Category Archives: Good Works

Purged and Prepared

2 Timothy 2:20-21 King James Version (KJV)

20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour.
21 If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.

There is no denying that sin is in each one of us. We can do all the good deeds God assigns to us, we can give until there is nothing more to give and we can love with an unending devotion, but there will still be sin within us of some kind. For some it is more evident than others. Some may struggle with pornography, others with gossip, others with backbiting or complaining all the time. The way Paul says it here is enlightening to me. He calls this a great house. A great house is worthy of honor and is highly respected. It is seen as a place where good things dwell and where mercies are given out. It is a house that has a lot of honorable vessels in it. Vessels that can deliver good things to those who enter the house. But there are also vessels of dishonor, of wood and earth. These vessels will not survive the fiery trials that may come into the house. They may be useful for some purposes, but not an everlasting purpose.

I would imagine if Paul expanded on this a little bit, he would say that a house that is not so great would have more vessels of dishonor than the great house does. There will still be vessels of honor there, but not as many good deeds and not as much desire to fulfill God’s purpose. These houses are much more common than the great houses as we all know. There are also houses that have vastly more vessels of honor than dishonor. In other words, there are all kinds of houses in this world, some with more honor and some with less. Some with more dishonor and some with less.

Of course by now we all know that this analogy describes the human condition, not just a house. It brings out the fact that there is good and bad in all of us. None is perfect except Jesus himself. We all have good things inside us, vessels of honor that we can offer up to God at any time. But we also have bad things, vessels of dishonor, that must be purged from our life in order to bring God glory. The question is: What kind of vessels are you carrying around? Do you carry vessels of honor, like mercy, grace, kindness, patience, joy and other attributes that will assist those around you to know Christ. Or do you carry vessels of dishonor, like grumbling, moaning, complaining, backbiting, pride, gossip, irreverence, hypocrisy and other attributes that bring shame to Christ? Whatever vessels you carry will reflect on Jesus and His witness within you.

This is why we must purge the bad vessels out of our life and make room for the vessels of honor. If the church looks the same as the world, why would anyone want any part of it? This is exactly what is happening in many churches and denominations right now. The church is looking more and more like the world because it’s members are full of vessels of dishonor and the world doesn’t need more of that. They get enough of that from outside the church. God is looking for a people that will bring their vessels to be filled with His goodness, righteousness and all other Godly attributes. He wants us to bring our vessels just as the woman did with Elijah. Every vessel she could find was filled with oil to give her life again. Every vessel we can purge from the dishonorable things in life, and bring to Jesus, will be filled with honorable things.

I’m not sure about you but I know that God has more for me on this earth. He is not done with me yet! Moses started his ministry when he was 80 and I’m only 68. I have many years left that I can make an impact in this world and I intend to do just that. I have a great desire to touch others with the poetry and songs I hear on almost a daily basis. I have no doubt that you have the same desire deep within your heart. Ephesians 3:20 tells us that God can do exceedingly, abundantly more than we can think or imagine by the power that works within us. He has plans for us that we can’t possibly comprehend until we have purged out the dishonorable vessels and replaced them with honorable ones ready to be filled. Once these dishonorable things are gone, we become sanctified and ready for the master’s use. God cannot sanctify a filthy vessel. It must be purged of dishonor. The things of this earth must be put ion the back seat – better yet in the trunk. The word sanctify means to set apart. Why would God set aside a vessel that is not honorable? He would not. He would make sure the dishonorable things were gone from that vessel before he would set it apart for His use. Sometimes I think we forget this. I know I do. I keep asking God to do great things with me, yet I am unwilling to put aside the things in me that do not bring him honor,. He simply will not do that. If I really want God to bring greater things into my life, my desires must be put aside, my dishonorable vessels must be destroyed and purged out of my system, and I must come to a place where I bring Him honor in all I do. This is something very few are willing to do. It’s always one step away, one worldly desire away. When will I learn to just take that extra step and give Him all I have?

It is at that moment that we purge ourselves of these dishonorable vessels that we are prepared for every good work that he would have us do. There are so many things he would have us do and we are only holding ourselves back. The church today is shrinking back from the enemy, the culture is moving away from the church, and false religions are rising up around us. When will we wake up and see that God has so much more for us to do. When will we learn that it is us who God wants to use? When will I learn?

Does God Count You Faithful?

1 Timothy 1:12-14

12 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry;
13 Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.
14 And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.

