Friday, January 31, 2020

Today’s Jerichos

Friday, January 31, 2020 By Van Houser

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. Itching to attack we demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  II Corinthians 10:3-5

Today’s Jerichos

In the passage from Joshua we have considered this week we have seen how God led the Israelites to victory over the fortress of Jericho.  The people of Israel were greatly rewarded by the victory but also learned some lasting truths about their God.

The final victory was quite a scene.  On the seventh day, they marched seven times around Jericho with the Priests blowing a ram’s horn, called a shophar.  The shophar was not a battle trumpet; it was used as a call to worship, so they continued to march and play.  Then at the conclusion of the seventh circuit, the trumpets blew a long, sustained note, and all the people shouted.  I don’t know what they shouted, but when they shouted, the walls came tumbling down!!

Now don’t miss this: There is abundant archeological evidence that the walls crumbled from the inside out, which confirms the story of the bible.  You’ve probably heard the old song that says, “Joshua fought the battle of Jericho...and the walls came tumbling down.”  It’s a nice song, but it’s all wrong.  Joshua didn’t fight the battle of Jericho – the Lord fought the battle, and he alone was the victor!!

Now we’re not only talking about a city that was conquered 3,300 years ago, we’re talking about my Jericho and your Jericho!!  The bible teaches that there will be personal strongholds and fortified cities, that impede our spiritual progress.  Now let me give you a definition of a spiritual stronghold: an outpost that the enemy has built in your mind.  Think about it like this: Your life is occupied territory that belongs to Jesus, but, Satan, is always on the attack and if you have a weakness, he will use it as his base of operations to thwart your spiritual growth!!

Just as the walls of Jericho came tumbling down by the divine power of God, the Bible says that we have divine power to demolish strongholds, but before you can demolish your strongholds, you must identify them!!  A stronghold may be an addiction, an obsession, and unhealthy thought pattern, or a recurring habit.  But the key to demolishing any stronghold, is to focus your mind on bringing your thoughts into obedience to Christ.

As Proverbs 23:7 says, As a person thinks in his heart, so is he.  Our spiritual progress is halted until we destroy the enemy’s fortresses in our lives!  You have the God-given power to bring your thoughts captive to Jesus, by thinking about the right things, which is why the Bible says in Philippians 4:8, Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent and praiseworthy think about such things.  And that is our Scripture to Claim.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Follow Through

Thursday, January 30, 2020 By Van Houser

Then he said to the people, "Go forward, and march around the city, and let the armed men go on before the ark of the LORD."  (Joshua 6:7)    Then on the seventh day they rose early at the dawning of the day and marched around the city in the same manner seven times; only on that day they marched around the city seven times.  At the seventh time, when the priests blew the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, "Shout! For the LORD has given you the city.  (Joshua 6:15-16)   So the people shouted, and priests blew the trumpets; and when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted with a great shout and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight ahead, and they took the city.  (Joshua 6:20) 

Follow Through

Years ago, I heard a statement that has stuck with me for probably 50 years or more.  It was this…One of the greatest qualities of any man is not the ability to jump high but the character to walk straight when he comes down.  Many an individual has performed a significant act yet failed in character in the future.  You see, the blessing of God is not in knowing His will or His Word but fleshing it out in our lives.

Thankfully, the army of Israel had learned the lesson to obey God exactly (at least for a while), so they walked around the city each day carrying the Ark of God, so God could teach them humility, stamina and patience.  They thought of themselves as an invincible army and God had them walk around the city thirteen times.  I imagine, after a few days, the troops of Jericho started laughing and calling them a bunch of cowards.  How tempting it would have been, for one of the soldiers to break ranks and fire an arrow at a soldier in Jericho.

Gilgal was about an hour’s march away, and according to the archeological ruins, it would have taken two hours to march around the city, so that was four hours of marching each day, and on the seventh day it would have taken them 14 hours to walk around the city and they would have been exhausted by the time the walls fell down.

