Tag Archives: grace

Seek First

Matthew 6:33

33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

It is so easy to get my priorities messed up. It seems life throws things at me so quickly I have trouble deciding what should come next. Even now, when I am not working full time, my time is in high demand from so many projects. It seems I flutter around like a honeybee goes to various flowers, trying to get a little from each one to take back to the hive. He never spends too long on one flower, and wants to get to many flowers before he heads back. This is me, project after project, one at a time for short amounts of time.

I have considered setting up some kind of schedule now that I am home all day, but have not come to any determination on that. The following things would have to fit into that schedule:

respond to email
respond to text messages
writing projects which include
Poetry when the Lord gives me something
This blog from the sermon on the mount
My next book project, which is about my cancer battle
Working on the maps that I update (this is my paying job right now)
Building my web site
Worship service for church each Sunday – this has several pieces:
Choosing the songs
Pulling sheet music
Printing up a word sheet (we do a lot of choruses)
Power point for the big screen
Checking Facebook
Taking care of our puppy – inside and out (he does not like to be left outside)
Fixing meals (my wife works 2 jobs, so I fix most meals for my granddaughter and me)
House cleaning
Grocery shopping

Now, let’s see, what am I forgetting? Oh yes, time with God. How could I forget that!

It’s easy to see how I could forget that with all the other things I try to work on each and every day. I am not even working again yet, and I am lost in a sea of constantly doing something. What is going to happen when I get back to my job as an independent insurance agent for Aflac? How will my time work out then?

Believe me, if I could afford to, I would not go back to work. God has blessed me with the ability to write, and much of that will have to be forfeited when I am on the road again. I can’t see how I will have the time. Right now, my days goes from 4:30 to 9:30 or 10 each day. I do take about 20 minutes each morning to spend in the word, dong a bible study with a friend of mine. We work out of the same book and text our thoughts back and forth, with a little prayer, every day. I am utilizing scripture many times in my writing through the day. My mind is on Him, praying or just meditating even as I go through my daily tasks. But is this putting Him first? Is my schedule designed to make sure God gets priority in my life each day? I am inclined to say no, it is not. I am inclined to think I should make a more precise schedule which would keep me on task each day. It might look something like this:

4:30-5:30 – Time in the word. Praying, reading, meditating on God and His words
5:30-6:15 – Take out the dog and check email, play a couple games
6:15-7:15 – Breakfast and time with my wife watching news
7:15-9:15 – Working on maps
9:15-9:30 – take a break
9:30-10:30 – Chores and errands, take dog out
10:30-11:30 – work on maps
11:30-12:15 – fix lunch for my wife and I
12:15-1:15 – writing
1:15-3:15 – work on maps
3:15-4:30 – email, games, talk with a friend, take dog out
4:30 – 5:00 – time with wife between jobs
5:00 – 6:00 – fix and eat supper
6:00 – 8:00 – work on maps or write
8:00 until bedtime – relax, take dog out

Would this work? Maybe. Maybe I should try it. I never have scheduled myself that thoroughly. I have some elements missing even from this. Exercising, whether it’s walking or riding my bike, will have to be fit in once the weather improves around here (March). More time with the Lord is something I need to work on and there is no room for that. Poems come up at all sorts of time and I need to write them down when God gives them to me or I’ll lose them. Phone interruptions come often.

And what will happen if and when I get back to my Aflac work? All this goes out the window and has to be condensed down to early morning and late evening hours. Aflac has to take primetime from 8 to 4 or 5 each day. Then there will be paperwork to do at night. It will all become quite a blur. I have thought about just ding Aflac part time but if I did it would not provide the income I need right now.

Why do I tell you all this? It is simply to say that life is busy for all of us. I am not working full time and I don’t have the time for anything extra. Much of this stuff that I do now I was not doing before I came down with cancer and stopped working Aflac. God has repurposed my life. Now I need to find ways to put Him first amidst the chaos of my day. How do I do that? How do you do that?

If you don’t schedule like the above (which I don’t) it is still critical that you do schedule time with God each day. It can be anytime of day you desire, but I recommend first thing in the morning. There are several reasons for this thinking:

If you don’t take time now and you are busy, you can just set your alarm earlier to take time with God. It is easier to do that than to try to squeeze Him in somewhere in the middle of the day, or stay up later to do some reading and praying.

