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Several years ago, we published a series of articles entitled These Sayings of Mine. The table of contents for that series is posted here. For those who prefer something more succinct (or a checklist), the following contains a brief summary of the 50+ commands Jesus has given for those who desire to become houses that stand in the storms of life.

Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. Matthew 7:24-25

How can you do “these sayings of Mine,” if you do not know them? Are we foolish enough to think that we are exempt from the commands of Jesus because we have not taken the time to study them? Will our house stand because we have been purposefully ignorant?

Of course, these questions are rhetorical. Christianity is not a passive, laissez-faire religion. If we love Him, we will obey His commandments, including those found in the Sermon on the Mount.

Storms have come and storms are coming. Tribulation is promised to every Christian (John 16:33). Is your house standing? Will it stand? These questions are not rhetorical. They are two of the most important questions Christians should be asking themselves.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey (J. H. Sammis; 1846-1919).

As we consider the list, let’s call on the One who is willing and able to assess the soundness and security of our house. Participating with Him in the inspection is quite simple: for each saying, answer the questions, “Am I doing what Jesus commands here? Am I living my life according to His will?” Read the rest of this entry »

In his letter to the church at Rome, Paul’s instruction for community life begins with “Let love be without hypocrisy… (Romans 12:9a).” All that follows is built on this foundation, from the twelve additional short commands (through v. 13) to the end of the epistle.

The breadth and depth of this command presents more of a challenge than one might experience in a cursory reading. Indeed, these may be the five most challenging words in the Bible.

With all due respect to Bible reading plans, the Scriptures contain matters of truth that simply do not fit earthbound self-imposed schedules. “Let love be without hypocrisy…” is one of those truths that should blow up our reading plans. We will spiritually injure ourselves (with collateral damage to those we love) if we diligently press on to the next verse (or, in this case, phrase).

We need to sit here for a while. Our Father in heaven is bringing many sons to glory (Hebrews 2:10). We participate with Him when we invest the necessary time to search out the truths He has hidden for His children.

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter,
But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.
Proverbs 25:2

Let’s begin with a couple of definitions. First, as we have considered previously, God’s love (agapē) is more than “unconditional” (as so many teachers have popularized). In fact, it is not unconditional at all. God’s love is something more; it is better described as sacrificial. God so loved the world that He sacrificed His son, that those who believe (a condition) might be saved (John 3:16). We manifest God’s love when we sacrifice for others.

“Without hypocrisy” comes from the Greek, anypokritos. Blue Letter Bible’s Outline of Biblical Usage defines anypokritos as “unfeigned, undisguised, sincere.” Synonyms (from Oxford Dictionaries) include genuine, true, honest, authentic, unforced, wholehearted, deep, transparent, palpable, and audacious. Consider each of these and you will understand why I am stuck on “let love be without hypocrisy.” If we cannot get this right, how can we move on to the rest?

Searching further, we find John encouraging and describing our sincere love. Read the rest of this entry »

Last week, I shared the various encouragements which I had received from our heavenly Father during a season of chastening. I want to expound on one of those here; but before I do, I need to share something about the word “encouragement”.

Words are important and should be carefully chosen. In this case, a more natural word to use would have been “corrections”. So, why did I choose “encouragements”?

Encouragement is something a person does to put courage into someone else, and Christians today need all the encouragement we can get. When we submit to the Father’s chastening, He provides the courage we need to positively respond. Conversely, withdrawing from the Father’s chastening leaves us without the courage we so desperately need in this desperate time. I hope and pray that you will find and receive a large dose of courage as we search deeper into this matter of doing.

Neither restoration nor reformation will come until we stop treating the truths of Scripture like Christian clichés. For me, the challenge of this has come in two well-known passages: “…without Me, you can do nothing (John 15:5)” and “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).” Think about it.

Have you been thinking about it? If so, I am very interested in what the Holy Spirit has brought to your heart and mind. If you have not had the time or inclination, perhaps I can help. This matter of “doing” requires more of our thinking.

Thought #1: Jesus and Paul chose their words wisely. I am referring to the words “nothing” and “all”. They are absolute and extreme opposites. Read the rest of this entry »

I have just completed a welcomed five-week break from school. During that time, our heavenly Father decided to chasten me on several fronts. Indeed, He is a careful orchestrator of our time and attention. Without getting into the messy details, I would like to share a few encouragements picked up along the way.

Only the humblest person can trust their opinion of themselves. Our subconscious mind gives more attention to ourselves and thinks more of ourselves than we imagine.