So what would have happened if after three days around the city, the army said, “Were tired of this junk”!!  There would have been no victory, but because they obeyed God PRECISELY, they experienced a victory that came from God.  We must accept the fact that we MUST focus on obeying God’s word, even if it doesn’t make sense!

Do you ever wonder why God commands you to do things a certain way?  In the 1980s there were a series of movies called “The Karate Kid,” and the main character in the movie was Daniel, who wanted to learn Karate and his teacher, Mr. Miyagi had him do things like paint the fence and wax his car. You remember “Wax on wax off”, Right??  Well, Daniel kept saying, “I don’t want to paint fences, I want to learn karate!” and Mr. Miyagi would just smile and say, “You paint fence ANYWAY!”  Daniel later came to understand that the motion and muscles used to paint the fence and wax the car were actually training him for the proper Karate moves that would make him a champion.

God does the same for us!!  God tells us to do things and takes us through places in our lives that don’t seem to make sense at the time.  It may be years (and years) later when we look back and understand that God led us through that time to bring us to victory.  Follow through and see victory!

Scripture to Claim:

But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.  James 1:22

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Following God’s Strange Plans

Wednesday, January 29, 2020 By Van Houser

The LORD said to Joshua, "See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and the valiant warriors. "You shall march around the city, all the men of war circling the city once. You shall do so for six days. "Also seven priests shall carry seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark; then on the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. "It shall be that when they make a long blast with the ram's horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and the people will go up every man straight ahead."  Joshua 6:2-5 

Following God’s Strange Plans

Before history’s great battles, there have been many inspiring speeches delivered to encourage the soldiers against overwhelming odds.  There was the speech made by Henry V to the English troops, before the battle on St. Crispin’s day when he said, “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers?”  There was also the inspiring speech given by William Wallace to the Scottish rebels before the battle of Stirling where he said, “Aye, fight and you may die. Run and you may live at least for awhile, but today we must tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they will never take our freedom!”  Who can forget that soul-stirring speech given by General George S. Patton, to the 3rd Army as they prepared for Operation Overlord, in which he said, “Every man is scared in his first battle and if he says he isn’t, he’s a liar!! The real hero is the man who fights, even though he is scared.”

Now visualize Joshua gathering his, itching to attack, Generals, Colonels, and Captains to go over the battle strategy and Joshua says, “Okay, guys, tomorrow we’re going to march to Jericho, and then we’re going to march around it in silence, and then come back to camp.”  I can just hear one of the trained Generals say, “Excuse me sir, is that all we’re going to do?  Then Joshua says, “Well, no!! Actually, on the seventh day we’re going to walk around Jericho seven times and then we’re going to blow the trumpets and shout!!”  Can you imagine their shock!?

Here is what we learn about Joshua.  He was willing to obey God no matter that he could not understand His path.  The truth is we MUST follow our commander’s orders exactly.  We read in scripture that many times God led Israel into battle and gave them combat orders that made no sense to the armies.  And each time they won the battle without effort.

How many times in our lives have we faced this?  Someone hurts us and Jesus says to love them.  Someone strikes us and Jesus says turn the other cheek.  That is so opposite what the world says and yet, it works!  Love always does!  We want to copy what someone else does and God directs us to find our own success using our talents.  He knows how to overcome and will support His plan.

The first step in winning the battle is to accept God’s battle plan!  Before we ever take a step or begin to act, we must be committed to His course of action and be ready do what He has ordered.  The beginning of overcoming on the battlefield is to become an overcomer in our mind believing fully that God’s way leads to victory.  As much as they questioned God’s plan, the army of Joshua committed to follow and commanded the people to listen to God.

