Sunday, May 31, 2015


Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.  (Revelation 2:4)

If this church were in your town, you would want to join it.  Preachers would jump at the chance to pastor it.  The First Baptist Church of Ephesus would lead the denomination in every category.  This was as close to a perfect church as you might get.  You probably wouldn’t find anything wrong.  Still, it is not man’s opinion that matters, but the judgment of Christ.  What did He have to say?

He began with commending them about the many good works they were doing (v.1-3).  The members were busy in the service of the Lord—a beehive of activity.  They were not only diligent, they were discerning—holding to the truth.  They would not tolerate a liberal in the pulpit.  In a culture filled with corruption, they were not contaminated.  They were marked with energy and endurance despite the hostile environment.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all churches possessed these qualities?

Then comes the, “but,” and with it the complaint Jesus levels.  “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”  (v.4) They didn’t lose their first love, as you will hear it at times misquoted.  To lose it means that this failure may have slipped up on them, which would have been bad enough.  Instead, they made a deliberate decision that brought this condition.  They chose work over worship.  Personal intimacy with God was set aside for public efforts before men.  The latter gets you pats on the back and strokes the ego.  Neglecting the former, however, disconnects us from the source of blessing—the church finding itself on a religious treadmill, running feverishly, but not going anywhere.

It happens in marriages.  The relationship begins with a flame of passion.  After the honeymoon, the couple begins to turn attention to buying a home, making a living, raising the children—not doing bad things, but decisions that cause them to drift apart.  Then comes the sad news that shocks us—the marriage is in trouble.  It seems to us like it was a sudden thing, but little by little, they had left their first love.  We do that with Christ.  The church at Ephesus did.

There was a cure for their ills prescribed by the Divine Counselor (v.5).  They were to remember the love they once had for Christ.  Then, they were to repent by confession of their neglect and commitment to rekindling the romance.  Worship must assume preeminence again.  The relationship rather than the resume’ must be built.

The consequences of failing would be severe.  God basically tells them, “I will turn the lights out.”  They did not heed the warning.  That thriving church declined and died.  You can tour ruins unearthed by the archaeologist in ancient Ephesus, but you will find no thriving church.  It is happening to local churches all across America.

Still there is the promise to those who overcome—who resist the temptation to leave their first love (v.6-7).  Let us listen and learn—or our church can go out of business as well!

Saturday, May 30, 2015


For in that day every man shall throw away his idols of silver and his idols of gold—sin, which your own hands have made for yourselves.  (Isaiah 31:7)

Militant atheist, Michael Newdow, is frequently in the headlines for his persistent efforts to have, “under God” removed from the Pledge of Allegiance and “In God We Trust,” from our currency.  Thus far, the courts have refused to do so—but, in a future day who knows?  Judging by past actions of judges, the threat is a real one.

Yet something even more insidious is occurring.  The assault on America’s house has withstood the woodpeckers like Newdow, but there have been termites slowly, silently eating away at the structure, which will lead to eventual collapse.  Every segment of society is affected, not just government.  Even the church is not immune.

What is that threat?  That we continue to mouth the words, but with no meaning—trust we profess with our lips, while our heart is devoid of commitment to them.  We may continue to say we believe in God, yet ourselves be practical atheists—living as though God does not exist.  Of course, man is inherently religious; we will worship something.  Thus, we make idols and bow to them.  It is not required that we literally set a statue in a shrine and bow to it.  Anyone or anything that is the object of our trust—other than Almighty God—has become an idol.

In the thirty-first chapter of Isaiah, we find Israel confronted with their idolatry.  Jerusalem was facing assault by the Assyrians (see chapters 36-37 for the historical narrative).  The Assyrians had already conquered the Northern Kingdom, razed its capital, Samaria, and taken their brethren captive.  Now, the Southern Kingdom of Judah had seen city after city ground under the assault of a ruthless empire, intent on world domination, with Jerusalem in its crosshairs.

God warns the people to trust in Him.  The natural tendency would be to seek an alliance with another nation to come to their aid.  Egypt would be the logical choice.  Looking south rather than looking up would only seal their doom (Isa.31:1-3).  God would be their deliverer, if they would make Him the object of dependence.  Otherwise, He would be their destroyer—both Egyptians and Jews would perish in God’s judgment for rejecting Him.

The Lord promises that He rescue them, if they will rely on Him (Isa.31:4-9).  That is what transpired.  Good King Hezekiah heeded the prophet and God wrought a miraculous deliverance. 

God is immutable—He never changes.  The hope of the church is not innovative methods, but God.  The salvation of America is not in legislation, armament, technology, or elections, but in God.  Let me start by casting away any idol I rely on, and seek the Lord with all my heart.  May that repentant spirit grip the nation so it is true—“In God We Trust.”  That is our only hope!

Friday, May 29, 2015


“For the LORD your God has blessed you in all the work of your hand.  He knows your trudging through this great wilderness.  These forty years the LORD your God has been with you; you have lacked nothing.” (Deuteronomy 2:7)

If you are not acquainted with the words of that grand old hymn, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” you ought to be.  It is based on the text in Lamentations 3:22-23,

Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not. 
 They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness. 

