Desiring to Change

My “must watch” Christmas movie the last few years has been A Christmas Carol with George C. Scott. I realize that it can be spooky and a bit scary for some, but it is thought provoking and has a great message if you can get past the eeriness.

I’m sure almost everyone is familiar with this classic about Ebenezer Scrooge, the mean, selfish, wealthy miser who cares nothing for anyone but himself and despises Christmas as a day when people want to deprive him of his hard-earned money. The thing that makes this story great, however, is that it does not end on that note. By the end of the story, Mr. Scrooge realizes that, “If those courses be departed from, the end must change,” and he becomes willing to make those changes. The next morning (Christmas day), no one recognizes him as the man they had seen the day before. Sure, he looks like himself, but he does not act like Mr. Scrooge at all. He is a new person, and it is noticeable to everyone he comes in contact with.

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Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone changed that easily? We all have roots of pride and selfishness but, many times, we choose to ignore them and fail to see what effect those things are having on others.

“We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we might be enslaved to sin” (Romans 6:6).

“And he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:15).

When we come to know the Lord, Christ begins to live in and through us. We become a new creation as old things pass away (2 Corinthians 5:17).

My prayer this coming year is that people see more of Christ and less of me. I don’t want to hang on to any “sin that so easily ensnares” (Hebrews 12:1). This week, as the year winds to a close, I encourage you to take the time to look at your life. Are you doing what God wants you to do? Are you impacting people for His Kingdom? Are you walking in faith and victory, full of anticipation for what God is doing in your life, or are you depressed and downhearted? These are questions I am asking myself. It’s not easy but I am making myself be quiet and trusting that God will continue to speak to me this week. I hope you will take time to do that as well. The world desperately needs to see God’s people walking differently than the rest of the world. God, help us to desire to change!

An Encouraging Thanksgiving

Dear Reader,

With all the hubbub about the recent US Presidential election still not over, I felt it would be appropriate to go a different direction with this post. May it be an encouragement to you as we enter a very special season.

In the UK, a special day reminds us to be thankful and is often called Harvest Sunday or Harvest Thanksgiving Sunday. Many churches gather together and have a large display of crops from the surrounding farming lands. They give thanks to God that stomachs are not empty, pantries are stocked, and another year of working in the fields has come to a productive end.

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In the USA, schoolchildren are taught that Thanksgiving came about as a way to thank the Lord for bringing the Pilgrims through a bleak winter where many of them died. Proclamations were made for a Thanksgiving remembrance by various officials until,

“As President of the United States, George Washington proclaimed the first nationwide thanksgiving celebration in America marking November 26, 1789, ‘as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of Almighty God.’”

Oh, how is it that we have fallen so far from such a proclamation about what we should be doing. This year though there will be no prayer to Almighty God. Our nation has become a nation where the vast majority prefers to live in a way that emulates the Book of Judges. “Every man (and woman) does that which is right in their own eyes.”

The apostle Paul could have easily been seeing the future when he wrote Romans 3:18, “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” This once great nation, established as one nation under God, has crumbled. It has gone from being a moral and upright democracy to a nation that has no morals. We are not an immoral society but have gone far beyond that point.

Even a vast majority of those who claim the name of Christ have determined that, in the words of Doris Day, “Que sera, sera.” Whatever will be, will be. The world and the church glibly sings, “The future is not ours to see. Live for the moment. Eat, drink, and be merry.”

Yet, the future is there to behold to the eye of the saint who is watching, waiting, and working for the return of her Beloved Bridegroom. The future holds so much hope and promise knowing that one day we will no longer have to remain living in a human shell that still craves at times what was paid for on the Cross of Calvary.

One day, we will no longer have to deal with even a single vestige of the old man. We will no longer have to cry bitterly with Paul as we both proclaim, “O wretched man, who will deliver us from the body of this death?”

This last week, I read more than one person who thinks a large percentage of Americans are true Christians. Several have expressed hope in the new US President-Elect, yet within days of having won the election is already waffling on his promises.

Many think that we should just wear safety pins to show everybody they are loved and accepted just as they are with no change required. What a travesty that all of this has so permeated the church to the point that believers look almost identical to the world.

The church-at-large has failed. Let me reiterate that – THE CHURCH-AT-LARGE HAS FAILED. Miserably. Conclusively. Totally.

However….

Elijah was reminded that there were 7,000 who had still not bowed the knee to Baal. In like manner, I want to remind those who are true believers that there are others who have not bowed their knees to the Baals of this world. My hope is not found in politics. It is not found in a bank account. It is not built on failed promises that will never be kept by mortal men.

This Thanksgiving season is one that I choose to remember the glory of the Risen Christ. It is a season that I choose to remember the price that was paid so that I can reign with Him on high. This year, I will again bow the knee and heart and give thanks with a grateful heart. A true heart of Thanksgiving will not be destroyed by the depravity of the world around us. We will and MUST remain grateful and keep our eyes looking up to the prize that is set before us.

Our Lord went to the cross and despised the shame. It is from that Cross that He calls us to TAKE UP our cross and follow Him. As strangers and pilgrims, we are not called to bind ourselves to this world that C.S. Lewis rightly called, “The Shadowlands.”

