The Impact

Everyone who will read this is part of my community of friends. Everyone who reads what you post is part of your community of friends.

I wonder how often we consider the impact our words have on that community of friends?

When we reach out with our words of anger, of offense, of forgiveness, of confession, of love, of truth — do we consider that there are ears to hear and hearts to receive what we are pouring out?

Or is more important that we have an outlet and a platform to be heard and seen, no matter the cost?

“With their words, the godless destroy their friends,
but knowledge will rescue the righteous.

The whole city celebrates when the godly succeed;
they shout for joy when the wicked die.

Upright citizens are good for a city and make it prosper,
but the talk of the wicked tears it apart.

It is foolish to belittle one’s neighbor;
a sensible person keeps quiet.

A gossip goes around telling secrets,
but those who are trustworthy can keep a confidence.” – Proverbs 11:9-13 NLT

Even if you are not yet a believer in Christ Jesus, you cannot deny in your heart the truth, guidance, and instruction found in His Word, even if your mind fights to excuse it, dismiss it, and ignore it.

“Professing Christian”, if you are foolish and will not listen, if you will not receive correction, if you have chosen your sin over God’s instruction, remember that we are told they those who receive His correction are his children, but those who do not are illegitimate and are not children of God (Hebrews 12:8). I say these things while there is time for you to truly turn to God and learn to love God (Joshua 24:15). If you do what is right and trust and believe the Lord, you will be accepted and forgiven — but if not, sin and death wait at the door to devour you (Hebrews 10:26-27).

Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Acts 2:37‭-‬47 ESV

The joy of His presence

Oh Ebenezer! 

Hallelujah!
I tried to win,

And Ichabod was born.
But I received the rod of your discipline, 

I saw my wretched state,

I saw the error of what “seemeth right unto man”,

And I saw that even the rod was a good and holy comfort.
 It was not my hand or my might that returned the ark into the camp,

But the LORD himself struck the wicked a mighty blow,

Both the spirit and the wind move where they will,

And I returned to the LORD with my whole heart, 

I consecrated myself to serve Him only, 

I gathered and He intervened on my behalf,

I cried out,  “I have sinned against you and you alone. I have done what is evil in your sight. You are right in what you say and your judgement against me is just.”

And the LORD GOD ALMIGHTY Himself has delivered me into victory. 
I raise mine Ebenezer,

Come thou fount of every blessing, 

Come make your home and may you never depart,

Take this life and make it yours!
I have not forgotten my first love,

I have found rest upon the solid rock. 

Yes, He is mine and I am His,

Forever bound to freedom, 

Forever loosed from bondage. 
Hallelujah, to God on high!

Hallelujah, sing His praises!

Forevermore, sing Holy! Holy! Holy!

He is Lord God Almighty!

Worthy of ALL honor and praise.
Hear the Word of God

And the Lord came and called as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel replied, “Speak, your servant is listening.” Then the Lord said to Samuel, “I am about to do a shocking thing in Israel. I am going to carry out all my threats against Eli and his family, from beginning to end. I have warned him that judgment is coming upon his family forever, because his sons are blaspheming God and he hasn’t disciplined them. So I have vowed that the sins of Eli and his sons will never be forgiven by sacrifices or offerings.” – 1 Samuel 3:10‭-‬14 NLT