In our text for today’s devotional, Moses echoes that same refrain.  Moses is 120 and facing death.  He rehearses God’s faithfulness to a new generation of Israelites who will cross Jordan and enter the Promised Land.

GOD HAS BEEN FAITHFUL IN HIS PROVISION, “For the LORD your God has blessed you…you have lacked nothing.”  God gave them bread from heaven—manna every morning.  In the desert, he gave them water from a rock.  Their clothing and sandals did not wear out.  They were sheltered from the sun by day by the cloud, which became a pillar of fire to light and warm the camp by night.  I have come to the place where my hair has turned white as a morning frost, where I start the day with a groan and end it with a sigh, where my steps are neither as swift nor steady as in youth, and I can actually access my retirement funds!  Despite all the challenges aging brings, I can face tomorrow without fear, for I have see God’s faithfulness in the past.  I am not a rich man, by any means, but God has always blessed me with enough—more than enough!

GOD HAS BEEN FAITHFUL IN HIS PROVIDENCE, “He knows your trudging through this great wilderness.”  Trudging—that is a picturesque term, which describes my gait so well!  Life is tough.  The Jews journey through that great wilderness was filled with difficulty and fraught with danger.  There were some stumbles and setbacks on the way, but trudge on they did, because God was leading His dear children along.  That is what providence is all about.  God knows the way we travel; He sees ahead the road we are taking; He has a predetermined end for our pilgrimage.  What God knows of the future is fixed and certain, but what we know is by faith and conviction.  We live life forward, but we understand it backward.  Surveying my life story leads me to testify that God has directed my steps and gives me confidence He will guide me into the future.

GOD HAS BEEN FAITHFUL IN HIS PRESENCE, “These forty years the LORD your God has been with you….”  In all places and at all times, God had been with them.  They failed Him, but He did not fail them.  As we get older, things change.  Friends and family we have known begin to die—the circle of relationships shrinks here and grows larger in heaven.  The unchanging God has promised to never leave us, nor forsake us!  If our path takes us into the hospital, the nursing home, or hospice as a prelude to the funeral home, God will shelter us in His arms and secure us in His love.  “Great Is Thy faithfulness!” is our testimony now and will be our theme forever!

Thursday, May 28, 2015



Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God. (3 John 11)

On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being an embarrassment to the cause of Christ and 10 being a maximum impact Christian, how would you rate yourself as a church member?  Should someone ask your pastor, “What kind of member is (fill in the blank with your name)?” what would he say?  Let me help crystallize your thinking with a few more questions.

ARE YOU A DELIGHTFUL MEMBER?  Gaius was a member who brought joy to the heart of an old pastor, John the Apostle (3 John v.1-8).  Four times John refers to Gaius as “beloved.”  The obvious strong connection—the warmth and affection—they shared should be the goal of every pastor and member.  John wanted the best for Gaius—that he would prosper in every way.  His spiritual prosperity was evident.  John’s prayer is that his financial and physical well-being would be as healthy as that of his soul.  Would you want your pastor to pray that for you?  If he did, would you be bankrupt financially because you are destitute spiritually?  Would you be hospitalized in critical care because your soul is sin-sick?  Gaius was seeking God’s kingdom first, and then trusting God to care of the rest (Matt.6:33).  No wonder he brought delight to the heart of John.  Twice he is commended for walking in the truth.  The truth was in him, transformed him, and fleshed out in obedience.  He was not only marked by truth, but by his love.  Gaius was generous—willing to help anyone in need, but especially supportive of missions (v.5-8).

ARE YOU A DESTRUCTIVE MEMBER?  Diotrepehes was a destroyer (v.9-11).  Great damage has been done to the church because of church members like this.  He was a man ruled by ego. He would not yield to authority, but exerted his autonomy.  Diotrephes desired to be the dominator—a church boss, greedy of position and gorged with pride.  He rejected new people because they might prove to be a threat to his status.  He refused the Apostle John’s teaching.  He wouldn’t receive instruction.  You can’t teach a know-it-all anything, and that was Diotrephes.  Unlike Gaius who was a helper in spreading the Gospel, Diotrephes was a hindrance.  He had an agenda.  His attitude was, “My way or the highway!”  His tongue was a sword to hurt others.  We look at a member like this and question if they are even saved (v.11).  They may not be.

ARE YOU A DEDICATED MEMBER?  Demetrius was a dedicated disciple (v.11-14).  His testimony was credible because his lifestyle was consistent.  If someone mentioned his name in or out of the church, the reaction would be, “I know him!  He’s a good man!”  Is that what people say when your name is spoken?  It was more than reputation—for some can wear a religious mask that hides the reality—Demetrius’ life was in alignment with the truth of God’s Word.  Belief and behavior; character and confession—both matched up.  John knew he could count on Demetrius.  Can the church count on you?

Here are some examples of church members—two good and one bad—which one will you seek to be like?  Maybe you would say, “I’m not as good as the best, but not as bad as the worst.  I’m somewhere in the middle.”  That makes Christ sick!  Read Rev.3:16.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


I rejoiced greatly that I have found some of your children walking in truth, as we received commandment from the Father.  (2 John 4)

We call them toddlers.  It is a fit description, as you watch the small child’s wobbly walk.  They are learning.  No baby is born with the skill to walk.  It is developed, with many falls along the way, but finally it is mastered.  The Bible uses the term, “walk,” to describe our spiritual journey.  John mentions it three times in his little second letter.  Christians have a second birth into the family of God, they grow, and learn to walk.  Sometimes we fall down, but if we get up and go forward in faith we make progress.