Jesus Christ loves His bride regardless of the state of her health. Assessment is best left up to Him. Judgment and correction are dangerous activities when made by any mind other than Christ’s.

God delegates authority and imparts discernment and grace proportionate to our submission as instruments only. We can fake it, but we will never truly make it, until we die to ourselves.

Concern can degrade into hopelessness and cynicism when faith and joy are not nurtured and shared with others. Yes, there is much to be concerned about; but we must trust the LORD and rejoice in the good works He has created us to walk in.

Neither restoration nor reformation will come until we stop treating the truths of Scripture like Christian clichés. For me, the challenge of this has come in two well-known passages: “…without Me, you can do nothing (John 15:5)” and “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).” Think about it.

And finally, the Father is working in us to will and do to His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). The Son is making us and building His church (Matthew 4:19 and 16:18). The Holy Spirit is transforming us by the renewing of our minds (2Corinthians 3:18; Romans 12:2). How can we neglect so great a salvation as this?

God bless you with faith and courage for surrender, sacrifice, and submission to the inward work of grace.

Humbly yours and forever His,

Rob

We are settling for far less than we have been offered. We are either very stupid, or we are deceived. I do not think most Christian leaders are generally stupid. We are a well-educated people, and we tend to address our stupidity when we discover it.

On the other hand, a deceived person does not know they are deceived – at least not until someone reveals the deception that has held them captive. Fortunately, the truth will make us free. Here is some, just in case.

God’s Promises

…to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:19

His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 2Peter 1:3-4

The Danger

Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation… Hebrews 2:1-3

For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work… according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 2Thessalonians 2:7-10

Our Response

Read the rest of this entry »

The Lord is trying in this life – during our time on Earth – to prepare us for the age to come, to guide our investments for the most heavenly gain, and to secure the greatest opportunity for service in the kingdom of God for all of eternity (Matthew 25:14-30). We have limited time to benefit from God’s good work in us, individually and corporately.

Faith is given in measure (Romans 12:3). God is a generous giver, but I dare say He is not wasteful. Perhaps we receive in proportion to the measure we give back in surrender, submission, sacrifice, obedience, etc. Our participation with Him requires time and attention. We do not understand the opportunity cost of earthly distractions, or we are simply foolish Christians (you can think immature, if you wish).

…we have such a short time to prepare for such a long time. By that I mean we have now to prepare for then. We have an hour to prepare for eternity. To fail to prepare is an act of moral folly. For anyone to have a day given to prepare, it is an act of inexcusable folly to let anything hinder that preparation. A. W. Tozer

For example, why do we labor to make more money than we need on this side of eternity? Not to dismiss the potential value of inheritance, but how much is enough? Only God knows what will benefit or harm those that remain. As with all important decisions, we must leave our vocation and its length in God’s hands. We are in desperate need of spiritual ears that recognize God’s voice.

Personally, I will be 60 years old this year. Jesus has been my savior for almost 50 years, and I have been submitted to the Father’s work for more that 35 of those. That seems like a long time. Still, I have not matured as much as I would like. I have allowed too much distraction and compromise.

I wonder how much I have missed and squandered. Paul encourages us to run the race to win. I feel as though I must pick up the pace if I am to finish anywhere near what winning looks like. Based on the promises and expectations revealed in Scripture (e.g., John 14:12), I am under-achieving by a considerable margin.

By the way, we are not competing against others for the winner’s prize, but with ourselves, with what God has determined is our potential (one, five, or ten talents).

This may be heard as a “do more” injunction. That is a dangerous notion (and I am not exaggerating). The Bible’s encouragement is to know God more and to participate more in what He is doing. There is an “even more” life (Romans 5:8-10). Seeking God with our whole heart requires time and attention, not more doing. Read the rest of this entry »

Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus contains some of the most incredible promises of God and declarations regarding our relationship with Him. It is filled with passages that stretch our imagination, challenge our faith, and call us to a transcendent life.

His power is toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power (Ephesians 1:19).

God made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (2:6).

We are His workmanship (2:10).

As amazing as these claims are, they serve as mere warm-ups for what may be the most audacious promise in all of Scripture.

…that you may be filled with all the fullness of God (3:19b).

Read it again; notice the absolutes:

Not partially filled!

Not some of God’s fullness!

We may be filled with ALL of the fullness of God!!

This is one of those truths, so over the top incredible, that we are tempted to move on to the next verse. In this case, that’s not bad.