I like to take credit. I like to think I did something myself. It was me who read the Bible and gained the knowledge I have. It was me who began to understand how the Old and New Testament worked together., It was me who figured out how the scripture applies to everyday life. I wrote all these poems and songs through the years. The moving of the Holy Spirit is due to my ability and expertise in putting a worship service together. All these years, I have been slaving away for God and coming up with these thoughts and ideas on how God works in our lives. I did it. Me!

That paragraph is the definition of pride. I did it. I accomplished it. I figured it out. This is where I lived for years, and truly believed the sayings in that paragraph. It caused me to start top think I could disregard all that I had learned and do what I wanted to do. After all, I had done it all for God!

But I soon fell hard, lost my job and almost my family and had to take inventory on my spiritual life. What I found out was what Paul says here. God has enabled me. I do not have the ability within myself to do the things above. It is God in me and through me. That is the only way these things can minister the way they do. That is the only way the right words can get on paper that will touch hearts and heal up wounds of the soul.

You see, I was once very much like Paul. I certainly was a blasphemer, a breaker of all the commandments, a drunkard and drug addict and a person who could care less about God. My own way was the way I would go and no one could tell me I was in the wrong. I had walked away from God in high school and had no plans on coming back to Him. I was a persecutor, maybe not of the saint, but of everyone around me. I would put down, speak badly of, and try to hurt with words anyone that wronged me. I was a smaller guy and not a physical specimen, so I relied on a quick wit. This also made me injurious, like Paul. My words could injure peoples spirits and hearts quicker than a dart being thrown at them. The bigger problem is that they could dodge a dart, but could not avoid my stinging words.

Then grace came in. Love came in. Faith came in. Somehow I found myself driving to Iowa to see my best friend. Clear out of the blue I had decided to make the 1300 mile drive from Massachusetts to Iowa. When I arrived at his house, we had a great reunion, having not seen each other for over a year. He was a Christian, and had tried to sway me a year earlier at our high school reunion. It didn’t work, but it also did not hurt our friendship. Here I was on His doorstep in Iowa. Through the last year we had sent letters back and forth and each one of his letters had a scripture address on it. I had to look it up to see what he was saying. He was a sly old fox (well, not that old. He was a week older than me).

Then he said come to church with us tonight, and I said OK. I had no problem going with him, just don’t give me any of that salvation stuff. Don’t tell me I need saving. I was doing just fine. And I was so wrong. That minister, who was a missionary home on leave, told me I was headed for a burning hell. I did not want to go there! Then he told me there was only one way to avoid it, and that was Jesus Christ, I wanted Jesus. Jesus took me into His arms later that week and saved my soul. His grace covered me completely.

Now He enables me. I do everything I can to keep my thoughts out of this blog, out of the poetry, out of the songs that fill the pages of my web sites. I seek God’s wisdom and His words for these pages, not mine. I have nothing of value to give except my life. These are His words, His thoughts, His songs. I claim no ownership.

Since He has enabled me, it is now up to me to be an open conduit. He has put me into this ministry and now I need to allow His message to flow through me out to you. Paul tells us that the spirit of the prophet is subject to the prophet (1 Corinthians 14:32). This means God gives us the ability to shut it down or make it flow. We can muzzle the message God gives us to share. We can say “God gave this to me and I’m not going to share it!” We absolutely can. But I do no want to be that person.

My heart’s desire is to be counted faithful. Jesus said that to whom much is given, much will be required (Luke 12:48). The words, songs, melodies and so on come from God. He has given them, for some reason I will never understand, to me. He entrusted me with the ability to hear His voice, and I for one want to make sure He will say I did it well. I could care less if anyone on this earth says the same. I am aware that very few hear God the way I hear Him. Very few have learned to listen as He has taught me to. He holds me accountable for those things He has entrusted to me.

What about you? What gift, or gifts, has God given to you? What talents do you possess? What are you doing with them? I suggest you make a list of all the gifts and talents God has bestowed on you. Some will have just a few items they can think of, others might have many dozen. Pray about it and be thorough. Once you have compiled your list, take each item one by one and ask God if you are doing a good job with that talent. If you’re like me, there are some you are doing well with and others you need to do better.

After this is done, ask God to help you do a better job of ministering in the areas where He has gifted you. Ask Him to enable you to reach more, teach more, love more and touch more. Ask Him to make your light shine so that you might bring Him glory. Give yourself as a living sacrifice for Him so that you might prove the will of God is alive in your life. Be vigilant in your ministry and never back down. This world needs you!

