Monday, July 25, 2016


Why listen?

Who are the people we are to listen to?  Why listen to one over another?  

I might choose to listen to an experienced electrician over someone whose knowledge was acquired by listening to Glen Campbell sing about the Wichita Lineman.  It is good, I think, to have a surgeon who has been trained before cutting on me.  There is a place for authority and knowledge in certain areas.  

I was asked recently, “Why should I listen to you over others?”  Good question.  And if it has to do with surgery I suggest listening to the surgeon.  The question was more directed at the spiritual.  So, indeed, why listen?  


For those interested I will offer a response.  The Apostles had to provide an answer to that kind of question from time to time.  It is legit.  Paul answered it.  And John does so as well.  Take a look at the way John does this.  

 We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life. This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us.  We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.  We are writing these things so that you may fully share our joy. 1 John 1:1-4 (NLT) 

John shares in this opening to his letter the authority he has.  There is theology and experience.  There is knowledge and emotion.  He explains that his life is better as a result of this revelation and experience with Jesus which is joy to him and he wants others to share in that joy too.  

Did people accept that John had seen Jesus or that Jesus was the Word of life revealed by God the Father?  Some did.  Many unfortunate ones did not.  Could God really send His Son to be born as a human being?  Could the Son be Jesus, and, if so, what would that mean for people?  

It is so generous of God to reveal Himself in various ways to people through the ages, but His greatest revelation was in His Son.  Amazing love for us prompted that.  And Jesus came and died and rose again.  He has been elevated to the highest position above all others.  To know Him is joy as John said.  

I agree with John and I am writing these things so that others may fully share in the joy of fellowship with God the Father and His Son, Jesus.  Knowing Him has been a joy for me from the very beginning when I really realized who He really is and received Him.  For me the swirling chaos of the world began to fall into order.  My heart swelled with a new kind of love.  To seek after Him was of top concern.  The earliest verse I remember intentionally memorizing was Jeremiah 15:16.  

Your words were found and I ate them, And Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; For I have been called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts. Jeremiah 15:16 (NASB) 

Going through and reading the Bible was an adventure like no other.  Learning to study it and discover more from it made it even better.  Eventually I went to college and seminary.  The education added levels of knowledge and training in ministry which I needed and appreciate.  My journey in walking with God and pointing others to Him has gone on now for 44 years.  

Lots of people have more and better education than I have.  Many have better ministry credentials.  Not all those who have better education or ministry credentials know God as I do.  That is something to boast about according to Jeremiah the prophet.  

Thus says the LORD, "Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things," declares the LORD.  Jeremiah 9:23-24 (NASB)

To know Him is a thrill.  I love it.  I love Him.  Everyday.  In all situations.  Knowing Him is a delight.  It has been since the beginning, but has increased exponentially along the way.  He has been a rock, my constant, my guiding star.  He has been the Almighty at times and a friend who listens at other times.  He has corrected me and held me accountable for wrongs I have committed, and He has been gracious and forgiving of sins I have done.  He has loved me when I didn’t really love.  He has poured love into me so that I could have something to share.  His presence is unbeatable.  His wisdom incomparable.  His teaching always remarkable.  I am indebted to Him for allowing me to know Him.  

As He did with Paul He has done with me.  Paul met Jesus after His death, burial, resurrection and ascension into heaven.  The risen Christ met with Paul.  Initially on the Damascus Road, but later Jesus trained Paul.  He mentions this in Galatians.  

I received my message from no human source, and no one taught me. Instead, I received it by direct revelation from Jesus Christ. Galatians 1:12 (NLT) 

I am different from Paul in that I had a number of wonderful human teachers.  God-given and gifted teachers who love the Lord.  I, like Paul, have also been taught by the Lord.  Why He chose to do things that way I have no answer for.  He showed up.  

I also identify with John in his opening of 1 John. “We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands.” When the Lord showed up I saw Him, the risen Christ, with my own eyes and touched Him with my own hands.  He spoke.  I listened.  I was scared.  He comforted.  I was questioning.  He answered my questions.  I was overwhelmed by His radiance, His presence, His glory, His magnificence, His kindness, His love, His wisdom.  That experience with Him a few years ago opened up more opportunities with Him.  It is still a mind-blowingly incredible thing to meet with Him, to learn from Him, to have a relationship with Him.  Bible study, prayer, ministry and just living have even more wonderful facets to them.  All of them shining in His light.  

