Friday, October 31, 2014



remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father  (1 Thessalonians 1:3)

God wants us to be people of faith, hope, and love.  These comprise the holy trinity of Christian virtues.  Those attributes were seen in the church at Thessalonica and commended by Paul.

How do you see such character qualities? 

Real faith produces works, robust hope promotes endurance, and radiant love prompts labor.  It is impossible to have these internal dispositions without external exhibitions!  We are not talking about some mystical doctrine, but a manifest demonstration, where the invisible work of the Spirit in us becomes the tangible work of the Spirit through us.

We may think of ourselves as ordinary people—but fail to grasp that we can accomplish extraordinary things, because we have an extraordinary God!  Faith taps into His almighty power.  Hope rests in His assured promises.  Love flows from His abiding presence.  Christians who become people of faith, hope, and love can turn the world upside down!

The New Testament brings us to these themes repeatedly.  How have we missed this?  They are interwoven in the very fabric of Paul’s writings.  He says this, “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 

Love then stands at the pinnacle of the triangle of virtues.  It is an unrivalled love for our Father and an unselfish love for our neighbor that fulfills all God’s commands.  One day faith will be no longer needed, for faith will give way to sight.  Some day hope will no longer be required, for hope will reach its summit.  Love, however, lasts forever!  Faith, hope and love, therefore, mark the people of God—and the greatest of these is love.  Jesus said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”  (John 13:35)

Thursday, October 30, 2014



Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.  In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.  In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:3-12)

To be chosen—someone selects us to be on their team, an employer calls to say we have been hired, we hear our name called to win a prize—being chosen is a wonderful feeling.  To be chosen by God—now that is an indescribable blessing!  Yet, it is true for all God’s children.

We are not His because we were randomly born into His family.  We are not an accident, but we have been adopted—chosen.  God has reached out to the abandoned and accepted us.  He has sought the loveless and bestowed His love.  It isn’t that we deserved such honor, for what He has done is to His honor.  While we were only fit for Hell, God has made us fit for Heaven!  That is the grace of God—amazing seems too feeble a word, but is perhaps the best we can do.  It is an astonishing adoption!

Our adoption, from our viewpoint, has happened when the Holy Spirit called us to Christ at a moment in time, but actually happened because we were already chosen in eternity.  The all-knowing God had His heart set on us long before we were born.  Before the first man was fashioned from clay and named Adam, God already knew my name, and had predestined me to be His son!  Two thousand years before I sinned against Him, the price was already paid by the Lamb of God for those sins.  Indeed, He is the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world.

God has a plan for your life—a purpose He will fulfill, and not all the power of Hell can thwart it for it is wrought be an all-powerful Being.  God is up to something—and it will be glorious!  That is the hope we have—steadfast and sure.  It is not a fantasy, but a reality, for that hope of glory rests in the finished work of Christ.  My life will bring Him glory—here and hereafter.  Someday all His chosen ones will stand before Him complete—trophies of His grace, objects of His love, subjects of His glory!

So, all this being true—and we have only scratched the surface—how should we live?  Being blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ, we ought to think and behave as those who are children of the King!  His name that I bear ought to be honored by my life.  His image that has been imprinted on me, should be manifested by me.  Since He has a purpose for me, I should move with purpose.  My hope should be evident and lead others to inquire of the reason for it—and have a ready response to explain it!  I have been chosen in glory, for His glory and ought to lead others to give Him glory for His work in and through me.  What a destiny!  Let us live out that truth today. This is the Word of God—and may that Word be made flesh as I manifest His glory.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.  Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.  (Ephesians 6:10-13)
In this classic passage on spiritual warfare, Paul exhorts us to stand our ground.  Satan is a master of terror and wants to scare us into surrender.  The fiend desires to send a shiver into our spine and send us scurrying for cover.  But, God has given us armor. 

Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace  above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Eph.6:14-17)
In a choice between flight or fight, we can stand firm.  We lift the shield of faith that will extinguish every flaming dart of doubt the Devil launches at us.  As we stand upon the promises of God, we have sure footing.  We can use the Spirit’s sword—the Word of God—to go on the offensive.

But, there is no armor for the back!  Every piece is designed to face the foe, not flee from him.  Let us have the courage of the convinced—knowing that, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”  (Rom.8:31b).  “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Rom.8:37)
We can look at the opposition we face and be vexed by it or victorious over it—running scared or standing strong.  “When the enemy comes in like a flood, The Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.” (Isa.59:19)  Let us lift high the blood-stained banner of the cross—and stand our ground!  We need the faith of the army captain who was informed that a large number of troops had encircled their little band of soldiers.  He said, “Men, they’ve got us completely surrounded; don’t let one of them escape!”

Tuesday, October 28, 2014



Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.  Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 3:12-14)

With all his abilities and accomplishments, Paul the Apostle did not think he had arrived.  That would not happen until he arrived in heaven and was totally transformed into Christ’s likeness.  Since encountering Christ on the Damascus Road, where the Lord captured him, Paul had been captivated with Christ—His glorious person and grand purpose.  That man of God wanted to know more of Jesus, to grow more like Jesus and to show more of Jesus to the world.  It was his relentless pursuit—his magnificent obsession!  Perfection was the standard and Christ-likeness the goal.  This gave him an incredible focus that brought an incomparable force to Paul’s life.

