Paul’s Mission Statement

1 Timothy 1: 5

But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

Did you every wonder how the Apostle Paul perceived his mission? In order to complete the race the Lord has set before us, we must understand and accept our personal mission. Paul, in writing to Timothy, tells us wat his was. It is twofold. First is love, second is faith.

The first of Paul’s goals and the purpose of his instruction is to teach and lead us into pure love from both a pure heart and a good conscience. We are invited, in this little phrase, to check our hearts and our conscience. Does your conscience accuse you? Give that burden to Jesus. Ask for and receive his forgiveness. Ask him to work in your heart so that you are no longer vulnerable to whatever it was which tripped you up. How is your heart? Do you feel anger or compassion? Are you sensitive to the needs of others? Can you love others, or do you find yourself thinking mostly of your desires and needs? Check your heart and ask the Father for that which you feel you need in order to love from a pure heart. You can ask Him what your heart needs and He will help you.

Secondly, do you have a sincere faith. We have just read that Paul’s declared purpose in his writings and teachings were to lead us to a place in which we reside in a sincere faith. That means that reasoning does not take first place in our lives. Faith rises to fore. It also means that doubt meets its foe whenever it raises its head. Are you living in faith? Is faith your constant companion? Faith is a shield, and you need it in good shape.

Give attention to your heart and your faith today. Perform some First Aid on these two vital areas, if need be, or simply nurture them if that is what is called for. Don’t ignore them. Perform a check-up to make sure you are fortified and living the faithful life of a loving believer.

Fear, Faith and Wisdom

1 Corinthians 1: 30

But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God.

My friend, Ann, brought up a really good point recently. She expressed concern over whether we are walking in faith or fear. This is always a good question but especially now during the corona virus situation. The virus is a real thing and has impacted every life. However, we must stand in faith if we are to eradicate it. Fear will undermine our fight. So, are you praying in faith or fear?

Jesus said, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, (John 14: 23). If this means anything it means we walk in a way which is consistent with his teaching. This necessarily means we must walk in faith. This is where Ann’s concern lies. Are we praying about our health, the virus, etc. and feel that we are praying in faith but then cowering in fear in our daily walk? Do we expect God to protect us and our families or are our actions colored by fear? Jesus teaches us faith and wisdom and that is the model which will get us through.

No one is suggesting that any of us go expose ourselves to the corona virus intentionally and dare it to infect us. That is not faith. It is foolishness. We are to be led by God in Godly wisdom. When you walk in God’s wisdom there is no reason to fear. Fear contaminates faith. We are either in faith or fear but not both. If we pray in faith and then succumb to fear, it will contaminate our faith. So, we must build ourselves up on our most holy faith (Jude 1: 20), but how do we do build ourselves up in holy faith? Jude says it come by praying in the Holy Spirit (ibid). If you feel fear arising in your heart, pray in the Holy Spirit. Allow the Spirit of God to fill you.

Let’s be smart. Let’s walk in wisdom. Take your vitamins, eat a healthy diet of whole foods, drink plenty of water, wash your hands, wear your mask, etc. but don’t let those things be an excuse for failing to feed your spirit with the faith it needs. Then stand in your most holy faith knowing that your God is for you and with you. Let faith and wisdom speak to your heart and guide your prayers. Sing in faith and let not fear have a root in your heart. Your faith overcomes mountains. Let God guide your prayers and devotional time. Let Him speak to your heart and build you up. And, bless the Lord.

Motto

Colossians 3: 12 – 14

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.

As you may have noticed, I am reading Colossians, the third chapter, and if you look at the digital Bible I am reading from, you will see that almost every verse is highlighted and the only reason it isn’t all highlighted is because I restrained myself. This chapter is a primer for the what the Christian life is to be. Today’s passage really spoke to me and I want to suggest that it is the seminal passage for this time in our history. However, we are so far from this paradigm right now, that I hesitate to speak what alit on my heart as I read it. Then again, many writers of truth have been shouted down throughout history and berated for speaking the truth. Just look at Paul, John and Peter for starters.

In trying times, and these certainly are, the kindness of God and His love are needed above all things. The language of love is what will resonate and it will resound above all else. Love is a hard thing, though, because it does not, under any circumstances, lie. Sometimes the truth is the hardest thing you will ever have to tell someone.