Taking time first thing in the morning seems to make the whole day go better, at least for me. God’s word is an uplifting influence no matter where you study. It will set the stage for your whole day, and you can carry the things you learned and read with you all day long.

If you are scheduling time in the morning, it is unlikely anything will interrupt that time. If you schedule during the day or evening, it is very easy for interruptions or other options to come up, and then your time with God will be diminished.

But seeking first the kingdom is even more than this. It is keeping Him in your thoughts all day long. The word tells us to rejoice in the Lord always (Phil 4:4), pray without ceasing (I Thess 5:17) and acknowledge Him in all our ways (Prov 3:6). There should never a moment pass when we are not mindful of His mercy and grace toward us. There should never be a moment that we are not ready to praise Him, pray for others, or give an account for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15). We must be instant in season and out (2 Timothy 4:2), ready to give a word to someone who needs to hear it. We must be ready, willing and able to show mercy whenever confronted with someone who needs mercy, as Jesus did. We musty make sure our words and actions are there to minister grace to those who hear and see them (Eph 4:29).

You see, putting God first is more than just scheduling Him into your day. It is more than just taking time to read scripture and study a book. It is a lifestyle. It is our “conversation” as the KJV puts it. Everything we do and say comes from our relationship to Him. If we are close to God, our words and actions will speak of Christ and His love wherever we go. My best friend has been close and has been drifting in His life. I can always tell when he is drifting away again because His language starts to get bad again. I will tell Him when I see this happening and sometimes he gets mad and defends Himself, and sometimes he takes the word of rebuke and thanks me for it. In either case, I will always tell Him. It is my duty as His friend and brother in the Lord.

We are to be a light that shines in the darkness (Matt 5:14-16), lighting the way so others will be drawn to the Lord. We are to be salt (Matt 5:13) making others thirsty for the things of God. We are supposed to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, take in the stranger, clothe the naked and visit those in prison (Matt 25:35-36). We are to love one another because that is how we show we are His disciples (John 13:35). Everything we do or say reflects our relationship to God. Putting Him first means putting others first (Phil 2:2-4).

Not only are we to minister to others as a way of putting God first, this verse says we should seek out those opportunities to touch others for the Lord. We should seek out the lost and lead them to Christ, we should seek those that are sick and pray for them, or those in prison and minister to them. We should seek opportunities to feed the hungry and provide shelter to the homeless. There are opportunities to do these things all around us every day. Jesus travelled hundreds of miles during His ministry seeking ones who needed to know about the kingdom, preaching, teaching, healing and delivering every step of the way. He was our example, sent from God to show us the kingdom. He said the kingdom was here within us! When we first seek His kingdom, the rest of our needs will not be near as concerning to us. We will be walking as he walked, in harmony with God, knowing that others are being touched.

So do not think about seeking God first as putting Him into your schedule. I spent a lot of time on that just to show the futility of it. Think of putting Him first as your lifestyle, as a result of everything you do during each and every day. Seek Him in those you come in contact with and minister to those who have a need. Do take time in His word, in prayer and in meditation on the things of God, but don’t do only that. There is so much more to His kingdom.

Jesus said we cannot even see the kingdom of God unless we have been born again (John 3:3). He said except a man be born of water and of the spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God. It is wonderful to seek the kingdom, but we will never find it if we have not done what Jesus told us to do, be born again. We have to put off the old man, and put on the new man (Ephesians 2:22-24). How do you do that? It is very simple.

Romans 9:9-10

9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Romans 10:13 says that anyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Come into the kingdom today, seek Him first above all else and your deepest needs will all be met


Give all the Glory to God

Galatians 6:11-14 (KJV)

11 Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand.
12 As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.
13 For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh.
14 But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.

The first thing He says was here and said that he wrote this letter by his own hand. Typically a scribe would take down word for word what Paul was saying in his letters. But for the Galatians he decided to write this letter himself and it seems like he must have had large handwriting. It’s not that this letter is very long because the letters to the Corinthians are much longer. I think he’s talking about his handwriting, that he writes in a large fashion. He wanted to make this point because he wanted them to know he was really emphatic about this point concerning the law and circumcision.

