NOT teach that we were to not judge one another, He did say (in the original Greek) that if we don’t want to be judged, then don’t judge, but went on to say that we need to understand, that the way we judge (measuring stick we use, and attitude we have, whether merciful, graceful, harsh or critical) is the same way we will be judged by others – the passage in Matthew 7:1-5 – ends with Jesus saying: “cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then thou shalt see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”

2) There are at least 3 Greek words used for “Judge/Judging/Judgement” in the new testament: Krisis, Krino & Krites. The words have different meanings:

  1. Krisis means to distinguish between wrong & right;
  2. Krites means to rule over “such as a court Judge”; and
  3. Krino which means, primarily, among other things to condemn or damn.

So, it is important to know that we read the word “judge” in scripture, it doesn’t always mean the same thing. Scripture is clear in it’s teaching that we are not to judge, in the sense of condemning or damning someone – that, you are correct, is the “Word’s” responsibility alone.

However, 3) In 1 Corinthian’s 5, especially verses 11-14, we are clearly taught that we, as Christians, are to judge (distinguish between right & wrong) with fellow Christians. Even to the point that, certain behavior, requires us to treat them as an unbeliever and not be in fellowship with them (that they might see the error of their way, and come to repentance).

With that said, the Word clearly teaches that we, as Christians, are to:

  1. guard our hearts from evil (Prov 4:23 & others);
  2. abstain from carnality & worldliness (1 Peter 2:11-17) (it even teaches that if we love the world and it’s ways, we hate God – James 4:4);
  3. all unwholesome talk and cursing should not be on our lips (Eph 4:29)

So, we suggest strongly to you, in judgement of right and wrong, that there are clearly behaviors, that, as a Christ-follower, it is improper to willingly participate in. We are not condemning or damning when we point this out; rather, we are stating Scripturally, that it is improper for God’s holy children to behave in certain ways.  Lastly, consider Eph 5:3-4: “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.”

I hope & pray this brings life!

~ Gary