In trying to navigate the stress and to come to grips with a changing world, this advice from Paul resonates loudly. We must approach the changing dynamics from God’s perspective of compassion and love. Life is a challenged right now, I know, and that is why I want to offer this passage. I know some people feel trapped by the rhetoric. The political left has its message but on a different subject we are assailed by the right. Most people in the country can identify with some “ism”. Blacks, Asians, Hispanics, Native Americans, and every other identifiable race, excluding whites, has felt the sting of racism. Women have been abused, neglected, marginalized and discriminated against the world over. Even white males get old and are no longer viewed as valuable. It seems most are either the wrong race, gender or age. Then there is the gay and transgendered community. Many people would not think twice about making derogatory comments about this group. Not long ago people were saying that God created AIDS to eliminate them. Wow!

The only real answer for any of this is the love and compassion of God. If we don’t take our stressors to God in prayer and wield the love and patience of God, I fear we will never make any meaningful change. God changes hearts. I want to bring this discussion to a broad market. In response to the corona virus challenge, we all need to apply the love, patience, compassion and gentleness of God. I am not advocating passivity or a lack in your conviction. In fact, I advocate just the opposite. I want people of passion. I just wonder if we are taking our troubles to the Lord or just ranting on Facebook. We are the answer to the problem. If the Christians will adopt today’s passage and marry it with a strong dose, and a continuing practice of prayer, we can effect real change. God can soften hearts and change the course of human history. Whether right or left, the answer is the same – God! Faith only works by love which is why today’s passage is so important.

Paul had to deal with a changing environment too. He lived in very tumultuous times. For goodness sake, the Messiah had just been crucified. Followers of Jesus were facing the same fate. Those are dire circumstances. Yet, he understood that the real power in the community was love, compassion and prayer. Love moves mountains.

There are lots of stressors in our lives right now. Some of you are on furlough and worried about feeding your families. The number of cases of Covid 19 is still rising in some areas. The economy is fragile. People want the economy open; others see that as a risk. We have racial tension, police brutality and in some cases, lawlessness. It is a fine balancing act at this time. And in the wings is a Presidential election with all the turmoil that interjects. We need help.

Please hear me clearly, I am not criticizing anyone’s reactions to the situations or stress in their lives. I am recognizing that people are under enormous stress. The purpose of this writing is to suggest that God is the way and that we need Him like never before. Regardless of our beliefs, there is one constant and one ultimate truth: our God. This, then, is an appeal to adopt this language from Paul as our refrain and further, to passionately and resolutely take our problems to God. As we meditate upon these ideals, what will God speak to our hearts?

There is no one on the planet who has not been affected by the circumstances of 2020. God cares what is going on in your heart. He cares about your pains and worries. He cares that you feel stressed to the point of breaking or that you have been isolated from friends and family for months. He knows of your anxiety and is compassionate. He wants to aid you.

Let’s just look at this one more time – “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” Though I have not written, specifically, on them, let us not overlook the words kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness and unity.

No matter where we stand politically or on any given issue, we are all those “who have been chosen of God.” We are the people God has in the earth. We have an awesome ability to take everything to Him in compassioned prayer. Let us not miss our calling oh chosen ones of God. Let us recommit ourselves to prayer and remember, that person across the aisle may not think like you, but they are, none the less, a child of God and valued in His sight.

Immersed and Intertwined

John 21: 1 – 8

Jesus manifested Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and He manifested Himself in this way. Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will also come with you.” They went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing.

But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. So Jesus said to them, “Children, you do not have any fish, do you?” They answered Him, “No.” And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch.” So they cast, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish. Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” So when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on (for he was stripped for work), and threw himself into the sea. But the other disciples came in the little boat, for they were not far from the land, but about one hundred yards away, dragging the net full of fish.

After Jesus died and was resurrected, he appeared, or manifested himself, in the flesh, to his disciples. That is an interesting study in itself, but not where I am going today. What I wish to point out today is the difference in John and Peter. Both are renowned disciples who are two of Jesus’ best friends but their approach to him and to the world is vastly different.