At the beginning of Paul’s letter to the Galatians he spent a lot of time talking about the fact that circumcision was of the law and he was trying to minister the grace of Christ. The people who are coming around telling them they need to be circumcised were telling them a lie. They wanted them back under the law. Now towards the end of his letter he brings up the subject again. This is how much emphasis Paul wants to put on the subject of the law versus Grace. This battle still rages in the church today. The law vs grace. Saved by grace or saved by works, which is it? To me, it’s saved by grace and kept by works. There can be no other price paid for our salvation – Jesus paid it all. Thus, we do not have to do anything to recieve that salvation except to exercise the faith that God gives to every man and place that faith in Jesus Christ. Once we have done that, works of mercy should result from our lives, and we have become new creatures in Christ..

It’s also interesting to me that this of the letter comes after he talked about walking in the spirit and not walking in the flesh. In verse 12 Paul says the only reason there is to be circumcised is so you can glory in the flesh. In other words he is equating circumcision with Walking In the Flesh here. If they were going to do that it would be because they wanted to be recognized for the fact that they had done this thing. He points that those people who were telling them they needed to be circumcised were not keeping the rest of the law. They were only concerned with people keeping that one point. But keeping one part of the law does a person no good! If you’re going to keep one part, you need to keep it all. If you’re living under grace, that is not a concern.

We see this in churches today as well. There are all kinds of rules that govern this church or that church. Having Biblical doctrine has become “uncool”. So we have decided to follow our own gospel and made our own rules to be a Christian. Some might say you must receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, others will say you must be baptized to be saved. Some say you must tithe, others will say you must do work for the church to be saved. In any case, they are trying to put you under the law, not under grace.

Grace is all about God, not all about you. Grace is what called you out of darkness into an understanding of what the gospel means. Grace is what drew you to admit you were a sinner and needed a redeemer. Grace is what helped you recognize that Jesus was the only Savior. Grace was what reached into your heart and turned that stony ground to a soft clay. Grace is what began to mold and shape your heart and mind into the new creation Christ wants you to be. And grace still works today inside you to help you work out your salvation with fear and trembling. It’s all about grace, not about works.

They wanted to glory in their flesh, to be able to say the did something to be saved. But heaven forbid did any of us should ever try to glory in our flesh, or preach a message that might change their lives and then we take the glory for it. It is God that does all of it not us. He may give us a dynamic message. God will move in a mighty way and heal people and deliver people and people might get saved. We all would love to see that kind of a service in our church. But heaven forbid when that happens I should think something of myself. Let me never glory in the flesh but always turn all the glory to God and all the things that He does for us. That’s what Paul is saying in verse 14 God forbid that I should Glory.

There is no place for Glory in my life. I am a sinner and it’s only by the precious blood of Jesus Christ that I can even live a good life. He gives me strength. He gives me hope. He gives me love and joy and peace. He gives me these things so that I can give them to others. And above all things He gives me mercy and Grace. When I see His mercy and Grace alive and active in my life, I often start to weep and say Lord why me. Why do you care so much about me. Why do you lavish your mercy and grace on me. I am undeserving of any of it. Yet you shower me with blessings every single day. I cannot count the mercy that you have in my life. I cannot count the times that your grace has caught me off guard. Precious savior may I always only glory in you. May I always give you the praise for what you have done in my life May I always make sure that everybody else knows that it’s you who’s working in my life. It’s you that’s healing me from this cancer. It’s you that is giving me the strength in my legs to go on. It’s Only You Lord.

If you are getting the glory, STOP IT! Give all the glory to God. He deserves it!

Be blessed.


Walk in the Spirit

Galatians 5:16-18 KJV

16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.
18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.

What exactly does it mean to walk in the spirit? That’s a question I have heard asked and answered many times in the 40 years that I’ve been a Christian. I’ve studied it long and hard and have come away with some thoughts that I will share with you today. This is such a key part of us fulfilling what God wants us to do. We must take heed to study it out for ourselves and allow God to speak to us one on one. God longs to speak to us and teach us the will of God (Is 33:18, 65:1-2). He wants to talk to us and he longs for us to get intimate with him (Matt 23:37). What is our reluctance to do that?

The truth is that for most of us the flesh takes priority. We want to do those things that please us on this earth. Our ears are open to what are flushes asking us for. So many times, that is food, clothing and shelter – the basic necessities of life. I know that I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about these three things.

When it comes to food, I like to get out so I make a grocery list almost every day. It’s usually a short list just so I can have an excuse to be out with people. I make sure that we always have the essentials and I usually pick up something fresh for supper. This may be a fixation on the food part of life, fulfilling the lust of the flesh with this necessity.

