An Unlikely Friend

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 6:23 NLT

I spent my lunch yesterday talking with Calvin, the bartender at the Sushi restaurant across the street from my office. Looking at us from the outside, one might consider us an unlikely pair of friends — he is a young, extremely tall, athletic black man wearing his waiter’s attire, and I am an older, very short, portly, white gentleman wearing dress pants and shirt with a sweater vest from The Masters. But here we were listening to hip hop music, talking about Rap City’s the Bassment “back in the day”, talking about bettering ourselves daily, and how important it is for us both to lead our families through avoiding some of our own mistakes and knowing that one big mistake isn’t “the end”. It is wonderful how much we truly have in common where it really matters!

I mention Calvin in reference to this verse because he is a father who genuinely loves his kids (you can see it in his eyes when he talks about them). And he wants them to not make foolish mistakes that will cost them their best life.

And this is God’s perspective on sin, my friend. Even with sin that is pleasurable to us for a season, He knows that it comes with a higher cost than anything it offers in return. He isn’t “arbitrarily making rules” to enforce upon his subjects so they will “obey Him” — like some harsh slave owner with an eager whip in hand watchful for an opportunity to use it. Choice comes with consequences — that is the very definition of choice — we choose and we get what we choose.

“Sin” is just a fancy, religious word for choosing what is not best — making a foolish decision. So the consequence of a life of “sin” is a “death” of things like opportunity and purpose. People will always argue amongst themselves over the list of “rules” — but “sin” isn’t just a checklist of 7 laws of Noah, or 10 commandments on stone, or 613 Levitical commandments.

And there is a contrast that happens as we begin to understand this free gift of God and as we get to know Jesus Christ (who is quite different from us, yet also like us) as a friend. His friendship, a closeness with Him, accepting His offer of a relationship (which we will do repeatedly not just once) is a free gift that will lead us and guide us away from the foolish decisions and into the wise decisions — away from costly consequences and into beneficial consequences — away from death and into fullest life.

And all that I’ve mentioned up to this point, even an atheist can understand and see the clear benefit upon cultures and societies of the core teachings and example of Jesus Christ, while they note the horrors and atrocities of wars and atrocities committed under the disguise of “religion”. We can see throughout history the wisdom of a community/nation full of people making wise choices versus the cost and foolishness of a community/nation full of people making foolish decisions. It seems easy to hide our individual “sin”, but when foolishness runs rampant, it is clearly a cancer killing us and not a party to just be enjoyed. And this visible truth reveals evidence of something greater and beyond just this physical life that we can see and touch and taste and smell. We are promised a life eternal — something after — something even greater — with all kinds of evidence that these promises are true.

If a man chooses Christ instead of sin — on this side He has chosen benefit and blessing and peace as His consequences. And I’m not talking about guaranteed health wealth and prosperity (those can actually be “sin” if we give up what is best in trade for them). But if a man chooses sin in this life, there will be those consequences and cost in this life.

If you have “sin” in your life that you know is costing you unnecessarily — I’m not here to guilt you into shame over your “wickedness” or being “evil”. As a father myself, that perspective when dealing with my daughter just isn’t particularly useful or helpful if I want her to learn and change her habits. But acknowledging “foolishness” and how the best might be “stolen from her” by poor choices is valuable. God isn’t surprised by your “sin”, you aren’t so especially wicked or evil or foolish — because all of us have fallen short and given up opportunity and purpose at times in this life.

But He offers us a reminder, a hand reached out in love, an example in His life, a guide in His Word, and a teacher in the Holy Spirit — to lead us not just through this life, but to prepare us for our forever home!

Is Christ your friend?

Would you like Him to be, but you aren’t sure how?

He promises that if you genuinely seek Him that you will find Him.

Time in His Word, praising and worshiping Him alongside other believers, and intimate time with Him in prayer are key.

And once you have seen that He is a trustworthy friend and a Good Father, believe Him, accept His promises, confess your belief, and share the reason for your hope through baptism and a life of loving and serving others and sharing what treasure you have found.

Does God and creator of the heavens and earth seem to be an unlikely friend to “someone like me”? I know, right? Nevertheless, He is. Truly, He is.

