Wednesday, March 3, 2021

NEW BOOK - "WHEN IS IT TIME TO QUIT?"

 My new book is now available on Amazon as a kindle book or paperback. Here is little information about it.


INTRODUCTION

 

QUIT

release hold of something that was in grasp;

stop, cease or discontinue;

depart from;

give up


One day Jesus gave a strong teaching that caused many of the people to stop following Him. When he asked His disciples if they were going to leave Him, too, Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” It seems Peter had thought about the consequences of leaving Jesus. If he asked himself “what then?” that would probably be when he found his answer.

Life can be very difficult. Who hasn’t felt such despair that they wanted to quit? Yet a glimmer of hope in some souls refuses to die. They know that when they are with Jesus, they are in the best situation possible, even with the trials and persecution. When we are tempted to quit, it’s time to fan our flame of hope. We can do that by examining the lives of those who had every earthly reason to give up, but every heavenly reason to keep going. Their secret? Their relationship with Jesus.

Of course, When Is It Time to Quit? is a rhetorical question. We all know it is never time to quit serving God or to give up our faith in Him. But we have probably also felt the temptation to quit many times during the heat of the battle. This book will share some of our common battles as Christians and our common solution. 

The difference in whether we stand or fall lies in one thing that is so simple few will actually do it. It is to increase our faith and spiritual stamina by maintaining a close relationship with God and His Word. It may sound too simplistic, but that is how each of the examples used in the book prevailed in dire circumstances. Their relationship with God was carefully and consistently maintained, giving them the wisdom, courage and faith to come through the toughest of times. They knew God intimately and trusted Him against all odds. To know Him is to trust Him. To trust Him is to share the fellowship of His suffering and the power of His resurrection. Just as plants with the deepest roots are the hardest to blow over or pull up, so people who have an intimate, active relationship with Jesus are those who “withstand in the evil day”.

The Bible explains the stories of the people in the Old Testament and the New Testament were written for “our admonition” and as examples for us. He knew that sometimes we need a pattern we can hold up against our circumstances to show us the way. The Bible is full of examples that were recorded specifically for that reason, and in When Is It Time to Quit? We will explore ten of those biblical examples. They dared to put their trust in God…and won!  



Monday, March 1, 2021

GRACE AND TRUTH

 

“And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14) Jesus is Truth. He is the Way and the Life.

             Can you separate God’s grace from His truth? Don’t worry, I’m not going to delve into a theological debate bringing up all kinds of proof for one side or another, but I have seen that they go hand-in-hand. They work together to bring us wholeness and peace with God. Together they teach us to understand sin and all of its destructive power. And together they lead us to repentance and a change of heart that sets us free as never before. By grace and truth, we can enjoy the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, changing us into the image of Christ.

            Once we have become a new creation in Christ and have understanding of His grace and truth, how are we to live in this world? It is a world that is ungrateful, angry, full of rage, bitterness, unforgiveness, slander, violence - and the list could go on. The fact is we live in perilous times. And if we are not careful, we can very easily get pulled into this world’s rage, bitterness and unforgiveness.

But is the answer to our dilemma to return evil for evil? Scripture tells us it is not the answer. That would only add to the chaos around us. The Word of God tells us vengeance belongs to God. He will repay, and we don’t have to defend ourselves.

So, how are God’s people supposed to act and respond to a world in chaos? The answer to that question is two-fold – Grace and Truth. We are to remember to walk in grace and truth and extend it to others. Christ’s followers are to have no part in any ungodly behavior, regardless of what others do. We are to be people of peace, not confusion or evil.

Ephesians 4:31-32 teaches us to do this. “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.” Let’s break it down and see what that means to us individually.

·         We are to be kind, treating others the way we want to be treated. I think most people want to be treated fairly and with respect and understanding.

·         Then we are to be tender-hearted, not cold and callous to the needs of others, but looking beneath the surface of the anger and seeing the real problem. If we were in their position, we might be angry too. We need to refrain from jumping to conclusions about a person until we know the whole truth.

