Recalcitrant, Dead and Inert

ID-100159550The first word in the title stopped me  — what does it mean ? In this wonderful age of devices and gadgets, I just highlight it, and, bingo, there’s the definition: having an obstinately uncooperative attitude toward authority or discipline.

So, when the call comes that a funeral has derailed our plans for Bible Conference, I find myself a bit recalcitrant, and that, my friend, is not an attribute of holiness!

Lately, the desire for holiness in my life has moved to the front burner. Am I living a holy life, and what does that mean? A recent quote said, “Think not on a holy life, but on a holy moment as it flies” (John Kitto).

Holiness is a lifelong process of making right choices! So, when I read this devotion, I felt that perhaps it could be a help to you as it was to me! R.C. Sproul has a way with words, even if they are big ones ! 🙂

Becoming a New Creation

As Christians, we are new creations. Our hearts of stone have been turned into hearts of flesh. In this metaphor, flesh is used as a positive figure, not a pejorative one. Where once my heart was cold and recalcitrant, dead and inert to the things of God, now it throbs and pulsates with spiritual life. Once I was biologically alive but spiritually dead. Now I am biologically alive and spiritually alive as well. I am a new person.

There is radical discontinuity between my new self and my old self. This radical discontinuity, however, is not total discontinuity. A link between the old man and the new man remains. The old man has been dealt a mortal blow. His total destruction is certain, but he is not yet dead.

The conflict of the Christian life is a struggle with sin. Sin no longer has dominion over us if we are in Christ, yet sin is still in us. Regeneration liberates us from the bondage of original sin, but our corrupt nature is not totally annihilated this side of heaven.

Paul speaks of the warfare that goes on between the flesh and the spirit. “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish” (Gal. 5:17).

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

Thank God for the new heart of flesh He has implanted in your spiritual being.

Copyright © Ligonier Ministries. Get a free book from R.C. Sproul

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Drop Dead!

Postcard with text "Greetings from the Sunny South." Five African American people in interesting dress--fancy suit, hats, umbrella, frilly dress. One has a fiddle and a dog. Text: "Cake Walkers. Way down south in Dixie."For a short while, we had these words on our mirror in the bathroom: Drop Dead. The idea was that we would start the day with this thought in mind. It was a good reminder; however, I remember the time when a young girl, who came for dinner with her unsaved family, came out from the bathroom, wide-eyed and saying, “You have bad words on your mirror!” To her, the idea of telling someone to drop dead was a threat!

As a church, we have been memorizing verses from Romans 6. (By the way, are you memorizing Bible verses? Is it me or does it get harder as you age? Anyway, that is my “New Year’s Resolution” for 2018! I’m not sure how I’m going to implement it, but I MUST be memorizing more scripture.) Whether it’s a piece of music, a famous speech, or a Bible verse, memorizing allows you to see it differently. As you memorize, you are meditating on the words and phrases in a different way than if you just read it.

Here is December’s verse for our church:

Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. Romans 6: 13

As I was working on it, I noticed something. We are urged to yield ourselves to God.  That’s easy to understand, but then Paul adds this phrase: “as those that are alive from the dead.”

OK, Jesus died and rose from the dead. We are to be like Him? Is that what Paul is saying. Of course, that is certainly part of it. But as I “meditated” on this portion of the verse, I dug a little deeper! As born-again believers, we are not only dead, but we are resurrected.  When we

  • Are saved
  • Ask Jesus to be our Savior
  • Trust Christ for salvation
  • Believe and receive Jesus as our Savior

However you want to phrase it when that happens, we die to the power of sin! We die to living our lives for ourselves. We die to our wants, our plans, our path, and we allow God to do the leading.  He directs our paths, guides our plans, and often changes our wants. We are dead BUT alive!

Later in chapter 12:1,2, Paul puts a little more meat on the bones:

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

A living sacrifice—we are alive, but we really can’t live for God until we die. That hurts! Death can be painful, and what I’ve found is this:

The tighter we hold on to our wants, our plans, our life,

the deeper God needs to cut to “kill” this world from our hearts!