If you have any questions or would like help, please feel free to comment below or contact me.

Songfire

Sometimes someone else’s “songfire” is just what we needed to set us ablaze!

So what do I mean by “songfire”?

It isn’t just about singing, but the power of song is something universal that most people will understand. We’ve all heard certain songs and singer’s performances that reach out and captivate us beyond the pretty sounds and melodies and harmonies — that somehow touch us deep inside personally.

And fire is also another concept that we can grasp and understand how a little spark when fueled and stoked by the winds can level whole forests. And we’ve all felt how those internal flames can at times burn white hot and uncontrolled — and leave scorched earth in the wake of our careless actions or words in a “heated moment”. That’s even what we call it — a “heated moment” — acknowledging this universally understandable concept of “internal flame”.

So what is “songfire”?

“Songfire” is your worship. And whether you are religious or not, we all “worship” something.  It is whatever sets you ablaze and lights up your being. It is whatever captivates us and drives us in that unique way that sets fire to us and to those around us.

We see this in movies about love stories where we are spectators to others “songfire” being poured out onto each other, and it inspires and influences us.

We see this in addictions where people’s whole lives have become clearly centered around one thing and it is clear where the “songfire” of their life is being sucked out of them and consumed by their addiction, and it convicts us and serves as a warning.

We see people passionate about certain causes and standing up for their side of an argument strongly against others who are passionate on another side of an argument spewing their “songfire” at each other like arrows, stones and hellfire, and it opens our eyes to how the proper source and use of our “songfire” makes all the difference in our own lives — and in how our lives will impact others.

What lights you up?

What gets you excited?

What is your “songfire”?

What do you worship?

If it is things of this world, those things will pass away, rot, rust, decay or be destroyed eventually.

If it is a person, they will eventually let us down when we set them upon a pedestal high enough for them to fall from.

If it is riches, they will prove a neverending chase, with less and less true satisfaction — proving the more that we gain, the more that we will desire — if that is our “songfire”.

If it is pride and honor amongst others, that is also fleeting vanity and will not last — as loyalty amongst men is only as faithful as,”What have you done for me lately?”

However, if your “songfire” comes from the eternal flame of the spirit of Almighty God, what could ever extinguish such a fire? And who could stand in our presence and not be touched by the tongues of these flames if we are ablaze with such “songfire”?

Are you hungry for this type of “songfire” in your life?

Have you had a taste of it yourself, or felt the tongues of someone else’s flame, and you want more of it for yourself?

“Songfire” is worship. And worship is abandoning those other things that have been hindering or distracting us — giving up what is bad — or even giving up what is good — for devotion to what is best.

Decide today the source and focus of your “songfire” friends. It really matters Decide, and time is valuable and fleeting..

Decide today who you will serve, what your life will worship, and consider how that will impact all around you as well.

Talk to Jesus about this, friend. He is a wise advisor, an authentic advocate for what is best for you, and a friend whose “songfire” is warm and freeing to your soul and to those around you. His “songfire” will not leave scorched earth, but will refine your heart and remove the impurities and poisons that have been holding you back and stealing your joy. Amen.

1 On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. 2 Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. 3 Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. 4 And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.
Acts of the Apostles 2:1‭-‬4 NLT

23 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. 24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”
John 4:23‭-‬24 NLT

1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
Romans 12:1‭-‬2 NLT

12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. 16 Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. 17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.
Colossians 3:12‭-‬17 NLT

14 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.
Matthew 5:14‭-‬16 NLT

Concerning God’s Law

I believe it will be profitable to contemplate the following on this subject.