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us… (3:20)

God alone is able to do this incredible thing!! It is His work and intention. This brings to mind another passage (from another letter).

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13

Quickly (so we can get back to being filled), notice that the work of our salvation is cooperative; we work, because God is working. Furthermore, the work is a process.

So, how do we work with God to be filled with all His fullness? We find the answer – the prescription – in the process described in the preceding verses. Working backwards, our being filled with all the fullness of God is dependent on and proportional to several incremental steps. Read the rest of this entry »

And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. In this manner, therefore, pray… Matthew 6:7-9a

The denomination in which I grew up recited what we called “the Lord’s Prayer” (aka, the Model Prayer) during every church service. It was probably the first passage I memorized as a young Christian. Regrettably, it became “vain repetition”; I really didn’t think about what I was praying.

In a previous article, we proposed that the Model Prayer is something more than a prayer to recite once a week; it is a prayer of positioning. The Model Prayer is not the prayer to end all prayers, but the prayer to begin all prayers. It is through this model that we come into the Father’s presence – in humility, meekness and total dependency on Him. Without this positioning, all that we have to say are the vain repetitions of man.

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
Matthew 6:9b-13

In this article, with this notion of positioning in mind, we would like to explore three foundational truths that have been lost to the modern church. All three are found in the prayer’s last acknowledgement: For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. We will look at them one at a time. Read the rest of this entry »

Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. Luke 13:24

One of our carnal minds’ more subtle deceptions is found in our response to the seemingly impossible requirements of God. For example, consider your response to “Be holy, for I am holy” (1Peter 1:16). When faced with such a command, we tend to identify it as impossible and move on to something else, not considering that our lack of obedience fails to make it less of a command.

In moving on, we miss one of the foundational pillars of our faith: Our sufficiency is not of ourselves, but from the One who requires our holiness (2Corinthians 3:5). Striving to enter is not a matter of self-effort and personal sufficiency; it is an attitude of the new man’s mind.

If we manage to move beyond this initial deception, we have taken an important first step, but even here our carnal mind attempts to play tricks on us. The recognition of God’s sufficiency does not leave us to passively wait on Him to do whatever He will do. We must strive to participate with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the work they would do to make us holy.

So, where do we start? It is really quite simple. Once we are born again – having become a new creation – we turn to the new heart God has given us (Ezekiel 36:26); for it is within the heart that the word of God becomes faith (Romans 10:10) – faith that appropriates God’s sufficient grace for even the most impossible commands.

Furthermore, striving to enter the narrow gate is primarily a matter of pursuing a relationship with God; our heart holds that desire, waiting for Him to give it to us (Psalm 37:4). The time we spend in pursuit of that relationship is a measure of our spiritual maturity (i.e., becoming holy). Some would say it is THE measure.

Humbly yours and forever His,

Rob

The following is an addendum to An Enemy Lies Within, where, in the section on liberating others, we expose several ways Christians in America are being deceived by their carnal mind. Here, we address the way God views wealth and His prescription for investing it.

Warning: this will be one of the most threatening articles we have written. The reader will be tempted to dismiss it as impractical nonsense. Be encouraged: God is the wisest wealth manager and investment counselor. More importantly, He loves His children and knows what they need before they ask. Hear Him out on this; His objective is your highest return on the investment He has made in you.

As we begin, let’s first address the notion of wealth. Because we are community people – members of the Body of Christ and one another – it is important that we consider wealth relationally. Wealth is a relative consideration. Some of God’s people are wealthier than others, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. We learn in the Parable of the Talents that God entrusts more to some than to others (Matthew 25:14-30). Furthermore, Jesus instructs us that “to whom much is given, from Him much will be required (Luke 12:48)”. In His sovereign omniscience, God determines the amount of wealth each one should have.

So, who is wealthy among you? Let’s take a look at some surprising statistics. According to the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances, the average net worth of all U.S. families is $692,100. Using the calculator provided by the Global Rich List, we discover that the average American family is worth more than 98.74% of everyone else in the world. Using the more conservative median figure ($97,300) puts the average American in the top 8.31% wealthiest people in the world (i.e., wealthier than over 91%).

The statistics relative to income are even more startling. A U.S. worker making the federally mandated minimum wage ($7.25/hour) earns more salary than 92.2% of workers in the rest of the world. The statistics don’t lie: American Christians are rich.

Given these statistics, it is easy to understand why Christians should be giving more careful attention to the way we manage our wealth. Jesus put it this way: Read the rest of this entry »

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