So, why listen?

It glorifies the Lord and goes better for you.  Listen to the leaders God has given you.  Those who know God and teach you His Word.  Watch their lives and see if it is real.  Follow the example of their faith.  Hebrews has a couple of verses that help with this.  

Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith.

Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit.  Hebrews 13:7-17 (NLT) 

Why listen to me?  If God has given me to you as a leader, then listening to me is a good idea.  If you have another leader, then listen to them.  Do it and you will honor God and it will be for your benefit. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016


Handling truth is a daily task for every person.  Determining what is true would seem to be important since it impacts the foods we eat, the medicines we take, the politicians we vote for, the conversations we have with those around us, and everything else. 

 How many classes on “truth” are offered?  There are some elements in math classes in secondary schools as well as logic and philosophy classes in college, but most people just arrive at some system for determining truth that seems to work and move on.  That DIY (Do It Yourself) approach is apparent on many levels from views on candidates running for office to the way the news media presents a story to the acceptability of a tweet, email or Facebook post.  

What is helpful to me in the handling of truth is using a test.   It can get complicated, but this is the quick way to use it. First, check the data as best you can.  Sometimes you have time to really dig in and sometimes you have to keep moving.  So, as best you can determine the evidence available.  Does what is being presented meet the facts? And, if so, it is a good start.  

Second, look for contradictions.  For example, a physical object can’t be in two places at the same time.  To make a statement that says Joe was at 12th and Washington at noon on Tuesday and at the same time he was at 36th North and Monroe at the same time is a problem.  Check to see if the statement being looked at is logically consistent.  Again, there are ways of getting technical which may be necessary at times, but as best as you can determine may have to be the way to go about it most of the time.  

Third, check for reality.  This is a practical element.  How can this be lived out in the real world?  Fantasy is great entertainment, and can even illustrate truths but it isn’t part of the real world.  Handling truth includes running statements or considerations through a practical grid. 

A warning for truth handlers.  Preconceived notions and emotional leanings influence everyone’s approach to truth and how it is determined.  This is where the idea of every person having their own truth came into play.  Think about that one.  Imagine the cashier at McDonald’s telling me I owe $12.93, and I hand over $3.00 because that is my truth.  Really?   My feelings about my truth or someone else’s truth don’t enter in to the exchange of cash.  It is what it is.  

Testing one’s own preconceptions and emotional leanings is a great thing to do.  It is almost impossible to get out of our own skin long enough to work through those things, but it is worth it.  Maybe you have heard of the woman who prepared the Thanksgiving ham by cutting off the two ends before sliding it into the oven.  One Thanksgiving her daughter asked her why she was cutting off the ends.  She explained that her mom had always done it that way, and that is why you do it.  Curious, she called her mom and asked why she had cut the ends off.  Her mom said the pan she had was short and she had to cut the ham down to size.  Preconceptions can leave us a little short.  

A fourth test is to compare with Scripture.  The Bible provides a relevant and helpful means of evaluation.  A modern view of a person is narrowed down to chemical composition, electrical impulses, collected memories in the DNA and in the process of growing up.  That person dies and the lights go out.  A body is left with the elements that it had when alive.  But electrical impulses alone cannot keep the body going.  If they could, then we would find people around us celebrating their 300th birthday.  We don’t because it isn’t just a chemical, mechanical, electrical process.  The Bible tells us we are made up of material and immaterial parts, a body, soul and spirit.  That model of a person seems to fit the data, it is logically consistent and fits with reality.  The book of Proverbs says, Fear of the LORD is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment. Proverbs 9:10 (NLT)   The Bible provides information about the Lord and that is greatly helpful in having wisdom and good judgment so this is an important part of the test of truth.  