We do not walk alone (2 John 1-3).  Our Father walks with us, and we journey in fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ.  John uses the term, “elect lady and her children,” most likely figurative language referring to the church and her members.  We enter that fellowship by receiving the truth (v.2).  Jesus is the Truth Incarnate indwelling every child of God.  He causes grace, mercy, and peace to flow into us and from us (v.3).

Our walk is in the truth (v.4).  In this brief epistle, John uses the word, “truth,” four times, and an expression akin to it, “doctrine,” three times.  The writer’s emphasis on truth is significant.  What does it mean to walk in truth?  It is to increase in the experiential knowledge of God, growing in doctrinal soundness, and submitting to the truth in obedience.  God has given us His truth in Scripture as a roadmap to direct our walk.  We are to maintain our course with doctrinal fidelity and apply the message in every dimension of our pilgrimage.

Maintaining our balance is vital in learning to walk.  This is where love comes in (v.5-6).  John calls us to a healthy balance of truth and tenderness.  Without love, truth can be harsh and stern.  Apart from truth, love can be mere sentimentality.  Truth and love must be on each arm to aid us in Biblical balance.  As we cannot abandon truth, neither can we forsake love—it is not optional, but essential to walking with God.  Love is the mark of a follower of Christ.  The stronger our love is, the steadier our walk will be.

We walk with God as He holds our hand, but as His child, we hold onto faith—that is again the balance of truth (v.7-11).  As we journey, there are wolves in sheep’s clothing ready to devour us.  They mix truth with error to deceive us.  In a day when many are departing from the faith, we must hold to the old paths of sound doctrine.  Walking in fellowship with God and all who love His Word means we walk away from all who forsake the message, lest they pull us down—perhaps losing reward or exposed as a counterfeit and pulled into hell!  We are warned of a peril so grave as not to even let the cult member enter our home or encourage them in their evil by wishing them well!

After that sobering warning, John concludes with a note of joy (v.12-13).  Truth will triumph over error.  There is victory in Jesus and that is cause to rejoice.  Joy is a fruit of the Spirit.  Although there are troubles on every side as we travel this path from earth to glory, we can walk in joy, nonetheless.  Let’s go!  The end of the road is heaven!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.  (1 John 5:4)

An old preacher—Vance Havner—once said of the church, “We’ve been subnormal so long, that if we ever got normal, most folks would think we were abnormal.”  Do we even know what normal would look like in the church?  We do—read the book of Acts.  There we see normal Christianity.  The first-century churches were not perfect—they all had their share of problems.  Despite the struggles the believers faced, the Christian is described as overcoming.  Victorious Christian living is not for a select group of super saints—it is Biblical Christianity.

It is God’s presence with us and His power within us, that equips us for victory (1 John 5:1-5).  This has come via the new birth that John stresses throughout this letter.  We cannot win in our own strength—Satan is a supernatural foe and will always overcome us.  It is God’s work in us, which gives us the power to overcome.  Paul said, “We are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.”  John echoes that.  Love for the Father and His family mark a genuine experience with Christ.  Such love is manifest in our obedience to God’s commands.

We must overcome because we have an enemy.  There is an internal foe—the flesh—and an infernal foe—the Devil.  Besides these, we have an external foe—the world (1 John 5:4-5).  This world system is bent on the destruction of the church.  The forces of hell want to destroy our credibility, damage our testimony, defile our integrity and deny our victory.  We may not take it seriously, but Satan’s soldiers are sold out to their cause.  Yet God has given us spiritual armor and armament to be deployed by faith.  The victory is not in self-effort, but by faith.  I am not saved by faith in Christ, then left to my own strength to overcome sin—but I am to live by faith and walk by faith and ultimately win by faith.  I rest in the victory Christ has won.  This unleashes His power.

Our armed forces have a uniform, insignia and flag they fight under—these things identify their allegiance.  So, we have identifying insignia indicating we serve the King of kings (1 John 5:6-12).   There is the witness of the Spirit (v.6-8).  It is threefold.  The Spirit witnessed at the water of Jesus’ baptism when the Dove descended from heaven and the voice declared, “This is my Beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased.”  (Matt.3:17)  The Spirit witnessed in the blood of Jesus’ cross when the Centurion overseeing the execution testified, “Truly this was the Son of God.” (Matt.27:54).  Furthermore, the Spirit of God indwelling the child of God witnesses through us.  John is an example (1 John 1:1-2).  Today we continue to bear witness to Christ (1 John 4:14-15).  There is also the witness of the Scriptures (v.9-12).  How do I know that I am saved—that I am part of God’s army?  I know because I have the witness of the Scriptures.  As a child I learned, “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.”  I have the promise of Romans 10:13.  John wrote to assure the believer (5:13).  The Spirit and the Scriptures do that.