What are you loving more than God? Can you be honest about this? Is it your traditions? Family? Church denomination? Entertainment? Way of worship? Money? Security? The way you do life?

Look at this verse:

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. Revelation 12:11

Wow! What a challenge (and a good one to memorize)! As the Lord’s Return draws closer, will we need to follow their example more: they loved not their lives unto the death?

It’s all quite a challenge, but then, true believers understand that the Christian life is not a cakewalk. (FYI and total rabbit trail. Check out the link if you want to know where that phrase cakewalk originated!)

Will you drop dead today AND allow God to resurrect you so that you can yield your members as instruments of righteousness unto God? That’s a tall order. Thankfully, our loving God also supplies the grace to make it possible!

 

 

Moth in the Window

mothinthwindow-layout_300It was just a moth stuck in the bathroom window this morning! I’m not one of those crazy (I take that back—they’re not crazy!) kind-hearted people who take insects outside instead of squashing them, but this guy was so frantic… and big, I didn’t want to make a mess!

So, I released the screen to let him out only to find that he was between the top and bottom windows. Now, I’m holding the screen out the window and trying to move the windows so he can find his freedom. I just about gave up, but, hooray! he was able to brave it and fly around the wooden frame and out to his world.

Lesson # One: He was so close to freedom but wouldn’t make the leap away from light to clear the window. His instinct told him that if he just headed towards the light, he would be fine, but his instinct manual didn’t include any instruction about glass! When am I afraid to go “Beyond Common Sense” and do something extraordinary for God? What is it that I’m trusting to be the right way, but it’s not? Hmmm?

Lesson # Two: His way was the wrong way. Proverbs 14:12 tells us that “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” Yikes! That’s pretty serious! Believing in anything but the Blood of Jesus Christ is the wrong way to heaven. It’s really frightening to think that “good” people will be in hell but look at Nicodemus. He was a really good guy, but if he had kept on his “right” path of good works, he wouldn’t be enjoying God’s presence right now!

Lesson # Three: Patience! I was ready to give up on the poor stupid thing! After all, if he couldn’t figure it out, it wasn’t my fault. How many times do I become impatient, perhaps giving up on someone when a change of heart is right around the corner?

Finding God’s message in the mundane—He has so many lessons for us! What a wonderful heavenly Father we have!

Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness. Psalm 143:10

Bug Zapping Theology

Electric-Bug-Zapper-612x630Americans are very creative in their ways to destroy pests. We don’t simply use mouse traps or just poison them anymore. We can catch them on sticky stuff and then…? I’m not sure what happens. Do you have to kill them or just let them starve or suffocate to death in the trash can? We are also creative with our flying insect destruction. Ah yes, we use fly swatters and practice our aim until we can get “seven in one blow.”  But look where that got Mickey Mouse!  Then there’s the roll of sticky stuff, which is placed by the door so flies get stuck there instead of coming in for a visit. What a wonderful sight to welcome guests!

We starve the flies on sticky rolls, poison them with spray, try to keep them out with screens, but my favorite is the bug-zapper. How soothing it is to sit on a patio with the sound of bugs frying in the background!

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not a bug lover.  I know they have their purposes, but I do wonder if they are a part of creation or the curse.

It’s interesting how the bug-zapper works. The light attracts the unsuspecting bug who thinks it is just going to get warm. Boy, does it get warm! Little does it know that it is in mortal danger!  It can’t see all the fried carcasses stuck to the thing.  It doesn’t smell sizzling critters, and it is not hearing the zap! It is just following the instinct of all Diptera ( the scientific name for flying insects. FYI: the scientific name for Praying Mantis is Mantis religiosa!)

So, what’s the point? Why the title “Bug Zapping Theology?” What is Bug Zapping theology? So glad you asked!

Bug Zapping Theology deceives its followers into thinking that they are following the True Light: Jesus Christ. It is so dangerous for the same reasons a Bug Zapper is lethal–it kills!

Whether it is a false leader who has convinced its followers to blindly follow his cult, or a seemingly upstanding religious pastor or priest who is watering down the Bible, both can be eternally dangerous!