Lord willing, a few of us will be writing and sharing words of Biblical encouragement during this season. Yes, there will still be a depraved world to live in, but we can encourage one other with these words as Paul was eager to remind the Thessalonian believers.

My desire is not to point out the fallacy of all that is transpiring in the world. I do not want to get to the point where I say, “See, I told you so.” My heart is to share with you and encourage you to such a point of thankfulness that when we close our eyes on this earth and wake up in the arms of our Blessed Redeemer that we will be able to say, “The half has never been told!”

Happy Thanksgiving!

Love Mercy

He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8).

But if you had known what this means, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the guiltless (Matthew 12:7).

A while back, I came to the conclusion that I would rather err on the side of mercy when relating to others. I’m not talking about being soft on sin. But I am talking about walking graciously toward others who may not be at the same place in their walk with the Lord as you or I may be. And, if a brother or sister is caught in sin, learning how to “restore such a one in the spirit of meekness” (Gal. 6:1).

When I look at others who are covered with the scars of bad decisions they have made, I do not lose sight of the fact that there but for the grace of God go I. God has spared me from a lot in life but that is a testimony to His goodness, not mine.

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Luke 6:36 tells us:

Be you therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.

Matthew 5:7 says:

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

I have received so much mercy in my life. How could I be so heartless as to not show mercy in return?

Dictionary.com defines “mercy” as:

1. compassionate or kindly forbearance shown toward an offender, an enemy, or other person in one’s power; compassion, pity, or benevolence:
2. the disposition to be compassionate or forbearing:
3. the discretionary power of a judge to pardon someone or to mitigate punishment, especially to send to prison rather than invoke the death penalty:
4. an act of kindness, compassion, or favor:
5. something that gives evidence of divine favor; blessing.
I want to be that person that doesn’t hesitate to put an arm around a struggling sinner who is broken instead of the one who says (even in the heart), “If you just hadn’t done that stupid thing, you wouldn’t be in this predicament.”
 
There are times when pious, religious people may need a firm rebuke but only if it can be done in humility with the purpose of the sinner coming to repentance and being restored. But there are other times that we must help to lift up the broken so they can find that hope that will lift them out of the pit they find themselves in.
Several times in the Gospels, we read that “Jesus had compassion.” We need to follow His example. Won’t you show mercy to someone today?

Christ in the Scriptures

On Sundays especially, I enjoy listening to music that is uplifting and honors Christ in every way. You may be reading this morning and be discouraged and in need of encouragement. Know that you are loved with an everlasting love that comes only from He Who is our Eternal Sabbath. Every day is to be a day of worship and it does not matter, ultimately, what day we set aside to honor Him Who ever lives and intercedes for us.

In all the turmoils of life, we would do well to remember that every mountain top experience is surrounded by valleys on every side. While it would be nice to live on the mountain top enjoying the grandeur every day, there are trials in the valley that, like Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress, we must walk through in order to become more like Christ, Who is the Author and Finisher of our faith. Rejoice in Him today and be encouraged in the God of our salvation.

Is There Really No Condemnation?

There is, therefore, now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.  ~Romans 8:1

I know the first part of this verse well, but I don’t often hear the last part quoted, which is really the important part of this verse. This was not meant to be taken as, once you pray and ask Jesus into your heart, He doesn’t see the wrong you do so you are no longer condemned. Unfortunately, some seem to interpret it just this way.

Second Corinthians 5:17 tells us:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

In 2 Corinthians 13:5, Paul tells us to:

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?–unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

This is not something to be taken lightly. There is freedom in knowing Christ, but that freedom is to walk in His ways. That is where true joy and victory lies, not being enslaved to this world.

If there is sin in your life, I implore you to let it go. Ask God to deliver you. Sin may be pleasurable for a time, but the end is eternal death and separation from God. It is not worth it.

If you are playing the “church” game, attending services and looking the part on Sunday but living and talking like the world the rest of the week, repent! It is never too late to surrender to Him. Then, when you do that, don’t look back. Press on as fast as you can.

Life is short
Death is sure
Sin the cause
Christ the cure

Blessed Are the Pure in Heart

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8, emphasis added).

As I was reading the Beatitudes the other day, this verse especially jumped out at me. It seems like the verses on purity and holiness are the least-quoted verses any more, but I am challenged by this verse.

I wonder how many people on earth are truly pure in heart. It is a rare person who doesn’t at least struggle with lust, jealousy, anger, etc. Yet, these are some of the things that can keep us from seeing God.

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Despite popular belief, we have no reason to be proud. We should be constantly asking God to search us and try us and show us those impure thoughts and motives. We should be daily drawing closer to Him and becoming more and more like Him.

I don’t know about you, but I want to be blessed. I want to see God. I want to be pure so that I don’t stand before Him full of shame and disgrace. I want to hear Him say, “Well done, My good and faithful servant.” I expect that I will be more aware than ever before of how holy He is and how wretched I am. But I praise Him that He saved a wretch like me, and I will continue singing, “More like the Master I will ever be. More of His meekness, more humility. More zeal to labor, more courage to be true. More consecration for work He bids me do.