The End of the Commandment

1 Timothy 1:5

5 Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:

What a mouthful this little verse is. It seems Paul wanted to sum up all of the commandments regarding our relationship to one another with one sentence, and I think he did a superb job. The words penned in this verse resonate to every aspect of our interpersonal relationships and we would do well to practice these simple things every day. He even says this is the “end of the commandment.” This means that once you put them all together the result is found in three simple steps. As we go through these steps, evaluate how you are doing with each one. Ask God to help you do better if you struggle in one area or another.

First we have charity out of a pure heart. As you all know, charity is the same as love when it comes to the Bible. Charity is the word used in 1 Corinthians 13, where love is defined as well as any college textbook or psychologist has ever defined it. Practicing love out of a pure heart takes into account all the attributes of love found in that famous chapter. Let’s take a quick look at what Paul says there.

1 Corinthians 13:1-8:

1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. We use all kinds of flowery words and sound so sentimental when we tell someone we love them. In our world today, love is one of the most overused and misused words in the English language. “I love that dress you’re wearing,” I love the way you did your hair,” I love the Patriots (Yes, I really do), or ” I love meatloaf.” Love is used to lure women and men into doing things they would rather not do. An old saying days that men use love to get sex and women use sex to get love. It is a word that has no meaning behind it when used in this context. It’s just a sounding cymbal, a noise amidst all the other noises of the band. Unless there is loving action with it and expects nothing in return, the word love is misused.

2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. I can have all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, walk around performing miracles in Jesus name. I can have all the knowledge in the world and a vast knowledge of the Bible and it’s implications for life. My faith can be as powerful as possible, able to move obstacles that are in my way because I believe it can happen. All these are great things, but if love is not attached to them they are nothing to God.

3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. I can give away all that I have to help others in their time of need. This is a good and honorable thing to do. Or I can give my life for the Gospel. But if I do not have the love of God as my driving force, these things will only add to my pride, and they are not profitable to my spiritual life,.

4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, People with love are patient with others. They does not get anxious or upset if someone else is blessed and they are not. They wait on God without demanding of Him. They do not think of themselves any more than they think of others. They understand that they are supposed to put others before themselves and do not get boastful about their accomplishments.

5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; The kind of love we should have will never behave in a crass or vulgar way. It will not cuss or speak rudely at any time. This love will look out for the other person before thinking of themselves and will not get offended or upset very easily. It also will not even think of bad things about people.

6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; This kind of love does not take pleasure when someone else falls into trouble, and does not think kindly to any type of sin in their own lives. They strive after the truth in all things.

7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. This love bears with anything that might happen around them because they believe and have faith in those people around them and hope for the best at all times. They endure anything that might come their way without offense.

8 Charity never faileth: This charity that we are supposed to have will never fail to do what it says it will do in light of all these characteristics. It will always be there for our friends and our enemies. It will not fail to reach out to someone else with a pure heart.

This charity Paul is speaking of is a high calling to all who take the name of Christ. We cannot do it in ourselves, but only by His strength and with His love shining through us like a beacon. Jesus said the world will know we are His disciples by the love we show to others (John 15:35). I personally have a lot to work on when I look at this list.

The second point Paul makes to Timothy is that he must have a good conscience. There should be nothing he is doing that would need repentance or forgiveness from someone else. We get a guilty conscience when we wrong someone or deceive them. This should never be done by a Christian. We should walk in such a place that all can know what we do day to day. God knows! Does He approve of everything you do, or is there an area of your life where you have a guilty conscience?

This pure conscience extends to the people around us. When we do good deeds, do we do it to gain favor, or to hold it over their heads or to make ourselves look good? None of these type of acts are done with a good conscience unless your conscience has been hardened through repeated defiance. If the love you are extending to others is for greedy purposes and you are not hearing that still small voice in your head saying you must repent and make it right, I think you better examine yourself. You should feel guilty when you take advantage of someone else. If you don’t, something is wrong.

The third attribute Paul wants to see is faith unfeigned. Unfeigned means that there is no hypocrisy or impure motives. It is faith in other people that is genuine and authentic. No one will question the sincerity of this person to minister the Gospel only for the sake of helping other people see the way to Christ, not for reasons of self-indulgence or self-promotion. I have a real problem when I hear countless advertisements for books or CD’s or teachings from a preacher on the radio. I know that is how they make the money to be able to do the shows, but sometimes the promotion is longer than the actual message. They could keep these promos separate and short. The constant harping for funds is one of the main reasons people are turned off by the church.

We need to step back and see ourselves as the world sees us. We need to look in the mirror and understand exactly what others see in us and in the actions we take from day to day. Then we need to compare what we see with these three simple things Paul asks of Timothy. I have a lot to work on in order to be seen ion the pure light of the gospel. How about you?