How do you know if you are being deceived? Here are some guidelines for avoiding false teaching:

  • Check the Bible. If someone is teaching a doctrine that runs against the grain of the Bible, it is a false doctrine. In this day and age, EVERYTHING is being questioned. Even the Ten Commandments aren’t excluded from the scrutiny. For example, commandment number four: Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. What does that mean? The Bible is certainly open for many applications, but only one interpretation. When the application says that attending church is not part of keeping the Sabbath holy, we are on dangerous ground. Sadly, many ignore the warning signs of false doctrine for various reasons: family and cultural traditions, feel-good and bandwagon mentality…
  • Check the Bible.
  • Check the Bible.

Why am I so adamant about this? Ask yourself this question: Where is the best place to go for information about God, eternity, morality, etc.? Doesn’t it make sense to check the Book that was written by God? Better yet, don’t just check it–read it!

  • Check your heart. Ask a few questions concerning basic beliefs, like: What do I have to do to get to heaven? Many people say, “Receive forgiveness of my sins by believing that Jesus died for me.” This is the correct answer as long as you don’t add anything to it. You may word it differently, but the idea is the same. For example, Believe that Jesus died for my sins, and be baptized, join a church, do my best, be good, pay my dues… If we add anything to the blood of Jesus, we are saying that His Crucifixion and Resurrection were not enough to take away my sin! It’s sad to me how many people are being duped by charlatans–false lights!
  • Watch out for “easy-believism.” What’s that? It comes in all shapes and size, such as salvation without a knowledge of sin. Can we truly be saved from sin if we do not know or believe that we are sinners? the philosophy of “Come as you are”  opens the door to all, which is a good thing, but “stay as you are” means that salvation never made a difference, and it should! “Just give your heart to Jesus.” Sometimes folks are urged to do this with no explanation or understanding. Then it becomes no more than a good gesture, like giving someone a cookie.
  • Check your life. Did your decision to trust Jesus Christ as your personal Savior change your life? We hate to ask this because of “Check your Heart!” We’re afraid of being legalistic–adding anything to simple belief for salvation. But life DOES change once we are born-again! I’m not talking about putting more gas in the tank, I’m talking about dropping a brand-new engine into a dead car! It would NOT move before, but now it has motion.  It was useless–now it has a purpose. It may have been comfortable, but really, who wants to sit in a beautiful car that can’t take you anywhere? Jesus Christ cannot abide in your heart and NOT affect your life.
  • Be discerning. We can’t follow our feelings.  Sometimes, we can’t even trust our leaders!  That’s scary! But poor council keeps folks enslaved to false religions. If you are in this situation and you feel there is no one to turn to, turn to God! He never goes against His Word!
  • Be prayerful. Praise God, He will ALWAYS answer when we humbly seek His face!

Sadly, as we see the day of our Lord’s return approaching, the deception grows stronger every day!

But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.

But take heart! John 8:32 is still in the Bible:

And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

As a child, I believed in God and that Jesus died for me.  I faithfully attended church, sang in the choir, and played the organ.  But I had never prayed and asked Jesus to save me until I was seventeen.  Would I have gone to hell if I had died before then? I believe so, but I’m so thankful that I didn’t have to find out! If you have any questions, check out God’s Simple Plan of Salvation. It’s important enough to get right–all eternity depends upon it!

 

Many Judases

The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of him: but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! good were it for that man if he had never been born. Mark 14:21

In just a few days the horrific yet wonderful story of Jesus’ last days on earth will end in glory, and we will celebrate His omnipotent victory over death.  Jesus is very much alive!  He has conquered death. But where is Judas? Judas Iscariot is dead. Who was Judas? What do we know about this man?

Here are the facts that we can gather from scripture:

  • Iscariot tells us that he probably lived in the area of Kerioth in southern Judaea
  • His father’s name was Simon
  • Luke 6:16 calls him a traitor—that he became a traitor
  • John 17:12 labels him as the “Son of perdition” which means he is identified as a man destined for eternal destruction in the Lake of Fire.
  • Several passages allude to the fact that Judas was the treasurer and a thief.