Ichabod

The Philistines attacked and defeated the army of Israel, killing 4,000 men. After the battle was over, the troops retreated to their camp, and the elders of Israel asked, “Why did the Lord allow us to be defeated by the Philistines?” Then they said, “Let’s bring the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord from Shiloh. If we carry it into battle with us, it will save us from our enemies.” So they sent men to Shiloh to bring the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, who is enthroned between the cherubim. Hophni and Phinehas, the sons of Eli, were also there with the Ark of the Covenant of God. When all the Israelites saw the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord coming into the camp, their shout of joy was so loud it made the ground shake! “What’s going on?” the Philistines asked. “What’s all the shouting about in the Hebrew camp?” When they were told it was because the Ark of the Lord had arrived, they panicked. “The gods have come into their camp!” they cried. “This is a disaster! We have never had to face anything like this before! Help! Who can save us from these mighty gods of Israel? They are the same gods who destroyed the Egyptians with plagues when Israel was in the wilderness. Fight as never before, Philistines! If you don’t, we will become the Hebrews’ slaves just as they have been ours! Stand up like men and fight!” So the Philistines fought desperately, and Israel was defeated again. The slaughter was great; 30,000 Israelite soldiers died that day. The survivors turned and fled to their tents. The Ark of God was captured, and Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were killed. A man from the tribe of Benjamin ran from the battlefield and arrived at Shiloh later that same day. He had torn his clothes and put dust on his head to show his grief. Eli was waiting beside the road to hear the news of the battle, for his heart trembled for the safety of the Ark of God. When the messenger arrived and told what had happened, an outcry resounded throughout the town. “What is all the noise about?” Eli asked. The messenger rushed over to Eli, He said to Eli, “I have just come from the battlefield—I was there this very day.” “What happened, my son?” Eli demanded. “Israel has been defeated by the Philistines,” the messenger replied. “The people have been slaughtered, and your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were also killed. And the Ark of God has been captured.” When the messenger mentioned what had happened to the Ark of God, Eli fell backward from his seat beside the gate. He broke his neck and died, for he was old and overweight. He had been Israel’s judge for forty years. Eli’s daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant and near her time of delivery. When she heard that the Ark of God had been captured and that her father-in-law and husband were dead, she went into labor and gave birth. She died in childbirth, but before she passed away the midwives tried to encourage her. “Don’t be afraid,” they said. “You have a baby boy!” But she did not answer or pay attention to them. She named the child Ichabod (which means “Where is the glory?”), for she said, “Israel’s glory is gone.” She named him this because the Ark of God had been captured and because her father-in-law and husband were dead. Then she said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the Ark of God has been captured.” – 1 Samuel 4:2‭-‬14‭, ‬16‭-‬22 NLT

Who is able to stand in the presence of the Lord?

Then the Lord ’s heavy hand struck the people of Ashdod and the nearby villages with a plague of tumors.  When the people realized what was happening, they cried out, “We can’t keep the Ark of the God of Israel here any longer! He is against us! We will all be destroyed along with Dagon, our god.” So they called together the rulers of the Philistine towns and asked, “What should we do with the Ark of the God of Israel?” The rulers discussed it and replied, “Move it to the town of Gath.” So they moved the Ark of the God of Israel to Gath. But when the Ark arrived at Gath, the Lord ’s heavy hand fell on its men, young and old; he struck them with a plague of tumors, and there was a great panic. So they sent the Ark of God to the town of Ekron, but when the people of Ekron saw it coming they cried out, “They are bringing the Ark of the God of Israel here to kill us, too!” The people summoned the Philistine rulers again and begged them, “Please send the Ark of the God of Israel back to its own country, or it will kill us all.” For the deadly plague from God had already begun, and great fear was sweeping across the town. Those who didn’t die were afflicted with tumors; and the cry from the town rose to heaven. – 1 Samuel 5:6‭-‬12 NLT

The Ark of the Lord remained in Philistine territory seven months in all. Then the Philistines called in their priests and diviners and asked them, “What should we do about the Ark of the Lord ? Tell us how to return it to its own country.” “Send the Ark of the God of Israel back with a gift,” they were told. “Send a guilt offering so the plague will stop. Then, if you are healed, you will know it was his hand that caused the plague.” 

The people of Beth-shemesh were harvesting wheat in the valley, and when they saw the Ark, they were overjoyed! The cart came into the field of a man named Joshua and stopped beside a large rock. So the people broke up the wood of the cart for a fire and killed the cows and sacrificed them to the Lord as a burnt offering. But the Lord killed seventy men from Beth-shemesh because they looked into the Ark of the Lord . And the people mourned greatly because of what the Lord had done. “Who is able to stand in the presence of the Lord , this holy God?” they cried out. “Where can we send the Ark from here?” So they sent messengers to the people at Kiriath-jearim and told them, “The Philistines have returned the Ark of the Lord . Come here and get it!” – 1 Samuel 6:1‭-‬3‭, ‬13‭-‬14‭, ‬19‭-‬21 NLT