Christ didn’t lower/eliminate/destroy the law:

“Do not think that I came to do away with or undo the Law [of Moses] or the [writings of the] Prophets; I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For I assure you and most solemnly say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke [of the pen] will pass from the Law until all things [which it foreshadows] are accomplished. So whoever breaks one of the least [important] of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least [important] in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever practices and teaches them, he will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. “For I say to you that unless your righteousness (uprightness, moral essence) is more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:17‭-‬20 AMP

The purpose of the Law is to increase and expand awareness of what sin is (falling short of genuine holiness), and make clear our inability to meet the true requirements of true holiness, and our need for grace as a free gift of salvation from God (and not of ourselves):

But the Law came to increase and expand [the awareness of] the trespass [by defining and unmasking sin]. But where sin increased, [God’s remarkable, gracious gift of] grace [His unmerited favor] has surpassed it and increased all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, so also grace would reign through righteousness which brings eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 5:20‭-‬21 AMP

But God, being [so very] rich in mercy, because of His great and wonderful love with which He loved us, even when we were [spiritually] dead and separated from Him because of our sins, He made us [spiritually] alive together with Christ (for by His grace—His undeserved favor and mercy—you have been saved from God’s judgment). And He raised us up together with Him [when we believed], and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, [because we are] in Christ Jesus, [and He did this] so that in the ages to come He might [clearly] show the immeasurable and unsurpassed riches of His grace in [His] kindness toward us in Christ Jesus [by providing for our redemption]. For it is by grace [God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing you to Christ] that you have been saved [actually delivered from judgment and given eternal life] through faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [not through your own effort], but it is the [undeserved, gracious] gift of God; not as a result of [your] works [nor your attempts to keep the Law], so that no one will [be able to] boast or take credit in any way [for his salvation]. For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us].
Ephesians 2:4‭-‬10 AMP

The purpose of this grace is not a license to sin, but this call to freedom ands eternal life is a baptism into the death of Christ to be raised to newness and life:

What shall we say [to all this]? Should we continue in sin and practice sin as a habit so that [God’s gift of] grace may increase and overflow? Certainly not! How can we, the very ones who died to sin, continue to live in it any longer? Or are you ignorant of the fact that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We have therefore been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory and power of the Father, we too might walk habitually in newness of life [abandoning our old ways]. For if we have become one with Him [permanently united] in the likeness of His death, we will also certainly be [one with Him and share fully] in the likeness of His resurrection. We know that our old self [our human nature without the Holy Spirit] was nailed to the cross with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin. For the person who has died [with Christ] has been freed from [the power of] sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live [together] with Him, because we know [the self-evident truth] that Christ, having been raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has power over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin [ending its power and paying the sinner’s debt] once and for all; and the life that He lives, He lives to [glorify] God [in unbroken fellowship with Him]. Even so, consider yourselves to be dead to sin [and your relationship to it broken], but alive to God [in unbroken fellowship with Him] in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts and passions. Do not go on offering members of your body to sin as instruments of wickedness. But offer yourselves to God [in a decisive act] as those alive [raised] from the dead [to a new life], and your members [all of your abilities—sanctified, set apart] as instruments of righteousness [yielded] to God. For sin will no longer be a master over you, since you are not under Law [as slaves], but under [unmerited] grace [as recipients of God’s favor and mercy]. What then [are we to conclude]? Shall we sin because we are not under Law, but under [God’s] grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that when you continually offer yourselves to someone to do his will, you are the slaves of the one whom you obey, either [slaves] of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness (right standing with God)? But thank God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient with all your heart to the standard of teaching in which you were instructed and to which you were committed. And having been set free from sin, you have become the slaves of righteousness [of conformity to God’s will and purpose]. I am speaking in [familiar] human terms because of your natural limitations [your spiritual immaturity]. For just as you presented your bodily members as slaves to impurity and to [moral] lawlessness, leading to further lawlessness, so now offer your members [your abilities, your talents] as slaves to righteousness, leading to sanctification [that is, being set apart for God’s purpose]. When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness [you had no desire to conform to God’s will]. So what benefit did you get at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? [None!] For the outcome of those things is death! But now since you have been set free from sin and have become [willing] slaves to God, you have your benefit, resulting in sanctification [being made holy and set apart for God’s purpose], and the outcome [of this] is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God [that is, His remarkable, overwhelming gift of grace to believers] is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 6:1‭-‬23 AMP

The written law can act as a baby sitter of sorts to the spiritually immature who do not understand what sin truly is (sin is not a checklist that some live up to and some do not — all have fallen short of true holiness and require the grace of God through Christ Jesus):

