Fred Lambert Ministries
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY
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© 2019 Fred Lambert Ministries
 

Unconditional Love

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

The word “unconditional” is defined as “not subject to conditions”. This is the kind of love that God has for all people. They may not know it. They may never appreciate it or take advantage of it. But He passionately loves every one of them with an unconditional love. He demonstrated this love for us while we were still sinners. In other words, He didn’t wait for us to fulfill any conditions whatsoever!  He simply acted upon His awesomely great love and sent Jesus to die in our place to save us from our sins!

The fact that His love is unconditional doesn’t mean that everyone is experiencing it – but it does mean that it is available and waiting for them. To receive and experience this love there is a condition – one simple condition – a condition that every humble heart can fulfill.  That condition is simply to believe in His Son Jesus Christ. The moment we open our hearts to Him in faith, He pours out His love into our hearts.

This is what every human being on earth is longing for and sadly what too few of them have ever heard about. Some Christians who have experienced this unconditional love now heap conditions onto it for others who are so deeply in need of it. They say, “Live right, stop sinning, be good and maybe God will love you too. If you don’t He’ll send you straight to hell!” Friends, that is not the good news we are called to preach to the whole world. The good news is that God doesn’t want to send even one soul to hell. He doesn’t take pleasure in the death of the sinner. He loves them all and He has made a way for them to escape that fate. Salvation is by grace through faith. It is not of works and therefore no one can claim to have been good enough! Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved! Put your trust in Him and you will never be disappointed!

Hope doesn't disappoint us, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:5

If you haven’t already, open your heart to Jesus today. And if you’re already saved, tell others about how God’s unconditional love saved you!

Put the Blame on Me!

But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our guilt and iniquities; the chastisement [needful to obtain] peace and well-being for us was upon Him, and with the stripes [that wounded] Him we are healed and made whole.  (Isaiah 53:5 AMP)

Some people blame God for everything. They blame Him for sickness, famine, natural disasters and so on but the true, original source of these things was Adam’s sin. Death and everything that causes it came into this world through the sin of Adam and is perpetuated in many cases by the sins of those who came after him. God on the other hand, never sinned nor caused anyone to sin. Therefore He is not to blame for any of it!

But He IS responsible for all of it.

There is a subtle difference between blame and responsibility. Blame is based upon the guilt of offences that one has personally committed. Responsibility is based more upon position and authority. God never sinned but He did create those who eventually did. Therefore, He is responsible for every sin and every horrible thing spawned by it. In other words, if He hadn’t pushed the “start button” none of this would have ever happened. In fact, we wouldn't be here and I wouldn't be writing this. Therefore, He is responsible - but He is certainly not to blame.

Now, since God IS responsible - as well as being SO BIG and SO LOVING and SO GENEROUS and SO VERY, VERY KIND - He took the full responsibility and all the blame for sin and every sinful deed. He carried the burden and bore each curse generated by our sin. When Jesus died on the cross, God was saying, “Put the blame on Me! I’ll take care of that for you.” If you want to blame God, you came too late! He already took the blame and the full responsibility for everything that Adam and you and I and everyone else ever did or will do. Instead of blaming God, let’s give heartfelt thanks to the One Who took our guilt and shame and in its place gave us life and that more abundantly.

The Most Intelligent Solution Ever

God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

The gospel is the most amazing and intelligent solution to the core problem of humanity. No human being could have ever thought it up. There are no holes, gaps or unanswered questions left in the perfect flow of God’s redemption plan. All religions leave us unsure, ignorant and condemned. They give the knowledge of sin but no realistic way to escape its consequences. In one way or another they are all based upon a good works versus bad works philosophy which means that even the most faithful of their adherents are completely doomed. To stand righteous before God does not mean to do a pretty good job of things but rather to be spotless, blameless and fully just. This is what the Gospel generously grants us when we believe. We are made righteous by the One and in the One Who was made sin for us.

In reality, many have never heard the Gospel. They have heard a form of Christian religion that, in many ways, leaves them feeling just as unsure and condemned as the adherents of the demon inspired religions of the world. What a travesty. Here’s the good news in a few short sentences. All people are both guilty of sin and sinners by nature. Sin demands punishment and sinners cannot stand before God. Jesus took the punishment we deserved in full and freely granted us a righteous standing before God based upon our faith as well as the very righteous nature of God through the new birth. This is reason that Jesus Christ is the ONLY way to get to the Father. He did what no one else ever did. No one else even offered to do what He did. He died the death that we deserved and granted us every blessing that we didn’t deserve by grace through faith. When you come to God, lay down your best efforts and come resting solely in the victory of our Champion Jesus Christ. He paid it all. That's the Gospel and that's the most intelligent solution ever to humanity's problem.

Never Stop Reading When You Come to the Word ‘And’

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Romans 3:23-24

Concerning Scripture reading, one of my heroes of the faith used to say, “Never stop reading when you come to the word ‘and’.” Here is a classic example of why that’s so important. Many people – saved and unsaved alike – have heard the phrase “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” but far fewer have heard what comes next. Instead of this verse being used to bless people, it has often been used to beat them over the head and condemn them. How sad! While it is absolutely true that we have all sinned, it is also absolutely true that Jesus Christ paid the price for all of our sins, took the punishment we deserved and justified us freely by His grace. That’s exactly why He came!

He didn’t come to start a new religion of rules and regulations. He didn’t come to add to the pressures and burdens that we all experience in this broken, sin-filled world. He didn’t come to condemn us or make us feel ashamed of ourselves. He came to liberate us from sin and release us from the demands of legalistic religion. He came to lift the heavy loads and remove the burdens that we were carrying. He came to justify us, to free us from condemnation and to completely restore our dignity as sons and daughters of God. How did He do it, you ask? He took our place and became what we were. He, Who knew no sin became sin for us and paid its horrible price. He died the death that we had earned. He paid the penalty that we owed and bore the curse that we deserved. He did this for you and for me and for all people for all times. This is the good news of the gospel. This is the central truth that every Christian should know and share with others. There are more truths that we will learn as we go on with God but each and every one of them is inseparably tied to this one. After the ‘and’ is the good news of God’s amazing grace. So never stop reading when you come to the word ‘and’. If you do, you might miss out on the very truth that will set you free.

There's Power in the Name of Jesus!

Acts 3:16 And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know.

Peter and John were on the way to the prayer meeting! On the way they healed a man that had been born lame and the people who witnessed it were absolutely amazed. They looked at Peter and John with an understandable astonishment! "Wow! Look at what these guys did! They performed a miracle!!!" Peter, however, was not impressed with their amazement and asked them a question many people today would never think to ask, "Why are you looking so amazed at us, as if we did this by our own power or holiness?" Listen carefully, Peter wasn't amazed that a man born lame could be instantly healed! In addition, he recognized that the man wasn't healed because he (Peter) was so holy and perfect! I believe that followers of Jesus need to learn these lessons afresh today.

First of all, healing and miracles should be normal for us. Christianity is supernatural! Peter wasn't amazed that the man was healed. He expected it to happen. Jesus had given him the power and authority to cast out demons and heal the sick. That settled the issue for him! He knew that the power and authority was in the Name of Jesus! When Peter said, "In the Name of Jesus, get up and walk!", he was convinced that the power in that Name could perform miracles! He knew that Jesus is personally present when His Name is spoken in faith! When Peter explained to the people how the man got healed he said, "The Name of Jesus healed this man! Faith in His Name made him strong!" And friend, that wonderful Name has the same power today that it had back then and it belongs to all of those who believe including you! Use that Name in faith and watch the miracles happen!

Secondly, Peter knew that he was not the healer. He said very plainly that the man was not healed by any intrinsic power that he possessed. He also said that the man wasn't healed because he (Peter) was so holy. Don't forget this! No matter how spiritual or godly we are, we can't do anything of eternal significance without Jesus. He is the vine and we are the branches. It is Jesus working in us and through us that produces miracles and healings. I often say, "I can't do anything without Jesus but thank God, I am not without Jesus! He lives in me!" Get this reality deep into your consciousness. Jesus Christ, God almighty lives in you by the Holy Spirit! He's the same yesterday, today and forever! His Name still has the same miracle working power that it did in the book of Acts. Believe it. Speak that Name in faith and watch Jesus do wonders! There's power in the Name of Jesus!