Where is Your House Built

Matthew 7:24-27

24 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:
25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.
26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:
27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.

This is probably one of the most familiar little stories of Jesus. We sang it as a children’s song when we were young and I would guess all of us believe we know the meaning of this verse. We tell people we have built our house upon the solid rock of Jesus Christ and the wind and waves of life cannot topple our house. We think of Him as our great foundation, holding us up by His word and His promises. What more can I possible say about this verse to give it deeper meaning?

Jesus was a great orator. We don’t often think of Him like that. We think of His healing and miracles, about His parables and stories, and about the price He paid for us. We think about His birth, His baptism and His death and resurrection. We think about blind eyes being open, the dead rising up, lepers healed and demons cast out. But we don’t give much thought to what a great speaker He was.

I have seen many great speakers in my life. Zig Ziglar, Colin Powell, Brian Tracy, Billy Graham and many others have awed crowds with their use of the right words to motivate others and get their message across. I have been in Toastmasters for over 30 years and have won many a speech contest, once taking the Iowa Table Topics contest 1st place trophy. There are elements that make a speech great, and the conclusion is the most important.

The conclusion must make an appeal for action to the listener based upon everything else the speaker has said. It should sum up in a few short sentences what the speaker is trying to get the audience to understand and should leave them with a desire to do what the speaker is asking them to do. We’ve all seen preachers who “close” their sermons three or four times before it is finally over. This is not great speaking, but it can be effective. Here, Jesus closes once.

This little analogy is very powerful and very specific. It is about doing what Christ has asked us to do in the previous three chapters. It is about following through with all that He has said, not just part of it. Jesus does not want us to flounder and fall into the waves that life will toss at us. He wants us to have that solid foundation that is based on His word. This is a foundation that the world is trying to do away with. The world does not want to have a standard of morality. The world does not want anyone to tell them what is right and wrong.

Jesus says the choice is simple. You either follow the words He has said and stay on a solid foundation or you don’t do what he says and you fall. Real simple, real precise. The Sermon on the Mount is a revealing of the kingdom of heaven on earth, and we best heed His words and do His words if we want to be a part of that kingdom for all time. What Jesus reveals to us is God’s will for our lives. This is how God desires that we should live here on this earth. This is how we should treat one another – not just our brother, but everyone. This is the standard, this is the way. In our last lesson we went through all the various things Christ taught us in Chapter 5. Let’s move on now and review Chapters 6 & 7.

In Matthew 6, Jesus tells us to keep our giving to ourselves and not let others know what we are doing. We shouldn’t even let our right hand know what our left hand is doing. He says our prayer lives should be private, not public. They should be personal, not vain repetitions.. He teaches us a pattern of prayer with the Lord’s Prayer, then He tells us we should forgive or our father in heaven will not forgive us. That should be enough to get your attention! Jesus next addresses fasting, telling us we should not let others know we are fasting by our appearance, but make sure we look good even though we are fasting. It’s none of their business! He tells us that the most important treasure we can store up is that which we have in heaven not on this earth. What a contrary statement to the worlds thinking this is! He explains how we must be singularly focused on the Light and not darkness, and that we can only serve one master. Then He explains how important it is to trust God for the daily necessities and focus our attention first on the Kingdom of heaven. We should not worry what tomorrow will bring. That’s a lot to take in from one speech and we still have another chapter to go!

In Matthew 7 He starts out by telling us not to judge others. We have enough troubles of our own to figure out. We should take care of our own faults before trying to fix someone else’s. Keep on asking, keep on seeking and keep on knocking if you want an answer to pray is Jesus next point. We are told to do good things for each other, and He gives us the Golden Rule. He tells us the narrow gate leads to life. This narrow gate is at the end of a path that is straight and follows His words. He also says the broad gate has many people going to it because they do not want to follow His Word and stay on the straight path. We then are warned of false prophets and are told we will know them by what they produce. They are very deceptive, and we must be diligent. We must do the will of the Father or Christ will say He never knew us on that day when He returns. The will of the Father is all in this Sermon.

The conclusion is that we have a choice. We can choose to live out all the things that Christ taught us in Matthew 5-7 or we can choose to just do what we want to do and maybe follow some things but not others. We can strive to please the Father or we can aim to please ourselves. This is our choice. Jesus tells us that if we will follow His Word then we shall have a solid foundation to stand on. Our lives will be built on the rock, and no storm will be able to knock us down. This is a promise that there will be storms, and what we do with Jesus’s words will determine how well we will survive those storms.