·         Forgiving one another - We all need forgiveness from time to time. It’s easier to see what we have done wrong as a mistake that needs to be forgiven than it is to see it that way when someone’s “mistake” was against us. Even if they do something willfully against us, we need to pray for them and forgive them. The Scripture tells us to even pray for those who despitefully use us. That may seem hard, but it is God’s way, and He will help us to do it.

·         So, why are we to be loving and forgiving? That’s simple. Because God has forgiven us. We don’t deserve it, but He loves us enough to forgive us. And He made a way for our redemption through Jesus’ sacrifice. Even when we were completely in sin, Christ loved us enough to die for us. We forgive because we are forgiven. Remember grace and truth.

So, in the middle of all this love, forgiveness, kindness and compassion, does that mean we just accept sin, cover it and say it’s okay? It’s no big deal? Absolutely not!

Jesus never backed down when it came to telling the truth about sin, yet He always extended grace to the sinner. Then it was up to them whether or not they received His grace. Jesus did not condemn people, but He spoke words that would convict them and turn them in the right direction.

Condemnation is a sentence passed on us that leaves us with no recourse – no way out. It’s a ‘done deal’. Conviction is a warning of the sentence that will be passed on us if we do not change our course. Jesus offers us a way out of the trap of sin that enslaves us. We are to offer that same grace to others. That is love.

Thank God for His amazing grace, but we need to remember the grace of God comes hand in hand with His truth. If we don’t share the truth about sin with others, and we just let them stay in their sin without knowing they can be free, we do not truly love them. Love balances grace and truth just like Jesus always does. So, what does that look like for us? How can we balance grace and truth in our relationships?

I think Max Lucado gave some wonderful examples in his book “How Happiness Happens”.

I want to use some of his examples from Scripture along with my own commentary. Each instance is an interaction between Jesus and a person who was living in sin or was still learning about who Jesus really is. They desperately needed grace, but they also needed to know the truth about sin so they could turn from it. Until they clearly saw their sin, they could not receive grace to remove it and walk with Jesus. Max used these examples from Scripture in his book.

In extending His grace to the woman caught in the act of adultery, Jesus said, “neither do I condemn you”. He did not pass sentence on her. Yet when He told her to go and sin no more, He acknowledged she had sinned and needed to change her course. That was the truth she needed to hear along with the grace that was offered to her. If she stayed in her sin, His offer of grace would not be effective in her life.

Jesus offered grace to Zacchaeus (who was a cheating tax collector) when He invited Himself to his house. Zacchaeus had climbed a tree so he could see Jesus go by, but Jesus stopped, looked up and told him to come down because He was going to his house that very day. That extension of grace met with truth during Jesus’ visit and prompted Zacchaeus to give half of his belongings to the poor. By hearing the truth, he was convicted to restore what he had taken wrongfully.

It was by grace that Jesus washed the feet of the disciples. He took on the duties of a servant. Then He spoke truth to them. He told them to do as He had done to them. He called them to be servants and to drop all pride. They had actually been arguing about who was greatest in the kingdom. Jesus showed them that the greatest was the one who served others.

Jesus extended grace to the woman at the well when He offered her a drink of the everlasting water. He offered her hope from her hopeless life. But she knew that He was aware of the truth about her situation when He told her she had gone through five different husbands and was now living with a man who wasn’t her husband at all. She was overjoyed by the truth that set her free to reach out for grace. She immediately became a bearer of the news that she had found the Messiah.

Jesus never sugar-coated sin and never treated it as acceptable. Because the truth is, sin brings eternal destruction and that is what Jesus came to deliver us from. That is grace. But we also need to know the Truth before we can fully receive grace.

Jesus offers grace to those who will receive - grace to forgive their sins, and grace to help them walk in a new life, free from sin. If you don’t have that grace, you can have it right now. It requires acknowledging your sin. The fact that we are born sinners is the truth. Then ask Jesus to forgive you and cleanse you from your sin. He will do it if you really mean it. Then surrender your life to walk His way. You can receive His grace. You can be free!