That is the stirring challenge for us.  In the words of Oswald Chambers it means to give, “My utmost for His highest.”  God does not do this work apart from me—I am to give my utmost—yet, my utmost demands His highest, since I can only work out what He works in.  The task is supernatural and requires spiritual power.  For this, we have Jesus Himself.  By His Spirit He indwells us, and is in the process of shaping us for eternity.  As we surrender to His control, we grow into His image more and more until that final Day.

There is always more to be done until then.  On this pilgrim pathway we sometimes stumble.  Satan would have us then to lay in the ditch and wallow in the mud, broken down and useless.  No!  By the grace of God, get up and go on.  The blood of Jesus will cleanse you and His strength will repair you!  Paul learned from his past, but was not limited by it.  Neither must we be.  It is onward and upward!

The Apostle Paul put it this way in Ephesians 2:10, For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”  The word, “workmanship,” is poema in the Greek (from which we get our word poem).  Ours is a life of rhyme and reason.  The Divine Author is writing on the parchment of our being a living message.  We are his literary masterpiece.  From eternity, He had a design for us, conceived in His omniscience.  Now, He is writing it line by line, completed by His omnipotence!

God does not produce junk.  You and I are choice creations of His.  It is true that we are all a work in progress, but the assurance is that work will be completed, and so much the better as we yield to Him.  The Potter can break down the stubborn human clay—and will if necessary.  But, how much better to be pliable in His hands, as He molds us into all He wants us to be.  He is shaping me to be like Jesus—His light shining from me, His love shared by me, His life shown in me!  I can make a difference in this world because He has made a difference in me.

Monday, October 27, 2014



Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.  (2 Peter 1:2-4)

The man who wrote these words had an audacious faith that enabled him to access an awesome force, and thus, to have an amazing impact.  His name was Simon, but Jesus gave him the name, Peter—the Rock.  His ministry would be foundational to the building of the church—and so his influence is still being felt today.

If you have read your Bible at all, then you are aware that Peter had his failures—and some of them were huge.  He was not Superman; he was a man of flesh as we are—a real human with real human weaknesses.  Nevertheless, he also was a man who did not allow those limitations to prevent him from tapping into the limitless resources of God!

That should encourage us, for he assures us that those same resources are available to all those who know Christ.  Twice in these opening verses of his second letter, the Apostle references this knowledge of God and His Son.  It is out of that context—the intimate connection with God through His Son—that we have all He is available for all that He wants us to be!  Are we living beneath our privileges?

The Lord is not stingy in His gifts—“grace and peace” are not simply added to us in small measure, they are “multiplied” with exponential possibilities!  There is no excuse for failing to attain the high and holy life of maximum impact that God has for us, except that we do not know or do not care!  I am attempting with God’s help to deal with those two issues—in my life first, and then in yours.

Divine power—the Almighty God’s power—may be experienced and from that we may freely receive the standard of living Jesus purchased for us on Calvary and provides in resurrection life.  Peter is pointed when he proclaims, His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue.”  What more could we need?

God assures us, “by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”  We are in the world, but do not have to be of the world.  We can be Heaven’s change agents in this world!  That is what Jesus came to do—and is doing.  It is what He desires to do through you and me, as He lives mightily in and though us!  Let us not live beneath our privileges!

Saturday, October 25, 2014



And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.  (2 Corinthians 9:8)

Grace is the motivation to do what we would not do otherwise and the power to do what we could not do ourselves.  It is all that Christ is for all that I need.  There is certainly a grace that saves us from sin, a grace that sustains us in struggle, and a grace that secures us for Heaven.  But, there is also a grace that strengthens us for service.  That is what Paul is promising in 2 Corinthians 9:8.

We are to be channels that the grace of God flows into and then out of to accomplish His good work.  He has abundant resources available for us—and then this grace is shared by us as we labor for Him.

It is a labor of love.  We do not serve grudgingly in an attempt to earn God’s favor, but gladly in response to His favor already bestowed.   That is grace and not legalism.  

How can we experience God’s love and not desire to return it to Him?  The evidence I have experienced such love is that I will express love to those created in His image.  As I serve others, I am serving Christ.  When I do it to “the least of these” then I am rendering it unto Him (see Matthew 25:31-46).

We should read 1 Corinthians 13 and see how God’s kind of love is wrought through us.  It is more than a feeling, deeper than an emotion, greater than words alone.  Love is practical.  It puts on its work clothes, rolls up its sleeves, and inspiration yields perspiration.

Love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails.”  (1 Cor.13:7-8a).  Love will bear the burdens of others who would be crushed under life’s load if we did not lift them.  Love believes the best about others for it seeks the best for them.  Love will hope in the hopeless knowing that none are beyond the reach of the grace of God that reached us.  Love doesn’t give up or give out because it is as eternal as the God Who is love itself.  People may fail us, but love doesn’t fail—we always come out ahead when we love, even if such love is not returned.