Or we can choose to just go our own way and follow what we choose to follow. If we make that choice, our house is built on sand, which shifts whenever the tide comes in. There is no solidity to it. There is no sure foundation, but it changes all the time., When the storms come in, the sand can wash away, leaving us trying to stand up with little or no foundation. I do not want to ever be in that place. I want to be where I can firmly stand.

Please never take this story away from the previous three chapters and all that Jesus tells us we should be doing. God desires us to be so strong in the storm that our light will shine for all to see. He wants us to be a lighthouse to a lost and dying world because they are floundering in the storms with no foundation. They have chosen their own way and are falling farther down all the time. They need us to reach out and grab them by the hand and pull them back up on the firm foundation.

Will you be there for them, standing on the Rock?

Not Everyone

Matthew 7:21-23

21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Of all the things Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, this is probably the most controversial and the most ignored. I will admit that for years I thought I was headed for heaven because I was working hard in the church, leading worship, doing evangelistic work, writing songs and choruses and being faithful to my local church. I prophesied on occasion, prayed for the sick and they were healed and did all kinds of wonderful works. Surely I was headed for heaven!

These words of Jesus “Not every one” should be taken literally. There are many who will come to Him at the judgment seat thinking they have done all these things for Him and in His name, only to be disappointed and asked to leave. Jesus will say He never even knew them. Those words will surprise many in that day. All these people worked hard in the church and thought they were all set. They had paid their dues. They had punched their ticket. They loved God and worked for Him all their lives. Why would Jesus say He never knew them?

Let’s look back quickly and see what He has taught us so far in this amazing sermon. First are the beatitudes, where He says we should be poor in spirit, we should mourn, we should be hungry for righteousness, we should be meek, we should be merciful and pure in heart. We are to be peacemakers and we should rejoice if we are persecuted for His name. Many of us can’t get past these first twelve verses in following what Jesus says is the Fathers will. This whole sermon tells us what the will of the Father is. This whole message, laid out methodically and with purpose, shows us the narrow road that brings us into God’s will.

Next, we are to be salt and light to a lost and dying world. We are to shine our light so God will be glorified, not us. Our righteousness should be better than the religious leaders. We should not be putting them on any type of pedestal and thinking we do not have to live up to that same standard. We must watch our anger and not call someone a fool. We must take the initiative to settle our differences swiftly. We must not lust after the opposite sex at all. We must not allow offenses to enter our body at any time. We should not divorce, for God instated marriage to be a life-long commitment. We should not make an oath that we will not fulfill, but just say yes or no when someone asks us something. We should go the extra mile and lend the extra clothes. We should bless those who persecute us and love our enemies. We should be perfect in these things and in God’s sight. This is all in Chapter 5.

I am not going to review all of Chapters 6 and 7 at this time, but if you want to see what Jesus was leading up to here, you should go back and read it for yourself. The Sermon on the Mount is one long message about what the will of God is. Jesus does not leave us wondering what it is. He does not tell us that we must do the Father’s will and then not explain what that means. I hear people going around all the time who say “I just don’t know what God’s will is for my life.” Here it is, in black and white. This is the pattern for everyone. If we don’t get this right, Jesus will say He never knew us.

Do I have it all figured out? No, I don’t. Everyday new truths explode in on me, helping me get through this life day by day/ Little by little He reveals my imperfections and starts to work on them. One by one, He shows me the areas of my life that still need to be molded and shaped into His image. Doing the Father’s will is also allowing Him unlimited access to my life, to mold and transform me into His image. I have a choice to make and so do you. Will I listen to the Holy Spirit when He speaks into an area of my life? Will I allow the Word to become a sword that will pierce me through and separate my desires and wants from the desire I have for Godly things? Will I let change happen in my life when He speaks to me to change?

This is a lifelong process. Salvation does not happen in a day. We are saved through grace by faith on the day we accept Christ as our Savior. On that day, we are bound for heaven. At that moment the transformation is real. From that moment on, it is up to us to work out that salvation into every nook and cranny of our lives. If we came to Jesus as a drunkard, God will appoint a time for that to be gone. If we come as a drug addict, He will work on that in His time. If we came as a prostitute, as the woman taken in adultery did, God tells us to go and sin no more once we are forgiven. We can no longer walk in sin.

Walking in the will of God is hot hard, but it is demanding. Jesus says here that if we are not doing our all to live our lives according to the Father’s will, He will say He never knew us. That should cause us to look hard at our lives right away. It should cause us to want to do everything we can to bring our lives in line with what we have been taught in the scriptures. If we are not doing that, we will miss the kingdom of heaven. I for one do not want to miss the mark! How about you?