God As The Great Dispenser

“You, Lord, are the Most High over all the earth” Psalm 97

Lawrence beamed at the capacity audience in San Francisco; the sixth stop of his Worldwide Evangelical Movement tour. “God is sitting on his throne, waiting for you to give him a hint. That’s right, God is leaning forward, anxious to hear your requests so he can give you what you desire in the deepest place in your heart. He made you to abide with him some day and until that day, he wants to make you happy and satisfied.

“Have you been passed over for that promotion? God knows and wants to release the blessings of that new job to you. Can’t find that special person to complete you? God is aware of that missing piece in your puzzle of life as well. What about the home you keep driving by, wishing it was yours? Yes, my friends, God is fully aware of your needs and he wants to fulfill them, make you happy and give you the greatest, most fulfilling experience that life has to offer.

“I know some of you are thinking something like, ‘How can I ever afford that home I truly want? I need a better job and less debt.’ Friends, God is the God of satisfaction and delight. He made you and knows how to make you satisfied and content on this earth as you prepare for eternal life with him.

Lawrence became silent, walking back and forth on the platform, scanning the audience as he moved. And then, “What is the key to unlocking God’s blessings, you ask? Sacrifice. Yes, it is sacrifice. Think of how he showed his love for us. Sacrifice! He sacrificed his own Son so we could have this wonderful life. And now he expects us to learn that same sacrifice. God GAVE so we could live and now it is our turn. We must sacrificially GIVE to release those blessings from heaven.”

By now Lawrence was commanding the audience with his fine-tuned and powerful voice, it was as though he hypnotized them…”Give, give, give. Sacrificially give. Give when you don’t think you can. God is waiting. Release those blessings from the throne of God.” They were on their feet as the army of ushers passed buckets across the rows of excited, believing people.

Does this scenario sound familiar? Do you have secret desires you hope God will bring to pass to make your life better? Desires of more money, better job, better marriage, better body, bigger house? If you do, admit it to God. As the famous southern pastor, J. Vernon Mcgee once said, “You might as well tell Him because He knows anyway.”

God does understand our secret desires of wealth, health, homes, trips, etc. But what he wants for us is far better. Does anyone really believe that God sent his only Son, Jesus, to live and die for us so that we could have more money, bigger homes, better cars, and more fun? Jesus did give sacrificially, didn’t he? His sacrifice was given freely so you and I could experience redemption and forgiveness of sins. Surely we can see clearly that Christ did not experience such an excruciating torture and death so we could accumulate more stuff on earth.

Our lives are actually spiritual. As such our warfare is taking place in the spiritual realms, every day— every hour. God’s great sacrifice has made it possible for us to walk our lives guided by the Holy Spirit. As we gear up each day with the Armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-13), we engage in the battle with God as our General. Do you see material things as important in this daily battle for souls?

Men and women who claim to speak for God but seek to gratify their flesh are, in truth, serving the enemy of our soul and feeding their own flesh. The Bible tells us to die to the flesh:

Romans 8:12-16  “So then, my friends, we have an obligation, but it is not to live as our human nature wants us to. 13 For if you live according to your human nature, you are going to die; but if by the Spirit you put to death your sinful actions, you will live. 14 Those who are led by God’s Spirit are God’s children. 15 For the Spirit that God has given you does not make you slaves and cause you to be afraid; instead, the Spirit makes you God’s children, and by the Spirit’s power we cry out to God, “Father! my Father!” 16 God’s Spirit joins himself to our spirits to declare that we are God’s children.”   

A man left his house early one morning to attend a Bible study. He saw an obstacle! A flat tire. Not low but dead flat. He had no time to change a tire. He pondered his situation and felt God nudging him to have faith that He would take care of the tire. So, he prayed and believed that God would do the impossible. He drove three miles to a gas station, filled the tire with air and drove to the study. The tire never leaked or deflated again. Life is spiritual!

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Fasting

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“I denied myself by fasting for them”  Psalm 35:13

Scripture does not command Christians to fast. God does not require or demand it of Christians. At the same time, the Bible presents fasting as something that is good, profitable, and beneficial. The book of Acts records believers fasting before they made important decisions (Acts 13:2; 14:23). Fasting and prayer are often linked together (Luke 2:37; 5:33). Too often, the focus of fasting is on the lack of food. Instead, the purpose of fasting should be to take your eyes off the things of this world to focus completely on God. Fasting is a way to demonstrate to God, and to ourselves, that we are serious about our relationship with Him. Fasting helps us gain a new perspective and a renewed reliance upon God.