The Good Old Acts 4:29-30 Prayer

Acts 4:29-30 And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and grant to your servants great boldness in their preaching, and send your healing power, and may miracles and wonders be done by the name of your holy servant Jesus." TLB

Peter and John had been threatened by the Jewish authorities and ordered to "never again speak about Jesus." Their response was, "You decide whether God wants us to obey you instead of him! We cannot stop telling about the wonderful things we saw Jesus do and heard him say." After this, Peter and John reported to their fellow believers what had happened to them. And then they prayed! They prayed a bold, heartfelt, earth shaking prayer that got God's attention and released tremendous power. This prayer is a prayer that we need to pray today!

Perhaps we haven't been threatened like Peter and John yet, but there is an increasing intolerance for Christianity in the USA and Europe. We need to decide right now that we will obey God and not bow to the political correctness of blinded politicians nor the growing perversion of postmodern society. We have to get this life saving message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person of our generation. He alone saves!

What do we really need to reach the masses for Christ today? I believe we need exactly what the apostles and the early church needed! Healings, miracles and wonders in the Name of Jesus. It's easy to be bold when you know that the power of God will confirm your message! Genuine miracles are very convincing. Supernatural healings lead to whole families getting saved! I'm not against professional lighting, culturally relevant music, theatrics, multimedia, internet presence and so on, but I do not believe we are going to win the world by these things. You will never outdo Hollywood when it comes to entertaining the people of this world. They got the money to produce the most amazing movies. I read that they spent 200 million dollars just to produce "Iron Man 3". Most churches don't have an extra thousand dollars to spend on anything! But we do have something that they do not have. We have the awesome, life changing, healing and delivering power of the Holy Spirit in us! When genuine healings and miracles begin to take place, no church will be big enough to hold the crowds. I want to encourage you to pray the good old "Acts 4:29-30 Prayer" everyday and to trust God to use you to bring healing, deliverance and salvation to the people in your field of influence in the Name of Jesus!

The Only Way

Acts 4:11-12 Jesus is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved. 

Faith in Jesus Christ is God's exclusive offer of salvation. There is no other way for a person to be saved. Perhaps you're thinking, "But that's so narrow". Yes, it is. Jesus said that the gate is small and the road is narrow that leads to eternal life. (Matt. 7:13-14)  In another place He said, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6) He's the narrow way. He's the only way.

This message is not popular today. Many say that all religions are the same and all roads lead to heaven. Christians who preach that Jesus is the only way are thought of as intolerant, narrow minded and even fanatical. But it is not intolerant to tell your neighbor what they need to hear to be saved. It would be unloving and uncaring not to tell them that "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself". I am not against other cultures, religions and philosophies. I am for people. "Christ died for all" clearly demonstrating that all people need Him. If I really love people, then I will not let them go into eternity separated from God, without at least giving them a chance to hear how they can be saved.

Why is Jesus the only way? First of all, because there is no one else like Jesus! He is fully God and fully man. The eternal Word of God became flesh and came to earth to save us! There's nobody else like Jesus in the entire universe! Secondly, no one else ever did what Jesus did! No one else even offered to do what He did! He died in our place. The death we earned is the death He died. Did anyone else ever do that for you? Did Mohammed? Did Buddha? No they didn't and they never even offered to do it. Jesus paid the penalty for our sins. There's nothing more to pay. He washed us from our sins in His own blood! He bought us out of slavery, set us free and transformed us into kings, priests and children of God! Do you know of anyone else who did that? Did anyone offer to do that? No! Jesus alone offers salvation by grace through faith. All religions are based upon works or somehow being good enough to deserve eternal life. Jesus gives us life freely based on the gift of righteousness by faith. Can you find that anywhere else? No! Jesus is exclusive. He is the only way! All religions try to cure the outward symptoms of mankind's problem with behavior modification and religious works. Jesus healed the root of the problem by taking our sinful nature upon Himself and carrying it away forever! Christianity is not a religion! It is a restored and reconciled relationship with God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. One last thing, Jesus is the only One who ever rose from the dead. He conquered, death, hell, the grave and utterly defeated the enemy of mankind. He is King of kings and Lord of Lords. Every knee will bow before Him and confess that He is Lord. One last thought: We can bow now or we can bow later, but there's no getting around the fact that every knee will bow before Jesus. He is the only way!

WHICH JESUS DO YOU BELIEVE IN?

2 Cor 11:4 You seem so gullible: you believe whatever anyone tells you even if he is preaching about another Jesus than the one we preach, or a different spirit than the Holy Spirit you received, or shows you a different way to be saved. You swallow it all. (TLB)

Is there more than one Jesus?! Well, actually there’s a bunch of ‘em. Today you can get your own designer Jesus that’ll fit your lifestyle and personal opinions perfectly. They’re available at your local Christian bookstore, on Christian TV and easy to order from the comfort of your own home on the internet! For example there’s the Jesus that just wants to condemn everything and everybody that does not agree with your theology. He’s a popular model that you can find in hundreds of YouTube comments about various popular preachers and revival movements. He hates almost everything except for you. He’s quick to label people “false prophet” and “heretic” and rejoices to cast them in the lake of fire! If you don’t like him you could try the lovey-dovey model on for size. He’s a Jesus that’s never demanding or pushy. He’s always happy with your performance and he’d never criticize you, challenge you and certainly never threaten you. He’s a nice and friendly Jesus who always understands you, is always kind to you and always approves of everything you do and say. Which Jesus do you believe in?

Neither one of those “Jesuses” is the real Jesus. At least they’re not the Jesus that you find in the New Testament. The real Jesus says things like, “Neither do I condemn you” and then follows it up with a healthy “Go and sin not more.” He’s the Jesus that says, “I am with you always” and in another place asks, “How long will I have to put up with you!” He says to one, “Come unto me” and to another “Depart from me”. He says “I will give you rest” and then turns around and "gives to every man his work”. He preached about heaven and He warned about hell. He is a very balanced Jesus. He’s a Jesus who will comfort and encourage you with His never ending love and a Jesus who will rebuke and discipline you when you need it. He’s an inclusive Jesus who wants all people to come to Him and a Jesus who gives very specific rules about who can come and how. He loves righteousness and hates wickedness. He is meek and gentle but can also get angry and even violent. He praises one for their great faith and reproves another for their lack of faith. He is not one sided like the designer “Jesuses” that are being peddled in various Charismatic best sellers and “Christian” Facebook groups. He is holy and He is merciful. He’s our friend but He’s also our Master. He’s the Lion and He’s the Lamb. He’s not judgmental but He’s the Judge. He’s not a slave driver but He calls us to serve. He is Lord and God and He will reign forever! Which Jesus do you believe in? Maybe you don't believe in Jesus at all but one day every knee shall bow before Him and confess that He is Lord.

MORE THAN A BOOK!

Ps 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

I love God’s word; the Holy Bible. I got to know Jesus Christ and the way to salvation in 1984 by reading the Bible. It renews my mind, feeds my spirit, builds my faith, gives me wisdom, reproves me, instructs me in righteousness and equips me for every good work!

There is a movement within the Body of Christ today that speaks disparagingly about the Bible. They nearly treat it as if it were a mere “book”. By doing so, they weaken its authority and reduce its ability to change their lives. They insinuate that people like me, who love the Bible, “worship a book” more than the Author of the book. Actually I love the Author and therefore love His written word! They sarcastically say that when Jesus ascended into Heaven God didn’t send us a book, He sent us the Holy Spirit. Though that sounds true enough let’s not forget that the Holy Spirit inspired every word in this wonderful book of books! These folks revel in informing us (as if we didn’t know) that the church of the first century didn’t have the “book” but they turned the world upside down. To begin with, all the books of our New Testament were already in circulation by the end of the first century and secondly, I guarantee you that the first century church would have loved to have a copy of the New Testament in the form that we have it today! I can’t imagine that the Bible would have made them less effective, can you?

People who diminish the value and absolute necessity of the Bible are on dangerous ground. It was this lack of regard for the Bible that empowered the medieval church to oppress nations, deceive the masses and burn true Christ followers at the stake. Perhaps the most important truth that the Reformation restored to the church is that the Bible is the highest authority for all Christian teaching and practice. Some of the most vicious personal attacks that I have experienced in the last year came from people who have placed the books of men on the same level or on an even higher level than the Bible. They almost get angry if you a quote a scripture to them. They’ll accuse you of hitting them over the head with the Bible, arguing dead theology or being legalistic. Many of them have discontinued reading the Bible in favor of books by teachers who itch their ears. My pastor used to say to me, "When you are reading books about the Bible make sure you double up on reading the Bible itself." That's good advice!

