Holiness

 

“May the God of peace make you holy in every way” ~1 Thess. 5:23

        “Are you sanctified?” bellowed the animated preacher, pointing and sweeping his hand in a grand gesture to the church. “Are you sure? Are you holy? If you have any doubts you better come down to the altar and pray your way through! God is not happy with any fence sitters tonight. He means business and you better mean business too. You got to be sanctified to make God happy and get a golden key to your heavenly mansion,” said the sweat-drenched pastor as he walked to and fro among them, satisfied with the response to his fear-packed message.

       Terrified and confused people flocked to the altar, crying and begging God for the elusive sanctification, fearing they might miss the golden key awaiting those who have achieved sanctification [holiness].

Contrary to his threats and confusing statements, God was not happy with him or his misguided sermon. Believers do not receive sanctification as a result of fear or condemnation. To be accurate, this very emotional and dramatic pastor should have proclaimed, “Your faith has made you whole and you are all sanctified (made holy) by the Holy Spirit!” Let’s see what God’s Word has to say about our sanctification/holiness.

        Romans 6:19  I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

        1 Cor. I:30-31  God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin.

        1 Cor. 1:2  To you who have been called by God to be his own holy people. He made you holy by means of Christ Jesus, just as he did for all people everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

        1 Cor. 6:11  You were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

        1 Thess. 5:23   Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

John 17:17-19  (Christ’s prayer to God) Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.

        2 Thess. 2:13  As for us, we can’t help but thank God for you, dear brothers and sisters loved by the Lord. We are always thankful that God chose you to be among the first to experience salvation—a salvation that came through the Spirit who makes you holy and through your belief in the truth.

        Hebrews 10:10  For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.

        Romans 15:16   I am a special messenger from Christ Jesus to you Gentiles. I bring you the Good News so that I might present you as an acceptable offering to God, made holy by the Holy Spirit.

        Sanctification/holiness is not something we can beg God for at a church altar. Sanctification is a gift from God as a result of our faith in Jesus Christ. Although a gift, God requires our involvement to make choices for purity and holiness. But fear not, it is the Holy Spirit who enables us to follow through on our Christ-like decisions.

       

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Live By Faith

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Hebrews 11:1  ~Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.

 

I attend a weekly Bible study that has been ongoing more than six years. The study is aimed at practical application of God’s Word, the Bible. This approach can bring daily challenges and will often bring spiritual growth in each life. Recently, that is what happened.

I ride with one of the men in the study who has an occasional variance in his work schedule which prevents his attendance. When this happens, the men in the study share their disappointment and I make sure to send a copy of the study via email. But this week would prove different and bring about a God-ordained journey and ending.

“I have a new job and will have to miss a few Wednesdays,” he said at the study. “I hope it won’t be permanent but I’m not sure.”

True to form, we expressed our disappointment and continued with the morning’s study. A few days later, it seemed that God was speaking to me about my lack of faith. “We live by faith, not by sight,” says 2 Corinthians 5:7. “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but opn what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal,” says 2 Corinthians 4:18.

Then I understood what God, through the Holy Spirit, was showing me: believe that my friend, Matt, could be there; to have faith that God would answer our prayers to shift Matt’s schedule to allow him to continue attending. In that instant it was very clear to me, Matt wanted to be in the Bible study, would benefit from his attendance and the rest of us would benefit from his presence.

This is an element of spiritual warfare and the victory belongs to God. Instead of saying, “Too bad you can’t come, Matt, see you when your schedule changes.” We can ask God to make a way for him to attend and believe He will do that!”

Two days later Matt called and said, “Hey my schedule has changed and I will pick you up as usual.” Joyfully I shared my revelation with Matt and we rejoiced in the answer to prayer. God cares. He is always victorious, and He delights in answering our prayers.

 

Building a Wall

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Walled Off

 

“Hey, what are you doing?”

“Building a wall.”

“How big?”

“Around my life.”

“All of it?”

“Oh Yeah.”

“Why?”

“To protect myself.”

“From what?”

“From being hurt!”

“Do you think it’ll work?”
“I do. Simply because of this; if no one can get to me, I can’t get hurt. Pretty smart huh?”

“I need to know more about your past before I can accurately answer your question.”

“Like what?”

“What happened to make you think you need to build a protective wall around your life? Before you answer, you have to tell the truth or I cannot give you an honest opinion. Agreed?”

“Well…Ah, what If I can’t remember?”
“Is that true? You can’t remember?”
Fidgeting as he looked at the ground, he finally let out a deep sigh and said, “Ok, here goes. A few years ago I met a woman who just knocked me off my feet. I’ve never been a guy who hangs out with women and gets dates anytime. I’ve always been shy that way.