Although fasting in Scripture is almost always a fasting from food, there are other ways to fast. Anything given up temporarily in order to focus all our attention on God can be considered a fast. Fasting should be limited to a set time. Fasting is not intended to punish the flesh, but to redirect attention to God. The purpose of a biblical fast is to gain deeper fellowship with God. Anyone can fast, but some may not be able to fast from food (diabetics, for example). Everyone can temporarily give up something in order to draw closer to God.

By taking our eyes off the things of this world, we can more successfully turn our attention to Christ. Fasting is not a way to get God to do what we want. Fasting changes us, not God. Fasting is not a way to appear more spiritual than others. Matthew 6:16-18 declares, “And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”  

Fasting is not a magic wand or get-out-of-jail-free card with God. For example: 2 Sam 12:13-23. To quote David, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”

Here is another powerful example of fasting: Esther 4:15-16. Esther was actually risking her life as she relied on God, willing to die if that was to be the outcome. Fasting also played an integral role in King Jehoshaphat’s decision to find God’s will for the defense of his kingdom: 2 Chron. 20:1-5.

In Acts 13:2-3, we see that fasting and worshiping the Lord and prayer are combined to seek God’s direction: “One day as these men were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Appoint Barnabas and Saul for the special work to which I have called them.” So after more fasting and prayer, the men laid their hands on them and sent them on their way.”

When combined with prayer and worship, fasting brings change in our hearts. God is not obligated to give us something because we fasted. Instead, He is delighted that we were willing to focus on Him in this way. God’s love compels us to seek Him at every turn, not just when we are in need or wish a life-change. If I determine to seek God by fasting and prayer, I will change and God will be pleased.

Ephesians, Part 6



“I rejoice in your Word like one who discovers a great treasure” Psalms

Ephesians Chapter 1

6-8 Now all praise to God for his wonderful kindness to us and his favor that he has poured out upon us because we belong to his dearly loved Son. So overflowing is his kindness toward us that he took away all our sins through the blood of his Son, by whom we are saved; and he has showered down upon us the richness of his grace—for how well he understands us and knows what is best for us at all times. TLB

Do we continually wash ourselves in the Word of God? Do we take time each day to relish our eternal standing in Christ, our complete forgiveness of sins?

Two Christian men in a meeting to discuss the upcoming events in their church:

“Well, let’s begin with prayer.”

“Sure, but keep it brief. I have two more meetings after this one.”

“Don’t worry, my schedule is hectic as well.”

You may be thinking, what’s your point? These men are obviously very busy and know that God hears them at all times so why not get on with their meeting? Take a second and consider Psalm 119:162 above, If one of these men had just discovered a great treasure in his attic or received a notice of a large inheritance, do you think he might find time to share his joy and great fortune with his friend? Would his demeanor be glowing with excitement as he continually thought of what lay ahead? Of course.

And yet, we have discovered the greatest treasure of all. One that will never tarnish, rust or lose its value. Our treasure came wrapped in swaddling clothes, walked upon the earth healing disease and telling the future. And then our treasure willingly died for us, took on Himself the punishment for our sins. But next came His most stunning example of eternal power, He rose from the dead, assuming his position of power at God’s right hand.

Through His actions, Jesus gave us new life both here on earth and, more importantly, in heaven forever with God. Does this sound routine to you? Am I excited by this wonderful truth? Or have I allowed myself to be overcome with life’s busyness; reading the Bible occasionally, attending church, giving my tithe.

I was at a friend’s house lately, watching a sporting event with several people. The teams were closely matched and the score moved back and forth until the final few seconds. My team was slightly behind. There was a spirit of tension and excitement in the room. And then, as the clock wound down to the final seconds, my team scored, winning the game. The room exploded with joy and disappointment, depending on which team you hoped would win. Those who were rooting for the winning team were jumping up and down hugging each other. The others were disappointed and sad. You know the feeling of joy when your team wins at the last second.

After reading the verses in Ephesians 1 above, what sort of excitement and jubilation should I feel— every day?

“All praise to God for His wonderful kindness to us.”

I should be jumping up and down as I recall His words. I am on the winning team forever. God has forgiven all my sins and prepared a place for me in heaven (John 14:1-3). He will wipe away all my tears (Revelation 21:4).

“For the joy that was set before Him” Jesus “endured the cross.” Hebrews 12:2 Savor God’s Word.

Ephesians, Part 5


“The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” John 6:63

Ephesians Chapter 1

5 God decided in advance to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. This is what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure.

Millions of pages have been written about the “meaning of life,” the “deep secrets of life.” And yet, in two succinct sentences, God’s Word (the Bible) has given us the answer. Well, maybe, we ponder. But it can’t be that simple, can it?

An old story goes like this, “Once upon a time, there was a hiker out to see the wonders of his world. In his adventures he came to the edge of a great crevasse and wanted to see just how deep this mighty gorge was. So he came closer and peeked over. He couldn’t quite see to the bottom. He leaned closer, then closer. “Just one more inch,” he thought and leaned out a bit farther.