Smith Wigglesworth has a important place in church history and still influences multitudes because of the mighty fruit of his ministry. He was a lover of the Bible, God’s word! He carried it with him wherever he went and would read from it time and time again during the day. He made this statement about the Bible. “Never think or never say that this Book contains the Word of God. It is the Word of God. It is supernatural in origin, eternal in duration, inexpressible in value, infinite in scope, regenerative in power, infallible in authority, universal in interest, personal in application, inspired in totality. Read it through. Write it down. Pray it in. Work it out. And then pass it on.”

I just like that! As a matter of fact, I like that a lot! Thank God for the Bible!

FALLING UNDER THE POWER?

Rev 1:17 And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, "Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.

Do you have a dogma or maybe even a doctrine about falling under the power? I don’t.

Some folks in the Bible fell down when the Lord appeared to them and others didn’t. Some people have fallen when I prayed for them and others just stood there blinking. I’ve fallen a time or two, overcome by the presence and glory of God. And I’ve also fallen a time or two out of courtesy to the preacher who was counting on my falling to confirm his great anointing and power in prayer. Some people fall out of habit. Some get pushed over by the preacher. And some people are genuinely overwhelmed by the power of God.

Falling. It happens. So what! What’s the big deal?

For some people however, your dogma about falling can be very, very important. Some have even developed a doctrine that says, “If people fall forward on their face it is of God and if they fall backwards (as in most charismatic churches) it’s of the devil.” But in the Scripture text above, the Apostle John fell like one who was dead. I’m not sure if this would qualify for the "falling forward on your face doctrine" or not. If you fall as one who is dead you might accidentally fall to the left or to the right or… God forbid… even backwards. I mean, people who drop dead are generally not in control of which way they fall. You might land in deep heresy according the “falling forward is good and falling backwards is bad dogmaticians” and believe me, you don’t want that. Life is hard enough without having to carry that burden!

There are two observations I could share about falling under the power. First of all, nearly all the people I know who have fallen (under the power, out of habit or knocked down by the preacher) were sincere Christians who were hungry for God. Secondly, almost all of the people who claim that “falling under the power” is of the devil were generally the “full-of-pride-know-it all” types. To be honest about it, I’d rather look silly lying on the floor than be full of pride! It’s like they elevate your doctrine of “falling” above everything else and make “falling forward” or “falling backward” the criteria for your salvation. What nonsense!

People fell by the thousands under the preaching of John Wesley. The same thing often happened when Charles Finney preached. The Welsh revival was marked by this and many other strange and interesting manifestations. The list could go on. In all of these revivals hundreds and thousands of people got saved. Was that the work of the devil? Certainly not! But they didn’t get saved because they fell in the proper way; they got saved because they heard the word of God, were overwhelmed by the presence and power of God and cried out in faith to Jesus! There is no need to make a doctrine or dogma out of something that matters as little as falling. People did it and do it… for different reasons. Some get helped and healed and others hit their head on the floor and get a headache. (If people fall in your church, get insurance and make sure your ushers know how to “catch” the people.)

To fall or not to fall, that is the question. Who cares? What really counts is knowing God through Jesus Christ His Son. He is so awesome that you would probably fall just like John did if you got close enough to Him. But falling will not change your life. Being in His presence, feeling His touch and most importantly hearing His word will change your life. You might fall or you might not but whatever you do get as close to Jesus as you can.

I’ll close with a truth about falling that I learned from a very wise man. John Osteen was once asked why people fell on the floor when he prayed for them. He replied, “Because they can’t fall any further than that.” That’s about as dogmatic as I'll get when it comes to falling. God bless you!

TOLA THE DEFENDER

   Judges 10:1 And after Abimelech there arose to defend Israel Tola the son of Puah, the son of Dodo, a man of Issachar; and he dwelt in Shamir in mount Ephraim. 2 And he judged Israel twenty and three years, and died, and was buried in Shamir.

   I like the story of Tola and not just because he was the grandson of Dodo. :-) His whole life story is summed up in two verses. Not a lot of information. But verse one inspires me and calls me to action. Tola rose up to defend Israel. God’s people were apparently being attacked and he rose up to protect them. I am persuaded we need Tolas in the church today. The church of Jesus is under attack all over the world. In the countries where the peaceful religion of Islam dominates, Christians are tortured, jailed and murdered every day. One source claims that there were, “105,000 Christian martyrs in 2011, between 287 and 288 martyrs per day: twelve per hour, or one every five minutes.”

   But there are other threats and attacks against the church taking place every day as well. Pompous, loudmouth atheists (either ill-informed or simply dishonest) earn their lucrative salaries by slamming Jesus, the Bible and the church. Politically correct school boards, principles, university presidents and teachers unions promote a perverse anti-Christian diversity agenda aimed at stifling the voice of Biblical marriage, family and social values. The media shoves every kind of perversion possible down your throat all day long and calls you a homophobic bigot if you don’t swallow it unquestioningly. They rejoice to report every church scandal and abuse that arises while never mentioning any of the good that the church of Jesus produces. I think it’s time for some Tolas to rise up and defend the people of God once again.

   All too often however, we Christians fight against one another, disparage other churches and even feel justified when the news media uncovers some dirt on one of the denominations we disagree with. Instead of defending one another we often attack one another. Read and hear what Christians say about one another on public platforms such as YouTube or Facebook, and you’ll quickly understand why unbelievers think we are delusional. It’s time for that to end! It’s time to live John 13:34-35. It’s time to love one another as Jesus loved us. It’s time to show the world that there is a love that is truly unconditional, eternal and unfailing. I have determined to defend the church of Jesus Christ. I know that the church is not perfect and has great need of change and improvement. But let’s not air our disputes in the public forums of this unbelieving world. They desperately need Jesus and the enemy is trying to destroy His witness in this world. The church is the hope of the world because Jesus is in the church! I have decided that I will not allow the forces of godlessness to defame my brothers, my sisters and ultimately my Lord without putting up the best defense that I can. (The next Thought for the Day will deal with how to defend the Church.)

AMAZING GRACE!

   Acts 13:43 Now when the congregation had broken up, many of the Jews and devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.

   It was most likely sometime between 1760 and 1770 that John Newton wrote, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.” Amazing Grace is undeniably one of the most universally known Christian hymns of all times. It has been recorded thousands of times and is still sung an estimated 10 million times each year. The lyrics express the thankful praise of the redeemed man or woman perhaps better than any other song ever written.

   One of the wonderful truths we can learn from John Newton’s masterpiece is that the grace that saves us will also lead us home. Paul and Barnabas encouraged those who were following them to “continue in the grace of God.” Grace is more than the unmerited favor that saves us; it is the power of God enabling us to live a victorious life and the supernatural endowment making us fit for divine service. We needed grace to come into the Kingdom. Now we need more of that grace everyday to live the life God has called us to live in this world. Some believers forget that and wind up in a works driven relationship with God. They sense their inadequacy and often feel weak, condemned and defeated. Never forget that without the grace of God we can do nothing. N-O-T-H-I-N-G! Grace is not only unmerited favor, it is also unmerited power. The good work that God began in you by grace, He will also complete by grace.

   This all sufficient grace to overcome life’s challenges and the temptations that are all around us is free for the asking. The multifaceted grace which equips us to serve God acceptably is available without cost 24/7. Come boldly and humbly by faith to God’s great throne of grace, and you’ll obtain mercy and find the grace that you need right here and right now! You’ll never be denied. He gives more grace! Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus! His grace is sufficient! “'Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far and Grace will lead me home.” Amen. Thank you brother John and thank you Jesus!

JOHN'S CHRISTMAS STORY

   John 1:14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

   I love the Christmas story! Joseph and Mary, the trip to Bethlehem, the search for a room, the accommodations in the stable, the virgin birth, the miracle baby, the manger, the angelic announcement to the shepherds, their subsequent visit to the stable and (whether it was on Christmas night or two years later I don’t really care) the visit of the wise men to worship Jesus! (And I know they were most likely astrologers but I’ll call them wise men until the Lord tells me to stop doing so!) I just love the Christmas story! Jesus Christ, the Son of God, humbled Himself and became one of us so that we could be set free from the dominion of death, disease and the devil. Thank God for Christmas!