Scripture to Claim:

"He shall say to them, 'Hear, O Israel, you are approaching the battle against your enemies today. Do not be fainthearted. Do not be afraid, or panic, or tremble before them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.'  Deuteronomy 20:3-4

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

The Battle is Still The Lord’s

Tuesday, January 28, 2020 Submitted by Van Houser

Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand, and Joshua went to him and said to him, "Are you for us or for our adversaries?" He said, "No; rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the LORD." And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, "What has my lord to say to his servant?" The captain of the LORD'S host said to Joshua, "Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy." And Joshua did so.  Joshua 5:13-15 NASB

The Battle is Still The Lord’s

In Joshua 5, the children of God are ready to begin their conquest of Canaan but standing in their way was the most heavily fortified city of the ancient world, Jericho.  While this battle was God’s act of breaking His people out of the bondage of the desert, it is also a picture of how he also destroys fortresses that stand in our way as believers.  Romans 8:37 says, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”  Too many people read that “we are conquerors” without recognizing how that occurs.  In the story of the battle of Jericho, there are several important keys we must have in our possession, if we are to unlock the door to the victorious Christian life.

On the night before the battle for Jericho, Joshua like any of us, had trouble sleeping so he took a walk to review his battle plans.  As he looked at Jericho in the distance, he thought about how many ladders, battering rams, archers, and foot soldiers he would need to deploy, and then a mysterious man stepped out of the shadows, with a drawn sword.  Joshua didn’t recognize this soldier so, he asked, “Are you on our side, or their side?” And as the late Dr. Adrian Rogers said, "The soldier said, I didn’t come to take sides–I came to take over!”

This mysterious man then identifies himself as the Captain of the Lord’s Army, but just who was this soldier?  Some scholars say it was a Mighty Angel like Michael or Gabriel, but I join the ranks of those who say this is one of those pre-incarnate appearances of the Lord Jesus.  Now the evidence for this position comes from:

1.    Joshua’s reaction when he realized who was before him and fell face down in worship.  You don’t worship angels.

2.    This commander accepts Joshua’s worship, inferring he is of divine origin.

3.    This commander told Joshua to take off his shoes, because he was standing on holy ground.  The last time we read those words, was when God spoke them to Moses at the burning bush.

We learn from this encounter that victory was in the hands of the Lord, not men.  While “we are more than conquerors” it is “through Him loved us.”  When Joshua fell on his face before the pre-incarnate Jesus, the lord told him that the battle was already won.  In Joshua 6:2 the mysterious commander who appeared before Joshua said, “See, I have delivered [past tense] Jericho into your hands.”  When Joshua got on his face, it was a done deal and the same is true for us!!  The beginning of all spiritual victory is on our faces before Jesus, our great captain!

Scripture to Claim:

“…This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” I John 5:4-5

Monday, January 27, 2020

Do We Tell Lies or Just Sing Them?

Monday, January 27, 2020

Then the Lord said, "Because this people draw near with their words And honor Me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me, And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote,…”  Isaiah 29:13

Do We Tell Lies or Just Sing Them? 

Growing up in church I don’t know how many times I heard a Music Minister say, “Now, let’s sing it like we mean it!”  I guess an announced form of hypocrisy is better than trying to hide it but it certainly sounded strange.

One of the favorite hymns of the church is, Victory in Jesus, and it was written by E.M. Bartlett.  That old song contains some great words about our victory in Jesus, but it’s one thing to sing about victory in Jesus, and it’s all together something else, to live out that victory!!  I’m reminded of a quote from the late and great A.W. Tozer, who wrote, “Christians don’t tell lies, they just go to church and sing them!”  Sadly, I believe in some ways he’s right!!

The close of services in many Baptist churches is signaled by the “Invitation” where songs of commitment are sung.  I watched so many sing “Have Thine Own Way” or “I Surrender All” while they are straightening their clothes or gathering their belongings to be the first out the door.  Hypocrisy!?  Probably so.