When it comes to clothing I don’t believe I spend too much time on this one. I dress in the morning and pretty much stay in the same clothes all day. Typically, I am just running around town if I’m doing errands so I don’t need to be dressed to the hilt. So, this is an easy one and takes very little time.

Then when I think about shelter, it not only includes the house. It includes everything that goes with that house. This means time spent thinking about the rent or the mortgage, the insurance, the water and sewer bills, the electric bills. There’s a lot more to thinking about our shelter than just our house. I don’t know that I spend an inordinate amount of time on this. God has given us good provision in our household to take care of the things that need to be taken care of.

The reason I mention these three things is because God says we shouldn’t worry about them. He says He knows that we have need of these things and He will take care of them (Matt 6:8, 31-32. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have to pay the bills but it does mean we shouldn’t worry about where that money is going to come from. God will provide it in due time. After telling us not to worry about those things He tells us to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness because then all these things will be added (Matthew 6:33)

Seeking first the kingdom is walking in the spirit. It is setting our mind on things above and allowing God to speak to us about His Kingdom. It is studying the word and looking for those verses that will speak to us today. I believe God has new things to tell us every day but they are all contained within His word. If we are not in the word then we will miss out many times on what He wants to say today. Walking in the spirit is always being open to His voice and being quiet enough to hear it. Uncluttered and unfettered by all the cares of this world. It is putting aside the lust of the Flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life and instead having on mind set on Him.

Walking in the spirit does not neglect our daily tasks. It allows God to direct us while we’re doing those daily tasks. It is stopping to pray for someone when God says to pray. It is going out of our way to do something when God says to do that thing. I can’t tell you how many times God has directed me to one place or another and I have been able to minister in someone when I went out of my way and listened to Him. Listening to that still small voice inside us, the Holy Spirit who will guide us into all truth (John 16:12). It’s truly amazing how God will direct us if we are walking in the spirit.  We will think on the right things (Phil 4:8).  We will not be anxious about anything (Phil 4:6-7).  We will know that things will turn out for our good (Rom 8:28)

But one of the most beautiful things about walking in the spirit is that when we do we will not fulfill the lust of the flesh. We will not fulfill the sinful desires that so often come into our mind throughout the day. I’m sure that you have them just like I do. Putting these thoughts aside is difficult if we try to do it in our own strength. When we’re walking in the spirit we have his strength behind us and it’s much easier to put aside the lust of the flesh. We are with Him in our mind. We are listening to His voice. We are still and we know that He is God (Psalm 46:10). As Paul says, we cannot do both because they are contrary to one another.

A second benefit of walking in the spirit is that we will not be walking under the law. We will be walking in grace, because the spirit ministers’ mercy and grace. The spirit convicts us of sin, righteousness and judgement (John 16:8-10). This is all mercy and grace, because when these convictions come into our lives, it is God giving us the opportunity to repent. God does not leave us under the law. He brings us out from under that bondage because Jesus fulfilled the law (Matt 5:17-20). He paid the penalties that were due under the law be becoming our sacrifice (Romans 3:25, Hebrews 10:10, 1 John 2:2). We are no longer indebted to the law. Now we are to minister that same mercy and grace to others. How? By loving our neighbor as ourselves. Be loving our neighbor with the same mercy and grace that God showed to us. This is walking in the spirit!

Called To Liberty

Galatians 5:10-15 KJV

10 I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be.
11 And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased.
12 I would they were even cut off which trouble you.
13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.
14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
15 But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.
We need to have the same confidence in each other that Paul does in the Galatians. He says that he has confidence that they will not be otherwise minded. In other words, he says that he is confident the they will come back and adhere to the grace message that he had preached. We always need to be in prayer that those around us will hear the true message of Christ and not listen to people who would try to drive them away. There are many who scoff at the notion of being born again or being saved by grace. There are many that don’t even think they need to be saved. They think their life is going to go along just fine without God. Or maybe they know God in some form or fashion but they have never committed their life to Him. We have to pray that they come to the knowledge of the Lord and stop listening to anyone who say they can make heaven without God. Or that hell is a place for partying and meeting old buddies. Or that they tell them they have to do more to please God first. Or that they have to be Catholic, Methodist, Baptist or some other denomination. Maybe they have been told they do not need Christ and that heaven is automatic go to church and pay their tithes and be nice. Those who mislead people like this will be judged on their own. Any preacher who preaches this will be judged and their flocks will be removed from them (Ezek 34:10). It could be the preacher for the largest church in the world. All anyone must do is commit their life to Christ and they will have new life. This is the message of grace.