He fell!

Miraculously his hand caught a bit of scrub brush growing out of the wall. He was saved. But was he? He was at least ten feet from the top. He called out, “Is anyone up there? Please help me!”

Then a voice said, “This is God. I can help.”

“Oh thank you, God. What shall I do?”

“Let go of the bush.”

“What?”

“Let go of the bush.”

The man thought a few seconds then said, “Is there anyone else up there?”

As desperate as we are to find peace, as obviously broken and confused our lives become, when we call out for help and God says, “Let go of your life and give me control,” we, like the hiker, say, “Is there anyone else up there?”

Deep in our secret-most thoughts, we all know Someone created the world. It’s not possible that billions of years ago two planets collided (without exploding into nothingness), cooled for a few million years and became earth with its perfect, life-sustaining atmosphere. No. It was God.

Romans Chapter 1

19-20 For the truth about God is known to them instinctively; God has put this knowledge in their hearts. Since earliest times men have seen the earth and sky and all God made, and have known of his existence and great eternal power. So they will have no excuse when they stand before God at Judgment Day.

Funny how we all share a common trait: The stubbornness of giving God, the creator of our world and lover of our souls, control of our lives. I can’t speak for you but before I gave God control, my life wasn’t exactly picture-perfect, humming smoothly along.

Hosanna!


“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”  ~Mark 11:10

He was murdered! First horribly beaten. Then forced to carry his own cross to Golgatha for his crucifixion. And then, instead of shouting something mighty and springing off the cross— He died! They saw him die. Their minds swam with confusion. How could it be? He said he was the Messiah. He performed many miracles and taught with power.

He was known as a carpenter’s son but he claimed to be God— the Messiah! He caused trouble wherever he spoke and he spoke to thousands of people desperate for the truth, for hope.

“So Jesus and his disciples got up and went with [the father whose daughter had died]. Just then a woman who had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding came up behind him. She touched the fringe of his robe, for she thought, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.” Jesus turned around, and when he saw her he said, “Daughter, be encouraged! Your faith has made you well.” And the woman was healed at that moment.”  ~Matt. 9:19-22

He infuriated the religious leaders who plotted to kill him. Yes, their solution was to kill the King of Glory! After all, he was a heretic according to them. They refused to believe his claims of being the living Messiah, torn from the pages of their sacred texts. God would not appear as an ordinary man, born to poor people in a small village. And what about the outrageous idea of the virgin birth? Heresy!

When speaking to his own disciples, he said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” ~John 14:6. More than 2,000 years later, as we read this statement from the Book of John, we easily understand what Jesus meant. And yet, his followers, his closest brethren, were still confused.

Although His arrest and death upon the cross was imminent, victory was just around the corner for his followers and for us. “For everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13

Some people wonder how the Jews and Romans were able to kill Jesus if he is who he says he is. Jesus addresses that as follows:  “No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.” ~John 10:18

Jesus was and is, the sinless one who died in our place. He paid the penalty for all our sins. Faith in Christ cleanses our souls and transforms us into new creations, fully acceptable to face our Heavenly Father. But that’s not all, is it. No. There is one more step in this incredible process of redemption and victory over sin and death.

“I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.” ~1 Corinthians 15:3-4

Easter Sunday or Resurrection Sunday as some churches now name it, celebrates Jesus’ transformation from death to life. He was dead. Oh yes He was. Wrapped in grave clothes, sealed in a tomb. But death could not hold the Savior. Our Redeemer rose from the dead on the third day, according to God’s perfect plan!

“Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb.

Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint.

Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.” ~Matthew 28:1-7

So you see, Easter Sunday is a celebration of the cornerstone of our faith the lynchpin of our eternal forgiveness. Right this moment, Jesus is alive, at the right hand of God, pleading for us in accordance with God’s perfect plan. “But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand. . .For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy (all believers in Christ). ~Hebrews 10:12-14

Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 8:1; Hebrews 12:2; 1 Peter 3:22

Bunnies and Eggs?

Dean, Cole and Brad were having their weekly meeting at their favorite coffee shop. Brad was the coffee aficionado who seemed able to discern between every coffee variety. He only drank black coffee…very dark! For Dean and Cole, it was part friendship and part lattes. Their idea of good coffee was espresso (any variety), steamed milk and syrup. As to where coffee originated, they hadn’t the slightest idea. This week was the week before Easter Sunday.

Since Brad was an active Christian, Easter was a special time of the year. “Ok, what does Easter mean to you guys?,” he said.

“Bunnies, eggs, and delicious ham dinners,” said Cole.