There will come a day when final judgment will be passed on every soul. Those who have not received Jesus will be condemned for eternity. Those who have received Him will be with Him in His kingdom for eternity. But now we are in the day of His great grace. Jesus said He did not come to condemn, but to make a way for every person to come to Him and be saved. Learn the truth and receive His grace so that you can be free to enter the kingdom of God forever. Read the Word of God and ask Him to show you the Truth. He is extending His Grace and Truth to you right now.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

ENCOUNTERS

 


            Have you ever had an encounter with God? If you are a born-again follower of Jesus Christ you have. No one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws them to Him. But there are other types of encounters with the Lord, too. Encounters that call us for service, direct us in God’s ways, cleanse us from sins, or fortify our confidence in Jesus.

            Abraham lived with his family of idol worshipers in Ur when he had his first encounter with the Lord God.  The Lord spoke to him and called him away from his home, the idols and his family to follow the true God to a place He would show him. We are not told how God spoke to Abraham, simply that He did. It was a tremendous step of faith for Abraham to believe God and follow Him. But he did it by faith and God counted it to him as righteousness. Abraham’s faith in God was the beginning of the generations that would produce the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ. And now those who believe in Jesus receive the power to become the sons of God. It is by faith. Our belief leads us to follow Jesus and leave this world behind, living in the kingdom of God even though we are still physically residents of this earth. Through Abraham all nations are blessed with the opportunity to be born again.

Isaiah encountered God in a spectacular way when King Uzziah died. Uzziah had been a godly influence for most of his reign and was king of Israel for about 50 years. Isaiah entered the temple after Uzziah’s death and he saw the Lord on His throne. It was a magnificent sight. The earthly king had succumbed to death, but the King of kings was and is still alive and in control. Isaiah witnessed the glory of God, His might, power, wisdom and splendor. The sight he tried to describe was beyond human description. He recognized that God is pure holiness and is in control of every throne and every nation. Isaiah fell down before the Lord and cried out to Him because he fully sensed his own sin. Any time we encounter God, we see ourselves as we really are, not as we perceive ourselves to be. We may think we are pretty good, but we see how unholy we are in the light of His holiness. Acknowledging our sin is the first step to cleansing. Isaiah’s sins were cleansed and then God asked this question. “Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?” [speaking of the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit]. Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” Isaiah’s encounter with the Lord brought cleansing from sin, and a new level of his ministry as God’s prophet. The earthly king was dead and powerless. God was not! If we want a ministry that brings powerful results, it has nothing to do with our charisma, wisdom or our earthly connections. It has everything to do with the glory of God being seen in us. The more we come into God’s presence, the more of His holiness will shine through us, and the more of the earthly things will fall away.  In His presence we learn His desires and purposes, then we stop pushing our way through life with our own agenda and pursuits. Instead, we say, “Here I am, send me, use me, I will obey”. Then we are on the right track. We are working with God.

            Joshua had an encounter with God as he stood near Jericho. It would be their first city to conquer in taking the land God had promised them. God had already told Joshua to be strong and of good courage, that He would never forsake him. He would be with him. And He was. God had parted the Jordan River just as He did the Red Sea, and all the people went over the Jordan safely just like when Moses was leading them. Why? Because God hadn’t changed. Now it was time for their first battle – Jericho! “And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand. And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, “Are You for us or for our adversaries?” So He said, “No, but as Commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, “What does my Lord say to His servant?” Then the Commander of the Lord’s army said to Joshua, “Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.” And Joshua did so.” If the Lord had said nothing else, Joshua’s strength and courage for battle would have still been fortified, because he had the Lord’s assurance that He was with him. But after that, Joshua received God’s battle plan to conquer Jericho. And the Lord was with them. When we find ourselves in the presence of God, we are voluntarily humbled. His presence brings reverential fear and awe to us. In humbling ourselves before the Lord, trusting Him and obeying what He says rather than taking matters into our own hands, we can have victory even in the middle of our trials because He will never leave us or forsake us. We need to always remember as long as we are following God’s orders, we have with us the Commander of the Lord’s army.