“So we get involved and it gets serious. I mean I was ready to move heaven and earth for her. She said she was moving to Nevada. Well I had a good job and spent my entire life in Illinois. She said her family could get me a good job with one of the casinos and we’d be well off in a few years. After lots of talks, I agreed to leave it all for her; You know, the romantic, all-out sacrifice like in movies.”

“Sounds like a big sacrifice all right. But it sounds exciting too.”

“Yeah it was. And I got excited. Anyway, we moved to Nevada and her family came through with a great security job at the Bellagio. She was a blackjack dealer and made lots of money in tips. I thought I was in heaven. We had great jobs. Her family were good people and it never rained!”

“Oh no. I sense a collapse of your good life around the corner.”

“You’d be right. We’d been together in Nevada for three years when she met me for dinner in town. Just as they served dessert she said, “I’ve got to tell you something and you’re not going to like it.”

“When a woman you’re about to marry says that, your heart sinks and you want to scream. But I didn’t. Like a big dummy I just sat there, head hung, looking up at her. “Go ahead,” I said, “get it over with.”

“Well, ok. But first I have to tell you how great you’ve been since we’ve been together. I mean you moved across the states for me and gave up your life. How many men would do that for a woman?”

“Ok, that’s enough of that. Tell me the bad news right now.” I wanted to punch her and storm out. Now I knew what she was going to say and I think you do too.”

“Yeah, I do.”

“Turns out her original boyfriend, well, her fiance, the guy she ran away from back when we met, returns to town and gives her a call. She falls all over herself and wants to take back up where they left off. She’s leaving me.”

Neither man spoke for almost a minute.

“Am I right in thinking you don’t ever want to be hurt like that again, therefore the wall around your life?”
“Exactly. Now you can see why I’m building it, right? So I can ask again, pretty smart, huh?”

“Before I answer let me ask you a question. Do you wonder why you don’t see walls around lots of other people? I mean, do you actually think you’re the only person who’s had their heart broken? How many divorced people do you know? Lots probably. And guess what, one of those people had their heart broken in the divorce. Where’s their protective fence?

“If you finish building your fence, you may not be taken advantage of or have your heart broken but, and this is important, you will never find love again or have great friends that are willing to give their all for you. We have to be vulnerable to experience the rewards of love and deep friendship. Broken hearts come with the territory. No matter how hard you try, friendships can fall apart and engagements can be dashed into the dust. In all of life, there’s only been one person who never disappointed anyone even though everyone turned their back on him and he was killed for them. He even forgave the people who killed him. He refused to build a protective wall and got killed in the end. But his life, although not too long, was filled with power and love just because he was always vulnerable.

Galatians 1:4 ~Jesus gave his life for our sins, just as God our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live.

 

A New year. A Fresh Start.

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Hello and welcome to the next phase of your life. The Lord is directing you, as He did Abram, to pack all your belongings and head out to a new land (literally or figuratively). He will show you where to live and how to generate income if you walk in faith trusting Him to be your provider and daily guide.

The trip will be scary, but the satisfaction of walking in obedience to your Heavenly Father far outweighs any fear. Remember Proverbs 3:5-6 which says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, don’t lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your path.”

None of us knows how many days we have remaining on this earthly globe, so focus on God, and listen to the Holy Spirit as He relays information to and from you via a supernatural communication system established by God. It is a foolproof system that can only be hindered by us if we refuse to listen or discard His directions out of fear or pride.

As you struggle with temptation and doubt, allow God’s Holy Spirit to remind you of Jesus’ monumental, painful sacrifice, as He obediently gave Himself to torture and death, spikes driven through his hands and feet, slowly dying so every living soul could experience forgiveness and redemption. Christ’s death and subsequent resurrection opened a door leading to eternal life. We can taste the life-giving fruit of His sacrifice by calling upon the name of Jesus.

Sitting now at the right hand of God, Jesus awaits our faithful professions of belief that transform us into New Creations, formed in the image of Jesus Christ Himself. And when life seems too burdensome, remember that Jesus promised He would never leave us; never forsake us. So…stand firm. Believe. Walk with God. And one more thing, be sure to forgive others just like Jesus forgave us!

This Is America

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Not African-America

Not Hispanic-America

Not Asian-America

Not Norwegian-America

Nor any other ethnic prefix. America is the original Heinz 57, mutt, half-breed country, filled with people of all nationalities who’ve come to blend together, forming one nation, indivisible. This is a country filled with almost all nationalities . . . otherwise known as AMERICANS!