Paul then asks why he is being persecuted. The Judaizers are offended by the Cross of Christ. They think the circumcision is necessary and that those who preach the cross are wrong. If Paul change this message he feels like he would still be persecuted. The Judaizers would still give him a problem. He desires that the Galatians cut off the people who are troubling them. If people are troubling us about our salvation we should cut them off – just not listen to them anymore and dismiss their claims. We should pray for those who try to draw us away from grace. We need to pray that they too will be saved and cut off from the law. Saved under the abundant grace of our Lord Jesus Christ

We have been called in to Liberty. The word liberty is the Greek word eleutheria. It is always translated liberty or freedom. The meaning is similar to being freed from slavery, the bondage that the law brought. We have been set free from that by grace. We should not use that liberty to please our flesh, though. This liberty was given to us so we could serve one another and to help one another out. This is the highest calling of God – to show mercy to one another. I’m in the middle of a wonderful study in a book called The Mercy Studies. It was written about 60 years ago by Rex Andrews and is a powerful look at mercy all the way through the Bible. When we love our neighbor as ourselves what we are actually doing is showing mercy. Just as God showed us mercy when we needed it and still does today.

Jesus said blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy. Is there anyone reading this that can honestly say they do not want Mercy from the Lord? If you do say that I really don’t think you know what you’re saying. Every blessing that he provides for us is mercy. He loves us more than we can possibly imagine. He shows us mercy upon mercy every single day. The rising of the sun is Mercy. The air we breathe is Mercy. The rain is Mercy. The beating of our heart as Mercy. The wisdom and knowledge that we have is Mercy. It’s all Mercy.

And what He asks us to do is to give that mercy to somebody else. He desires that we be merciful to others. To be forgiving to others. To help others in their time of need. To provide what we can to those that are less or maybe even more fortunate than we are. Everybody needs a boost sometime. We are put here to bless one another and those blessings are all mercy.

I see way too many people fulfilling verse 15. Biting and devouring one another. Sharp words that hurt, Facebook post that tear people apart. Backbiting and gossiping. These things only bring people down. We can destroy one another very easily just by the things we say or the things we post on Facebook. All my fellow Christians, please be careful what you do and say. Our mandate from God is to first preach the Good News. Then we are to love and edify one another. If you have been guilty of gossip or demeaning others, ask God’s forgiveness. Then ask the other person for forgiveness. Then get start on the path of uplifting speech to all. Remember, if you are merciful, you will obtain mercy. How you treat others will reflect back to you.

The next section we’re going to go into tells us why it’s so important to walk in mercy and it gets into some of the attributes that God has given us to show mercy. I pray that as we enter into the rest of the study that you will look at yourselves. I mean take a really hard look and make sure that you are showing mercy everyday of your lives

Who Is Hindering You

Galatians 5:2-9 (KJV)

2 Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.
3 For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.
4 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.
5 For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.
6 For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.
7 Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?
8 This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you.
9 A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.

Paul begins this section by addressing the problem of the Galatians following the law as the Judaizers would have them do. Many of them had been circumcised because the Judaizers had convinced them it is necessary for salvation. He tells them that Christ really has no benefit for them if they have ignored the message of grace for the message of the Judaizers. They have become debtors to the whole law and not just one part of it. According to Paul, this totally undoes the work of grace that Jesus has done. Paul makes the statement that if they feel that they are justified by the law they have fallen from grace.

I do not want to be one who falls from grace. I do not want to rely on my works to bring me the salvation the Christ provided on the cross. I know that we have discussed this over and over again so I’m not going to go through the whole explanation again. I will simply say that when we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and believe in our heart that God raised Him from the dead we will be saved (Roam 10:9-10). We will be born again as in John 3:3. We will become new creatures in Christ as in 1st Corinthians 5:17. However once we are saved then works become necessary in working out our salvation (Philippians 2:12). I hope that you understand the difference here.