   Normally we think of the Gospels of Luke and Matthew in connection with the Christmas story. But the Apostle John told the Christmas story as well. There are no angels, no virgin, no stable, no shepherds and no wise men but the story is still there in all of its magnificence and splendor! The Word became flesh! The eternal Word of God that was forever with the Father, left that lofty place in heaven and came to earth. He came to live, to die and to pay the debt that we owed. He lived among us and taught us what it is to really love. He healed the sick, forgave sinners, worked miracles and set the captives free. He walked on water, turned water into wine and spoke of wine as His blood of the New Covenant. He enjoyed spending time with the outcasts of society while continually challenging the religious leaders of His time. He taught like no one else had ever taught. He resisted every temptation to sin and did the will of the Father in perfect obedience. He left us an example that we should follow and called us to be His disciples. Though He was and is and always will be God, He became a human being, like one of us, and demonstrated the potential that God has placed in humanity. John's Christmas story is simply this: The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Let your heart become like that stable in Bethlehem of old! Let the eternal Word become flesh in your life. God will be glorified. People will be blessed. And the darkness and suffering in this world will be diminished! Christ in you, the Word in you is the Christmas story that your family, friends and neighbors need to see and hear today. Merry Christmas from our family to yours! 

WHAT IS TRUTH?

   John 18:37-38a Pilate therefore said to Him, "Are You a king then?" Jesus answered, "You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice." Pilate said to Him, "What is truth?"

   Pilate’s question nagged me for years. It was why I took LSD and other drugs. It was why I liked ghost stories, séances, superstitions and eastern religions. Something in me wanted life to mean more than simply making money, acquiring material goods and trying to make a name for myself. Instinctively all people of all cultures throughout history have asked this question. What is truth? Why are we here? What happens after I die? Why do we ask these questions? We ask them because as Agent Mulder of the X-Files said, “The truth is out there.”

   The truth has always been and always will be. It is not a created thing nor did it come into existence after much thought and philosophical wrangling. Truth is eternal. Truth was, is and ever will be. It is unalterable, unshakable and unyielding. It continues its steady, unwavering and dauntless march toward victory. You can fight against it, you can argue about it, you can have your own opinion but in the end, truth will prevail. Of that you can be sure.

   What is truth? Jesus Christ came to bear witness to the truth. Listen to Him and your heart will recognize what you have been looking for. Get to know Him and you will get to know the truth that makes you free. “I am the way, the truth and the life” describes this amazing Person Who was, Who is and Who is to come. Situational ethics, moral relativism and progressive revisionism would like to update truth to fit the greedy, barbaric and perverse culture we have created but truth refuses to budge. Truth cannot be changed because truth is a Person and that Person is God. Jesus Christ; the same yesterday, today and forever!

THAT'S NOT WHAT GOD WANTED!

   Heb 10:8 First he said, "Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them" (although the law required them to be made). 9 Then he said, "Here I am, I have come to do your will." He sets aside the first to establish the second. 10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (NIV)

   There are those who accuse God of being barbaric, violent and bloodthirsty. Modern atheists love to point out the more gruesome parts of the Old Testament and are especially fond of saying that the God of Christianity is an abusive Father who killed His own Son. Such statements betray their ignorance. In the scripture above we read that God never wanted or desired any of that! Sacrifices became necessary because of sin. Claiming that God wanted sacrifices is paramount to saying He wanted mankind to sin which is simply stated, stupid. These super intelligent folks, either knowingly or unknowingly, overlook the flawed logic of their accusations.

   One atheist asks, “If God wanted to forgive our sins, why not just forgive them, without having himself tortured and executed in payment?”* Again, this betrays the ignorance of the questioner. There are legalities involved here. Justice must be served. The wages of sin is death. This penalty is more than a fine which God affixed to a transgression; it is a reality that awaits those who are guilty of transgressing. Every person who sins has destined themselves to eternal death and separation from God. This is the price of sin. Additionally, man’s problem is deeper than his behavior; it is in his very nature. Forgiving sins without changing our nature would do nothing to alter the penalty or destiny. When Jesus died, He took our place in death and paid in full the penalty we owed. He did not simply forgive our sinful acts. He died to conquer the nature of sin and death and usher in a new birth. Those who believe in Jesus are not simply forgiven; they are created anew in Christ! They are born again. They receive a new nature, eternal life and a new destiny! This is why Jesus came. This is why He died such a gruesome death. The price to purchase us out of the kingdom of darkness, in which we were all legally held captive, cost Him everything. God didn’t like one second of the crucifixion but He rejoiced in the results that set us free. That’s not what God wanted but it is what we needed. Don’t blame God if you have a problem with the blood and gore of the Bible. Look in the mirror and then thank God that Jesus came! 

* Richard Dawkins, "The God Delusion"

YOUR OWN PERSONAL JESUS

   Rev 2:21-22 I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. ~ Jesus

   So many popular Christian authors are inventing their own personal Jesus. It’s almost like a designer drug! They preach a sappy, sugar-coated, romantic kind of Jesus who only says sweet things and gently pats you on the back all day long. I don’t know what Bible or book they’re getting their information from but that’s not the Jesus of the Bible. Yes, Jesus is our savior, healer, redeemer and He is loving, kind and merciful but He can also look you square in the eye and rebuke you when you need it. (As in the Scripture text above.) I’m not advocating being afraid of Jesus but I am advocating getting to know the real Jesus.

   Sometimes the real Jesus will admonish you for your lack of faith. Other times He may rebuke you for being so dense and distracted that you do not understand what He is trying to tell you. The Jesus of the Bible will call you out on the carpet when you are sinning, unrepentant and unforgiving and maybe even threaten you. In Revelation 3:19 He says, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.” This Jesus will challenge you to be all that He has called you to be because He loves you. The designer, pop-gospel version of Jesus doesn’t seem to care how you live, what you do, how you talk or how you treat your fellow man. He simply looks compassionately on you with those big, watery, gentle, understanding eyes and says, “I feel you, baby.” That Jesus is not the Bible Jesus. You won’t find Him in the New Testament. You will find Him forgiving sins, freeing people from condemnation and being moved with compassion but you will also find Him commanding and demanding that we commit our whole life completely and unreservedly to Him. The Jesus of the Bible is not a wimpy shoulder to cry on. He is a mighty Savior who sees your potential and is absolutely committed to helping you fulfill it. Be the person God has called you to be. Let the Jesus of the Bible be your own personal Jesus and you will never be the same again!

Your Own Personal Jesus was written by Martin Gore, Ryan Tedder and Evan Bogart. It has been recorded by Depeche Mode, Johnny Cash, Marilyn Manson, Nina Hagen and others. 

WHERE'S THE LOVE IN THAT?

   1. John 3:18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

   Anyone can quote lofty sounding, idealistic words about the love of God. Followers of Jesus however, are called to walk in that love and not just talk about it. Today there are some Christians who are so zealous for their personal revelation of God’s love that they are beating other Christians over the head with it. With a “holier-than thou” smugness they accuse others of being pharisaical, legalistic, teachers of the law, manipulative and various other things. They are so proud of their revelation of love that they exalt themselves and their company above everyone else. They have the TRUE gospel. Others do not know or teach the TRUE gospel. If you don’t agree with everything they say then you are unenlightened, or even worse, an institution loving control freak. But let me ask you, “Where’s the love in that?” I’m tired of the “love wars” and “grace wars” and I’m pretty sure that the Lord Jesus Christ is too.

   Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." A lost and dying world waits for someone to live the love of God while large portions of the church are arguing about their new and exciting revelation of it. I am thoroughly persuaded that unbelievers are not interested in our beautiful doctrines and theological eloquence! We are wasting time, effort and lots of money buying and reading books that do not further the gospel but further divide the church. Instead of loving one another we justify our division with quotes from our favorite Christian best sellers! Our religiosity is so nauseating it makes me want to puke! (Sorry, I just had to get that out.)

   Let’s make the decision to love in action and in truth. Love is more than a word and more than a feeling. Love esteems others more highly than itself. Love is patient and kind to others. Love thinks and believes the best of others. And when we disagree we don’t disparage, defame and deride one another, we simply admit that we are all learning and growing. We pray for one another, defend one another and speak the truth in love to one another. It’s time for a cease fire in the love war and a peace treaty in the grace conflict. It time for less hot air and more genuine actions of love from both sides. Jesus wins when we walk in love and that's the way it should be!

TAKE THE CURE!