Love enables us to see the incredible need around us, as Jesus did.  Hear His heart,

But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.  Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.  Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”  (Matthew 9:36-38)

The need is great, but God’s grace is greater still!  One of the ways God’s grace operates is by raising our eyes to see opportunity and raising up laborers in response to our prayers.  God uses people—His resources are distributed by human resources as He works to accomplish eternal purposes.  There is more to be done than I can do.  Arrogance will lead me to try to do the job alone.  Humility brings me to my knees and God moves in response to my heart cry by moving in the hearts of others to partner in the harvest.  There is much to be done after we pray, but nothing can be done until we pray.

I serve Him because He first stirred me—doubtless, in response to the prayers of others.  Now, He will work likewise by my supplications.  He opens our eyes to see lost lambs wandering without a shepherd, easy prey for the wolves of this world that would drag them down to hell.  Satan prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking sheep to devour.  When we see this and develop a burden, God works in grace to call us to be His shepherds.  He opens our eyes to see the potential harvest.  His grace reminds us that unless that harvest is gathered before winter it will be lost forever.  There is a season of opportunity—and this isn’t about gathering grain, but eternal souls!

Let us pray that grace will abound so that in all things and at all times and for all tasks, God will equip is to do all He desires to do in and through us.  His assignment always brings His enablement.

Friday, October 24, 2014



Blessed be the Lord,
Who daily loads us with benefits,
The God of our salvation!
Selah  (Psalm 68:19)

Glory to the God of all grace!  Praise God from whom all blessings flow!  Every day, He loads down my wagon with goodness.  How about you?  Stop and count your blessings.  In the words of the old hymn, “name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”

Foremost, I am grateful that the Lord my Shepherd sought patiently for this wandering lamb.  He saved me, cleaned me up and secured me in His fold.  Oh what a price He paid to rescue me!  From this great salvation, every spiritual blessing is mine in Christ Jesus!

Behind that eternal relationship, is the next best—my earthly relationships with my family.  What a gift from God my wife is to me!  She is all I could have ever hoped for—a dream come true!  Marilyn has given me five precious children, and thus far, eleven grandchildren—and they are grand.  It is possible there might be even more to come.  I was blessed to be raised in a Christian home and still have my parents with me.  Insofar as I know, the family circle will be unbroken in heaven for all profess to follow Christ.  How inexpressibly wonderful this is!

Besides the blessing of my faith, and family, there is the blessing of my flock—the privilege of serving the church through the call to preach the Word of God!  To exchange the position of serving as a pastor for that of a prince, would be to take a step down!  If you had told me that I would teach a Sunday School class as large as the congregation I served in the first two churches, I would have found that hard to believe, but I do.  In the little country church where I first ministered, I often thought that to preach to one hundred each Sunday would be thrilling, and yet I preach to four and five times that amount each week!  I would have laughed at that as an impossibility, but it is a reality.  To think, that as I type these words—through social media—I can instantly reach around the world with the Gospel is amazing!  It is an amazing grace.

The particular church I serve—Pole Creek Baptist Church—has just honored me and our other ministers with Pastoral Appreciation Day.  They expressed their love with words of commendation, a meal they served and an offering they received.  Throughout this month, and really day after day, for the nearly twenty years I have served here, I have been prayed for and partnered with by a good and gracious people.  Sure, there have been some burdens, but the blessings have far outweighed them.  Indeed, every congregation I have served, has been wonderfully supportive of me and my family.  They have loved us, and we love them.  Out of those flocks, we have made many friends that remain dear to us.  When I hear the horror stories of what some pastors go through, and how I know that many serve faithfully while receiving condemnation instead of commendation, it makes me so thankful to God for the blessings He has given me in the churches I have led.

I am a prosperous man!  Compared to most people in the world today, I am rich.  No, I won’t be on a Fortune 500 list, nor be featured on “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.”  Nor would I want to be.  Nevertheless, God has prospered me far beyond anything I could have expected.  This morning I woke from a soft bed, dry and safe in the house I live in, with the health and strength to rise up.  I have filled my stomach with food and am drinking a cup of hot coffee.  I will take a warm shower in a little while, and then select some clothes and shoes to wear from a number of options.  Instead of walking where I need to go, I expect to sit down in my car and drive across town.  With all the problems facing our nation currently, I have the privilege still to cast a vote to help determine the government leaders we have, and the course of our country.  Indeed I have journeyed to many parts of the world, and witnessed much splendor in creation.  For the vast majority of people on this planet, all this would be a fairy tale, but it is my life.  I count my blessings and have no reason to complain!

There is so much more that might be said, but I will need eternity to say it—every minute can be filled with praise to the One who has filled me with bountiful blessing!  I will begin today, and will not stop, forever speaking of God’s goodness and grace! 

When we've been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we've first begun.





