Castaway

Psalm 51: 11

Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.

This prayer from David seems the picture of a dichotomy. On the one hand, it sounds like a desperate prayer offered as a last hope from one at the end of his rope. On the other hand, it sounds like an everyday prayer.

I was thinking just this morning about Jesus saying he could do nothing apart from the Father. I still find that an astounding statement, but how much more true is it of me? If the Father should take His Spirit from me, I would be able to do nothing. NOTHING! The thought is alarming. His presence with us daily is life.

This is my definition of hell, to be out of the presence of God, void of His Spirit. So, this prayer amounts to, “Save me from hell!” David’s guilt tormented him so that he began to understand the torment of hell. I pray, “Save us from even one moment outside your grace. Please do not take your Spirit away.”

Grace and Knowledge

2 peter 3: 18

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

A friend and I were talking yesterday when he said he feels like he has lost a year of his life to Covid. I well imagine a lot of us feel that way. It gave me pause, though, and I have two responses to it.

First of all, the year is not over yet. So, I ask you, what do you want this year to stand for? You’ve still got several months to turn this year around if you don’t like where you are right now. Further, I would suggest we all begin to think about next year as well and decide what we want out of it. You do not have to give your life away to Covid. Sure, there are restrictions. Not all is as it was, and it may be a while before we return to life as we knew it. Still, you can make something good out of this bad situation.

In that light I wish for you to consider today’s verse, and this brings me to my second comment. We get to decide what life will be for us, at least to some degree. We were not meant be stagnant. We are meant to grow and learn. Every day of our lives is meant to be part of the transformation  to which Christ invites us. So, I ask you again, what do you want? What do you want to be able to claim at the end of this year? This verse says we are to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus. It is not too late to do exactly that. We don’t have to throw 2020 away entirely. We can grow. Most of us are not as busy as we once were so there is more discretionary time to put towards growing in Jesus.

Please, don’t be a victim of this time of challenge. Be an aggressive learner. There are so many ways you can turn these challenges in to a positive. We know that people are really struggling and even suffering. You could help those people. Don’t waste a single day of your life. Don’t look back and say, “I wish I had read my Bible more or prayed more or joined the prayer team.” Write some letters, start exercising, take a class, buy a book on the Bible or a Bible figure. Do something! Make these last two and a half months meaningful. What do you want? What do you want to say you gained out of 2020?

Let’s be champions of what Jesus has done for us. Let’s grow in his grace. Let’s grow in the knowledge of him. This is our moment, let us not waste it!

Hand of Salvation

Psalm 109: 26 – 27

Help me, O Lord my God; save me according to Your lovingkindness. And let them know that this is Your hand; You, Lord, have done it.

There are two aspects of these verses which sing to me. The first is that our Father saves according to His kindness. The second is that our salvation shall be recognized as the grace which comes from the hand of the Lord God, Yahweh, our Father and deliverer.

The first part is such a relief. God extends His saving grace to us not because we deserve it or have earned it but rather because He is love and kindness. What an important concept this is for us individually as well as theologically. We are relieved of the pressure of earning His many graces. We are expected to turn to Him in our need without regard of our righteousness or lack thereof. Hallelujah! Theologically, doesn’t this make the job of every minister on the planet easier? We do not have to teach you how to earn God’s favor nor continually harangue parishioners to works which will grant them God’s graciousness. I hope that God’s many kindnesses towards us stimulates kindness in us but nothing we can do will help us to earn His kind intentions. No matter how rotten any of us have been in the last week, month or ten years, He still loves us and is willing to help us in all things. Salvation and forgiveness are constantly in His hand.

Some see the glorious touch of the Lord’s grace and still deny His presence, yet our prayer is that His salvation shall be so loud, so glorious and so obvious that no one will be able to deny that it was the hand of the Lord. Father, send your angels with your Word to bring salvation to the earth. Save us, Lord, from our daily perils. Meet our needs by your richness in Christ and shower us with your never-ending mercies. Cause the world and worldly to see you face and your grace. You cause the son and the sun to shine upon the saved and the unsaved; your rain waters us all. Let each person receive of your bounty and be filled. Father, you are the Righteous One. Let us revel in your presence and the beauty of your face. We seek you Lord and beseech you on behalf of all people. Let not our sin fall upon us but rather your mercy. We offer you praise and thanksgiving for caring about us and caring for us. Be praised dear Lord. Amen.