   Rom 3:23-24 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

   There came a time in my life when the distractions designed to disguise the pain in my life were no longer effective. The dreams of fame and fortune, the ruthless demands of personal ambition, the extra expendable pocket money, the temporary amusement provided by electronic gadgetry, the new toys, the great parties, Hollywood and all the sex, drugs and rock and roll couldn’t hide the fact that I was suffering. My affliction was not physical. I was healthy, slim, good looking, enjoyed lots of good hair days, had plenty of money, a new car, a good band, a beautiful woman and people zealously promoting my career. My misery came from somewhere deep inside and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. No matter what form or method of pain management I used, the hurt always resurfaced. I knew that something was wrong and I could sense that something had to change but the solution always escaped me. Mick Jagger sang, “I watched you suffer a dull aching pain”. I could relate. It was dull. It ached. I was suffering.

   And this is the common condition of all people. Some are more skilled in denial than others. Some have better means of coping with or managing the symptoms than others but everyone is stricken with the same disease. All have sinned. Sin is the root and cause of all human misery. Sin is not just a list of immoral behaviors compiled by a religious order. It is the puss filled, festering, spiritual nature within people that oozes disease, hurt and dysfunction into the physical world. It vexes those who are infected with it and in turn influences them to afflict their fellow man in various ways. Pain management and treating symptoms is all that humanism, socialism, ethics, philosophy and religion have to offer. None of that truly changes anything. There is only one real cure for this pandemic. That cure is a Person and His Name is Jesus Christ. The treatment He offers is free of charge and has a 100% success rate. If you haven’t done so already, take the cure.

JOHN THREE SEVENTEEN

   John 3:17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

   I worked on a volunteer basis at a street mission in Tulsa, Oklahoma for about four years. The mission was called John 3:16 Rescue Mission. John 3:16 ministers to the poor and homeless on the north side of Tulsa. I was privileged to sing and preach at the chapel services as well as conduct a weekly Bible study and prayer meeting. John 3:16 is still performing this important service of love today. In the Bible, John 3:16 tells us that God loves the world. Nearly everybody in America knows John 3:16. John 3:16 is painted on placards and held up for the cameras at all kinds of sporting events. It’s on bumper stickers, buttons, business cards and church signs! It’s a great word. God loves the world.

   One evening while preaching at John 3:16 I asked the crowd if they knew what John 3;17 says. No one knew John 3:17 at John 3:16 that night. So I quoted it and began to share that Jesus did not come to condemn the world. God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. He took the guilt, shame, condemnation and punishment that we deserved to reunite us with God. At one point I said, “God is not mad at you because of your sins. Your sins were already judged in Jesus! Jesus tore down the wall separating you from God. There is nothing standing between you and God. You can come to Him right now just as you are!” A homeless man in the congregation shouted and said, “Is that true? I never heard that before!” I said, “Yes, it’s true! And that’s the good news!” That evening several people gave their lives to Jesus. Afterwards, when I was driving home, I thought to myself, “These folks live in Tulsa, the buckle of the Bible belt and yet they have never heard the Gospel”. I know that almost everybody in the western world has heard about Jesus and Christianity. Most have even heard that God loves them. But many of them have never really heard or truly understood the good news of Jesus Christ! There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. He paid the price in full to free us forever from the penalty of sin. We paid nothing and we get everything. That’s the grace that saves. Go tell somebody. Don’t take it for granted that everyone has already heard. Many have not. Jesus isn't condemning people He's saving them! John three seventeen!

Very Good. Again.

   Gen 1:31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

   It was very good. That’s how it was. Past tense. Imagine a world with no curse, no sickness, no pain, no depression, no murder, no dog eat dog ego-oriented competition, no hatred, no perversion, no pollution, no weeds, no thorns, no earthquakes, no hurricanes, no tornados, no tsunamis and no death. (Add to the list all the things that you find wrong with the world as it is today.) That’s how it was when God entrusted it to us. It was very good.

   Today we see what we have done with God’s very good earth. It’s bad. It’s covered with darkness. Everywhere we go the stink of death fills our nostrils. Things are broken, sickly, falling apart, dangerous, ugly and corrupt. That’s what we have done. All of us. All have sinned. All are responsible. The pride of humanism is such a pathetic example of blinded ignorance. We boast of accomplishments, inventions and so called progress while all the time our neighbors are starving to death. We infect one another with deadly diseases. We lie, cheat and steal to get ahead. We are ruled by corrupt, money hungry power addicts. We drop bombs on the heads of babies and we ignore the cries of the oppressed. The few nice things that we have decay and fall apart after a few years. The gorgeous buildings, majestic castles and glorious cathedrals we have built are mostly nothing more than monuments to oppression, greed and humanistic pride. This is what we have done with that which was very good. This is our great legacy. This is how it is. It is very bad.

   Thank God for His only begotten Son Jesus Christ! He took upon Himself the curse that we justly deserved. He set us free. God has promised a new heaven and new earth for those who believe. The curse shall be no more. Death shall be no more. He will make all things new. Once again all will be very good. Perfect, pristine and beautiful! It’s for you. It’s for me. It’s for those of us who see beyond the lies of humanistic pride and humbly admit we have made a mess out of the very good things that God has given us! It is for those who are not ashamed to admit that they need help, recognize their need for a Savior and receive Jesus. Call upon Him, now. It will be very good. Again.

Make the Effort! It's Worth it!

   Eph 4:3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

   You can’t keep what you don’t have. I long for the day when those who have it will recognize it and act like it. We are one in Christ disregarding how disjointed and divided we appear to be. The unity of the Spirit is a reality not because of any effort we made to obtain it. It is a work of the Holy Spirit produced in the hearts of those who have bowed to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. It is and remains truth whether we understand it or not. The body of Christ is truly beautiful once you see beyond the doctrinal wars, the denominational pride and the ethical and moral failures of her many members. This however, is not always easy to do, therefore the exhortation of Paul. Make the effort! It's worth it!

   Pride is such a subtle enemy and the primary cause of most division. I stand amazed at the arrogant, aggressive and assailing comments made by those who claim to be saved by grace through faith. Knowing that God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble leads me to question where some of these folks get their power to bite and devour. It ain’t God and that’s for sure. Brother Kenneth E. Hagin often said, “We can disagree without being disagreeable.” I like that. I don’t agree with every doctrinal jot and tittle espoused by every group or individual in Christ but I do love them. What we have in common is greater and more important than the issues we allow to divide us. “Love one another as I have loved you” is not a suggestion but a command. That’s how people will know we belong to Jesus! There’s a whole big hurting world out there waiting for us to get this one right. Make the effort. It's worth it.

SHINE!

   Matt 5:14-16 "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. "Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

   You shine more than the stars in the heavens! You are brighter than the noonday sun. You are the light of the world! Though darkness covers the whole earth, your light is invincible because it is of God. But take note where you are to shine: “You are the light of the world”. Your light shines best when it’s shining where it ought to be; in the world.

   We were never called to be the light of the church and yet that’s the only place some Christians ever shine. They blaze boldly and unhindered behind the four safe walls but put a basket over their head every time they step outside. Some even get competitive about who’s got the brightest light in the barn. They’re so ablaze on their comfortable pew that everyone seems to pale in comparison… in their own eyes. This desire to be the light of the church is an unhealthy thing. It distracts from the purpose for which God has lit us up. It often leads to carnal competition, arrogant arguments and destructive divisions. The world is sinking further into darkness and we are fighting over whose got the most cutting edge, contemporary, seeker friendly lamp shade! Theological technicalities, stylistic squabbles and injurious infighting have dulled the glow of all too many. Get back up on the hill. Let your light shine where it belongs. Be a blazing beacon in the darkness of this world.

The Look of Love

Matt 9:36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Jesus saw people. Seeing people happens intentionally. I call it the look of love because only love can see what Jesus saw. Usually it’s not a pretty sight. It tends to produce feelings of fear and loathing in the souls of the selfish. But love's compassionate consideration of other people’s needs is often the first step towards changing the world. Miracles begin when our vision is outwardly generous.

Sadly, some can see no further than the end of their own nose. Their self absorption locks them in the dungeon of disappointment and dejection. Depression can sometimes be the result of too much introspection. When we are obsessed with our own distress we are blinded to the needs of the harassed and helpless all around us. The first step out of the quagmire of self pity is seeing people. Other people. The compassion of Christ will move us far out of self-pity’s range into the realm of mercy and miracles. Prayer forms on our lips and paves the way for God’s supernatural intervention. The joy of serving others breaks the chains of despondency and stirs our eternal purpose into the full blazing inferno it was meant to be. You’ll get happy, others will get helped and Jesus will get honor. And it all starts with the look of love.