Thursday, October 23, 2014



For behold, He who forms mountains, And creates the wind, Who declares to man what his thought is, And makes the morning darkness, Who treads the high places of the earth— The LORD God of hosts is His name.  (Amos 4:13)

God alone is the Fountain of Life—the Spring from Whom we may drink and find satisfaction.  All the wells of this world, promise much, yet are as drinking water from the ocean—the more you consume, the thirstier you become.  No wonder that Hell is a place of endless thirst, for it is a place devoid of the Presence of God except for His wrath.

A foretaste of Heaven can be ours, as we enjoy the Blessed Lord now.  We are invited to drink deeply from the well of salvation, in anticipation of the River that flows from the throne of God above, that we shall enjoy eternally.

Who is this God that we may enjoy today?

Amos describes Him as, “He who forms mountains.”  The God who has molded the mountains, can shape us into His grand design.  The Potter takes the human clay and forms us on the wheel of Providence for His glorious purposes. 

He “creates the wind.”  Where does the wind come from?  The Creator has ordained the refreshing breeze to blow.  He sends the Wind of His Spirit to blow upon us as we wilt under the searing sun of this world’s harsh environment, causing us to stand erect and bloom in beauty.

The Eternal Word “declares to man what his thought is.”  We can know the mind of Omniscience for He reveals Himself in His Book, and instructs us by His Spirit.  Imagine—we are directed by the One Who knows the end from the beginning and in every twist and turn of life’s road will show us the way as an unerring Guide! 

Our God “makes the morning darkness,” as when the Jews in the wilderness had the pillar of cloud by day to overshadow them.  In the desert of this spiritual wilderness we must travel, we are sheltered under His shadow. 

He “ treads the high places of the earth.”  It is our privilege to walk with Him, and gaze upon the wondrous vistas and breathe in the exhilarating air—and what a Companion we have to enjoy it with!  Surely there are valleys we must travel through, but He brings us to mountaintop experiences as well.

He is “The LORD”—the Great I AM.  Whatever we need, He is I AM: I am Bread when you are hungry; Water when you are thirsty; Rest when you are weary; Comfort when you are troubled; Mercy when you need forgiveness; Strength when you are challenged; Refuge when you are threatened…and we could go on and on.  God does not supply these needs apart from Himself, but imparts Himself as the fulfillment of the need—an Inexhaustible Supply as an Infinite Source. 

He is “God of hosts” who directs the armies of Heaven—His angel soldiers that He sends to encamp around those who fear Him, therefore, we need fear no man, nor circumstance.  Not even the demons of Hell are a match for Him!  He that brought down the Dragon, and crushed him will grind Satan beneath our feet.

Let Him be the center of our thoughts, the focus of our affections, the goal of our steps—our magnificent obsession.  What a difference that would make!  Do not be detoured from the One thing, even by other good, but lesser things.  As the Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and enjoy Him forever.”

Wednesday, October 22, 2014



Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men.  And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying.  When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.”  (Mark 2:3-5)

These four men believed that if they could bring their friend to Jesus, He could and would help him.  The man could never get there himself.  Someone had to bring him.  But, even when they arrived in the vicinity, with some effort expended, the obstacles appeared too large to overcome.  A seemingly impenetrable wall of people encircled Jesus.  What were they to do?

They did not give up.  They would not make excuses.  Faith finds a way.  What they did had never been done before.  There was no guarantee of success in their plan.  In discussion among themselves, it may have seemed outlandish.  But, as they looked at their paralyzed friend’s sad condition, they knew that to do nothing was to assure failure.  So, they threw caution to the wind—and the result was a transformation in that man’s life, then and for eternity.  Not only was he healed physically, but spiritually!

If we would bring people to Jesus, we can also be sure of obstacles to overcome. Such a task is seldom quick and easy.  It may require, “thinking outside the box.”  Certainly, this method had never been used before!  Others may need to be enlisted to assist us.  There is a price to pay—but, what is the value of a soul?  Excuses never get the job done. 

We need a faith that perseveres.  In the face of difficulty, our faith is to be determined.  It is at the intersection of faith that the power of God meets the poverty of man—and life change occurs.

So, we roll up out sleeves, set aside our fear and questions, and press forward in faith.  Our friends need Jesus!  Let’s find a way to bring them!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014



Abide in Me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.  I am the vine, you are the branches.  He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. … By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. (John 15:4-5)

As a branch separated from the grape vine cannot produce fruit, neither can we generate spiritual fruit unless we faithfully abide in Christ.  He is the source of life, and all that is good.  We may think we can do something ourselves, but it will not stand the test of eternal judgment.  Men may commend us for our work, but it will not last beyond our lifetime.  God says it is nothing—and no other opinion matters.  He gets the final word!