“Chocolate bunnies, candy eggs, and fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy at our house,” Dean said. “As I look back on it, I think the candy part was my folks’ way of getting us to behave during that season. If we misbehaved, not so much candy.”

All three chuckled and got off on an obedience tangent for a minute. “Did either of you go to church or even hear about Jesus and the resurrection when you were kids?” asked Brad.

Both men agreed that church or mention of Jesus’ resurrection was absent from their childhood. “My aunt Ethel was a Christian I think. She always gave us Bible stuff around Easter time. One time she gave all three of us kids Bibles with our names in gold. That was cool!” said Cole. “Now that I mention it, she was always a caring, generous woman. I got into some serious trouble once when I was 17 and she bailed me out and paid my fines. She also got me a job which changed my life. Because of my Aunt Ethel, I own my furniture company. She got me a job with her brother who built furniture. That’s how it all began.”

“No church or Jesus or resurrection in my family either,” said Dean. “But my girlfriend in my senior year was a Christian and her father had a rule that anyone who dated his daughters, he had two, had to attend their church. I figured that was simple enough so every Sunday evening I went to their little church. I think that was an important step in my becoming a Christian later. I got pretty attached to the young pastor. It seemed like he could see inside my mind but he was not judgmental, he was full of love. You know, real love without conditions. Funny how I walked away from my faith over the years.”

Savoring another sip of his coffee, Brad said, “I don’t know if you guys know this or not but I never knew anything about Christ or His resurrection until I was in my twenties. We never went to church or even talked about God. Easter was like you both described, chocolate bunnies, candy eggs and other types of treats. We didn’t go to church first but went to my grandparents or aunt and uncle’s place for a ham dinner with all the trimmings. My grandmother, my aunt and mom all cooked the feast while we played outside. Those are good memories too.”

“That brings up a valid question then, Brad, what’s wrong with keeping those family traditions at Easter. You just admitted those are good memories and we all feel the same way. Why do Christians have to make such a big deal about this?,” said Cole.

“You make a good point, Cole. Actually, we shouldn’t make such a big deal about the normal festivities with candies and special ham dinners. We should realize that they are separate things and keep them separate. If you’re not a Christian, you aren’t interested in hearing about the resurrection of Jesus even though it is the most significant event in all of history. To unbelievers it is boring or intimidating or downright frustrating to be forced to hear about that.

“I guess what has happened is the church has adopted easter egg hunts, chocolate bunnies as prizes and candy eggs as well. It is the church that needs to establish its priorities, not the world. Maybe the church felt like they were being left out or were taking away a treat from their members so they added “Christian” easter egg hunts with candy prizes after a sermon on the resurrection. I realize that by combining the two things, the church is diluting the message of His resurrection. How can we spend an hour or more singing and preaching about the risen Lord and then follow that with an easter egg hunt?

“Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb.

Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint.

Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying.”      ~Matthew 28:1-6

Hallelujah!

April 6, 2019

“I was dead, but look, I am alive forever and ever, and I hold the keys to death and Hades.” Rev 1:18

Without doubt, the most important event on the calendar for followers of Christ, is what we call Easter. As the old hymn proclaims, “He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!” Easter Sunday is a day of joyous celebration. This is a worldwide day of jubilation which recognizes that although His death on the cross seemed a colossal failure, it was only the beginning, not the end!

After three days in the tomb, Jesus rose, shed His death clothes and gave final instructions to His disciples. And because of that, we too have the promise of eternal life as He gave to the thief on the cross beside him, “I assure you: Today you will be with Me in paradise.”  Luke 23:43

The resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is the focal point of our hope as found in the following Scriptures:

1 Cor 15:13-14, 19: But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is futile and your faith is empty. … For if only in this life we have hope in Christ, we should be pitied more than anyone.

Acts 2:24, 32: God raised Him up, ending the pains of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it…God has resurrected this Jesus. We are all witnesses of this.

Matthew 28:1-10 Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee) went out to visit the tomb. Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint.

Then the angel spoke to the women, “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.”

Luke 24:46-48 He also said to them: “This is what is written: the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead the third day, and repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.

1 Cor 15:1-6   Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then, and you still stand firm in it. 2 It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message I told you—unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place. 3 I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. 4 He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. 5 He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. 6 After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.

Acts 4:33  And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus…

Acts 17:18  Because he was telling the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.

Acts 26:22-23  Saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would take place—that the Messiah must suffer, and that as the first to rise from the dead, He would proclaim light to our people and to the Gentiles.

Romans 10:9-10  If you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

Jesus’ victory over death gives all His followers an unwavering hope of everlasting life with Him. Although we shall die, unless Jesus returns with the trumpet blast and angelic shout first (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18), we shall not perish but taste life that never ends, residing in the New Jerusalem with Almighty God and the resurrected Son.