Are there injustices here? Are there prejudices here? Is there hypocrisy here? Of course there are. There are people here aren’t there?

The language of America is a version of British English, known as American, molded and fashioned over a few hundred years. But it is basically, English. We speak English in America. Do you wish to live in this country? Then I suggest you learn the language as all the immigrants who’ve landed on these shores legally have. If any American decides to live in Portugal, guess what language they had better learn?

I don’t have the answers to all our ethnic problems but I do know this: if America continues to fragment itself based on ethnic origin, we will eventually collapse as we divide and establish ethnic boundaries. Hate will fill our land. And violence will be the order of the day.

One more thing: America has one flag. The flag of the United States of America. The United States! Pools of blood have been shed to maintain our freedom in these United States. Blood from all manner of ethnic veins. The blood was shed first in 1776 just to form the United States. Not to form a shattered, broken, dis-unified bunch of groups unwilling to share the same language and goals. What about your rights? A better question asked of all of us by this country would be: What are your responsibilities?

Attitudes and Feelings

 

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The Lord is my helper,  so I will have no fear. ~Psalm 118:6

“Oh this view is magnificent,” Neal said. “Now I see why you wanted to bring me here for photos today, Michael. So it really was worth getting up at zero-dark-thirty to get shots of the sunrise.”

“You are such a baby, Neal. Truthfully, I am a little surprised you agreed to the early wake-up since you have so little free time to spare. But you must admit it was worth it.”

“More than just worth it, my friend. This view of the river, mountains and colorful trees is breathtaking, to say the least. Now let’s stop talking and capture the moments here.”

After an hour of basking in God’s glorious fall morning, the men settled in to their trailer for a sumptuous breakfast while reliving the special photo opportunities they’d just experienced.

Later, when the final dish had been washed, dried and put away Neal said, “I need to talk, Michael. I’m carrying some problems and I need answers.”

“I’m listening.”

“I’m carrying feelings and attitudes that aren’t right. I get angry, frustrated, sometimes I realize I’m greedy, thinking of ways to get more money instead of sharing. On the outside I seem to be calm, patient, understanding. You know, the perfect Christian who everyone loves to be with. I’m like two people all the time. I am so tired of these feelings. I need help!”

Michael said, “What you are describing, Neal, is how most people live their lives. The problem is, we act as though we don’t have certain selfish angry, petty feelings—but we do. By denying them, we enact a different set of feelings that attempt to disguise our true, base, human feelings. Then we beat ourselves up by saying, Christians don’t have these feelings. So we replace our snarl with a smile and our caustic sarcasm with polite Christian-talk. When someone hurts us, we pretend outwardly that it didn’t happen. Inwardly though, deep inside where no one can see, we are hurt and begin to distance ourselves.

“And guess who is delighted…Satan! Yes, he is dancing with joy at our behavior which he helped create. You are bringing a knife to a gunfight, Neal. God is not only concerned, He is in us with His Holy Spirit, waiting for us to call out to Him. He understands our emotions and attitudes, He created us! We all do it, we try to fight spiritual forces with our own might and get depressed when we fail.

“Let me read Ephesians 6:12 ~For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

“Suddenly we remember that God has the power and the victorious battle plans for all our attitude problems. We simply call upon Him and His power is released for Satan’s defeat and our victory. But we must call upon Him. It is impossible for you and I to defeat Satan without calling upon God.”

“The next step is preparing for daily war by putting on the armor of God, explained in Ephesians 6:13 ~Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will be standing firm.”

“Without God, we are like little kids trying to fight an adult boxer. There is simply no hope without calling out to our Savior. He is the Victor and our Lord. Let’s pray Neal. God wants to change our outlook and attitudes.”

Book Review-Stones of Remembrance

Hats off to author, Daniel G. Amen, MD for steering me past my preconceived notion that 12 Steps to something will not bring an excellent result. Prior to reading this wonderful book I would quickly discard as useless any idea that a certain number of steps would bring success to the reader. I’ve read several that fell dramatically short of such a claim. But, “Stones of Remembrance” has broken the mold and opened my eyes.

Amen has divided the book into three distinct parts, each with Bible verses to remember. If you are like me, you probably stiffen a little at the thought of memorizing verses as a requirement to improve your life and memory. Fear not, Amen has included memorization steps that open doors to brain power, encouragement and success. Memorizing Bible verses will not only exercise your brain but will uplift your soul.

“Stones of Remembrance” is a quick read (117 pages) the first time through but it will become an important spiritual weapon in your arsenal.

I was given a copy of this book to review by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.