Psalm 15–God’s Kind of Folks

 

So many times, we focus on what we should not do as God’s chosen people. We should not adopt the culture’s mentality. We should not chase the things of this world…In Psalm 15, David takes a moment to look at what the people God thinks are important, do each day. God is transforming us into his image. While we will never be perfect, until He returns and takes us home, he does highlight traits that set us apart.

God loves folks who are innocent and living a life that honors him. Those folks naturally speak the truth–about themselves, about others and are the helpful, selfless ones. They neither attack, nor defame those they call friends. While they do not have anything to do with the rough crowd, they keep good friends, and do what they say they will–no matter the cost. finally, they help, without keeping tabs and they are honest to a fault. In short, God loves people that seek him and desire to honor and become like him–no matter what it costs or what it takes. Help me, Lord to be one of those people!

God Bless You

Lord
    Who may live on your holy mountain?

The one whose walk is blameless,
    who does what is righteous,
    who speaks the truth from their heart;
whose tongue utters no slander,
    who does no wrong to a neighbor,
    and casts no slur on others;
who despises a vile person
    but honors those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
    and does not change their mind;
who lends money to the poor without interest;
    who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.

Whoever does these things
    will never be shaken.

Wise Guys vs Smart Guys–James 3 Part 2

Throughout time, there has been a long-standing competition between those who are smart vs. those who are wise. It usually plays out that one who is young challenges one who seems simple and old. The story usually turns upon the young one pursuing a plan to get the best of the older one.  What happens, typically, is the young one twists and turns plans and connives and seemingly gains the upper hand–only to find, in the end he/she has been bested by the older and wiser person. 

The truth is wisdom will always dominate smart. Wisdom is gained through a well lived life. Those who attain it, do so after many trials and tests.  They have become battle ready and made solid by the years.  They no longer seek their own glory, because–they have learned that there is little permanence in such things as human approval.

Instead, the wise seek to share their gift with those that have come after–in an attempt to build a legacy of wise people; who will in turn reflect God and not themselves. As that becomes a pattern, the church and the nation will become greater than anything imaginable.  God created us to be like him–as we conform and are transformed in his image; then we are able to do and see things immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us. Eph 3:20.

Make no mistake, it is great to be smart! But, when one can die to one’s self an allow God to be in charge–God’s wisdom, that he gladly shares generously (James 1:5), will make you better than you could ever imagine–and you will simply be grateful, humble and ready to share it with whomever is ready to become wise–as well.

God Bless You

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For  where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

Faith or Works? Yes! James 2 Part 2

One complex spiritual principle is the fine line between grace and action.  Clearly our lives will never be good enough to win us a restored relationship with God.  He has made it abundantly clear that we are saved by grace.  Still, the temptation for believers–is to take the truth of salvation and turn it one of two ways…either, use our salvation as a crutch to continue to live like the world; and believe that one day when we are tired of being in charge,then we will surrender to God.  

James is calling folks out on that misapplication of grace.  We cannot be saved by Christ–without becoming a new person.  We desire God’s desires and not our own.  We become like him and live and behave like him–not to earn salvation, but because of his salvation. Our actions will simply reflect our faith. 

The other derivation says that I believe in God’s grace, but while I confess it, I am going to check my series of boxes just to be sure.  I will keep close score and when I stand before God–well, he will be impressed by my spiritual resume. That life is equally off base.  

Our faith is what saves us. There will be folks that work there heads off for the church that have no relationship with God.  They will lay out the list of accomplishments and God will tearfully say, depart from me, I never knew you…It is NEVER going to be the boxes (our actions)that save us–It will always be our faith in his sacrifice.  

Still, our faith will guide our steps and we will live a life that honors our  Heavenly Father–we will not do that to attain salvation; but, simply out of a grateful heart for our salvation and a life that is being transformed into his image!

God Bless You

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Faith and Deeds

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless[d]? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,”[e]and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

Real Faith Is Seen and Not Heard–James 1 Part 4

We are learning, as life goes on, that the labels we are given or that we stick to ourselves–do not define us nearly as much as what we do with our lives, our actions and our mouths.  This week has brought almost unbearable tragedy to families across the greater Houston area; and many are left literally with only the clothing on their backs.  But, the community, and people from across the country have, dived in and taken the opportunity to assist in any and every way possible.

As a part of the community of believers–it is clear, that we need to do more than be spiritual.  We need to provide assistance to the ones in need. We must get over our own frustration regarding the inconvenience of devastation to our lives, and focus on trying to relieve the pain and troubles of others. We need to listen intently to those who are hurting and say as little as possible. The church needs to quietly and humbly press forward to encourage, restore and release folks–to start fresh and follow God’s leading.