What does it mean to abide in Christ?  It is to stay connected to Him through the Word, prayer, and surrender to His will.  This is suggested in John 15:7, If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.”  How can I abide in Him without His Word abiding in me?  In the pages of that Holy Book, I meet with Him.  To abide in that Word is more than a casual reading of a verse or two—it is purposeful consideration and persistent contemplation.  In the Scripture, God speaks to me, and then I talk with Him—and I don’t change the subject.  My desires will be linked with His designs, so that I can ask for absolutely anything and He will do it in and through me, for I only want what He wills.  Prayer gives me that connection with Heaven’s resources—and all that is to produce fruit.  Abiding means what God has said to me, and what I have asked God to do through me, is produced as I yield to Him.  James reminds us that we have deceived ourselves if we think hearing is enough—that we will even forget what we have heard—unless we do the Word (see James 1:21-27).  This is abiding in Christ.

What fruit is produced?  It is this, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”  (Gal.5:22-23a)  This is the very life of Jesus manifest in us by the Spirit’s indwelling and empowering.  It is Jesus being Jesus in me—the life of the Vine flowing into the branch connected with Him.  This is preeminently the fruit of character that cannot help but be expressed in conduct.

What is the goal of such a life?  “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.”  (John 15:8)  Our objective is not to receive accolades from men for our accomplishments, but to bring glory to God for what He has wrought.  The more fruit we bear, the more glory we bring.  That is why we are here; it is the grand design of discipleship.

The disciple is one who has been summoned to follow Christ, to abide with Him and learn from Him.  Then, they will replicate His life from this association.  When the disciple speaks, it is as though the Teacher is speaking through them, for His Words abide in them.  What they do is the extension of the Master’s hands.  ABIDE IN HIM!

Monday, October 20, 2014


You love righteousness and hate wickedness;
Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You
With the oil of gladness more than Your companions. (Psalm 45:7)

We cannot love righteousness without hating wickedness—since these are mutually exclusive.  The outcome of such a heart for holiness is that God, by the Holy Spirit, anoints us with His joy.

Sadly, those who profess holiness are often caricatured as stern, with a perpetual scowl, and judgmental spirit.  Legalism will do that.  It is the mark of the hypocrite and not the holy.  Such have an external profession of righteousness, but not an internal disposition toward it.  The self-righteous have no deep love for God, and are warped to thinking that hating sin means hating sinners.  There is no true heart for holiness where that is the case.

Instead, the oil of gladness is on the holy man or woman of God.  It radiates from their countenance.  It is heard in the lyrics of their voice.  It is seen in the loving deeds they do.  This joy is the fruit of the Spirit that accompanies love—the right love—a love for God and a love for others.  This love for righteousness means we loathe wickedness.  Here is how the old Apostle John said it:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.  And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.  (1 John 2:15-17)

Psalm 45:7 is a Messianic reference, as noted in Hebrews 1:9, where it is quoted as being fulfilled in Jesus.  You note the capitalized pronouns in the text which indicate the author is speaking of Deity.  Jesus is the epitome of true holiness.  If we would be Christ-like, this must be our passionate pursuit, as well.  That is what the world needs to see.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

CONNECTED THROUGH PRAYER: The Faithfulness from Our Praying

But that you also may know my affairs and how I am doing, Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make all things known to you; whom I have sent to you for this very purpose, that you may know our affairs, and that he may comfort your hearts. (Ephesians 6:21-22)

We may not always be as fruitful as we might wish to be, but we can always be as faithful as we want to be.  Tychicus was marked by faithfulness.  But notice the source of his faithfulness, "in the Lord."  It was the experience of the grace of God that enabled him to extol the glory of God and express the goodness of God in his faithful ministry.

The force that generates faithfulness is accessed through prayer.  Being, "in the Lord" is not only the source of our faithfulness, it is the sphere of it--as we abide in a vital connection, the flow of Christ's life into us becomes the favor of His life through us.  Paul had just begged the believers in Ephesus to pray for him, and now will send Tychicus with that prayer request.  E-mail updates were not available!

If I am faithful in ministering before the Lord in supplication, then I can be faithful in ministering for the Lord in service.  You cannot speak for God publicly, until you hear from God privately.  Doubtless, Tychicus did.

He was, "a beloved brother" to Paul.  Brothers pray for each other and with one another.  They bare their heart and share their burdens. They come before the God of all comfort, to ask Him to bestow that comfort on those who might otherwise be crushed by a load of care.

So, let us seek to be faithful today.  If we are to be, we must be faithful to ask God to make us so.  Our strength is never sufficient, but His grace always is!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014



and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.  (Ephesians 6:19-20)

If such a spiritual giant as the Apostle Paul sensed a desperate need for others to pray for him, then I know I must have this—and, I suspect, you would feel the same.  Paul doesn’t pen these words from a palace, but a prison.  He was in chains; the Devil had painted a big target on him, and was launching attack after attack.

In those conditions, wouldn’t anyone pray for freedom?

The Apostle does, but the central focus of his request isn’t about getting his body out of a cell, but getting the Gospel out of his mouth!  While I would tend to whine about the deplorable conditions of the dungeon, the paramount plea of this man of God is for boldness in witness.  May we learn this vital lesson today, if we do not grasp any other.

As a pastor, I beg you to pray for me!  There are many matters you could intercede about, but the need for me to speak God’s Word with authority, clarity, liberty and urgency are hugely important.  Do I seek this from God, and will you as a church member pray this for your pastor?