For so many years I was a model Christian.  I did everything exactly as I had learned it from those before me.  I knew exactly how to act like a Christian.  I could tell you the number of almost 100 hymns in the Baptist OR Broadman hymnal and sing verses 1,2, & 4 of most of those hymns from memory.  I could almost quote the Church Covenant that was printed in the back of the hymnal and posted on the wall just above the numbers who attended in Bible study and what they gave.  It wasn’t until sometime later that I learned the definition of a model…A small imitation of the real thing.

I have now come to the place where when they sing “Gimme That Ol’ Time Religion” I have a wince a little.  I really don’t know whether that “Ol’ Time Religion” was good for me.  I know it certainly taught me a lot about God and that has really been good.  Keeping up with the disciplines of reading my Bible, nightly prayers, giving my tithe, etc. made it able to check all the boxes on the Eight-point record system on my weekly envelope.  I met missionaries and went to two-week-long Revivals sometimes multiple times a year.  But…no one ever taught me about the presence of God within me in the person of the Holy Spirit or that God wanted more then just for me not to sin but to know Him in an intimate relationship.  We sang a lot of songs every Sunday and enjoyed singing them.  But somehow, I don’t know that our singing was matched by our commitment.

I guess that is why some of the Contemporary Christian Music has awakened me to the experience of saying something more than once and dwelling on a thought longer than one phrase; letting it sink in and repeating it as it deepens in my heart and broadens in my spirit.  It’s way different than what I grew up on and I will probably always treasure the hymns of faith, but I have found a new appreciation for worship-filled praise and not just songs of worship.

God longs to hear His creation praise Him from their spirit!  Next time you sing in church, don’t just, “Sing it LIKE you mean it.”  Sing it out of a spirit filled with a love for God and His Son!

Scripture to Claim: I will extol You, my God, O King, And I will bless Your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless You, and I will praise Your name forever and ever. Great is the LORD, and highly to be praised, and His greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts.  Psalms 145:1-4 NASB

Van Houser

Friday, January 24, 2020

Truly Trusting God

Friday, January 24, 2020   

For from Him and through Him and for Him are all things.  To Him be the glory forever! Amen.  Romans 11:36

Truly Trusting God
Many of us say we trust God but then we impose our own view of what God’s work and timing in our lives should look like.  We must fight this urge and trust the goodness of God and His desire and ability to work all things perfectly in our lives and the lives of those we love.  Sometimes it doesn’t feel or look perfect to us, but we must lay our expectations down at His feet, trusting Him with everything.

We can trust His Timing – God is unchangeable, immutable.  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever so all His promises are good for all time.  They have no expiration date and they are as pertinent to our lives today as they were to the people in the Old Testament.  Our lives are very different, and the world has changed a lot, but He has never changed.  He doesn’t go back on His word or ever change His mind.  He doesn’t decide one day that He is done with us or that He has had enough. His words, love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness are good for all generations, for all time.

We can trust His Wisdom – He always knows the best thing for our lives.  He makes way better choices for us than we make for ourselves.

We can trust His Knowledge – He knows all things from start to finish.  He knows the way every story ends. Nothing is hidden from Him because He sees everything.  He sees the big picture when we only see in part.

We can trust His Righteousness – He always does the right thing. He is the standard of what is right. 

He will give us Peace – He does not cause confusion and disorder in our lives.  But He will not leave us in the midst of chaos either.  He will always be there to bring order and to provide the peace we need.

Redefining Trust
Trusting God does not mean we try to make Him fit into the role we have created for Him to fit into.  It does not mean we try to make His plans and will match what we think they should be.  Trust should not defined by only how much we can see.  It is easy to trust when we can see what is coming, but it is when we can’t see that we truly trust.    

God’s plans for our lives seldom look like what we think they should look like.  He seldom works the way we envision Him doing things. Take David for example.  He was anointed King and then he had to go right back out to the field to watch the smelly sheep.  And he was just a kid, so don’t you imagine he had an attitude about that?  Most of the time God anoints us for a purpose long before we actually step into that role.  Often, we can look back at our lives and see the progression of things and see that He was getting us ready, and other times we cannot see the path that led to us being where we are at all.  His ways are higher and better.  He loves us and desires to bring the best things into our lives.  He wants us to fully trust Him with each and every step along the way.