The most effective way to honor God is simply laying our personal baggage on the alter, and then living selflessly.  As we do–petty gossip, harsh language and tired grudges from past wrongs; all become obsolete and inappropriate.  The tireless, selfless and kind words and deeds–ring louder than a 500 person gospel choir and orchestra–in spotlighting the Lord and his impact on the world. 

 Pastor James knew that the best way to sustain the life of the church was for its people to live like Christ. He was wise to see that the words from our mouth and the behaviors of the day–act as the gauges to measure our true worth to those around us. Please help me, Lord–to honor you with my mouth and with my actions. Help me to keep you at center stage of my life.

God Bless You

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. 20 Human anger[g] does not produce the righteousness[h] God desires. 21 So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.

22 But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. 23 For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. 24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. 25 But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.

26 If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. 27 Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows.

Sacrifice of Praise–Hebrews 13 Final

Final thoughts…the writer was wrapping up–he already went through the basics of discipleship.  In closing, he had a great final thought for the Hebrew people–while the traditions that have stood since Egypt defined us, it is time to let them go and move on. Christ was the final sacrifice.  So, now if you feel so compelled to offer such a sacrifice–offer a sacrifice of praise to God.  He loves you and wants your freedom from sin and death–that is all.  Still, follow the truth, submit to authority and pray continually–that will do it!

As a body of believers, we can see amazing things by keeping it as simple as that.  If we stop worrying about being good enough or doing enough Christian stuff; and, simply love and honor our Heavenly Father; then, we will be free to enjoy the amazing life he sets before us. Still, we need to live a life honoring to God–no wacky traditions, submission to authority and fellowship and prayer for each other.  If we do that, then God will bless us beyond what we could ever hope or imagine.

God Bless You

Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods,which is of no benefit to those who do so. 10 We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat.

11 The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. 12 And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holythrough his own blood. 13 Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. 14 For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.

15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. 16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

17 Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.

18 Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way. 19 I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon.

The Message is Consistent–Hebrews 13

Solomon said it best in Ecclesiastes, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Ecc 1:9. As the writer of Hebrews concludes his treatise, his final thoughts go back to the very pragmatic basics of life.  Love each other, be hospitable, show compassion to those imprisoned, tortured, alone or in dire straits–as if it were you! Be a faithful spouse, be content with what you have–mostly, understand God will never fail you or abandon you. Finally, Jesus is the same-yesterday, today and forever.  It has always been those principles that have set God’s people apart.

In our lives, the transformation we experience in our walk with God–changes us from selfish sinful wretches to selfless, humble stewards of the vast wealth of knowing God personally.  We need to show others the value of knowing him.  By simply being the person God has called you to be–you cannot help but incorporate hospitality, compassion, faithfulness, contentment and faith in Christ’s promise. Those traits make us stand out in any crowd, and cause others to desire the same relationship that we enjoy.

We make a difference every day.  The enemy would have us believe it is insignificant, but–rest assured, the faithfulness we display will impact generations to come.  We need only trust God and follow him closely.

God Bless You

Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters.[a] Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.

Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage. God will surely judge people who are immoral and those who commit adultery.

Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said,

“I will never fail you.
    I will never abandon you.”[b]

So we can say with confidence,

“The Lord is my helper,
    so I will have no fear.
    What can mere people do to me?”[c]

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.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So do not be attracted by strange, new ideas. 

Listen To That Crowd Roar–Hebrews 12 Part 1

There is really nothing quite like the energy one feels in an event when the crowd goes wild. Whether athletics, concerts, theater or Church–There is a significantly different energy when the crowd engages. In Hebrews 12, the writer helps us to envision the support and concern we receive from those who have gone before.

Imagine Able, Noah, Enoch, Abraham, Moses, Joseph all cheering your daily walk and waving the banner–“Go Christian, Stand Firm!!!!!” So the message is–“Since you have these folks in your corner, Go to battle ready, free of baggage and focused upon Christ–the God that truly understands our fight!”  We do not fight alone! The spirit encourages, empowers and guides us.  Our community of believers march with us; and, the legacy of those who have gone before–serve as the roaring crowd to compel us to give all we have and become like him.

The world would have us believe we are all alone–they tried it with David, with Elijah, with Moses and with Jesus.  Truth is, we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses! They have done it and survived. Paul’s final exhortation to Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race and have kept the faith…” gives us a picture of our need and support to treat this journey like a marathon and not a sprint.  What’s more, it reminds us that we have to drive to the end–as the many have done before we got into this Amazing Journey!