Through the Spirit, we wait for the hope of righteousness by faith, not by works. Our own righteousness will all be always be as filthy rags (Is 54:6). When we accept Jesus Christ, we take on His righteousness (Phil 3:9). God sees that righteousness in us that only comes from this faith in Christ is revealed (Romans 1:17). We pray by faith that God will continue to grow us in righteousness in everything that we do, especially in our works. Jesus said they’ll know we are Christians by our love one to another (John 13:35). How can others see the love that we have for one another if it is not by works.

Paul says that it doesn’t matter whether you’re circumcised or uncircumcised. It’s faith that works through love that matters in Christ. It is not a whole set of rules and bylaws and restrictions that makes Christ beneficial to us. It is through extending the grace that He gave and giving it to others. We must continue in that grace by showing grace to everyone around us because Christ has showed it to us. The most perfect way that we can show Christ love Is by extending mercy and grace to those around us. But so often we find that so hard to do.

This entails forgiving others when they have hurt us. It means going out of our way to help those who are in need. It means loving those who are who are unlovable. It means praying for those around us even when we don’t feel like praying. It means giving a good word to people and never speaking ill of anybody. It means not gossiping and backbiting. It means not putting other people down but always taking the high road in any situation. If we follow after those things then we can say that we ran well. And hopefully we will never be hindered by anybody that would cause us to leave His grace behind.
Living and breathing Philippians 4:8 and Ephesians 4:29 is a good place to start:

Philippians 4:8 KJV
8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

What are your thoughts centered on? Is it the things listed above, or is it what went wrong today, who hurt you, who offended you, who will you not forgive, who deserves to be put down or any of these negative things? Remember that Jesus said it is what comes out of a man that defiles him, because what comes out comes from the heart. (Matt 15:17-20). If we think correctly, we wil speak correctly

Ephesians 4:29 KJV
29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

Our words are powerful. James expounds on the problems of the tongue in the third chapter of his letter. We would all do good to take heed to what comes out of our mouths. Minister grace by your words – that is good and acceptable to God! We will be much less likely to be hindered by the enemy if we can follow these two verses.

And who is the one who is most likely to hinder us and cause us to not obey the truth? It is our enemy in the flesh, the devil himself. He will cause us to feel offended. He will cause us to offend others. He will cause us to hear things the wrong way. He will cause us to listen in on a conversation and not understand the whole thing and then get upset. He will cause us to be jealous. He will cause us to become impatient with others. He will do anything he can to steer us away from the truth that we are supposed to love one another. He will tell us that a hurt is too bad to forgive. He will tell us that we can’t be forgiven.

We have to recognize the two voices. The voice of the enemy and the voice of the one that calls us -Jesus Christ. When we begin to recognize those two voices we are much more likely to follow after Jesus then we are to follow after the enemy. Even Paul says it’s not the one who called you who is going to hinder you into not obeying the truth. Jesus will always lead us to obey the truth. The enemy will get me just a little bit off course and I will start to be offended or start to not forgive. This can be that little bit of leaven that leavens my whole spirit. I can find myself going down a spiral that’s hard to get out of. Almost like a whirlpool it will pull us down to levels we should never face. Avoid that whirlpool at all costs. Don’t allow unforgiveness and offenses to ruin your life. Allow the love of God to work itself out by faith that you may grow in the knowledge of the love of God everyday

Stand Fast

Galatians 5:1 KJV

1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

Stand fast. Unmovable. Unshakeable. Unrelenting. Don’t allow anything to move you away from the Liberty that you have found through the grace of God. The words stand fast are actually one word in the Greek – stékó. It has the connotation of persevering or persisting. Paul is telling the Galatians, and us, not to give up on the message of grace. Stay in that freedom that Christ brought to us through His sacrifice. This liberty did not come by anything or any work that you did. The only thing you applied was your faith and even that was a gift of God. Once you have accepted the loving sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ you must stay in that place of trusting Him through every situation, every circumstance, every trial, every test, every false doctrine and any other thing that would separate us from this truth. The enemy wants to make your salvation complicated. He wants to add rules to it so you are less likely to feel saved. He wants to convince you that you must do more to earn God’s favor. Nothing could be further from the truth. God loved us way before we loved Him – He loved us while we were still sinners (Rom 5:8)

The words standing fast remind me of Psalm 1. We are like a tree planted by the waters when we do those things that are mentioned in this psalm

1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

Walk not in the counsel of the ungodly but stand fast in His grace. Do not stand with sinners or stand in their way to receive Christ. Stand fast in the message of grace for all mankind. Do not sit in places where people are always grumbling or complaining. Stand fast in the liberty that Christ has given you Christ. Stand fast in His word and meditate in it day and night.