Just last night, news came from Houston, Texas about how the lesbian mayor there has subpoenaed the sermons of pastors she thought might have spoken against the homosexual agenda she is aggressively promoting.  Her efforts are being joined by a chorus of others seeking to chill free speech being expressed in the pulpits.  It seems that this type of thing is only going to intensify as time goes by.  The champions of tolerance will tolerate anything except truth.  No practice is evil except to speak against sin.  Society is to be inclusive of anything except the exclusivity of the Gospel.

Pray for your pastor to speak with authority.  Paul called himself, “an ambassador.”  His authority was in his appointment from heaven.  We stand as God’s representative in this world—and the Devil doesn’t like it!

Pray for your pastor to speak with clarity.  The Apostle was never one to tip-toe around the truth.  He was quite plain spoken.  He saw his purpose as, “to make known the mystery of the gospel.”  My job isn’t to be so profound that you are impressed with my vocabulary, but to be so simple that even a child can grasp the message.  If you don’t understand what the preacher is saying, then what is the point of saying it?

Pray for your pastor to speak with liberty.  Paul requests prayer so, “that utterance may be given to me.”  When he opened his mouth, he wanted something to come out.  He wanted freedom of thought that would bring liberty of expression.  He didn’t want to stutter, but to utter!  Any pastor can tell you when he has liberty in his delivery of a sermon—and the horror of being bound up—and I suspect the congregation notices also!  That should lead you to pray for our liberty,

Pray for your pastor to speak with urgency.  Twice, the Apostle uses the word, “boldly.”  The pressure outside the man of God was for him to back down, tone it down, clam up, and then be able to walk away from his cell.  But, that would also mean to walk away from his call!  Pray for courage of conviction—our time here is marked by the brevity of opportunity and the gravity of eternity to follow.  This presses upon us the urgency of speaking now—sharing often, with passion and conviction.  Sunday’s sermon isn’t the performance of an actor, but the pleading of a rescuer crying for souls to be saved from the wrath that is to come.

Pray for your pastor—and all those who stand to speak for God!  Remember that as a Christian, you are God’s representative to your family, your neighborhood, your school, your work—wherever you go.  My prayer is that you would speak boldly as you ought to speak!

Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave;
Weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen,
Tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save. (Fanny Crosby)



Tuesday, October 14, 2014



praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints  (Ephesians 6:18)

Like a diamond with its many facets, giving the precious gem its sparkle and shine, so there are many facets to this rich treasure we call prayer.

Prayer is worship.  It is making a connection with God where we praise Him for who He is and we thank Him for what He has done.

Prayer is work.  I recall the late Ron Dunn saying that “Prayer doesn’t just fit us for the work—prayer is the work.”  When I work, I work, but when I pray God works!

Prayer is warfare.  The context of Ephesians 6:18 is significant.  Paul has presented the classic passage on spiritual warfare in verses 10-17.  In describing the adversary we confront and detailing the armor for combat, he proceeds to define the arena of conflict.  This spiritual battle is fought in the prayer dimension. It is against spiritual forces of evil and requires spiritual weapons to attain victory.  This power is accessed by prayer.

The pervasive nature of this is found in the phrase, “praying always.”  There is never a time, nor a place that prayer is not appropriate.  While the act of praying, if meaning bowing the head, folding the hands, bending the knee, and speaking the words is being called for, then we cannot do that continually.  But, if we understand this as the attitude of prayer—the connection of God in our heart and mind that leads to a disposition of communion with Him—then this is to be something we may practice continually.

The preeminent nature of this is presented with, “with all prayer.”  There are many dimensions to prayer.  We can pray standing up, sitting down, kneeling or prostrate.  We can be loud, or silent—or something in between.  We can pray in private or in public.  Prayers may be in the form of celebration, contemplation, contrition and much more.  There is petition, supplication and intercession.  Its boundless nature is a testimony to its preeminent quality.

The provisional nature of this is meant by “supplication.” You see the root word, “supply.” We ask God to supply our need and the needs of others.  This verse concludes with, “supplication for all the saints.”  We would not even have a crust or crumb without asking, “give us this day our daily bread,” as Jesus taught us to pray.  Prayer humbles us as we acknowledge our dependency on God.  It strips away our self-centeredness as we plead for others.

The powerful nature of this is seen as we pray, “in the Spirit.”  Because we are weak, and do not know how to pray as we ought, we must rely on the Holy Spirit to guide us in the will of God (see Rom.8:26-27).  When we pray in alignment with His will, then nothing is beyond the reach of our requests, for we have brought Omnipotence into the situation.

The protective nature of this is acknowledged in the exhortation, “being watchful to this end.”  As alluded to previously, Satan is lurking near—ready to strike.  We must pray with our eyes open!  The Christian is a sentry at his post when he prays to fortify his soul, his home, and his church against the attack of the Wicked One.