“Love Waxed Cold” or “How Much Do You Love God?”

Matthew 24:12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.

How’s your love life? Is it still flaming hot or has it waxed cold? There are people who think that their love life is just fine because they worship God, sing praise songs and get goose bumps when they kneel to pray. But your love life is actually measured by a different standard. John the Apostle said, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar.” In other words, your love for God is measured by how much you love others. One of my Bible School professors aptly said, “If you want to know how much you really love God; think of the person that you love the least. That’s how much you truly love God.”

I have had some “Social(?) Network” debates in the last few days with some self proclaimed so called “watchmen” to the Church. They revel in posting untruthful, unfair and slanted articles that disparage other Christians. They claim that they are warning people to contend for the true faith but they never mention the true faith, only the faults of others. It’s sad to notice that the majority of the Christians commenting on their posts are encouraging them. It never ceases to "just plain and simple freak me out" that Christians can be so mean hearted. Contending for the true faith is contending for love in a world that is overrun with injustice and oppression. The message of Jesus is, “God so loved the world”. The Gospel is the good news of forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration. Yes, there is a judgment day coming but it is not today and we're not the Judge! This messed up, confused, blinded and hurting world is crying out for true love and not for bigoted, biased, denominational diatribe or conservative, party politic propaganda! You and I have the love of God that they are so desperately seeking. We are called to love God, love our neighbor and love one another. We are not called to be “watchmen”. This word is not found in the New Testament and it’s certainly not a ministry that Jesus set in the church! Don’t let the wickedness in the world or even the wickedness in the church make your love wax cold. How much do you love God? You already know the answer.

You Have Access

Rom 5:2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Grace will enable you to stand when others are falling. Though our own strength is insufficient to combat the spiritual onslaught waged against us, God’s grace is always more than enough to ensure our victory. We stand by grace through faith. This grace that we need to live triumphantly over life’s challenges is free for the taking. The definition of grace as being “unmerited favor” has fallen into disfavor by some “grace teachers” but it remains correct and proper. Grace is fully unmerited, free of charge and available to all.

Jesus has given us access to this grace. He opened the door to God’s treasury and that treasury is filled with gifts of grace. The grace that saves is a gift. The grace to stand is a gift. The grace to supernaturally serve others is a gift. None of these things are based upon our works or merits and are therefore guaranteed to all who truly desire them. Every minute of every day the grace of God is available to every believer. How do you get your share? Come humbly in faith and simply ask for it. He is always willing and even thrilled to give you more grace. I pray like this and find that it works every time: “Father, I need your help right now and ask for more of Your grace. I believe that I receive it right now. Thank you for giving me all the grace that I need.” After that I take a minute or two to express my thanks in word or song and by the time I’m finished, I'm reenergized, strengthened and fully ready for anything that comes my way. Grace is power. Grace makes us strong. By grace we stand. Try it. Take some right now. It’s yours for the taking. You have access.

Eat That Pig!

Acts 10:13-15 Then a voice told him, "Get up, Peter. Kill and eat." Peter replied. "Surely not, Lord! I have never eaten anything impure or unclean." The voice spoke to him a second time, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean."

I am a meat eater. I eat veggies too but I really enjoy a well grilled slab of meat for dinner. And I'm glad that I don’t have one of those anti-pork religions because here in Austria we eat more sow than cow. I like pork chops, pork roast, Wiener Schnitzel and other kinds of hog fare as well. Austria’s ok with me.

But the Apostle Peter would never have thought of eating an "Easter Ham" to celebrate the resurrection with his family. God told him, “Get up, Peter! Kill that pig and eat it”. Peter countered, “Lord, there’s no way I’m gonna eat that nasty thing! Pigs are disgusting and dirty and I ain’t puttin’ nothin’ like that in my mouth!” It's almost funny but we know that God wasn’t really interested in changing Peter’s eating habits. He doesn’t care if you eat pork or not! This was an object lesson and it still applies today. Get rid of your racism and prejudice and open your heart to love all people. In the Old Covenant the Jews were the chosen people. In the New Covenant all people are chosen. God loves all people, all nations, all tribes and all tongues.

If we take this to its logical conclusion we have to accept the fact that God loves a lot of people that we don’t agree with. He cherishes people that many Christians want nothing to do with. Fred Phelps says, “God hates fags”. But God doesn’t hate “fags”[*] any more than He hates Westboro Baptists. As a young Christian I learned that God hates sin but loves the sinner. That’s an indisputable New Testament truth. People who don’t understand that don’t understand the Gospel. God proved His love for all of us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. God’s righteous anger and wrath against sin fell on Jesus. Jesus paid the price to reconcile the whole world to God. It is finished! God’s not mad at any people anywhere no matter how porky they may be. So today when you’re out and about rubbing shoulders with those hammy kind of people that make you feel uncomfortable, remember our object lesson for today. Eat that pig, Peter! God loves the “fags”, the Westboro Baptists and everybody else too.

[*]  I intentionally used the word “fag” for shock value. I don’t agree with referring to homosexuals as “fags” any more than I do calling Christians, “godbags”, “fundagelicals” or “christofacists”. I used it because that’s how the misguided and mean hearted people from Phelp’s Westboro Baptist Church really talk. It should shock all followers of Jesus that there are “Christians” who have drifted so far from the teachings of Christ. Sometimes we need a bit of a shock to wake up to reality. If anyone was offended I heartily apologize and hope that you understand my reason for using the word. God loves you and so do I.

The No Woe Zone

Matt 23:27-28 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

“Woe” is not a word that people use real often. But Jesus used it at times when He talked about the Pharisees. The Pharisees were religious hypocrites. On the outside they were all goody two shoes but on the inside they stunk to high heaven! One of the things that I really loved about Jesus when I first started reading the Bible was that He always gave the religious hypocrites a hard time. I liked that because I did it too. I could identify with Him. Unbelievers hate hypocrisy. So does Jesus. They have that in common.

Hypocrisy is always connected to pride. It’s pretending to be something that you’re not. It actually means being an actor. Some Christians live a life of hypocrisy. They're ashamed of the truth that they’re not yet perfect. They live in denial, put on a show for everyone and hope that no one notices. They have a fear getting caught with their guard down. They strive to keep up appearances. But on the inside they're ashamed, unhappy and frustrated. Hypocrites are never happy.

I believe that if Christians would be more genuine, honest and authentic they would be a lot happier. It would also make it easier for outsiders to understand the Gospel. God loves us just the way we are with all our problems and imperfections. He knows us better than anyone else does and He loves us more than anyone else. Redbone sang, “If that’s good enough for Jesus, it sure is good enough for me”. Friend, you are good enough for Jesus and that should be good enough for you. You don’t have to be a fake or a fraud. You don’t have to be a hypocrite. You’re not perfect yet. God knows it, your family knows it, you know it and so does everybody else. But God still loves you. He’ll never give up on you. He’ll complete that good work He started in you! My Pastor used to say, "Do your best and Jesus will do the rest." Relax. Enjoy the journey. Don't give in to the pressure to act like you're something that you're not. Don’t be a fake. Don’t be a fraud. Don’t be a hypocrite! Christianity is a call to live in the "no woe zone". No hypocrisy. No woes.

Competent

2 Cor 3:5 Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.

Your competence comes from God. Allow that to sink into your persona. Let it begin to permeate your thought patterns and attitudes. If you belong to Jesus, you are not an average, ordinary citizen of planet earth. You are endowed with a potential and power that come from God Himself. Where are the limitations? With God all things are possible. What project or challenge is beyond your ability? Nothing is too hard for God! Once you discover what God has called you to do, you can rest assured that you will always have everything you need to make it happen. You are competent in Christ.

Most people live so far below their actual potential. Sometimes even gifted and talented people reach a certain level and then plateau the rest of their lives! They settle for average when all the time God has destined them for greatness! Your life has eternal value. Your potential is not restricted by gender, race, age, luck or any other uncontrollable factor. Your potential is only restricted by your willingness to settle for less than what God has created you for. I want to encourage you today to go beyond the norm. Stir up the gift of God in you. Trust God and take a step of faith in the direction of the dream and vision He placed in your heart! You can do it. You are competent! Your competence comes from God.

Do You Do New?