Overcoming implies struggle.  Sometimes there will be setbacks.  You may be knocked down, but you aren’t knocked out.  Victory in Christ is the birthright of the child of God.

Monday, May 25, 2015


By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.   (1 John 4:13)

“We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.”  That is what Martin Luther said—and it is true to the Word of God.  This is the behavior of belief.  Real faith yields tangible results.  It is like the wind in the sense that you cannot see it, but you will surely see its effects.  John, in his first epistle, writes to expose the false converts that had infiltrated the church and to assure those who were truly saved.  John speaks much of a new birth—a spiritual birth that occurs when one comes to Christ.  The Holy Spirit regenerates us and comes to abide in us.  When the God of the universe takes up residence, there will be evidence! 

God is true and so His children believe the truth (1 John 4:1-6).  While we know that genuine faith goes beyond believing a set of doctrines, nevertheless it is foundational to know and trust a fundamental set of truths.  This rubs many Americans the wrong way.  They want to be free to believe what they want.  You can be a citizen of America and believe—or disbelieve—as you wish, but you cannot be a child of God and do so!  The faith that saves has Christ as its object.  We must be sure it is the real Jesus—the Christ revealed in Scripture—and not some Jesus of our own imagination.  That is idolatry, and no false god can be the basis of true salvation.  Do not follow the world by seeking to be politically correct, but be led of the Spirit to be theologically correct.  John warns us to be discerning, and not swallow everything we hear (v.1).  Apply the Jesus test (v.2-3), for every false religion misses it here.  That is the spirit of Antichrist, and those who have the Spirit of Christ will not subscribe to such.  Orthodox beliefs of themselves will not get you into heaven, but you won’t get in without them either.  The child of God is a warrior who overcomes false thinking (v.4).  We spurn the company of the deceived and find shelter in the church (v.5-6), “the pillar and ground of the truth.”  (1 Tim.3:15)

God is love and those who have His Spirit in them behave in a loving manner (1 John 4:7-21).  There is this balance of truth and love.  Without love, truth becomes rigid and harsh—that is legalism.  Love without truth becomes soft and spineless—that is liberalism.  What God produces is the Biblical balance.  Thus far, in this chapter, John has stressed the truth side of salvation, and now he will bring the love dimension front and center.  Love is the very essence of God’s being.  Like Father, like son—the love He has will be reproduced in His children (v.7-10).  The cross is God’s graphic demonstration of His love for us.  Since God loved us by giving His all for our benefit, then we ought to give of ourselves to the welfare of others—and that is real love (v.11-21).  Our objective in love is to be a blessing to others, but that does not mean we are not blessed as well.  Love casts out fear.  It gives assurance that we have saving faith.

God is light and God is love.  Those who know Him have the same qualities—believing the light of truth and behaving with the love of God.

Saturday, May 23, 2015


The fire consumed their young men, and their maidens were not given in marriage. (Psalm 78:63)

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire!  That’s why having a smoke detector is critical to fireproofing your home.  The loud alarm can give you an opportunity to escape.  I smell smoke!  I am a spiritual smoke detector sounding a warning that is a life and death matter for your family.  Israel did not listen and perished.  They failed to set a pattern and teach the principles of the Word of God and so family life and national life became engulfed in hell’s inferno (Ps.78:1-8).

That sinful generation is described as UNGRATEFUL (Ps.78:9-16)  They forgot all that God had done for them.  He had blessed them and blessed them, and they just took it for granted those blessings would always be there—and they forgot that a gracious God was the source and the blessings were undeserved.  I smell smoke!  We have modeled ungratefulness as parents and now we have a young generation that virtually has stricken, “Thank you,” from their vocabulary.  Like pigs coming to a trough, we begin to gorge ourselves at the table, few of us raising our heads to the God in heaven who blesses us.  A lack of gratitude in our personal life and family life is an indicator of a destructive fire ablaze.

They were also UNBELIEVING (Ps.78:17-33).  God delivered the Jews from Egyptian slavery by miraculous deeds.  He opened up a highway through the Red Sea to bring them out.  When they were thirsty, He gave them water from the rock.  He fed them bread from heaven.  Yet, every time they faced adversity, they would wring their hands and whine in despair.  They doubted the ability and veracity of God to keep His Word—and that is a horrible sin!  It would shut them out of the Promised Land.  The sin of unbelief is all that will shut us out of heaven.  Yet, I have heard some parents say the stupidest thing, “I’m not going to force religion on my child.  You know my parents made me go to church and I’m not going to do that to my kid.”  Well, I’m sorry that your parents gave birth to such morons!  You may be sentencing your children to hell.  The world will gladly indoctrinate your children if you don’t!

The people of Israel were UNREPENTANT (Ps.78:34-55). They would say the right thing, but it was all a show.  When they got in trouble, they would promise God anything, and as soon as the pressure was off, they were back to their old ways.  Jesus warned, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”  Repentance means we turn from sin and turn to God sincerely.  It’s going to take a miracle to fireproof your home.  It will require the power of God.  I am convinced, however, that no matter how spiritually toxic the culture may be, God can bring us and our loved ones safely through--but not if we don’t take our faith seriously. 