Now what I mean [when I talk about children and their guardians] is this: as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave even though he is the [future owner and] master of all [the estate]; but he is under [the authority of] guardians and household administrators or managers until the date set by his father [when he is of legal age]. So also we [whether Jews or Gentiles], when we were children (spiritually immature), were kept like slaves under the elementary [man-made religious or philosophical] teachings of the world. But when [in God’s plan] the proper time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the [regulations of the] Law, so that He might redeem and liberate those who were under the Law, that we [who believe] might be adopted as sons [as God’s children with all rights as fully grown members of a family]. And because you [really] are [His] sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying out, “Abba! Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave (bond-servant), but a son; and if a son, then also an heir through [the gracious act of] God [through Christ]. But at that time, when you did not know [the true] God and were unacquainted with Him, you [Gentiles] were slaves to those [pagan] things which by [their very] nature were not and could not be gods at all. Now, however, since you have come to know [the true] God [through personal experience], or rather to be known by God, how is it that you are turning back again to the weak and worthless elemental principles [of religions and philosophies], to which you want to be enslaved all over again? [For example,] you observe [particular] days and months and seasons and years. I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored [to the point of exhaustion] over you in vain. Believers, I beg of you, become as I am [free from the bondage of Jewish ritualism and ordinances], for I have become as you are [a Gentile]. You did me no wrong [when I first came to you; do not do it now]. On the contrary, you know that it was because of a physical illness that I [remained and] preached the gospel to you the first time; and even though my physical condition was a trial to you, you did not regard it with contempt, or scorn and reject me; but you received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus Himself. What then has become of that sense of blessing and the joy that you once had [from your salvation and your relationship with Christ]? For I testify of you that, if possible, you would have torn out your own eyes and given them to me [ to replace mine]. So have I become your enemy by telling you the truth? These men [the Judaizers] eagerly seek you [to entrap you with honeyed words and attention, to win you over to their philosophy], not honorably [for their purpose is not honorable or worthy of consideration]. They want to isolate you [from us who oppose them] so that you will seek them.
Galatians 4:1‭-‬17 AMP

It was for this freedom that Christ set us free [completely liberating us]; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery [which you once removed]. Notice, it is I, Paul, who tells you that if you receive circumcision [as a supposed requirement of salvation], Christ will be of no benefit to you [for you will lack the faith in Christ that is necessary for salvation]. Once more I solemnly affirm to every man who receives circumcision [as a supposed requirement of salvation], that he is under obligation and required to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, if you seek to be justified [that is, declared free of the guilt of sin and its penalty, and placed in right standing with God] through the Law; you have fallen from grace [for you have lost your grasp on God’s unmerited favor and blessing]. For we [not relying on the Law but] through the [strength and power of the Holy] Spirit, by faith, are waiting [confidently] for the hope of righteousness [the completion of our salvation]. For [if we are] in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but only faith activated and expressed and working through love. This [deceptive] persuasion is not from Him who called you [to freedom in Christ]. A little leaven [a slight inclination to error, or a few false teachers] leavens the whole batch [it perverts the concept of faith and misleads the church]. I have confidence in you in the Lord that you will adopt no other view [contrary to mine on the matter]; but the one who is disturbing you, whoever he is, will have to bear the penalty. But as for me, brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision [as I had done before I met Christ; and as some accuse me of doing now, as necessary for salvation], why am I still being persecuted [by Jews]? In that case the stumbling block of the cross [to unbelieving Jews] has been abolished. I wish that those who are troubling you [by teaching that circumcision is necessary for salvation] would even [go all the way and] castrate themselves! For you, my brothers, were called to freedom; only do not let your freedom become an opportunity for the sinful nature (worldliness, selfishness), but through love serve and seek the best for one another. For the whole Law [concerning human relationships] is fulfilled in one precept, “Y ou shall love your neighbor as yourself [that is, you shall have an unselfish concern for others and do things for their benefit].” But if you bite and devour one another [in bickering and strife], watch out that you [along with your entire fellowship] are not consumed by one another. But I say, walk habitually in the [Holy] Spirit [seek Him and be responsive to His guidance], and then you will certainly not carry out the desire of the sinful nature [which responds impulsively without regard for God and His precepts]. For the sinful nature has its desire which is opposed to the Spirit, and the [desire of the] Spirit opposes the sinful nature; for these [two, the sinful nature and the Spirit] are in direct opposition to each other [continually in conflict], so that you [as believers] do not [always] do whatever [good things] you want to do. But if you are guided and led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the Law. Now the practices of the sinful nature are clearly evident: they are sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality (total irresponsibility, lack of self-control), idolatry, sorcery, hostility, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions [that promote heresies], envy, drunkenness, riotous behavior, and other things like these. I warn you beforehand, just as I did previously, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit [the result of His presence within us] is love [unselfish concern for others], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature together with its passions and appetites. If we [claim to] live by the [Holy] Spirit, we must also walk by the Spirit [with personal integrity, godly character, and moral courage—our conduct empowered by the Holy Spirit]. We must not become conceited, challenging or provoking one another, envying one another.
Galatians 5:1‭-‬6‭, ‬8‭-‬26 AMP