Ebenezer

Then Samuel said to all the people of Israel, “If you want to return to the Lord with all your hearts, get rid of your foreign gods and your images of Ashtoreth. Turn your hearts to the Lord and obey him alone; then he will rescue you from the Philistines.” So the Israelites got rid of their images of Baal and Ashtoreth and worshiped only the Lord . Then Samuel told them, “Gather all of Israel to Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you.” So they gathered at Mizpah and, in a great ceremony, drew water from a well and poured it out before the Lord . They also went without food all day and confessed that they had sinned against the Lord . (It was at Mizpah that Samuel became Israel’s judge.) When the Philistine rulers heard that Israel had gathered at Mizpah, they mobilized their army and advanced. The Israelites were badly frightened when they learned that the Philistines were approaching. “Don’t stop pleading with the Lord our God to save us from the Philistines!” they begged Samuel. So Samuel took a young lamb and offered it to the Lord as a whole burnt offering. He pleaded with the Lord to help Israel, and the Lord answered him. Just as Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines arrived to attack Israel. But the Lord spoke with a mighty voice of thunder from heaven that day, and the Philistines were thrown into such confusion that the Israelites defeated them. The men of Israel chased them from Mizpah to a place below Beth-car, slaughtering them all along the way. Samuel then took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah. He named it Ebenezer (which means “the stone of help”), for he said, “Up to this point the Lord has helped us!” So the Philistines were subdued and didn’t invade Israel again for some time. And throughout Samuel’s lifetime, the Lord ’s powerful hand was raised against the Philistines. – 1 Samuel 7:3‭-‬13 NLT


Death could not keep Him in its grip

‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on my servants—men and women alike— and they will prophesy. And I will cause wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below— blood and fire and clouds of smoke. The sun will become dark, and the moon will turn blood red before that great and glorious day of the Lord arrives. But everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ “People of Israel, listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus the Nazarene by doing powerful miracles, wonders, and signs through him, as you well know. But God knew what would happen, and his prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to a cross and killed him. But God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life, for death could not keep him in its grip. King David said this about him: ‘I see that the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. No wonder my heart is glad, and my tongue shouts his praises! My body rests in hope. For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your Holy One to rot in the grave. You have shown me the way of life, and you will fill me with the joy of your presence.’ – Acts of the Apostles 2:17‭-‬28 NLT

We gave no such commandment

And when they had come to Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders; and they reported all things that God had done with them. But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.” Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter. And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: “Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He  did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.” Then all the multitude kept silent and listened to Barnabas and Paul declaring how many miracles and wonders God had worked through them among the Gentiles. And after they had become silent, James answered, saying, “Men and brethren, listen to me: “Known to God from eternity are all His works. Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood. Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, “ You  must be circumcised and keep the law” —to whom we gave no such commandment— it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who will also report the same things by word of mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.
Acts 15:4‭-‬13‭, ‬18‭-‬20‭, ‬24‭-‬29 NKJV

The commandments we hear from Christ are, “Repent”, “Follow me”, “Go and sin no more”, “Love”, “Walk with me”, “Abide with me”. And yes,  these will keep us from sinful ways when we walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh – but I wonder how often we argue for or against our weak,lost, and broken brothers and sisters when we mean to be standing against sin but end up entangling perfect grace with the law of Moses instead of the law of liberty. 

Yes, the law is beautiful to the man freed from it to look upon its beauty as a demonstration of guidance and instruction. But we must remember that to those still under the law, it is a curse – and we do not bring cursing upon the people but we bring Good News. Don’t let us submit ourselves to be slaves to sin or slaves to the law of Moses – let’s walk in the freedom of a life reborn to live with Christ living in us and through us.

Do they realize that you have been with Jesus?

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.
Acts 4:8‭-‬13 NKJV

How often or how rarely do people see the example of our good deeds and bold proclamation of Christ? Is it so much that they must marvel and realize that we have been with Christ?

Or do we look so similar to the world, that it is hard to tell if there is any faint glimmer or touch of Christ in us at all?

When we see a man or woman in need, is our thought whether or not our good deeds will result in any change or consequence, whether it will appear that we’ve done good or bad when measured and weighed by the scale of the religious and legal minded?

Or are we eager to show love and tell them that we serve them and love them because Christ first served and loved us?

Do we stand firm against those temple builders – those blind religious leaders leading the blind into destruction – who have turned their backs to the cornerstone, to that perfect stone set forth as our example, because their eyes could not see what their hearts could not comprehend?

Are our lives evidence of having more concern about being judged by men today than about being judged by God – foolishly saying things like “only God can judge me” as we laugh in His face doing the very things that please men and not God?