The Crimson Lens

Romans 5:9

Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.

In 2015 I wrote a devotion titled “The Crimson Veil.” The substance of that article is about the effect the blood has on our relationship with the Father. When He looks at us, He looks through a crimson veil, that veil being the blood of Christ. God sees Jesus’ righteousness and worth when He looks at us because He looks through the veil of sacrificial blood. Speaking for myself, that is a powerful image and certainly helps me understand who I am in Christ. And, it is a relief because which of us wishes to stand in our own right?

I had another thought about the crimson veil, though. You have heard that we all perceive the world according to our own filters or through the lens of our world, hence the rose-colored lens. It dawned on me that if I saw the world through a crimson colored lens it would most certainly color my perspective. What if I was able to see other people through God’s crimson-colored lens? I think that would change my world, and that would be a good thing.

Imagine if we all looked at the world through crimson-colored glasses. Think of some of the challenges of 2020 and then put on Dad’s glasses and look at them anew. Does it change our thoughts, our prayers? What does the world look like when it is covered in Jesus’ blood? Oh my!

This one observation shows why God cannot be the judgmental, vengeful God some people make Him out to be. He sees Jesus’ blood everywhere He looks. Imagine if Christians saw every other person through the crimson lens. What if, when we looked at someone who might not even have a redeeming character, we, none the less, saw them splattered with that precious blood? How would that change things? Well, it is something to pray for. I think I would be much more gracious and accepting. Wouldn’t anger recede? What about a sense of betrayal? Think about someone who really gets under your skin and imagine Jesus’ blood covering them. Isn’t it harder to feel the anger and frustration that you might normally experience? Maybe we should all take a deep yoga breath, slowly and fully exhale, and picture our adversaries covered in the sacred blood. I believe this could change the world and in a hurry.

Fish or Snake

Matthew 7: 7 – 11, 12

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!

12 “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

This passage has been on my mind a lot lately, but I wasn’t inclined to write on it. Not every verse that comes to me is for the Word of the Day. Some are just for me. It kept circling around and around though, different parts of it at different times because, as you see, there are several parts to this. It wasn’t until I sat down with my Bible and read through it that I realized that verses 7 through 11 were part of the same message. I was thinking about our Father being a good father who would not give us a snake if we asked for a fish. Then another day ask, seek, and knock came to my mind. I wasn’t putting it all together in my head. Then when I actually took the time to see the words, I found another interesting tidbit, i.e. verse 12. What is going on here? There appear to be at least three thoughts here, yet it seems Jesus delivered all this, practically, in one breath. Could it be these are all related?

That is the message I received out of this passage. God is not denying me anything, or you. We should ask expecting to receive, seek expecting to find and knock expecting God to open the door to us. However, the grease on the hinges of the door just might be the way I treat people. Worse, what if the way I think about people or talk about them, even in private, affects my receiving, finding and opening?

I am trying to learn to be much less judgmental and much more compassionate. One person’s acts, thoughts or words can look very wrong from our perspective and not even wrong in a sinful way but just “not right.” That is a hard lesson. Sometimes the world is very different from their spot on the earth and that difference yields different thoughts and choices. So, from my perspective their decisions may look completely ridiculous but be completely rational from theirs.

Even when you know someone to be wrong, there are times you just have to let them be. I am a teacher, so I want to teach. I need, though, to learn not to judge them or their ideas bur rather just accept them where they are. What a challenge! However, I think this is part of what Jesus wants from us. It is not a blessing to others when I judge them.

The judgement and condemnation we pass on others just might be causing our door to remain stuck closed. That is frightening. What do you think your Father has to say about this? Do you journal with Yahweh? This might be a good question to take to Him. What, if anything, does verse 12 have to do with 7 through 11?

Our Father wants to give us good gifts and bless us. He said to ask, and we would receive. Perhaps if we think about and speak about people in a gracious manner it will be easier for us to receive of His goodness.

Cleansing Waters

Genesis 6: 17

I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish.

Was the flood an act of grace? Does that sound like a ridiculous question? I received a comment mixed in with the prayer requests this week. The author was perplexed at how God could “kill” so many people especially since murder is a sin. It set me to thinking and hence the question I first posed.

How would you analyze this problem? Well, I began by knowing that God is love. If you believe the story of the great flood is true, then do you also believe 1 John 4: 8, “God is love”? I do believe God is love, that His very essence is this thing called love. I also believe that He can do nothing apart from His essential self, love. How, then, can this loving Father have been responsible for the great flood?