Isa 43:19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

God does new things. He’s always got an update, a revision, a clarification, an enhancement or a little modification designed to further our progress. God remains the same because He’s perfect. You and I are not! We need transformation. At the beginning of this year, God said to me that this would be a year of change. So far that is really coming to pass. Additionally He said, “Don’t wait for change to come upon you. Make the change that you know needs to be made. If you wait until change overtakes you, it will not be the change that you desire. If you make the changes that you know need to be made, you can transform this ‘year of change’ into a ‘year of positive change’.” That’s what I am experiencing right now. It’s like personal revival. God’s new things are always good things!

Change, however, isn’t always easy. Once we get comfortable with a certain rhythm, habit or routine, it gets more difficult to change. We love our comfort zone. We resist anything that tries to pull us outside of it. God wants to do something new to bless and help us and sometimes we don’t even want to recognize it. He says, “I am doing a new thing" and then asks, "Do you not perceive it?” I want to encourage you today. Embrace the new thing that God wants to do in your life! My friend David Ingles has a song in which he sings, “You can change if you want to. You can change, God will help you”. How true! Today is a day to begin making the changes that you know need to be made! If you start now, this can be a year of positive change for you too!

Hanging Out With God

2 Cor 13:14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

This is almost too amazing to grasp. God wants to have fellowship with us. The eternal, almighty, Creator of the universe wants to hang out with you and me! Fellowship is a word that sounds somewhat religious but it’s not religious at all. Fellowship is sharing your life with someone. It is spending time, eating, drinking, walking, talking, playing, praying and simply doing things together. The Living Bible uses the word friendship instead of fellowship. I like that. God is our friend. He enjoys our company and wants to hang out with us.

Paul called this, “the fellowship of the Holy Spirit”. We receive all sufficient grace from Jesus. We get eternal, unconditional love from God our Father. And the Holy Spirit offers us a friendship that changes mere existence into true life. He gives us new birth. He fills us with power. He teaches us all things. He guides us into all truth. He shows us things to come. He strengthens us, gives us wisdom and grants us supernatural joy and peace. He is God and He is a Person and He wants to hang out with you! He’s always happy to see your face and hear your voice. He wants to share an encouraging word, His miraculously useful gifts and some fresh new wine to cheer you up. Take some time and hang out with the Holy Spirit today. It’ll do you good!

Love is Demonstrative!

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

True love is demonstrative. It does something. God loved us so much that He didn’t just shout from heaven, “I love you”. He did something so loving that multiplied millions of people all over the world today are completely convinced that He loves them. And get this: He demonstrated His love for us when we deserved everything else but love. While we were still sinners Christ died for us. Never question God’s love. He has demonstrated His love for you in so many ways. The greatest of these was sending His Son to pay the penalty for your sins. He loved you so much that there was no price too high to pay to get you back. And His love for you will never change or come to an end.

It's a wonderful fact that He has filled the hearts of all of His children with the very same love that is in Him. We have this "God kind" of love in us; this demonstrative, convincing kind of love resides in us. As I meditated on that, two questions arose. Number one: How am I demonstrating this love to others? Number two: Am I demonstrating this love to any sinners? (That’s what God did.) This is what the world is longing for. They are looking for love but they are looking in all the wrong places. And sad to say, most of them would never imagine going to Church to find it. Let’s you and I be revelations of love. Let’s use our lives to demonstrate what true love really is. Take time to think about it. Ask yourself, “How can I show the world that God and I love them?”  Let’s make a plan. Let’s give something, do something and say something to demonstrate the love that God has given us. True love is demonstrative.

Don't Do the Fear Thing!

Isa 41:13 For I, the LORD your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, 'Fear not, I will help you.'

Fear cripples people. It steals strength and leaves them feeling weak and incompetent. Positive momentum comes to a screeching halt when fear gets the upper hand. Worry is next of kin to fear. It is nothing less than meditating on fear inspired thoughts. Worry will kill your faith as well as sap your energy. But there is a solution. God says, “Fear not”. Plain and simple! Just don’t do the fear thing!  

It must be possible to live free from fear or God would be unjust to require it of us. But how do we get this “Fear not” thing working in our lives? First of all, remember who’s holding your hand. Secondly, remember who promised to help you. God, who never lies, said He will hold your hand and help you. His hand is strong. Omnipotence stands behind this offer of help. If God be for us, who can be against us! God is the strength of my life. I shall not fear what man shall do unto me!

Let God help you today. Let Him put His hand in your hand and walk with you. He has unlimited resources and power and is offering to render aid. Don’t be shy. Ask Him. Don’t be proud. Humble yourself under His mighty hand and He will raise you up! Promotion, protection, power and provision come from the Lord. He is rich. He is mighty. He is more than able to get you from where you are to where you need to be. His promises are yes and amen. His love for you is unlimited and eternal. His willingness to help is clearly revealed. He said, “I will help you.” Take Him at His word. Let Him know where He can help. Humbly ask in faith and then give Him thanks. You’ll find your strength returning and  your faith motivating you to accomplish great things today! Fear not!

This Thing Works!

1Thes 2:13 For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.

This thing works! The Word of God is working effectively in those who believe it. We might not always see the immediate results of what’s happening but things are changing inside of us. Right now! God’s word IS working in us. Present tense! The word of God is a like a seed that is sown in our hearts. It takes time for that seed to grow and eventually bear the fruit it was destined to bear. But it will produce. And it is working. Right now! The seed of the word of God has been sown in your heart and is growing right now. It IS working.

My good friend David Ingles has a song in which he sings, “No matter what the circumstances; what I feel or see, the word is working mightily in me”. That’s good stuff! There may be some circumstances in your life that are not the way that they should be. God has ordained blessing in your life and maybe you are experiencing everything else besides blessing. Be patient. The word is working. It will produce it’s fruit. It will do what it was sent to do. It works in those who believe. Keep believing!

Sometimes it helps just to speak words like these, “Father, I thank You that Your word is working in me right now. It is building and strengthening my faith. It is changing me into the image of Jesus. It is growing and producing the fruit it was intended to produce. Your word of promise is springing up in me and growing into a harvest of blessing. I believe Your word. It is working effectively in me right now.”  

I Can, You Can, We Can!

Phil 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Anybody out there need this besides me today? What a motivator! What strength! I can! You can! We can do all things through Christ! I like to call this the “I can” attitude. Some people have problems with “positive thinking”. One author called it "modern shamanism". He sold a lot of books. He made a lot of money with it. Negative thinking sells. But he’s dead wrong. Positive thinking is neither modern nor shamanism. Positive thinking is simply the way people of faith look at things. People of faith think differently, talk differently and live differently than unbelievers. We can and we know we can. Christ is our strength!

When you read the whole passage you’ll see that Paul is basically saying, “No matter what my circumstances look like right now it’s going to be all right". God will make a way. We will get through this. Christ will give me the strength. I can handle this. I am not alone. God knows what I need and He knows how to get it to me. This is positive. This is faith. This is how we face the circumstances that are trying to discourage and dishearten us. This is how we overcome challenges and trials. We can do all things through Christ.

I like to confess this one. I like to say it often. It’s Bible. It’s God’s word. It’s true. If it was true for Paul it’s true for me and it’s true for you. Talking like this will steer your life towards success and victory. Try it yourself. Say it out loud, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Jesus, I thank you for making me strong. You are mighty in me. You are the strength of my life. Together, there is nothing we can’t do. There is nothing we can't handle. Thank you for helping me today. You are my strength and my salvation. It’s going to be all right. We’re going to get through this day and through this problem. We’re going to make it. I trust you, Lord!”

Justice!

Rom 3:24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

No more guilt and no more shame! This is good stuff! The Western world prides itself on the rule of law. But truth be told, the rule of law in the Western world is very closely connected to the law of financial privilege. Larry Norman sang, “You say that all men are equal, all men are brothers. But why are the rich more equal than others?” I’m glad that it’s not that way with God! He has levelled the playing field and made real justice available for all.

Justified means “Declared innocent”. Freely means, “Without charge or cost”. This is how God does it. You were guilty, so He gets you the best lawyer that ever lived, pays all the legal fees, remits the fine out of His own pocket and makes sure that you are cleared of all charges. You are free! He didn’t just do this for a few privileged folks, He did this for everybody. This is what Paul referred to as the good news of Jesus Christ.

Multitudes have never heard this. Most of the world does not think of Christianity as good news. They think of it as an archaic system of outdated rules and laws meant to keep people in line. Someone once said, “Religion is man’s price tag on God’s free gift.” How true. Religiosity has degraded Christianity into being just another one of the many belief systems in which people put their hopes. It’s become a cultural thing, a social club, a political platform or even worse an irrelevant, obsolete, unnecessary artefact of the past.