Do we really love God?

Will we love Him today,  by serving and loving our fellow man?

Will we look for the opportunities to make ourselves seem foolish and peculiar today for the purposes of God, not caring what the world thinks or says about us?

Is He worth it to us?

We were worth the cross to Him.

ALL Devoted Themselves

All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper ), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity — all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved. – Acts of the Apostles 2:42‭-‬47 NLT

What a church! And I don’t say that because of grand buildings, or leaders with doctorates in theology, or a charismatic leader with controversial messages that appeal to the hearts of the worldly. This was a beautiful community of people sacrificing for one another because they loved God and loved one another. ALL of them devoted themselves, not just a few that claimed a “higher calling” while the others remained satisfied lukewarm and complacent and religious. They actually took to heart the teachings of Christ who wanted us putting the needs of others above our own wants. They actually sought Him and His ways diligently. They actually loved God.

So shouldn’t we ask, Do I love God? Do I love others? Does “my church” love God? Does it love others? Does it resemble this alive and thriving body of believers?

God of wind and fire, whoever would have guessed that ac ragtag band of Jewish followers could be bound together in a movement that would turn the world upside down? Only because of your Holy Spirit, who is fully God. Do that work again in our day; take a wildly diverse people who don’t naturally fit together, and make a peculiar and compelling community, beautiful because of Jesus. In His name we pray,  amen. (HC 53)

We need your revival, Lord. A change and a fire so peculiar that the world cannot hide from the bright light of our house upon a hill. Let us be the church publicly and unashamedly in our lives every day, not just privately in our buildings and prayer closets.

What a high calling, to be your church – not to just go to church – not to just be a church member, volunteer, teacher, preacher, evangelist, pastor, or servant – but to take up the call to be a disciple of Christ, a student of the Word of God, a Child of the most high God, a vessel of His Holy Spirit, a royal priesthood, the Body of Christ,  the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in Heaven. Help us to do your will today, Lord. Establish our footsteps so that we will walk upright in righteousness, truth, mercy and love. Fill our lives with the fruit of your Holy Spirit, and may our lives bring nourishment to those in need of hope, encouragement, love, and repentance – and bring honor and glory to your name.  Amen.

The Day of Pentecost

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.
Ezekiel 36:26‭-‬27 NKJV

When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is  it  that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “Whatever could this mean?”

Others mocking said, “They are full of new wine.” But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy. I will show wonders in heaven above And signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord . And it shall come to pass That  whoever calls on the name of the Lord Shall be saved.’
Acts 2:1‭-‬21 NKJV

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13 NKJV
http://bible.com/114/rom.15.13.NKJV

Will we enter in? Do we want to?

O Lord , who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy hill?
 
He who walks blamelessly
and does what is right
and speaks truth in his heart; 
who does not slander with his tongue
and does no evil to his neighbor,
nor takes up a reproach against his friend; 
in whose eyes a vile person is despised,
but who honors those who fear the Lord ;
who swears to his own hurt and does not change; 
who does not put out his money at interest
and does not take a bribe against the innocent.

He who does these things shall never be moved.
Psalm 15:1-5 ESV
http://bible.com/59/psa.15.1-5.ESV

Can we see some of the words about His followers:
Blameless, righteous, truth, heart, keep oaths, lend

Can we also see some of the words about His enemies:
Slander, wrong, slur, vile, accept bribes

And can’t we agree that we know what is right from what is wrong? Can’t we agree that we have the opportunity to make choices each day between doing right or doing wrong?

And deciding to do right instead of deciding to do wrong has a name in scripture,  and it is called repentance. It is a step that is taken in a new direction,  it is a turning away from our old path as we decide to turn to a life seeking the Lord’s purpose and direction for our lives.

Yes, our deciding to change direction is the beginning of our journey and not the end. Because if repentance under our own power was out goal – if fighting against these old urges to keep them under control and in compliance with the law was all that we had to rely on, wouldn’t everyone turn back from the burdensome curse of the law?

And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. There were about twelve men in all.
Acts 19:1-7 ESV
http://bible.com/59/act.19.1-7.ESV

We can see that there is more than just repentance. We can see that there is more than just putting on an outward mask of compliance while wrestling to keep our carnal nature hidden under the wraps of religious exercise. That is not a place of peace, but one of fear, because how could those living that way “speak the truth from their hearts” while still meeting all of the other descriptions of a believer?