Judas was progressive.  We don’t know what he thought when Jesus chose him as one of the twelve; however, Jesus’ ministry was already flourishing and it could be that Judas saw it as an opportunity to improve his situation. While all the other disciples were disillusioned into thinking that Jesus was about to usher in His Kingdom, it may be that, as time went on, Judas began to believe differently. It seems as though Mary’s gift was the last straw. All this waste—money that didn’t make it into his purse!

Whatever the reasoning for Judas’ hard heart, he betrayed the One who would die for him, rejected God’s precious gift, and took his own life.

“… good were it for that man if he had never been born.”

 Jesus’ words are haunting. What a strong statement, and yet it can still be applied to people today. If we continue in this life, seeking our own way, our own salvation through personal beliefs or the beliefs of false religions, it would be better if we had not been born! Why? Because any other belief will take our souls to hell, and Jesus knew this! Perhaps His greatest suffering on the cross was the realization that so many would still spend eternity in hell, in spite of His ultimate sacrifice!

As our world becomes more diverse, it seems too intolerant to believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven. Can all the other religions of the world be wrong? Here’s a thought that might stretch you a bit.  Bear with me!

When this world was destroyed by the worldwide flood, eight people disembarked from the ark. Every one of those people knew the one true God and saw His incredible power, but just one hundred years later, they had forgotten Jehovah’s instructions for a blood sacrifice and were building a tower to God—an amazing symbol of man’s efforts to reach God by his own design. They scattered, and instead of taking the truth about the one true God with them, they chose to be smarter than God and make their own gods.

“… good were it for that man if he had never been born.”

The truth is always available to anyone who seeks it. Did Judas have a choice or opportunity to embrace Christ instead of betraying Him? Absolutely! Any person who has taken a breath has that opportunity. If you doubt the truth about Jesus Christ, will you consider this: He died in your place! If you want to read more, here’s a wonderful story that may help to make everything clear, and here’s is the Gospel, plain and simple. May it not be said of you, dear reader…

“… good were it for that man if he had never been born.”

When we leave our hearts and mind open and empty of God’s Holy Spirit, we are just as susceptible to Satan as Judas was.

Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve.     Luke 22:3

Desperate vs. Curious

p_0006As Jesus was approaching Jericho, He and his followers pass by Bartimaeus, a blind man who sat by the road begging. When he was told that it was Jesus passing by, he cried out even louder. The disciples told him to be quiet, but he couldn’t be silenced. Prior to this meeting, Jesus had dealt with so many people: the children whom the disciples also tried to turn away, the rich young ruler who would not give up his riches to follow the Master, Lazarus whom He raised from the dead, and James and John who asked to sit next to Jesus in the Kingdom Age. All the while, He tells his disciples of the upcoming events, but they do not understand.

The religious leaders are scheming, the people are gathering in Jerusalem for this Holy Passover week, and Jesus takes the time to hear the plea of yet another blind man. This man not only receives his physical sight, but he receives spiritual sight as well.

And immediately he received his sight, and followed him, glorifying God: and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God.Luke 18:43

A desperate man, seeking sight and finding eternal life through the Son of God. Even though the crowd wanted to push Bartimaeus away, he continued his desperate quest and is even now with Jesus for all eternity!

Lesson: How desperate am I to know Jesus, to see His way more clearly, to have my focus be 20/20 on Christ? Will I seek Him even when others think I’m strange for being so desperate to “see” Him better?

Jesus met Bartimaeus on his way into Jericho, and while walking through Jericho, he finds another man–a curious man named Zacchaeus. As we all know, Zacchaeus was a wee little man, only about four inches high. (Just kidding, but isn’t that the motions we usually do with our fingers?) He was curious, and his curiosity led him up a tree and to Jesus because Jesus was also looking for him! We have a little more information about Zacchaeus than we do about Bartimaeus. When the others criticize Jesus for eating with sinners, Zacchaeus tells about his heart change. How do we know that his heart change was genuine? Because we read of a tax collector restoring what he had stolen! Only a heart touched by God could do that! If this study compared Zacchaeus with the rich young ruler, we would see another obvious contrast: the rich young ruler allowed his love for money to rule his decision, but Zacchaeus had found a better Master!