Never forget that the Gospel is not about what we do, it’s about what He did for us. He paid our penalty. He purchased our pardon. He provides it all for free. You can’t be good enough to qualify or bad enough to disqualify. God loves every person in this world so passionately that He did everything necessary to win them back. Let’s not condemn them. Let’s not exclude them. Let’s not offer them religion. Let’s offer them love, forgiveness and friendship. This is what God is offering. This is what they are looking for. This is what they need. This is the good news. This is God's justice.

Your Love is NOT in Vain

1 Cor 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

Stay steady. Stand firm. These are words that we all need to hear from time to time. Everyone gets tempted now and again to lie down and just let life happen. Sometimes we want to flip the switch to automatic pilot and quietly vegetate until the trip is over. The rigors of the routine and the pressures of performing can get terribly tedious. But never forget this; your labor is not in vain.

Clearly there are certain kinds of labor that are unquestionably unprofitable and others that are decidedly detrimental, yet even the smallest of deeds done to bless God or humanity will be richly rewarded. God sees all that you do and never overlooks or forgets the minutest gesture of kindness that you have shown. Your Father, Who sees what is done in secret, will certainly reward you.

It could be that no one else seems to notice or care what you are doing. Perhaps you feel unappreciated. We’ve all been there too many times to tell. It can hurt and be so disappointing. But stay steadfast and remind yourself that He, whose opinion means more than any else’s, sees, knows and greatly appreciates your heart of compassion and your labor of love. He’s meticulously keeping track and He’ll make sure that you are honored and recompensed for all that you have done. Your labor is not in vain. Get back up. Get back to it. Stay steady. Stand firm.

See the Grace!

Acts 11:23 When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord.

The news reached Jerusalem that people in Antioch had opened their hearts to Jesus. They sent Barnabas to see exactly what was happening. Barnabas was a good man; full of the Holy Spirit and faith. The name Barnabas means “son of encouragement” or “son of comfort”. The Bible tells us that when he arrived in Antioch he saw the grace of God.  

What do you see when you look at people?

You have to understand that these new followers of Jesus had come from a very seedy background. Most of them had been idol worshippers. The majority of them had certainly been involved in some pretty “un-Christian” stuff. I’m sure that they weren’t perfect any more than I was perfect when Jesus found me. I was a total mess! These folks definitely had some lifestyle issues that needed to be dealt with. But what did Barnabas see when he looked at them? He saw the grace of God. And he encouraged them.

One word of encouragement can change a person’s life forever. It can be the difference between going on or giving up. Anyone can see the imperfections, problems and issues that other people are struggling with. But a person who is filled with the Spirit and faith looks for the grace of God. They look for an opportunity to be an encouragement. When we see the grace of God, we see God at work. His grace changes people.

Today we are all going to encounter people who need encouragement. We will meet people who are struggling with problems and issues perhaps of their own devising. What are we going to see?

See the grace of God. Encourage somebody today.

All Things are Possible!

Mark 9:23 And Jesus said to him, "If you can! All things are possible to him who believes."

Simple and yet profound! Powerful words that encourage and inspire! A timeless truth that breaks barriers and destroys limitations! Here is a potential that mirrors divinity. In another place we read, “All things are possible with God”. Here we read, “All things are possible to those who believe.” This truth is enthusiastically quoted by followers of Jesus as well as by those who want nothing to do with Him. Spoken by the latter it generally refers to self confidence or being passionate about your goals. But that is not what Jesus is talking about. That will only take you so far. Jesus says, “Have faith in God”. Trust God. When your faith is in God, impossibilities cease to exist.

It sounds too good or perhaps even too simple to be true. Many have heard these words so often that they no longer have ears for them. They are spoken, quoted and professed, yet all too often fall on spiritually deaf ears. Listen today! Open the ears of your heart. All things are possible to those who believe! That hindrance in your life; that blockade keeping you from success; that mountain separating you from your dreams will have to bow to the power of the Almighty. God is for you. If you trust Him, He will turn the impossible into a miracle. All it takes is faith. Faith in God unleashes creative power that makes all things possible.

Faith is simply trusting that God will keep His word. It is the unwavering persuasion that He Who spoke the promise is both trustworthy to honor it and big enough to fulfil it. And He is! He is all that and more. He is your Father and He loves you. He is an expert in turning hopeless situations around. Speak your faith in the face of impossibility. Declare boldly, “I believe God and things are going to be just like He said they would be. All things are possible for me because I believe God!”

God Cares!

1 Pet 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

There are times when life can be intimidating. At one point or another we all feel inadequate; not up to the challenge. Though experts recommend various creative ways to cope with stress there is a Holy Ghost inspired method that surpasses them all. Take a “Selah” moment and remind yourself that God cares. He doesn't just sympathize or empathize, His compassion moves Him to help you in ways that no one else can. He accompanies you every step of the way. He reaches out to lend a hand and that hand is mighty. He gives wisdom, opens doors, sends provision, grants favor and makes a way where there seems to be no way. God cares!

The Living Bible says it like this, “Let him have all your worries and cares, for he is always thinking about you and watching everything that concerns you.”

He is always thinking about you. You are never alone. He is watching over everything that concerns you. Never forget that. God is never surprised. He knows what’s coming before it arrives. In His foreknowledge and incomparable wisdom He has already developed the victory plan and He will help you walk out every step of it. Worry and anxiety can blind us to these facts. Take a break from your anxieties, worries and inadequacies and remind yourself that God knows all about what’s happening. Meditate on the reality that He is fully prepared to get you through what you are facing. Give Him all your worries. Cast them on Him. God cares. He cares very much!

Why you Breathe

Eph 2:10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

One of the first things that I remember about being born again was the overwhelming sense of my purpose in life. I am here for a reason. My life has divine purpose. We are masterpieces of God's own making created for a very specific purpose. You are not an accident. You are not a misfit. There is a reason why you breathe. Many live and die and never find this out. Some look back at the end of their life with regret wishing they had a chance to do it all over again.

The gifts and talents that God has placed in you point to certain conclusions. Your tastes, desires and dreams are not mere coincidences. God has a plan for your life and His plan is good. It is the only thing that will bring fulfillment to your life on earth. You will never be truly happy until you are walking in the good works that God prepared for you and for which He created you.

Your purpose in life is found in the hope of His calling. The glorious call to reconcile all of mankind to God through Jesus Christ contains eternal destiny for every human being. In Christ we recognize this call and are moved to do something of significance to help. We feed the poor, befriend the lonely, heal the sick, break chains of bondage, speak words of encouragement, give of our substance and reach out in love to the brokenhearted because that's why we are here. The gifts we have been given are freely and joyfully passed on to others. The reality of eternal life and the hope of salvation permeate every deed. The wonders and love of Jesus Christ become visible and people are drawn to that love. Your life is destined to make an eternal difference for others in this world. Your purpose is important. Your destiny is vital. You are needed. Without you, God can not do all that He desires to do in this earth. He created you for something good. Do something good today. That's why you breathe.

You are Somebody

Ps 139:14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvellous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well

In general, we are very impressionable. We love our heroes. We emulate their style. We drop their names. We quote them. Something inside of us longs to achieve their stature. To put it plainly, we all want to be somebody.

Though delusions of grandeur are diagnosed as mental illness and grandiosity is generally ranked as a narcissistic personality disorder, I am persuaded that there is something of both in all people.

I believe that each human being was created for greatness. There is no such thing as an ordinary person. We are all extraordinary. We are all unique. We are all special. The desire within us for purpose and meaning is directly linked to our spiritual DNA. God created us in His very own image and likeness. These divine genes lie dormant in the unbeliever yet subconsciously they long for fulfilment. Something within them cries out for freedom, greatness and dominion. For those who have been born of God, the conscious reality of eternal destiny lights their way and gives them strength do to great exploits.

Someone once said that if everyone is special then no one is special. Nonsense! Each and every person is special in a way that only he or she can be special. Sadly, we often compare ourselves with others and fail to recognize our own intrinsic value and beauty. Never forget that you are a “someone” in your own right. You are a star that has no equal. Whether others perceive it or not, it is important for you to know this and to know this very well. This is the knowledge that will enable you to fulfil your destiny and achieve the greatness that for which God created you. You are somebody!