God Bless You

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

What God Accomplishes With Our Faith–Hebrews 11 part 4

As we continue to look at faith–so far we see that without it it is impossible to please God.  We have seen that people of faith show up when the going gets tough, the we have seen that it is inevitable, that faith impacts those whose lives we encounter.  Finally, there is a certain set of things that faith accomplishes.  

As one studies the folks that make up the faith hall of fame, by the world’s standard–they were not much to speak of.  Wanderers–like the Israelites, prostitutes–like Rahab, mild mannered  farmers–like Gideon, shepherds–like David, temple boys–like Samuel.  None were “SuperHero” prototypes. Yet, in each of their lives, God accomplished mighty things because they trusted Him.  Walls fell, nations rose, kingdoms were established and the salvation of the world accomplished–not because of their profiles; but, but all because of their faith.  In each scenario, It was ultimately God who was highlighted–not the person he used.

In our time, if we–who are simple, allow God–who accomplishes great things; to simply take control and take the glory–then, like the people described in Hebrew 11, God can use us to complete his plan.  We must brace for battle–our enemy does not like to be defeated. We will encounter trials, tribulations, taunts and temptation. We also must grasp that we accomplish most by stepping back and allowing God to work.  At any point, if we try to take control or take the glory; then, we nullify our ability to be used by him.  He simply seeks our availability–if we oblige, then he will provide the means and the result–and we will be blessed.

It won’t be easy, and it won’t be obvious–but, when God uses us to execute his plan–we will be a part of something so much greater than we could ever hope or imagine.  

God Bless You


It was by faith that the people of Israel marched around Jericho for seven days, and the walls came crashing down.

31 It was by faith that Rahab the prostitute was not destroyed with the people in her city who refused to obey God. For she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.

32 How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. 33 By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight.35 Women received their loved ones back again from death.

But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection.36 Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. 37 Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half,[d] and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. 38 They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.

39 All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. 40 For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.

Faith When it Counts!–Hebrews 11 Part 2

As Christians, the basis of our lives is our faith in God.  Our very eternal life is only obtained thru faith. But, faith is very easy to talk about, it is much harder to demonstrate when the going gets long and tough. This week, the focus of the study will be the Bible’s faith hall of fame. These are the folks God chose to be the “poster children” for faith as a way of life.

Noah was literally, the last man standing to trust and follow God! after 120 years of being the butt of jokes and center of gossip–God shut Noah and his family into the ark and wiped out the earth.  Noah prepared for a storm and flood–that until it occurred, had never been imagined. He simply trusted God and obeyed his instruction. As he did, Noah had no idea what to expect–nor what it would do.

Abram–(Later Abraham)-when told by God to go to Canaan; packed up his stuff and his bride and left.  He and his son, his grandson and his great-grandchildren all spent their lives in tents, awaiting the promise to be given the land on which they were living. None ever saw in their lifetimes–the presentation of the promised land that occurred over 400 years after their deaths.

When we grasp that this is all God’s stuff–as they did, then we can walk freely where God leads without fear; then God will provide, protect and prepare us to meet the challenges of life; and, accept his gifts and his plans. Some may not come soon, in fact, some may not be answered in our lifetimes.  Like Noah and Abram, we must trust God when it is difficult to do so–that is when faith actually matters.

God Bless You

By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised landlike a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she[b] considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.

13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

The Life of Faith–Hebrews 11 Part 1

The life of faith is not a new advent from the time of Christ’s resurrection.  The life of faith has been a critical component of man’s relationship to God from the very beginning.  The “Faith Hall of Fame” in Hebrews 11, looks at the difference faith has made in the lives of believers.  It is most enlightening,in fact, that–as the discussion begins, it begins with Cain and Able–back at the very beginning.

Faith is a combination of trust and action.  It is not that people simply believe what God says; they also live and walk in a way that demonstrates that belief.  Able demonstrated his faith by giving his first and best sacrifice.  Enoch demonstrated his faith by walking so closely with God, that God literally brought him on up to heaven without him having to experience death.  These demonstrations of faith simply represent the the core truth–without faith, it is impossible to please God! 

In our lives, faith looks different for each of us.  Like Enoch and Able, the demonstrations are dramatically different.  The core, however, is the same–“Do I believe God, and believe he will reward those that diligently seek him?”  In each of our lives, we choose daily to walk by faith.  As we make the choice; the things we say and do stand out as unique and glorifying to God.  Acts of faith are not rated as big or small; awesome or OK–they are simply signs that we have moved out of the way and allowed God to lead.  In God’s eyes, that is huge!

God Bless You

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.

By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.”[a] For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.