You see, it takes a divine intervention,  not just our own turning in repentance.

Yes,  it requires or repentance AS WELL, so please do not misunderstand me to be justifying grace as a license to sin. I expect that some itchy ears will seek out the false teacher they desire if that is the message they seek. But I pray that you would instead remain to hear the truth (even if it proves uncomfortable and convicting) that I share with you from the Word of God rightly divided and Holy Spirit led.

There is a point at which repentance shifts from striving against our old nature into a life of praise and worship to God for what He has done and is doing in our lives. That shift comes when we are made a new creation through the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

And I encourage you not to get hung up on which spiritual gifts you have and which you do not, whether you speak in tongues or you do not, whether you prophesy or you do not,  whether the Holy Spirit fell on you like Paul on the Damascus Road, or whether you received it from the laying on of hands like these disciples at Ephesus, or whether you were born with it and grew in it like John the Baptist – because we each are different parts of the body of Christ with our own callings,  seasons,  and purposes.  But I do encourage you to test yourself to see whether or not you are walking in the Spirit and living the life of one “who may dwell in” His sanctuary,  “who may live on” His holy mountain.

So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
Romans 8:12-17 ESV
http://bible.com/59/rom.8.12-17.ESV

We have much to celebrate, child of God! We have such a great reason to celebrate in praise and worship over what the Lord has done for us!

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 118:24 ESV
http://bible.com/59/psa.118.24.ESV

Love, Love, Love

It’s very easy for us to become critical of each other, noticing and pointing out flaws, maybe even talking about others behind their backs. But this is not love, nor is it letting Christ shine forth through our lives.

For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.
Galatians 5:14-15 NLT
http://bible.com/116/gal.5.14-15.NLT

Even if we see someone who is trapped in sin that the Word of God promises that they will NOT inherit the Kingdom of God and that will lead them to hell – do you realize that we are given warnings about not falling into the trap of spiritual pride when dealing with these situations? That we are meant to be acting in love towards one another with hopes not just to catch and expose imperfections,  but to help others overcome and be freed from the sin that binds them.

When we stop look for good in people and start examining them for faults,  we are bound to find them. And when we recognize sin in the lives of others, it is usually because we are familiar with that evil spirit ourselves. Whether we are looking in love, forgiveness,  and mercy, hoping to serve our neighbor – or whether we are looking with condemnation, accusation, and judgement,  hoping to catch our neighbor – it’s an important difference.

There is one that waits for the opportunity to devour people because of their sin – and his wolves are very good at biting and tearing at one another, weakening the prey and preparing them for death, slaughter, and destruction.  But there is another who heals,  who offers forgiveness, who reconciles us to be more like Himself – and His followers are very good at loving one another, and building each other up, and sharing one another’s burdens. And the difference between the two comes down to perspective. One’s followers look down on the others in pride,  while the followers of Christ look at others equally and in unity. These followers of Christ see neighbors and friends in need of the very same unmerited and undeserved grace that their own walk of faith is materializing and bearing witness to in their life of serving and loving others.

So we have to ask ourselves,  are we motivated by love towards others or do we enjoy the pride of being critical toward others? Are we aiming our examining eye inward at ourselves,  using the Word of God a surgical instrument or are we using it as a sword to slay our brothers and sisters? Do we know how to target the real enemy who is not flesh and blood, or have we comforted our thirst with the blood of the innocent instead of tasting of the living waters that fill our lives to overflowing?

It is easy for me to point out warnings and scriptures that identify those lost and trapped in sin and headed to destruction – and if all that I offer is a warning, is a statement of the impending danger, and I don’t offer the Good News of Jesus Christ that leads to Hope,  Faith,  and Love – can I say that I’ve shared Truth or just that I’ve lifted my stone in the air?

Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 NLT
http://bible.com/116/1co.6.9-10.NLT

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
Galatians 5:19-21 NLT
http://bible.com/116/gal.5.19-21.NLT

Outside the city are the dogs—the sorcerers, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idol worshipers, and all who love to live a lie.
Revelation 22:15 NLT
http://bible.com/116/rev.22.15.NLT

You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him. Don’t participate in the things these people do. For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true. Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, for the light makes everything visible. This is why it is said, “Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts.
Ephesians 5:5-19 NLT
http://bible.com/116/eph.5.5-19.NLT

For the law was not intended for people who do what is right. It is for people who are lawless and rebellious, who are ungodly and sinful, who consider nothing sacred and defile what is holy, who kill their father or mother or commit other murders. The law is for people who are sexually immoral, or who practice homosexuality, or are slave traders, liars, promise breakers, or who do anything else that contradicts the wholesome teaching that comes from the glorious Good News entrusted to me by our blessed God.
1 Timothy 1:9-11 NLT
http://bible.com/116/1ti.1.9-11.NLT

Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.
Hebrews 12:14 NLT
http://bible.com/116/heb.12.14.NLT

A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever.
John 8:35 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jhn.8.35.NLT

And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out. It’s better to enter the Kingdom of God with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell,  ‘where the maggots never die and the fire never goes out.’
Mark 9:47-48 NLT
http://bible.com/116/mrk.9.47-48.NLT

Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few be saved?” He replied, “Work hard to enter the narrow door to God’s Kingdom, for many will try to enter but will fail.  When the master of the house has locked the door, it will be too late. You will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Lord, open the door for us!’ But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’  Then you will say, ‘But we ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’  And he will reply, ‘I tell you, I don’t know you or where you come from. Get away from me, all you who do evil.’
Luke 13:23-27 NLT
http://bible.com/116/luk.13.23-27.NLT

For again I say, when righteous people turn away from their righteous behavior and turn to evil, they will die.
Ezekiel 33:18 NLT
http://bible.com/116/ezk.33.18.NLT

No, and I tell you again that unless you repent, you will perish, too.”
Luke 13:5 NLT
http://bible.com/116/luk.13.5.NLT

Yes,  and these warnings are true because the Word of God does not lie.

I cry out warnings in love each day. I’m sowing the seed of this Good News that Jesus Christ can come into your life, and change you. But many are too wrapped up in the ways of this world and don’t really want their eyes to be opened yet. I know,  because that used to be me.

So I just keep sharing truth and hope and faith and love – trusting that those that are His will hear His voice before it is too late.

And some are lost and need hope (a turn to God – change of attitude).

And some are babes and need faith (a focus and dedication and ongoing growth in His will).

And some are among leaven and need love (a remembrance of His undeserved, unmerited mercy and grace as opposed to spiritual pride).

And many are headed for destruction and need truth (it is truly a narrow path with ditches on both sides – in misunderstood grace as a license to sin – and in misunderstood works as a stairway to heaven).

When the crowds came to John for baptism, he said, “You brood of snakes! Who warned you to flee God’s coming wrath? Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones. Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.”
Luke 3:7-9 NLT
http://bible.com/116/luk.3.7-9.NLT

But if wicked people turn from their wickedness and do what is just and right, they will live.
Ezekiel 33:19 NLT
http://bible.com/116/ezk.33.19.NLT

2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

1 John 1:9 ESV
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Acts 3:19 ESV
Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out,

Ezekiel 18:21-23 ESV
But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions that he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness that he has done he shall live. Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?

Acts 17:30 ESV
The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent,

Proverbs 28:13 ESV
Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.

James 4:8-10 ESV
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

Acts 2:38 ESV
And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Building this temple or destroying it?

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
1 Corinthians 3:16-17 ESV
http://bible.com/59/1co.3.16-17.ESV

We who are followers of Jesus Christ, those who believe, who repent, who surrender our lives – we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit of Christ who lives in us. The Spirit of Truth is not for the worldly,  who are blinded by the enticements of this world, and who do not value those things eternal that truly matter. But we who are His know His voice and have a restored relationship with our Lord,  Savior,  creator,  and redeemer.

“If you love me, you will  keep my commandments.  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,  even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
John 14:15-17 ESV
http://bible.com/59/jhn.14.15-17.ESV

This relationship is not meant so that we can continue destroying this vessel,  this temple, by participating in sin that leads to death and destruction. His offer of grace is not a license to sin and a freedom from consequences – it is an unveiling of the truth for us to understand that we are holy and set apart for His use as He reconciles us to be more and more like Himself. As we spend time with Him, the very imprint of His nature,  of His glory,  of His ways become more apparent to us and we are drawn closer and closer to Him as our lives are overcome by His presence. It is a process of growing and changing – and the trials and sufferings and persecution that we face offer the opportunity for us to demonstrate His nature instead of our own.