And we see that God’s law has been faith not self-righteousness even from the beginning with Abraham:

What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather humanly speaking, has found? [Has he obtained a favored standing?] For if Abraham was justified [that is, acquitted from the guilt of his sins] by works [those things he did that were good], he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed in (trusted, relied on) God , and it was credited to his account as righteousness (right living, right standing with God).” Now to a laborer, his wages are not credited as a favor or a gift, but as an obligation [something owed to him]. But to the one who does not work [that is, the one who does not try to earn his salvation by doing good], but believes and completely trusts in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited to him as righteousness (right standing with God). And in this same way David speaks of the blessing on the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: “Blessed and happy and favored are those whose lawless acts have been forgiven , A nd whose sins have been covered up and completely buried . Blessed and happy and favored is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account nor charge against him .”
Romans 4:1‭-‬8 AMP

And Christianity tells us it is the opposite — that our best is filthy rags — that we are incapable of true selfless love apart from the Lord — that anything pure and true in a believer comes from the Holy Spirit of God and not from self. Yet, we seem surprised and offended by people’s weaknesses, hurts, and struggles — and expectant and demanding of others’ perfect outward appearance to meet our standards.

The Kingdom of God definitely turns the ways of the religious on its head.

Lord, help us.

Prove That You Really Are

So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Do these things, and you will never fall away.
2 Peter 1:10 NLT

Life Application Study Bible
Peter wanted to rouse the complacent believers who had listened to the false teachers and believed that because salvation is not based on good deeds, they could live any way they wanted. If you truly belong to the Lord, Peter wrote, your hard work will prove it. If you’re not working to develop the qualities listed in 2 Peter 1:5-7, maybe you don’t belong to him. If you are the Lord’s-and your hard work backs up your claim to be chosen by God (“called and chosen”)-you will never be led astray by the lure of false teaching or glamorous sin.

So we should ask ourselves — if I say that I am a Child of God, is my life developing to demonstrate such an extraordinary claim?

In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.
2 Peter 1:5‭-‬7 NLT

What does this look like?

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.
Galatians 5:22‭-‬25 NLT

This isn’t a demonstration of our “worthiness” or our “earning” anything — because no man or woman is worthy in and of themselves, nor can any man earn his own way — all fall short of the glory of God.

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.
Romans 3:23 NLT

God looks down from heaven on the entire human race; he looks to see if anyone is truly wise, if anyone seeks God. But no, all have turned away; all have become corrupt. No one does good, not a single one!
Psalms 53:2‭-‬3 NLT

The things that Peter describes in 2 Peter 1 that we should “Do these things, and shall never fall away” are:

faith…

moral excellence…

knowledge…

self-control…

patient endurance…

godliness…

brotherly affection…

love for everyone.

You see these are character/nature/ being and not a checklist of actions. So this is a demonstration of either Christ alive in us, God making His tabernacle with His people, in them and through them with those He has called and chosen — or the absence of such a personal and life altering relationship with Almighty God.

“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father. “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. This is my command: Love each other.
John 15:1‭-‬17 NLT

The fruit comes from God and is the trustworthy and true evidence of His indwelling His children. It isn’t how religious someone is, or how much they know “about” God — do you truly know and love God? Does He truly know you and live in and through you?

“Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions. “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’
Matthew 7:15‭-‬23 NLT

If you look at your life today, and you can see your need to be changed, your need to be reborn, to be washed from your sin and changed on the inside to sell after and grow and live in the ways of God, for His glory instead of for your own, I have Good News for you, friend.

If you have never truly repented and believed,

If you have always opposed God or just given Him lip service or Sunday service,

Never truly surrendered your whole life because you believe His way is the only way, the only truth, the only life,

Read this Good News:

Later on, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee, where he preached God’s Good News. “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!
Mark 1:14‭-‬15 NLT

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants. ”
John 3:16‭-‬21 NLT

And this is not a decision to be taken lightly, frivilously, or half heartedly, but with full commitment and surrender:

Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins. There is only the terrible expectation of God’s judgment and the raging fire that will consume his enemies. For anyone who refused to obey the law of Moses was put to death without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Just think how much worse the punishment will be for those who have trampled on the Son of God, and have treated the blood of the covenant, which made us holy, as if it were common and unholy, and have insulted and disdained the Holy Spirit who brings God’s mercy to us. For we know the one who said, “I will take revenge. I will pay them back.” He also said, “The Lord will judge his own people.” It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Think back on those early days when you first learned about Christ. Remember how you remained faithful even though it meant terrible suffering. Sometimes you were exposed to public ridicule and were beaten, and sometimes you helped others who were suffering the same things. You suffered along with those who were thrown into jail, and when all you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with joy. You knew there were better things waiting for you that will last forever. So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised. “For in just a little while, the Coming One will come and not delay. And my righteous ones will live by faith. But I will take no pleasure in anyone who turns away.” But we are not like those who turn away from God to their own destruction. We are the faithful ones, whose souls will be saved.
Hebrews 10:26‭-‬39 NLT

Count the cost and be fully decided today in your heart who it is that you serve.

A large crowd was following Jesus. He turned around and said to them, “If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’ “Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him? And if he can’t, he will send a delegation to discuss terms of peace while the enemy is still far away. So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own. “Salt is good for seasoning. But if it loses its flavor, how do you make it salty again? Flavorless salt is good neither for the soil nor for the manure pile. It is thrown away. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!”
Luke 14:25‭-‬35 NLT

We are called to repentance and belief, dear brothers and sisters. Hear the call:

So Jesus told them this story: “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away! “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.
Luke 15:3‭-‬10 NLT

And you, prodigal sons and daughters, who have been in the slop with the odds instead of in your Father’s house and you need to be drawn back in, read this:

To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons. The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons. “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything. “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’ “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. ’ “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.
Luke 15:11‭-‬24 NLT


Lord, grant us today the gift of repentance. Call us ot of sin and into the faithful lives that you have set before us. Come, live in and through us, as we surrender our lives to your way, your will, your purpose, your plan, and your glory. Hallelujah, Amen!

The Love of God

In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.
I John 4:9 NKJV
https://bible.com/bible/114/1jn.4.9.NKJV

For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
Isaiah 9:6‭-‬7 NKJV
https://bible.com/bible/114/isa.9.6-7.NKJV

For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
Romans 5:6‭-‬11 NKJV
https://bible.com/bible/114/rom.5.6-11.NKJV

No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”
John 3:13‭-‬21 NKJV
https://bible.com/bible/114/jhn.3.13-21.NKJV

Father, Reveal…

Father,

Reveal who you are. 

You are setting the world right. 

Keep us alive with sustaining meals for both body and spirit. 

Keep us forgiven in you and forgiving others freely. 

Keep us safe from ourselves and from the enemy.

Amen.

Philippians 2:13 “God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey Him, and the power to do what pleases Him.”


Romans 8:1 “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.”


“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him. “This is the crisis we’re in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God. Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won’t come near it, fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is.” – John 3:16‭-‬21 MSG


But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I delight in these things. I, the Lord , have spoken! – Jeremiah 9:24 NLT

The smell of death lingers, but not for long… (yes, there’s a poop joke)

Lol. Check this out.
I come back in from my morning run,  my stomach telling me that it is time to shed some weight…

I walk into the master bathroom and hear the fan running in the water closet, so I ask my wife,  “Did you just use the bathroom?” To which she replies, “It’s not bad, just give it a…” — I didn’t hear the rest and went straight to the hall bathroom.