Finally, they were UNFAITHFUL (Ps.78:56-72)  They abandoned their love for the Lord and went whoring after other gods— they were spiritual adulterers.  Unfaithfulness to our marriage vows will certainly burn a home down, but that is rooted in unfaithfulness to God.  I smell smoke and where there’s smoke there’s fire!  If we are not faithful to God as parents, then what hope is there for the generations to come?

With the help of God, let us fireproof our home!


Behold, the LORD makes the earth empty and makes it waste,
Distorts its surface
And scatters abroad its inhabitants.  (Isaiah 24:1)

Earth is on a countdown to catastrophe.  As in the days of Noah, when the world’s population gave itself over evil, leading a heartbroken, yet holy God to rain down judgment in a flood, so the world is careening toward calamity again, when the Lord will rain down wrath in fire.  It is described in Scripture as a time of tribulation—seven years of judgment, with the last half so horrific as to be called the Great Tribulation.  With a broad brush, Isaiah—in chapter twenty four—paints a portrait of doom in dark colors.

The judgment will be universal in its scope (v.1-4).  There are none exempt because of high position or vast possessions.  In that time, one may live as a prince or pauper, dwell in a shack or a mansion—it will not matter, for judgment will blanket the globe in blood.  There will be no place to hide—all have this in common—they have proudly set themselves in defiance of God.  That never ends well.

This judgment is just in its application (v.5-6).  It is the law of the harvest—you reap what you sow.  While everyone is born estranged from God and deserving of judgment for the evil that we do, there is grace and mercy available now.  Yet, if we do not throw ourselves on the mercy of the court today, in that day lawbreakers will receive justice.

The time of tribulation will be a time of tears in its experience (v.7-12).  The pleasures of sin will be supplanted by the pain of judgment—with mirth yielding to mourning.  Our world loves to party hearty, and be while the wine flows, the music blares.  There will be a time when the wine glasses are empty and the music is silenced.  Bitter tears will fill the glasses and wailing will drown out all other sounds.  The party is over.

That day will have a refining quality in its intent (v.13-16).  Remarkably, there will be those saved out of great tribulation.  From among the Gentiles, comes a vast blood-washed throng, and all Israel (spiritually as well as racially) shall be saved.  After two-thousand years of Great Commission responsibility, the church has failed to carry the Gospel to all tribes and tongues, but finally all peoples will have a chance to hear.  The result will be that many will glorify the Lord.  Fire purges the dross and purifies the gold.

The judgment Isaiah describes will be unprecedented in its nature (v17-20).  This old world had known much sorrow—fearful events and catastrophic eras—still nothing comparable to this—so much so that Jesus said there has never been anything like it, neither ever will be again.

The judgment brings an end to wickedness and the establishment of righteousness (v.21-23).  The Lord Christ will come in power and glory.  He will reign on the earth.  Every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that He is Lord.  The only way to miss judgment is willing submission to Christ.  Today He will be your Lord and Savior, if you receive Him.  Should you reject Him, then He will still be your Lord, but also your Judge.  The choice is yours.

Friday, May 22, 2015


If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  (1 John 1:6)

Talk is cheap.  I can claim to be Superman.  You would want to see me fly.  Around seventy percent of the American population claims to be Christian.  Where is the evidence?  Would the culture be in moral freefall if that were truly the case?  Let me be more direct.  Is there proof you can present that makes your profession of faith credible?

John’s intent in writing this first letter is so we can know for certain we are prepared to meet God.  He sums his purpose up in 5:13, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.”

True Christianity is not a mere set of beliefs someone subscribes to, but a Person that we believe in—and His name is Jesus Christ.  John opens the first chapter by pointing to Him and calls Him, “the Word of life” (v.1).  Real conversion rests on a genuine connection with Christ—for He is the source of eternal life.  As the Word, He has communicated God to us, disclosing the plan of salvation.  There is no salvation apart from Him.  Although we live in an age of “tolerance” and political correctness, which dogmatically asserts there are no moral absolutes, Scripture emphatically declares that Jesus is the only way to heaven.  It is not a religion that saves—it is a relationship with Christ that is required.

Why won’t religion work?  Why can’t we get sprinkled as a baby, confirmed as a teen, or baptized as an adult?  Isn’t joining a church and trying to be good, good enough?  John says the problem is this, “God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all.”  (v.5)  God is inexpressibly holy and infinitely righteous, demanding moral perfection for those who would be in His heaven.  Who among us can claim that?  Even in the best person you have ever met, there is some darkness—so how can we be in right standing with God?

When by God’s gracious intervention, and the Holy Spirit’s call, we repent—turn from walking the path of darkness to the path of light (v.6-7)—the orientation of our life is changed—something so radical as to be described as a new birth.  It is unthinkable that such a work of God within us would not produce an effect in our lifestyle.  Only Christ can save us.  We are not saved because we decide to “clean up our act.”  The stain of sin is too dark and deep.  The blood of Christ alone can cleanse us.  The evidence that His blood has cleansed us, however, will be seen in holy living.

Does this mean that one who comes to Christ is perfect?  As to our position in Christ, we are accepted in Him, but as to our practice, it is progressive, and we will stumble at times.  Even so, provision is made for cleansing (v.9) and the child of God will want that fellowship restored. God is faithful and just to forgive us of all sin, but we must confess—the word means to agree—acknowledging our need and receiving Christ.  Do you have this new life?  If not I beg you—come to Christ today!