There is a way that we would react to trials and sufferings in our old fleshly, worldly nature – by grumbling, by focusing on material things, by becoming angry or envious if others, by focusing on ourselves. But He gives us this gift of the Holy Spirit so that we might walk in the Spirit,  not in the flesh – that we might demonstrate love to one another,  especially in those c times of v trial. And we demonstrate love through joy which is not dependent upon our circumstances. We demonstrate love through the peace that passes all understanding when the world expects us to be angry or distraught,  but we have our hope in the Lord, and that even this to shall pass and will be for His glory and honor. We demonstrate love through our patience with others and situations that are imperfect just like us.  We demonstrate love through kindness to those who we do not expect to repay us. We demonstrate love through gentleness in sharing truth and accountability with those who are lost and deceived and who have not yet received or yielded to the Holy Spirit of Truth. We demonstrate love through faithfulness to follow God’s will even when it is not the easy choice, or the obvious choice, or what we would choose for ourselves. We demonstrate love through our willingness to be long suffering for the cause of Christ because we know that the temporary sufferings of this world are nothing in comparison to an eternity with our Lord,  our Savior,  our Creator,  or God.

So we must ask ourselves, do we see Him when we read the Word of God and when we speak to Him in prayer? Do we know His nature? Do we recognize Him? Do we know Him?

My hope today is that toot answer is a bold and confident yes,  but for you who are in doubt, who have not yet found your confidence in the Lord – I ask you to call upon His promises:

“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; 
let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord , that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. 
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord . 
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. 
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,  so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. 
“For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.  Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the Lord , an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”
Isaiah 55:6-13 ESV
http://bible.com/59/isa.55.6-13.ESV

“Ask,  and it will be given to you;  seek, and you will find;  knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.  Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
Matthew 7:7-11 ESV
http://bible.com/59/mat.7.7-11.ESV

“For  God so loved  the world,  that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not  perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.  And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.  For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.  But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
John 3:16-21 ESV
http://bible.com/59/jhn.3.16-21.ESV

“‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; 
even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. 
And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;  the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. 
And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
Acts 2:17-21 ESV
http://bible.com/59/act.2.17-21.ESV

because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”
Romans 10:9-11 ESV
http://bible.com/59/rom.10.9-11.ESV

“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot.  Would that you were either cold or hot!  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 
For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.  I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 
Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.  Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
Revelation 3:15-20 ESV
http://bible.com/59/rev.3.15-20.ESV

Repent? But I’m saved by faith!

2 Corinthians 13:5 ESV
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

Galatians 6:3-5 ESV
For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.

James 1:23-25 ESV
For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

Be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.
James 1:6-8 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jas.1.6-8.NLT

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.
James 2:14-17 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jas.2.14-17.NLT

Lamentations 3:40 ESV
Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord.

Acts 17:30 ESV
The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent

1 John 1:9 ESV
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Acts 2:38 ESV
And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

When the crowds came to John for baptism, he said, “You brood of snakes! Who warned you to flee God’s coming wrath? Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones. Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.”
Luke 3:7-9 NLT
http://bible.com/116/luk.3.7-9.NLT

“So fear the Lord and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord alone. But if you refuse to serve the Lord , then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord .”
The people replied, “We would never abandon the Lord and serve other gods. For the Lord our God is the one who rescued us and our ancestors from slavery in the land of Egypt. He performed mighty miracles before our very eyes. As we traveled through the wilderness among our enemies, he preserved us. It was the Lord who drove out the Amorites and the other nations living here in the land. So we, too, will serve the Lord , for he alone is our God.”
Then Joshua warned the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord , for he is a holy and jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. If you abandon the Lord and serve other gods, he will turn against you and destroy you, even though he has been so good to you.” But the people answered Joshua, “No, we will serve the Lord !”
“You are a witness to your own decision,” Joshua said. “You have chosen to serve the Lord .” “Yes,” they replied, “we are witnesses to what we have said.” “All right then,” Joshua said, “destroy the idols among you, and turn your hearts to the Lord , the God of Israel.” The people said to Joshua, “We will serve the Lord our God. We will obey him alone.”
Joshua 24:14-24 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jos.24.14-24.NLT

Titus 3:5 ESV
He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Revelation 2:5-6 ESV
Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.