I believe it was an act of grace and as you study the Bible, I think you will see more of this. The earth was in bad shape. In fact, it was on the brink of catastrophic destruction. When Satan rebelled and was cast from heaven a host of angels went with him. Later, these spiritual beasts decided that human women were beautiful and so visited earth and fornicated with human women. The result was a race of people who were violent and evil. They killed off many of God’s people and rained havoc in the earth. They would have destroyed everything God created, including humanity, had God not intervened. Only by destroying life on earth could He save it. Therefore, it was because God loved human beings that He sent the flood.

What do you think? Can you see how grace, love and mercy forced God to act in a dramatic fashion? Had He not acted, none of us would be here today as the entire human race would have been wiped out.

When you try to figure out God and the events in the Bible, look for love. The love signature will always reveal the truth of these events.

The “One” Sin

Romans 5: 20      TPT

So then, the law was introduced into God’s plan to bring the reality of human sinfulness out of hiding. And yet, wherever sin increased, there was more than enough of God’s grace to triumph all the more!

I hear comments, and I know you do too, about how the world, and even our own cities, are falling into greater and greater sin. Some speculate that God is not as active because sin has become greater, or more prevalent. One day when I heard someone speaking in these terms it made me wonder what sin we are engaged in these days that is causing the breakdown of societies. There really is nothing new under the sun. You can read the Bible and see that. The Israelites created idols while God was leading them to the Promised Land. How much more blatant a sin can there be? What is it that is going on today that is any different than in previous times? What is the sin which is destroying us?

As I pondered this question, I sought the one with all the answers, and do you know what, He answered me. He showed me two points: first, the one great sin which is our problem and second, that conventional sin isn’t really the issue. Where sin has increased, God’s grace has increased more. No matter how great a sin problem we have, if we understand today’s scripture then we know that God’s grace expands to even greater volumes. So, there is a sin problem, but then again there isn’t because God’s grace is greater than any sin committed by man.

So, what is the problem? The way the Lord said this to me was, “There really is only one sin, one great sin and though this is not what people refer to when they speak of the increase in sin, it actually is the root problem from which all other sin is derived.” Does this surprise you? Are you anxious to know what the “One” sin is? I was. The problem we have, the one which is destroying the fabric of society is the sin of attrition. Spiritual Attrition is the slow wearing down of our Christian faith, but it is more than that. The core issue is that fewer and fewer of us seek God. The Lord showed me that the real problem is separation from Him. He has grace for the sin, but He does not have a remedy for people who choose not to partner with Him.

The great sin of the world is separation from God! And you can quote me. If you think about it, that is the same problem God constantly addressed in the Old Testament. The people kept turning away from Him. Once they took their eyes off Him, then they fell into all sorts of sins, even to serving foreign Gods. When Israel sought God, they flourished. When they fell away from Him, they suffered lack and hardship. Their sin grew too but sin isn’t the problem. When a people serve God, when they spend time in His presence, they have no desire for the “sins” that we often sculpt into lists. Unbelief and abstinence from prayer and seeking are the problems that undermine society. God can deal with sin when people believe in Him but when the nation turns its face from God, there is no one to pray, no one to intercede. Who heals the land of a nation that does not believe in nor seek God?

Even as Christians, we are forced into some important questions, questions that I had to face in this conversation with God. In what ways or in what areas am I separated from God? Is there a part of my life which I keep separate from Him? Do I go to work everyday without Him or even thoughts of Him? Where is He on Monday? Tuesday? Am I seeking Him in all aspects of my life or have I divorced Him from part of my life? We probably all have little spaces in our lives where we have yet to intertwine with the Lord Jesus. If we have little separations, little areas where a vacuum exists, then who shall lead the uninitiated.

We don’t have a sin problem.  Jesus and Father took care of the sin problem.  Here, world, is the real problem. We have separated ourselves from God and not only is this the one truly big sin, but it is also hell. To the degree we do not involve Yahweh in our lives, we are living in sin and experiencing hell. God would give you encouragement though, because now that we know what the actual problem is, we can individually and collectively take measures to correct it. Ya wanna talk about hell? Or pontificate about sin? They both exist right outside our front door. The good news is that we also have the power to free the world from both. Seek the Lord, your God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your soul – then teach others to do the same. This is how we save the earth!