The persistent nature of this is stated as, “with all perseverance.”  You will always be tempted to give up.  Often the answer is delayed, though not denied, unless we depart from patiently praying.  Many texts point to the need of persevering prayer.  We are not overcoming the reluctance of a stingy Father, but overcoming the resistance of a spiritual foe.  This builds our faith muscle as it is tested, and although potentially changing the situation, will always change us as we spend much time in prayer.

Prayer is hard.  It is a struggle.  Satan will seek to distract you with a multitude of distractions and diversions—even good things that keep you from the main thing.  Seek God—passionately and persistently—and do not think you can live one moment without this oxygen of the soul.  When all is said and done, there is sadly more said about prayer than is done.  So, as Nike famously put it, “JUST DO IT!”

Monday, October 13, 2014



praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints  (Ephesians 6:18)

There is much we can do after we pray, but nothing can be done until we pray.  If there is a desperate need in the church today, it is a renewed zeal for prayer.  Without this direct connection with heaven, the power we need to fulfill our mission is short-circuited.  The church is tasked with a work so great that it is humanly impossible, and demands heavenly intervention.  This requires our holy intercession.

Do we not recall the scene nearly 2,000 years ago in that upper room where 120 believers gathered?  They connected with each other in fervent prayer and connected with God Almighty through His Son.  The Holy Spirit came down in response—and the world has never been the same.  It was a dark and demonic time—a world in bondage to idolatry and immorality.  Paganism was pervasive.  But, God would raise up an army to march against the gates of Hell—and they would prevail through prayer.  The advance of the church is always on her knees.

It has been said that on the Day of Pentecost those first Christians prayed for ten days, preached for ten minutes, and three thousand were converted.  Today, we pray for ten minutes, preach for ten days, and if three get saved, we declare a revival has come!

It is time for the church to recover the prayer connection, and understand the reality of an old hymn we used to sing:

Brethren, we have met to worship and adore the Lord our God;
Will you pray with all your power, while we try to preach the Word?
All is vain unless the Spirit of the Holy One comes down;
Brethren, pray, and holy manna will be showered all around.

Sisters, will you join and help us? Moses’ sister aided him;
Will you help the trembling mourners who are struggling hard with sin?
Tell them all about the Savior, tell them that He will be found;
Sisters, pray, and holy manna will be showered all around.  (George Atkins)

Will you?

Thursday, October 09, 2014

CONNECTED IN SERVICE: Expressing God's Praise in Service

speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God. (Ephesians 5:19-21)

In all we do, our aim as the people of God is to glorify Him.  Service can be holy, or it can be hypocritical.  It may be that the outward manifestation appears good--in our giving, our praying, our fasting, and the like (see Matt.6:1-18)--but the inward motivation is bad: to be seen of men.  Our "service to God" becomes self-serving, and God doesn't judge by outward appearance. He looks at the heart (1 Sam.16:7).

Our singing should honor God.  Our aim is music that glorifies God.  It honors Him when it is given in a heartfelt desire to praise Him.  It is "singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord"  We stir each other to join, and we instruct one another when the lyrics are full of Scripture.  Notice, there is a variety of types of music, "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" but a united passion to glorify God--not to be impressed by a musician's talent.

Sadly, too many Christians are more concerned with style than substance--too consumed with what blesses them than how they bless God.  It misses the whole point, doesn't it?  When we demand a particular preference or we pout, it ignores our call to submit to one another.  If an older generation wants Southern Gospel and stops singing when a contemporary song is shared, what does that communicate to the young members present?  It is self-serving.  If teens and young adults scorn the traditions of an older generation, refusing to participate in worship unless there is a wailing guitar and flashing lights, that too is self-serving.  Such attitudes--and I understand these are generalizations--are wrong.

Our speaking should honor God.  The objective is messages that glorify God.  Our mouths should continually express gratitude, "giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."  Complaints and criticisms are corrosive--eating away at the connection of believers to each other.  This is a self-serving attitude, that exhibits itself in our speech, for out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.  On the other hand, a grateful soul expresses itself in thanksgiving--irrespective of the circumstances.  It is praise that is perpetual, "always," pervasive, "for all things," and pointed, "to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Our submitting should honor God.  The goal is ministry that glorifies Him, "submitting to one another in the fear of God."  When I stoop to serve fellow believers, I am actually serving Christ (read Matt.25:31-46).  Submission is not a popular concept in our world.  We assert our rights.  God wants us instead to assume our responsibilities.  How can I know if I have a heart submissive to God?  By my willingness to serve those made in His image.  What would our church gatherings be like if we connected in service?

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

CONNECTED IN SERVICE: Unleashing God's Power for Service

And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18)

God never asks us to do something without equipping us for the task.  The work He has assigned to His church cannot be accomplished with human ingenuity and ability; it takes the power of Almighty God.  Yet, the corollary is that God does not do His work apart from us.  In His omniscience, He has chosen to make us channels of His omnipotence.  The very Spirit of God indwells His Body, the church, and we become Christ's hands and feet to the world.  When we share the Gospel, the Spirit calls sinners to Christ in transforming power.