Thursday, May 21, 2015



Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.  (2 Peter 3:13)

I have three vehicles—all of them old and worn out.  Two of them have well over 200,000 miles on the odometer.  It seems I have one of them at the mechanic constantly.  One day, they are going to become nothing but scrap metal to be recycled.  That is the course of all things pertaining to this material universe.  The original creation was made by God—and as God is only capable of doing, it was good.  Then sin came, and with that, the curse of death.  The entire universe is headed that direction.  We see the evidence all about us.

The author of this letter, Simon Peter, knew there was a fixed point beyond which his physical existence would not continue.  Sitting in a prison cell, waiting for martyrdom—old bones aching, skin weathered, eyes dimming, his gnarled fingers moving pen across parchment—he writes of the time when God will make all things new.  He will soon be liberated from the prison his body had become—free from the torture that would end his pilgrimage—as the old fisherman would be crucified upside down.  That is the church tradition concerning his death, anyway—likely accurate.

Our demise and the eventual destruction of all things—the entire fabric of the universe unraveling and incinerated—sounds like something to dread.  Peter, however, is looking forward to it, and calls believers to that same anticipation.  It is not dread, but delight that he feels.  He knows that the end of the old creation is actually a regeneration into new heavens and a new earth—one where righteousness reigns—with sin and death forever terminated.

Egyptian mythology told of the phoenix—a bird that would age, and then would ignite and be consumed in fire.  Out of the ashes, a new phoenix would arise.  That is myth, but it has a grain of truth.  This present world is passing away—one day all that pertains to it will go up in smoke.  Yet, out of the ashes, a new creation will be reborn.

There are those, of course, who will scoff.  I have heard even those claiming to be Christians warn about, “Those who are so heavenly-minded, they are no earthly good.”  I suppose there are those who are immersed in charts and consumed with obscure details of end-time events.  That is fanaticism.  Proper perspective concerning the end of the age is actually a great motivator to evangelism and godly living.  The people we reach we must reach now.  Holy living today readies us for an eternity marked by righteousness.  The prophetic word is a tremendous incentive to make a difference in this world as we look forward to the world to come!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled;
My steps had nearly slipped.  (Psalm 73:2)
Nevertheless I am continually with You;
You hold me by my right hand.  (Psalm 73:23)

As children, we learn to pray, “God is great; God is good.”  As we age, we may begin to wonder, “If God is great and good, why doesn’t He do something about all the bad in the world?”  We may then have a crisis of faith.  That was true of Asaph—the writer of Psalm 73.  He first states the proposition that God is good (v.1).  Then, he acknowledges his struggle with doubt (v.2-16).  A turning point comes when he enters the house of God and gains an eternal perspective (v.17-20).  He closes with a triumphant song of trust (v.21-28).  He was shaken, but the solid footing of truth preserved Asaph.  He wobbled, but the strength of God held him firm and kept him from falling.  We have a modern day version of these truths in the hymn, “How Firm a Foundation.”   Asaph, being a singer himself, would have appreciated those lyrics.

The reality is that the storms of life can sweep in and make the surface slippery beneath us.  That had happened to Asaph (v.2).  The temptation arises when we take our eyes off the Lord above us, and look at the world about us (v.3).  Asaph saw sinners prospering, while he and other saints were plagued (v.3-16).  Have we not been tempted as we looked at the wicked and thought, “Why, they have it made!  Look at all the fun they are having in sin!  There is no judgment on them—indeed, they are succeeding in life!”  This provides fertile soil for the germination of envy—the seed of that sin thus planted, begins to sprout—a noxious weed that wraps itself around our mind and seeks to choke out faith.

There came, however, the pivotal moment, when the spade of Scripture dug up the choking weeds of doubt—human reason displaced by heavenly revelation.  Grasping at straws, Asaph decides to make one last trek to the house of God.  I cannot tell you the occasions that I have come to worship when my heart was distressed—feeling abandoned by God—and left with faith shored up and a song in my soul!  It was the Word of God that brought understanding and made the difference for Asaph (v.17).  It has for me and it will for you.  His eyes were opened to see past the immediate prosperity of the wicked to their eternal destiny—that sinners face destruction in the end.

The end for the righteous, however, is another matter!  Here, there may be trials, but hereafter there will be triumph (v.21-28)!  Despite the wavering of his commitment to God, God firmly held to His commitment to Asaph.  The road was rough, but the important thing about the road was that it led to heaven!

If you are struggling with the same questions today, seek the Lord, come to His house, hear His Word, and affirm with Asaph,

But it is good for me to draw near to God;
I have put my trust in the Lord GOD,
That I may declare all Your works.  (v.28)

Then we may enthusiastically embrace these lyrics,

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble….  (2 Peter 1:10)

There is no substitute for obedience in the Christian life.  If Jesus is Lord, then my duty is to submit to Him in all things.  The trajectory of my life is to be more and more in alignment with His will.  This is what is called for in 2 Peter 1:1-11.