Scripture has critics and skeptics and non-believers that is true.  But it is for those who have an interest in including the Scriptural test of truth that I direct these thoughts.  As humans we function in many ways that can be feeling oriented to ultra-rational.  Including the Scripture in our evaluations of truth doesn’t mean we do away with our normal way of processing.  We may even operate on a scale from one end to the other but still within the scope of Scripture.  It may be at some point, however, that the Scripture is left out of the equation altogether as we lean on our own understanding.  This illustration shows the scale on either side of the Scripture.  

Submitting our personal approach to the Scripture allows a spiritual formation to take place.  It is part of the process of handling the truth.  

The test for truth includes getting the facts, checking for logical consistency, putting it to a practical evaluation and comparing it to Scripture.  Although this may sound rather tedious it may surprise you as being beneficial and even fun.  

Jesus said it well, “ And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32 (NLT)

Monday, July 11, 2016

FOLLOWERS OF JESUS Put on the Full Armor of God

There is a battle going on.  Not just a flesh and blood battle.  Not a battle won by fighting the way everyone else fights.  It is cosmic.  It reaches to the heavens.  It is personal, global and universal. 
Jesus was involved.  The devil tried Him, tempted Him, tore at Him, and He fought.  “The Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil.” 1 John 3:8 (NLT)

The enemy has not finished attempting to destroy what God is doing.  Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8 (NLT) The devil rests after he devours.  We are told to “stay alert” because the enemy is there in the tall grass, behind the trees, in the shadows watching for someone who is not watching.  

Who is not watching?  The busy Christian.  Up and going with plans, programs, and projects.  Knowing about the idea of putting on the full armor of God, but with work or other cares there is far too much to do to put it on.  The unbelieving Christian.  Having assurance heaven is for real and Jesus has everything in hand is enough.  The threat of the devil or of the battle seems more like a myth to the unbelieving.  A fairy-tale for the paranoid church goer, but not something for the sophisticated or so they may think.  But watch out the devil is on the prowl for those who are not staying alert.  

Jesus offers life abundant to His people.  The abundant life flows from the life lived His way.  The devil has other plans.  He wants to tear down and destroy.  Jesus says it this way, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”  John 10:10 (NASB)  

Have you noticed a difference in the quality of life you experience when putting real effort into following Jesus?  Quality.  Deep down in the soul goodness, peace and love that rushes out like a flowing river.  We know the importance of loving God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength.  When we pursue Him with that love we experience Him.  With that fundamental change in us we can connect to others with His kind of love.  That is quality of life.  

When the devil has his way in our lives there may be a rise in things accumulated, accolades given to us and other assorted delights, but they are meant to destroy us.  Have you noticed?   

How can we be living God’s way, and be aware of the devil’s attempts to destroy us?  Draw near to the Lord.  Daily put on the full armor of God.  

Imagine being bored living the life Jesus has laid out for you.  Imagine the words of Scripture being irrelevant in the battle for your life.  Imagine the things of this world being more invigorating than the empowerment by the Holy Spirit.  Many do.  Many times we have.  Some walk away listening to the devil.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”  1 John 4:4 (NASB) Greater is He who is in you.  

You are God’s.  He has more for you than you can think or imagine.  He is glad to call you His child. 
I am glad to see what God has done in you as part of the family at Grace Bible Church.  You have an important place on the wall.  Like those who defended and built the wall around Jerusalem in Nehemiah’s day you have a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other.  The battle is real.  All around us near and far there is news of attacks and people turning against one another.  The devil is instigating what he can and bringing death and destruction, fear and mayhem. 

We at GBC in our small corner of the world have the unbelievable opportunity to make a difference.  We have access to the ultimate power of God.  We have practiced walking with Him.  When we gear up and put on the full armor of God we are ready to battle.  We pray.  Not as weaklings with little timid voices huddled in corners, but as God’s own army engaging the enemy. We can be like David in facing the giant as we come in the name of the Lord.  

Then David said to the Philistine, "You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted.  1 Samuel 17:45 (NASB)

For those who have been gearing up.  Thank you for fighting in the battle.  For those who have not been gearing up.  Consider what the Lord would have you do, and do it.  

A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.  Ephesians 6:10-18 (NLT)