The Spirit resides in every believer.  But, to be filled with the Spirit means more--it means He presides over us!  The command to refuse being filled with wine and instead receive the fullness of the Spirit are linked together for a reason.  This is not the first time that connection has been made.  When the Holy Spirit first invaded the church on the Day of  Pentecost, the believers were accused of being drunk.  A careful reading of Peter's response shows that he was not so much denying they were drunk, but that they were not drunk with wine--they were intoxicated with God!

When a person is drunk with wine, they have chosen to be under the control of alcohol.  It affects negatively everything about them--the way they think, how they see, how they talk, how they walk, and alters their very personality.  In a positive way, when we are filled with the Spirit, we have submitted to His control, and we think in a different way, see from another perspective, talk with a new vocabulary, walk in obedience to Christ, and lose our inhibitions in taking a bold stand for the Lord!

This is not meant to be a rare experience of an elite few Christians.  Being Spirit-filled is the normative standard for all God's people.  I  once heard that this is not so much a promise to claim as a command to keep!  If i disobey God and get drunk, it is sin.  If I am not filled with the Spirit, it is likewise sin--and will lead to more sin!  On the other hand, if the Spirit of Holiness fills me, sin has no room to operate.  We cannot be full of self and full of the Spirit.  Our passion should be that of John the Baptist who said of Jesus, "He must increase, but I must decrease." (John 3:30)

Apart from Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5), but with Him, we can do all things (Phil.4:13)!  Let us confess our sin and be cleansed, asking God to empty us of self and fill us with Himself.  Moment by moment, as we submit to the Lord, we can walk in the fullness of the Spirit and serve Christ with freedom and fruitfulness.  That is the connection that unleashes the power of God in my service.  What an impact we can have on our world, when a local church has Spirit-filled members connected with each other!  We can be like those in the first-century who, upside down" (Acts 17:6).  Really, it is putting it right-side up!  Isn't it about time?

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

CONNECTED IN SERVICE: Understanding God's Plan for Service

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:15-17)

Yogi Berra said, "If you don't know where you're going, you might not get there."  Paul may not have expressed it that way, but he does remind us that God has a plan for our life, and we need to be progressing in His path.  The Apostle often refers to our life as a "walk."  When you walk, you are getting somewhere--steadily moving forward.  Is that an accurate depiction of your current experience with God?

One thing I know--God has saved you for you to serve Him.  His Spirit indwells you to gift you in that task.  Together, as the Body of Christ, we are to do His work in the world.  We must walk, "circumspectly"--carefully, because it is easy to stumble or be detoured.  The Devil is a master at that.

We have a roadmap--the Bible.  The wisdom of God is found in the Word of God.  We need to find out the will of God for us and get going today!  It is the height of folly to waste time.  Instead, we are to be "redeeming the time."  That is, we exchange the time of earth for the treasure of eternity.  Time lost is beyond recovery.  But, time given in serving Christ is safely invested in Heaven and accumulates interest until the end of time!   It will be an incredible payday!

There is much to be done, "because the days are evil."  It will be challenging work--a walk on the battlefield, as we advance in enemy territory--but we are on a Kingdom mission to rescue the fallen.  "Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is."  Understanding the strategy mapped out in Scripture, it is time to move out in service.  Our Commander leads the way, and victory is assured!

Monday, October 06, 2014


submitting to one another in the fear of God. (Ephesians 5:21)

Submission is the attitude and activity of serving another.  The reach of submission is "to one another."  Every member of the church is included in Paul's command.  The reason for submission is "the fear of God."  Having submitted to the Lord, we obey Him, and He has commanded us to submit to each other.

Far too often, churches seem marked by spiritual anarchy.  The members pursue their own agenda rather than God's.  Sometimes, this is through ignorance--they don't understand what the will of the Lord is (see Eph.5:17 where we are commanded to have this understanding), but far too often it is defiance--we know we are to serve others, but we want them to serve us.

The church may degenerate rapidly into a self-service operation.  That is, the members are focused on self being served instead of serving their fellowman.

They demand to be "fed" which usually means they think they are so "spiritually mature" that the pastor's sermons aren't "deep" enough for them.  Doubtless, there is some shallow preaching out there.  But, it is likewise true that many have been exposed to the Christian celebrities on TV and the internet, and it is hard for the local church pastor to measure up in comparison.  John Maxwell called people with this mindset, "spiritual porkers."  They never make any effort to serve others, choosing rather to gorge themselves.

Most music ministries will not attain the quality of what you can purchase on a CD, hear on the radio, or watch on a broadcast from a mega-church.  Are we concerned about the entertainment value or consumed with a passion to worship God?  Is it about enjoying a performance that pleases our ears, or expressing our praise that pleases God?  There is nothing wrong with seeking to do the best we can to glorify the Lord, but it is easy to cross the line into demanding music that blesses us, rather than blessing God.

Demanding ministry instead of doing ministry is missing the mark.  God wants us to submit to Him in fear and out of that to serve one another in love.  It is a subject worth exploring in depth, and with God's help, we will do so in subsequent studies this week.