We have THE RESOURCES FOR OBEDIENCE (v.1-4).  Some may protest that the expectation for obedience is too high.  “I’m only human!” is the excuse.  We are human—with all the fleshly frailties inherent—but Peter tells us we are not only human, we are “partakers of the divine nature….” There are supernatural resources at our disposal.  Reliance on Jesus brings all He is to bear on our situation—the infinite power of God.  There is promise after promise concerning these resources, and God is always faithful to His Word.  Ultimately, Jesus indwells us to live out His life through us!

Next, consider THE REACH OF OBEDIENCE (v.5-7).  God’s demand for obedience extends to every dimension of existence.  It is to be our diligent pursuit.  We are not to be passive, but passionate in seeking spiritual progress.  Peter uses terms throughout the text that speak of an abundant life!

The abundant life begins with “faith.”  Faith is the foundation upon which we build the Christian life, and is the cement by which we add each block of spiritual development.  We add to our faith, “virtue.”  This is moral excellence, which demonstrates the reality of our faith.  Then to virtue, we add “knowledge.”  We are called out of the darkness of ignorance about God into the light of knowing Him.  Each step of obedience opens up new horizons of understanding and with new understanding comes new vistas of obedience.  Knowledge leads to “self-control.”  Fleshly appetites—God-given drives, perverted by sin—are mastered by us, rather than the passions mastering us.  Self-control brings us to “perseverance.”  We keep moving forward in faith.  Even when we stumble, we get up and go on—pressing ahead in obedience.  Perseverance then yields “godliness.”  It is an attitude of reverence for God, which brings the action of response to God, resulting in our lives reflecting the image of God.  Godliness is expressed in “brotherly kindness.”  Devotion to the Father is manifested in a disposition of kindness toward His family.  That brings us to the pinnacle of spiritual development: “love.”  Since God is love, it is reasonable that those who follow Christ should have this quality in abundance.

Peter proceeds to show THE RESULTS OF OBEDIENCE (v.8-11).  We reap what we sow—and an abundant application of obedience will yield a bumper crop of spiritual growth.  There will be much fruit, and by that, we glorify God.  Each step of obedience brings us into greater fellowship with Christ—the things of this fallen world receding, and the beauties of eternity beckoning.  Our obedience furnishes a testimony of the reality of our faith—conduct giving credibility to our claims.  Then, some day, we can cross the finish line in victory, winning the crown for steadfast obedience!  Just do it!

Monday, May 18, 2015


Now also when I am old and grayheaded,
O God, do not forsake me,
Until I declare Your strength to this generation,
Your power to everyone who is to come.  (Psalm 71:18)

The day dawns for us and we come kicking and screaming into the world.  We experience the morning of youth.  Next, we advance into the noonday of strength.  Before you know it, we arrive in the afternoon of aging.  Nightfall is coming—“life’s setting sun is sinking low, a few more days and I must go,” as the old Gospel song puts it.  Then, we are traveling the twilight trail.  I am not there yet, but the signs along the road indicate it will not be that far away.  You may still be the bright light of early adulthood and think this to be the least of your concerns.  So did I.  I assure you life’s day will race by.

The Psalmist points to THE PAST and shares his TESTIMONY (Ps.71:5-8).  The twilight trail is a time for remembering the faithfulness of God.  We can imagine the writer’s eyes filling with tears of gratitude for the goodness and grace of God he has seen—those tears running down the furrows of his face, gashes plowed by time.  He boldly asserts his hope in God.  The Lord had been the ground of his trust from youth, and had never failed him.  God had not only been solid ground to stand on, but had been a strong guard to shelter in—providing stability and security.  The twilight trail is a time for singing, “Through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come.  ‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.”

The writer describes THE PRESENT and speaks of his TRIALS (Ps.71:9-13).  He is weary from warfare—and would like to lay his armor down—but he finds there are still foes to face.  I recall when I was young some aged saints singing, “When the battle’s over, we shall wear a crown…” yet, while we are here, the battle is not over.  Life is full of struggles—trials and temptations bringing relentless assault.  Like the psalmist, we may feel our will to fight is waning, and our strength to stand is sagging.  It may seem that God has forsaken us when trials become a torrent as we travel the twilight trail.  Our minds may be plagued by demons of despair and our bodies beset by distress of disease.  We can still call upon the Lord with confidence that He will come to our aid. 

The sacred songwriter concludes with THE PROSPECTS and affirms the promise of TRIUMPH (Ps.71:14-21).  His voice does not have the perfect pitch it did in youth—finding it cracking at times—still, he retains his song of hope and praise.  Traveling the twilight trail reminds him that his days are few, but since he does not know how many, he will not waste time worrying about God’s business (how many days He gives), but will concern himself with his business (how much good he can do).  There is strength enough to do all God wants because He will not enlist us without empowering us.  The aged must draw out of the vast well of experience wisdom to share with a younger generation.

Someday we all come to the twilight trail.  Will we look back with rejoicing or regret?   Will we stand or stumble in our struggle?  Will we finish as a winner or with a whimper?

Sunday, May 17, 2015


that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.  (1 Peter 4:2)

I love to sing, “What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought, since Jesus came into my heart….”  He has changed my direction here and my destination hereafter.  Although that process is ongoing, it is relentless—I am not who I used to be and can never be again—forever changed.