Desperate vs. Curious–could either of these adjectives be used to describe you? Are you desperate for a changed life? Jesus says, “Come.”  Are you curious about Jesus? Do you know someone who seems to really know God while you only think of Him on occasion?

When I trusted Jesus Christ as my Savior, I must admit it was out of curiosity. A young man from Bible College had sent me a Gospel tract in a letter. I was curious because we had talked about God, and he had left the church denomination that I was in—not only in but pursuing a career as an organist! As I read the tract, I heard myself saying, “I believe that too,” in a somewhat defiant voice. But when the tract spoke of asking Jesus to be my Savior, I realized that I had never done that.  God took my curious heart and washed it white as snow through the blood of His Son!

No matter the reason for your seeking, Jesus can answer the call of your heart!

Comfy Cozy Comforter

IMG_7688Do you have a set of clothing that is your comfy cozy clothes? For me, it’s a pair of over-sized pajama pants and an old sweatshirt. Mmmm, just typing that makes me want to go and put them on, especially with the rain falling outside and the temperatures lingering in the 50s!

 

What makes these clothes so comfortable?

  1. Material—the material is soft
  2. Familiar—they are old and well-worn!
  3. Sentimental—the Rickets Glen sweatshirt was purchased years ago while on a family vacation.
  4. Loose—lots of room.
  5. Warmth—this is not an outfit for July, but on a cold, rainy March day, it’s perfect!

So how do these relate to the Holy Spirit—our Comforter?

Material—He is a Spirit and He speaks in a soft, gentle voice! He calls to our hearts, never demanding, but instructing and comforting–wooing us to come closer! And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. (1 Kings 19:12) In this wonderful, biblical account of Elijah hiding from Jezebel, God displays His majesty with earthquakes and fire and wind so strong that it shook and broke the mountain! But God spoke in a quiet voice, asking Elijah what he was doing there. and then patiently listening to Elijah’s rather whiny complaint.

Familiar—Is the Holy Spirit familiar to you?  Is He and “old” friend with which you long to spend time with? This is not a study of the Holy Spirit, but below is a list from the Thompson Chain Reference Bible which may help you to become more familiar with the Holy Spirit.

Holy Spirit, 6s, 7s, and 8’s of (office and work of)

Each verse given below contains either the number 6, 7 or 8, Hence called “The 6’s, 7’s and 8’s of the Holy Spirit”

  1. The Abiding Guest (John 14:16)
  2. The Teacher and Remembrancer (John 14:26)
  3. The Testifier (John 15:26)
  4. The Reprover (John 16:7,8)
  5. The Guide, the Voice of God, the Prophet (John 16:13)
  6. The Glorifier of Jesus (John 16:14)
  7. The Exhibitor of Jesus (John 16:15)
  8. The Spiritual Dynamo (Acts 1:8)
  9. The Witness to Sonship (Romans 8:16)
  10. The Helper in Prayer (Romans 8:26)
  11. The Solicitor (Revelation 22:17)

Sentimental—sentimentality comes from time spent with special people. Are you aware of the Holy Spirit and His workings in your life? Have you purposely spent time alone with the Holy Spirit, listening to His teachings while studying His Word?

Loose-amazingly, the Holy Spirit is a one-size-fits-all! I can’t explain or even agree with some teachings about the Holy Spirit, but that doesn’t matter! Biblical truths matter, and the Holy Spirit is able to fill every believer at salvation. He leaves plenty of room for each of us to fit perfectly into HIS mold.

Warmth—there is much confusion about the Holy Spirit in our day, and only more confusion will come as the Lord’s return draws closer. The pendulum of emotions swings back and forth covering the extremes concerning our walk with the Lord. While some worship God in a frenzy, others quietly seek His face. The warmth provided by flannel pajama pants and a sweatshirt is comforting. So too, the blessed quietness of the Holy Spirit warms our souls!

Perhaps I’m stretching these similarities to make a point, but I hope that it will help quantify the precious comfort that can only come from our Comforter!