Gideon lived during a trying time for Israel. The children of Israel repeatedly disobeyed the Lord’s commandments, so the Lord allowed Midian to prevail over them for seven years. “Because of the Midianites, the children of Israel made for themselves the dens, the caves, and the strongholds which are in the mountains.” When the Israelites had a crop in the field, the Midianites and the Amalekites would come and destroy all their produce and take all their livestock. They left them with little or no sustenance. “So Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites, and the children of Israel cried out to the Lord.” God brings judgment on those He loves who know to do right and yet choose evil instead. It really should be no surprise, because He lays out the commandments clearly and also the results of obeying or disobeying. His judgment is not always complete destruction, but is often a time of punishment to turn hearts back to the Lord Who loves them. Israel was in dire straits because of their disobedience to God. After seven years, they finally cried out to Him. In answer to their cries, God sent a deliverer. But this deliverer was not who we would have chosen. When Gideon encountered the Lord, he was hiding in a winepress threshing the little bit of wheat he had gleaned from somewhere. He knew if the Midianites saw him the wheat would be lost. Gideon was disillusioned with the talk of God working miracles for His people in the past. He hadn’t seen a miracle, and they had needed one for seven years. His conclusion from this faulty reasoning was that God had forsaken them. While he continued to thresh the wheat, “the Angel of the Lord appeared to him, and said to him, “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!” Gideon said to Him, “O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.” Clearly Gideon missed that it was the Lord Himself who had just said, “The Lord is with you.” Gideon’s faith seemed to be totally depleted. But here God was, right there beside him, drawing him into the middle of the miracle he didn’t believe in. “Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?” So Gideon said to Him, “O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” Gideon replies about how weak he is. After all, he was a man hiding from the enemy just to keep from starving. But God said, “Go in this might of yours.” What might? The might of the Lord God. “And the Lord said to him, “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man.” After patiently giving Gideon several signs and whittling down the army from 32,000 to 300 men, God used Gideon to free Israel from the Midianites. The reason God used so few men was because He didn’t want them claiming they were the victors when it was God Who did it. If God calls you to a task, know that He will enable you and give you His might to accomplish it. You may feel weak and the least likely candidate for His mission, but “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.” Believe Him and go in His might to do great things.

            When I was about eleven or twelve, I had an encounter with God on several occasions while sitting in church services. A collage of faces that were not distinguishable would appear toward the front of the church and come closer and closer until they passed through me. Then a collage of buildings in a city would do the same. Neither was distinguishable, but looked like film negatives that you can see but not really see. I told my mother about the visions, but she didn’t have an answer. I thought I must be called to be a missionary. I listened intently to every missionary who came to visit the church, but never felt the call to join them. Step by step I was drawn into other ministries. Singing at church, recording an album, then being asked to do a radio program on the local station. During this time I felt called to begin writing articles and sending them out to those I met during ministry in churches and other venues. I talked to my mother and she asked, “how can you do that? You don’t have the resources.” I began by using the office copier where I worked (with permission) and after just a few of the newsletters had been sent, a machine was donated by a complete stranger, and it was a machine that I was already familiar with. God provided. My parents were with me at a coffee house in another state when Mom heard a man try to give the machine to the coffee house owner, but he didn’t need it. So Mom told him I needed it. We picked it up at his house that same evening with the supplies. I began writing songs, made several albums and went on to work on-air and in production work for a radio network. The Lord spoke to me about producing radio spots that eventually went around the world on several radio stations, shortwave and internet. Later, I was at the flagship station of the network, taking a break with one of the engineers. He knew about the visions and asked if I had discovered what they meant. I told him I had not. He explained that in almost everything about the ministry, it was to people whose faces I did not see, yet they received the ministry. The albums, the newsletter, the radio, the internet, and later television, writing books and a newspaper column. I had been walking out the vision in my life step by step without realizing it was being fulfilled. Although I had not known what the visions were about, I knew God was speaking to me and I was called out for His purposes. So, I had simply followed. Then the vision was made clear. God doesn’t always give us answers right away. Sometimes we just need to know He has called us so we will be available and listening when He gives us directions.

            What about you? Have you had an encounter with God? Has He spoken to you through His Word, by His Spirit or through someone else? How have you responded to your encounter with the Lord God? Do you hear Him calling you now? If so answer His call.