Standing fast means to keep ourselves pure and undefiled from the world and from the bondage of sin and the law. We should never allow ourselves to fall into a place where we think our works or something that we do is what is keeping our salvation alive. Don’t get me wrong! As we talked about before works are necessary but they still do not provide us our salvation. It is grace that provides us our salvation and I do not want to get to a place where I think my works are what is pulling me through to heaven because that will never be true.

If I start to rely on works then I am relying on myself to get to heaven and I cannot get myself to heaven. Only the blood of Jesus Christ can get me there. Relying on myself is only Pride. Pride says I’ve got to do something to get to heaven. The human being inside of me wants to feel that I’ve accomplished something. And by accomplishing that I have earned my right to heaven. But the truth is we cannot earn our right to heaven. No matter how much work we do, no matter how much time we give, no matter how much labor we put into our church. If we are relying on those works to set us free then we are in trouble.

Galatians 5:1 also reminds me of the armor of god mentioned in Ephesians chapter 6. Tells us when we’ve done all then we need to stand.: Eph 6:13 says Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

No matter how much we do and how much we prepare ourselves standing in his presence and on his grace opens up the doors of Heaven for us. When we stand, He prepares us for the spiritual warfare that is ahead (v 12). The armor include righteousness, truth, the gospel, faith, salvation and the Word of God. All of these things are supplied by God, not us. Our works do not produce these things. Christ produces them in us. The Holy Spirit brings them alive within us. In this warfare that we are in, the enemy wants more than anything to make us think we can earn our salvation – that we are worthy, that we are like God. That started in the Garden and continues to this day. When we have the whole armor of God on and we have done everything we can do standing in His Grace is what saves us. Standing in His Grace is what gives us Liberty. Standing in His Grace is what gives us freedom.

There’s one more verse that comes to mind when I think of standing fast. And it is a very simple verse that has been speaking volumes to me lately.
Psalm 46:10
Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.

When we are busy working and doing things for God we can lose sight of God. Our senses are so full of the world around us that God can be secondary to the works. We’ start relying on our works to gain us some kind of favor. Maybe it’s favor from our pastor, the board or visitors coming to the church. Now again don’t get me wrong. God is pleased with our works but not to the extent that we should rely on them to please Him. What pleases God is our love for one another and our praise to Him. This verse tells us that when we are still, He will be exalted. That should be the goal in our lives – to exalt Him above all else.

So often we get off on our own little bunny trails during the things that we want to do and we forget about the things that God wants us to do. The only way to truly know what God’s will is in your life is to stop and to listen. Being still before him opens me up to allow the Holy Spirit to work in my life. The distractions of the world are set aside and I have an opportunity to commune directly with God. That’s when I’ll know him more intimately. Those are the times that He will reveal himself to us. Those are the times that he longs for. He wants to be with us in the quiet of the day or the stillness of the night. Oh, how I long for those moments.

Persevere, be persistent- stand fast in the liberty, in the freedom, that has been supplied by Jesus. Nothing should distract you, nothing should stand in your way. Determine that you will always acknowledge the work of grace in your life and be at peace in your walk with Him. That is the way it should be.

Zeal For the Lord

Galatians 4:12-18 KJV

12 Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as ye are: ye have not injured me at all.
13 Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first.
14 And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.
15 Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me.
16 Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?
17 They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them.
18 But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you.

 Paul starts out this section by pleading to the Galatians not be offended or hurt by what he is saying because he is just like them. He is free by the grace of God just like they are. He just wants them to get back to that place where they don’t rely on the law to have their salvation. They have not injured him by once again listening to the Judaizers and their message of incorporating the law in order to be saved. He is just a little dumbfounded as to why they would want to do that.

After all, he has preached the gospel no matter what has come his way. He had an infirmity the flesh when he preached the gospel to them. No one really knows what this infirmity was.  He mentions it also in 2 Cor 12:7-9.  Let’s look at that portion of scripture:

 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.