First, let me clarify something which tends to challenge people. In good writing, the author never uses personal pronouns. In other words, they don’t use “I”. The author is not supposed to be writing about himself or herself but rather about a larger context. In truth, this has changed with blogs and social media. It is one of the changes I had to embrace, though hesitantly, in writing a personal devotional. So, John refers to himself as the “disciple whom Jesus loved.” Okay, proprieties taken care of.

Second, people think this is an arrogant moniker. No, it is just the opposite. John is saying to his readership, and every other person, that his only value in the world is that Jesus loves him. It is a statement, or rather a reference, of great humility. “It’s little old me. I am no one but for the grace of Jesus’ love which is unearned for I am unworthy of his kind intention towards me. It is only by his benevolence that he loves me, nothing of my doing.”

Okay, now you begin to see inside John’s heart. Though he entered the ministry of Jesus as a Son of Thunder, he became the love apostle. He is the apex teacher on the relationship aspect of Christianity, teaching us that our love relationship with the Trinity and, indeed, with each other, marks our faith above all else. When you compare his letters with those of the other writers you will find they are unique. They reveal the integration with Father, Son and Spirit which I write about frequently. I got it from John.

So, John’s heart became tender. He learned to live and walk with Jesus. He learned to engage his heart even above his mind. His spirit became sensitive to the Holy Spirit and he received remarkable revelation out of that intertwined relationship with the Trinity. The whole book of Revelation is one remarkable experience that John enjoyed with the Holy Spirit. So, all this is to show you who this man became. I guess in a few words I would say of him, he became one with the Spirit.

In this story you see the sensitivity of his spirit to the things of the Holy Spirit and Jesus. When Jesus was standing on the shore, it was John whose spirit recognized him. Of all the disciples, it would be John who knew Jesus when others did not.

Now Peter, Peter was a man of action. He was strong willed, perhaps a little hard-headed, and his faith had feet. He did something. He was the one who jumped out of the boat to walk on the water with Jesus (Matthew 14: 29). When the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, Peter drew his sword and removed the ear of one of the soldiers (John 18: 10). This story finds Peter jumping out of a boat again. When John said to him, “It is the Lord,” Peter bailed out.

Both men leave us with good examples. John transformed himself into a spiritually sensitive person who could see and hear the Holy Spirit. Though Peter lacked John’s spiritual sensitivity, he was always quick to take action. That action may have at times been rash, but Peter was not going to be found sitting on his hands. If nothing else, he was going fishing.

Two models of faith – both give us insight and hope for who we may become in Christ.

Raging Storm

Matthew 8: 18, 23 – 26

Now when Jesus saw a crowd around Him, He gave orders to depart to the other side . . . and when He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. And behold, there arose a great storm in the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves; but He himself was asleep. And they came to Him, and awoke Him saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!” And He said to them, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” Then He arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and it became perfectly calm.

Let me ask you a question today. Do you think when Jesus got into the boat, he knew there would be a storm? As we stop and ponder this situation, I bet a lot of us would expect that Jesus was aware a storm was coming. He was prophetic after all. I mean, how does he not know? If we presume he did know a storm was coming, then how rational does it sound to lay down and take a nap? I mean, knowing a big storm was coming, a storm capable of capsizing the boat, he went to sleep. We know it was a big storm because the waves were threatening to swamp the boat. Also, the disciples tell us they were “perishing.”

When he was aroused, he was nonchalant. The disciples must have been amazed, dumbfounded, and infuriated. “We’re dying here, and he is bothered that we awoke him? Really?” It gets worse for them, though. He was bemused to have been awaken for something as trivial as a life-threatening storm. He chastised them for having so little faith. The God’s Word version says it even more plainly, “Jesus said to them, “Why do you cowards have so little faith?”

What did he expect to happen? Did he expect to get to sleep all the way to the other shore even knowing that a tempest would assault the boat? Apparently, he did. Do you find this baffling?

It seems clear that he expected his disciples to take care of the storm. The humor in the situation is that he has just spoken on anxiety, but I don’t think his disciples would have considered a raging storm mere anxiety. Their lives were in peril. Jesus, though, sounded annoyed that they didn’t handle the storm themselves. “Why have you so little faith that you feel the need to awaken me?” None the less, he spoke to the wind and the sea and the sea became perfectly calm.