There is A DISPOSITION THAT IS SETTLED (v.1).  Peter has been talking about how Christ suffered for us in doing the will of God (3:17-18). This is an encouragement to each of us to be willing to suffer in following His example.  Peter uses a military term as we prepare for battle.  Our weapons are spiritual in nature and the battlefield is the mind.  If we are willing to deny self and die to sin in following Christ, we are done with the lifestyle of sin.  That is repentance.

There is also A DIRECTION THAT IS SET (v.2).  The reorientation of our lives is from a direction set by fleshly impulse to one set according to the will of God.  Our life will be directed by the lust of the flesh or the lordship of the Father.  We can seek our own will or God’s will.  Sin occurs whenever I rebel against the will of God.  That means I have established my self as my own god—and that is idolatry.  This is how we were before salvation, but if we are truly saved this can no longer be the case. 

There is further A DIMENSION THAT IS SPENT (v.3).  The Christian has come to realize that this world is utterly bankrupt—it is fool’s gold.  The currency of our time was once spent for wicked pleasures and now it will be exchanged for eternal pursuits.  Peter was writing to converted pagans radically altered by Christ!  A Christian’s life is no longer dominated by the evils mentioned here.  Peter says, “Enough of that!”

There will be A DIFFERENCE THAT IS SEEN (v.4).  At first people are surprised at the change in us and then they scorn the change in us.  Better to be scorned than ignored.  So many claim to be Christians and they are chameleons instead!  The world will call you a holy roller!  They will brand you a fanatic.  In my day, they mocked you as a “Jesus freak!” 

There is then A DETERMINATION THAT IS SURE (v.5).  “It is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment.”  It is inescapable. We must prepare to meet God.  Either the account is settled when we die because the Eternal Son paid it or we will be settling up for all eternity—a debt we cannot pay.  The problem we have isn’t just the sins we commit or we might eventually pay for them.  The problem is the sinner we are—and without the new birth we can never become anything different.  That’s why we risk ridicule and rejection to warn the wicked!

We have A DELIVERANCE THAT IS SECURED  (v.6) What’s the worst that could be done to you?  Someone kill you?  Then you would enter the greatest life there is!  Peter paid that price. Your whole outlook about life is changed.

Can you honestly sing, “What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought, since Jesus came into my heart”?  Christ will change you today if you ask; He will change you forever!

Saturday, May 16, 2015


“Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned back My wrath from the children of Israel, because he was zealous with My zeal among them, so that I did not consume the children of Israel in My zeal.”  (Numbers 25:11)

I have had a few flat tires in my lifetime.  Progress comes to a halt, and if you are traveling at a high speed can be dangerous—even deadly.  It may be the result of hitting a big pothole or sharp object, but not typically.  What usually occurred is that the tire had been losing air almost imperceptibly, and I had failed to be vigilant.  The result was a horrible noise, difficult steering, and finding myself beside the highway with a flat tire. 

I still remember the warning given by the man who once pastored my home church, Dr. Thad Dowdle.  He said, “Most spiritual failures are not the result of a blowout, but a slow leak!”  How true!  We see someone who has wrecked their marriage, totaled their testimony, and are sitting on the side of the road of life, and wonder what happened.  We may conclude it was a sudden event—and it can be—but not usually.  It was the little compromises—the neglect of the spiritual life—failing to be vigilant and diligent in maintaining Biblical convictions that brought the catastrophe.

This is the way the Devil operates.  We observe it in the twenty-fifth chapter of Numbers.  Balak, the King of Moab, had tried to hire Balaam to curse Israel, but each time the false prophet opened his mouth, God cause a blessing rather than a curse to be spoken.  Balaam’s plan then became to send beautiful Moabite women into the camp to seduce the gullible Israeli men, leading them to worship Baal.  Since Balaam couldn’t get God to turn from Israel, he decided to get Israel to turn from God.  Then he knew that God would bring His wrath upon the idolatry.  He knew there was more than one way to skin a cat!

The plan worked perfectly.  Their compromise in their relationship with heathen people—being “unequally yoked,”—led to contamination of their morals, and what we would call “backsliding.”  The wages of sin is death—and we see the high price of low-living.  24,000 died in a plague sent as a punishment from God.

What saved the day?  The zeal of Phineas stopped the plague.  This godly man was stirred to action.  A man named Zimri had given his heart to a pagan woman, who in turn had led him to give his heart to idolatry.  What magnified his sin was that he was a leader in Israel, and so Zimri not only hurt himself, he led others astray.  Phineas took radical action and stuck a javelin through the two compromisers—surgically removing the moral malignancy threatening to kill the nation.  Phineas is commended by God for his zeal—a zeal for holiness like his Lord—and blessing is promised to him and his descendants.

Today you will likely face a temptation—will you respond with compromise or conviction?  Satan whispers, “It is such a little thing.”  It might be—the little compromise added to the little one from yesterday, and the day before—and you may be closer to ruin than you imagine.  May we seek the zeal of Phineas and kill the compromise!  The great old Puritan, John Owen, said, be killing sin or it will be killing you.”  Click on the link for more from Owen on this vital matter.