You know —

Eve said, “It’s not bad, just give it a…” too — and Adam died because he listened to her. 
Love you, but I’ll just use the hall bathroom. Death is lingering in that other bathroom, and I’ll wait until it has departed. Love you, honey!

Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?” So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.” And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?” Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to  be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.” And the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” So the Lord God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, You are cursed more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you shall go, And you shall eat dust All the days of your life. And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.” To the woman He said: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall  be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.” Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: “Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.” – Genesis 3:1‭-‬19 NKJV

When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. But it was not counted as sin because there was not yet any law to break. Still, everyone died—from the time of Adam to the time of Moses—even those who did not disobey an explicit commandment of God, as Adam did. Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of Christ, who was yet to come. But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ. Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous. God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. – Romans 5:12‭-‬21 NLT

Wanted, Dead or Alive

wanted-workout
Dead to Sin, Alive to God
Romans 6:6-14
6 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self[a] was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free[b] from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
Today’s Workout
———————-
One master wants you to be dead and defeated, powerless against sin and evil and wickedness – while the other master wants you to experience an abundant life that brings encouragement, nourishment, forgiveness, hope, love, and faith to those in your circle of influence. Which will you serve? Will you uplift and empower those around you to be the best that they can be? Will you help people succeed in fulfilling the vision for their life dreams? Will you be a hand up to those around you in need? Will you be a shoulder to lean on for those who need comforting? Will you be a welcome port of peace and encouragement in their storm? Do you realize that through your example, you will either grow the fruit in them that will nourish you in your times of need – or you will allow the weeds that are choking out their possibilities to also choke you out when you need to lean to them?
This life is a team sport. You’re working out, you’re putting in work for one team or the other.
You’re wanted Dead or Alive.
Choose life. Choose Jesus. And let Him come and live in you and through you today – contaminating every part of your life with the overflow of His spirit. Get to work!

Slaves?

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.
Romans 6:15‭-‬18 NKJV

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt  to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.
Galatians 5:1‭-‬5 NKJV

Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.  And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever.  Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.
John 8:34‭-‬36 NKJV

We naturally like the idea of being powerful and in control and in authority over our own lives. We naturally like our who to be inflated and proud,  in fact,  the world and modern society rewards and applauds those with inflated egos and envies them and puts them in high places of honor because they are usually very productive and successful from a worldly perspective.

I’m not saying that the humble cannot also be very productive and successful, but for the humble it is a byproduct of the Lord’s favor and blessing poured on them so they can help others – while for the proud, it is a heeping up of treasures for themselves. Yes, it truly is about the master of our heart and desires. You cannot say rich=favored/forsaken and poor=forsaken/favored anymore than you can say works=heaven and still=death. The Lord is not a respects of persons, stations, or titles and sets us each in our own position to be used according to His will and guidance, for His glory and honor.

Yes, if I’m seeking my own honor and glory, isn’t it clear which master I am serving? If I choose to live in evil and doubt over living in the righteousness of faith and godly love, isn’t it clear which master I am serving?

Do not fear, little ones, He corrects you in order to change you. He shows you what needs to be cast out of your life so that the enemy will not gain a foothold within your life. He tells you that there is a better master to free you, not just from the wages and consequences of death “some day” but to free you from a life of sin TODAY.

He who Christ sets free is free indeed. Are you on your way towards being set free? Are you longing for that day when sin and death and the darkness of this world will be long forgotten and you will walk in light? Then keep seeking Him diligently and remain steadfast in the faith,  because many have fallen away,  friend. And don’t rest in your own strength, which is weakness and imperfection. Our help comes from the Lord. Trust in Him and Him alone.  Hunger for righteousness for His name’s sake, not so that you can appear righteous in the eyes of others. Become a slave,  and in doing so, experience true freedom.

Slave to the master who frees slaves to an abundant life – or slave to the master who steals, kills, and destroys? We each choose. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

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