Verse 27 reads, “And the men marveled, saying, “What kind of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” Jesus’ response can be found in John 14: 12, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to the Father.”

There is a lesson here. What is Jesus saying to us today?

God Forsaken

Deuteronomy 31:8

The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.

Right now, many places in the world appear God forsaken. How do you feel about that statement? What do you think non-believers are thinking now? Do they, or we, see God’s hand? Is He asleep? How do we answer anyone’s doubts, even our own?

Stubborn faith is one answer. We choose to believe in love regardless of the current situation. How can this viral disaster occur, and hundreds of thousands lose their lives if God is love? Are we forsaken? Has God removed His grace or His protection?  We believe we are not forsaken because we choose to believe.  But can we know beyond our stubborn belief?

It is in times like these that we need to know God in our hearts, not just in our minds. We can say, “The Bible says . . .,” but in our hearts we need to know that Yahweh loves us and cares about us. I know God is present and listening because of the nudge upon me to pray. I’ve begun to develop prayer spots on my bike riding circuit where I stop, rest and pray. It’s turning into a thing where I am looking for good places to stop and pray for a few minutes. I am very aware this is not my thought or idea but something the Father is leading me into. He wants me to pray more because He wants more intercessors on the planet. Though I have never considered myself an intercessor, it is clear that Father wants me praying more than normal. This is one of the ways I know we are not forsaken. Our God is here and speaking.  He is leading us individually and collectively.

I have also seen blessing during this time. How can that be? How can there be any blessing in the midst of a world-wide viral outbreak? There is always blessing when God is near. His nature attracts blessing; it overflows from His presence. I am sure you have seen kindnesses that would have been uncommon previously. In those things, I see the goodness of God welling up in people and know that He is near.

When you look at the bad things that are happening around the world, it is hard to see the hand of God but when you look around your world, you may see indications of God’s love and grace. I hope you do. As you activate your faith, those things become more obvious and those are the things you may want to share with others. They are also the things which grow your faith. As we believe that God is present, we not only see Him better, but it becomes easier and more imperative for us to join with Him.

Tomorrow is the National Day of Prayer. Prayer is the natural outcome of belief that our Father is on the scene and paying attention. We are not forsaken and we know it. We need not fear nor be dismayed. God is going before us as our forward guard and preparing our way. He will tell us, “This is the way walk in it,” and then our faith activates. We are all in this together, not just as human beings, but with our Father too. He will never leave nor forsake us and knowing that gives us confidence.

Believership

Romans 4: 3

For what does the Scripture say? “ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.”

So here is my question, would Abraham have become the Father of Israel if He did not believe? He is also called the father of faith. Surely, he would not have won that title without outstanding, radical belief.

Question number two, what is the relevance for today? My answer is that I want to be like Abraham. Think of what God asked him to believe. He and his wife were already old. Sarah was infertile as a young woman. Then God went to them in their old age and said, a father of a multitude will I make you. What? Frankly, that had to sound ludicrous. Immediately the human mind goes to the worldly way of things because that is what we know. What made Abraham different?

Did you know that Abraham’s father, Terah, started out for Canaan? Terah, though, found a pleasing land and settled. That is a metaphor for life. Terah settled for less than God had for him. God was leading him to the land of promise, the land flowing with mild and honey but Terah found a pleasing land and put down stakes. It’s a frightening story. How many of us have done the same thing? How many times have I done that?

What made Abraham different? When God spoke to him, he packed up his belongings and left his family to follow God. What kind of fortitude does that require? So, here we are? What would you have done? What would I have done? I probably would have said, “That can’t be God speaking. That’s nuts!”

To the natural mind, God is nuts. That is how I can sometimes know it is God speaking to me rather than my own mind making up stuff. Some of the things he comes up with I would never in a million years think of. How do we grow to hear God’s voice so well that there is no doubt left in our minds and then how do we grow the intestinal fortitude to do what He says? Dad is telling me these days to spend more time in quite contemplation with Him. What is He telling you? Let’s grow together! You share with the class what you are learning, and we will all become believers by Abraham’s standard of measure.

This is an amazing time in history. What can we become during this time? How can we grow and improve? We finally have the time to dedicate to spiritual pursuits. Can we become like Abraham? I sure want to try.

Reply to this email or share a comment so that we can all grow together.