For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Many think this was some illness Paul carried around with him.  Some think it is partial blindness.  But no one really knows.  Obviously, the public is able to perceive it, because we see here that the Galatians accepted him even though they noticed it.  They did not despise or reject him just because he had this infirmity of the flesh. In fact, he says they welcome he’s an angel even if they would welcome to Jesus Christ. Paul was not concerned at all with it because God told him that His grace was sufficient – go through the infirmity and do not let it stop you.  We should have the same attitude when faced with infirmities.  God’s grace is sufficient, no matter what is going on in our lives!

Now he wonders where that feeling is gone. He wonders where the excitement and zeal they felt when they heard the gospel for the first time had disappeared to. When he was here before he says they would have given him anything – they would even pluck their own eyes out – because they were so happy with the message that he was giving them. The message of Grace for salvation. The message of a loving God who did mercy and justice to his people and didn’t hold them in bondage. This message that he preached touched their hearts so strongly that they were rejoicing and they would do anything for Paul.

Now he is getting the feeling that he is like their enemy because he’s telling them the truth. They have fallen so heavily for what the Judaizers are saying that they look at him as coming in and being a deceiver, as being one who is against them. This is what bondage can do to us.

I often see people who come into a church and stay for just a little while.  Then go to another church stay and there for a little while.  Soon they are bouncing around churches like a bunny rabbit. And I wondered for a long time what happened to them that they would move from one church to the other so easily. After talking to a few of them I realized what it was.

There are two things that can happen in a church when we hear a message that doesn’t fit our lifestyle but it is a message directly from the word of God. The first thing is that we can feel convicted by the Holy Spirit.  Here is what Jesus said abut that in John 16:7-11:

Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.
And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
Of sin, because they believe not on me;
10 Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more;11 Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.

The word reprove can also be translated convict.  When the Holy Spirit convicts us it’s time for us to make a change in our lives. He reaches deep down inside and finds a place where we are not lining up with the word of God and that conviction runs very deep. We should do what we can to make that change.  This is the road God wants us to take when faced with conviction.  But we can also decide leave that church and find a place where we won’t feel conviction. This is a very bad choice. If we neglect the conviction of the Holy Spirit eventually we will not hear it.  2 Tim 4:3 tells us “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;”  In other places, we are told not to resists the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51) and not to quench the Holy Spirit (1 Thess 5:19).  We should be listening to the Good Shepheard’s voice!

The second thing that can happen is instead of recognizing the conviction of the Holy Spirit we see it as condemnation. We feel condemned by the message. Remember that Jesus said he did not come to condemn the world but that the world through him might be saved (John 3:17). Condemnation always comes from the enemy. ALWAYS! If we feel condemned then we must recognize that it comes from the enemy and close our ears completely to that condemnation.  Then perhaps we’ll recognize it for what it is – the conviction of the Holy Spirit. And we will act upon it.

It is obvious here that many of the Galatians were listening to Paul pleading with them to get back to the message of grace and they were feeling condemned because they were in bondage.  This bondage was put there by the Judaizers.  When we are in a state of bondage the message often comes across as condemning because we are listening to the wrong voice.  It’s so important that we get these two things straight. Remember that anytime a message from the pulpit spark something deep inside of you recognize it as a conviction of the Holy Spirit.  Then you will grow and the bondage can be removed from your life.  Allowing the conviction of the Holy Spirit to move us in he right direction will bring back our zeal for God!

How often have you been to a service outside of your church and had a message that really got you fired up.  You took notes and you studied it.  You went back to your church and you shared it with your pastor.  He may love it, or he may not see it the same way as you do.  If he loves it, your zeal for that message will remain.  If he does not, you can lose the fired up affect that message had on you. Now in this case the Judaizers came in and were very zealous about their message and it affected them but that was not a good message to be affected by. When we go to another church and hear messages like this it is good to discuss them with your pastor when we get back. Get his feedback because it’s always good to be zealous about good things. Not just from our own pastor but from others too.

I have a wonderful pastor who will help me reason out things that I hear somewhere else. We share a lot about messages that we hear from this place or from that place and we bounce them off each other. It makes for a good dialogue. I want to make sure that what I’m learning is correct and my pastor is a very seasoned man who has a lot of experience and a lot of knowledge.  I trust his ability to discern the good messages from the bad. Can you trust your pastor that way? I hope so because we can all learn from so many different sources and grow in so many different ways.  We want to allow God to use any method He can to reach into our hearts and help us to stay in the zeal of the Lord