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.  1 Peter 1:8-9

Thursday, January 23, 2020

The Progression and Devastation of Sin in our Lives

Thursday, January 23, 2020   

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.  Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. James 1:14-15

The Progression and Devastation of Sin in our Lives

The affect that sin has over our lives is tragic when it goes on for a long time.  Just like an addiction, sin can completely take over and devastate our life. The definition of an addict is anyone who allows drugs or alcohol to interfere with their normal way of life.  Sin interferes with our normal (Christian) way of life too.   

Sin is progressive.  Once you go down that road, the desire and the temptation will only be greater.  As time goes on it will take more and more to satisfy the desires.  We can tell ourselves, just one more, or I just want to do it this one time and then never again, but Satan loves to hear that because he knows something that you don’t realize – you will be hooked and dependent.

Sin kills.  Sin eats away at our body and soul like poison, taking us further and further away.  It is always Satan’s goal to steal, kill, and destroy. 

When we have a specific weakness for a specific sin, Satan knows.  He takes every opportunity he can get to build on that weakness in our life and make it easy for us to fall, time after time.  In our own power, we will never defeat our sin.  Satan will continue to try to trip us so we must stay vigilant in our walk with the Lord.  We must avoid the things – people – websites – whatever it is that may cause us to stumble.  Sin is a cycle, and unless we completely turn away from misplaced desires it will continue to destroy our lives.  In our own strength we will always fail, but in His strength, we can conquer temptation. 

We are powerless over our sin, but Jesus Christ is all the power we need.  In our weakness, His strength is perfect.  He unleashed the power over sin and death when He died on the cross for you and me, and that same power is ours as His children.  Although the consequences of sin remain, God is faithful in His promises to us and gives us hope. 

James 1: 16 continues, Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.  That’s the method of Satan.  He is the great deceiver and works his will on us by causing us to believe things like, “I can stop any time I want to”, “Just one more…” and “I’m not hurting anyone else.”  All of these are the lies we tell ourselves when we are deceived.

Sin is a mocker.  When we are confronted with what we have been doing -or thinking, shame comes and mocks us.  Addiction is known by the fact that WE can’t stop; not that we don’t want to stop.  It takes a power greater than our human power to overcome sin and that is Jesus in us.

The scripture to claim for today comes from James as well.  This verse should be the promise of every believer for power each day.

Scripture to Claim:
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.  James 1:5

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Hungry for Righteousness

Wednesday, January 22, 2020   Some material taken from A Spiritual Appetite by Van Houser

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled.
Matthew 5:6

Hungry for Righteousness

Have you ever had a large group of people going out to eat together that can’t decide where to go?  I always hate being the one to have to pick, because what if I pick somewhere that someone in the group doesn’t like?  Everyone of us has different tastes in foods that we like. 

Trying to satisfy our spiritual hungers we consume large quantities of physical things. God has put eternity in our hearts and we have an inconsolable longing. We try to satisfy it with greater financial position, being more popular, going new places, sexual exploits, sports, mind altering substances, getting more things, etc. But the longing remains.

Our souls are hungry, and our hearts are thirsty.  We have an insatiable longing for something, but everywhere we turn to try to satisfy it proves to be insufficient.  We are restless, and almost everywhere we turn the grass seems greener than where we stand. The great tragedy for us is that even though this is the Spirit of God beckoning us to Him, we turn away again and again to temporary pleasures that continuously turn to ashes in our hands. These lusts of the soul leave the sediment of guilt and loneliness. The drugs and alcohol can't keep you from waking up in the real world again and again, finding yourself with the same (or more) problems. Coming to the end of ourselves brings us to a place of desperation. And in our desperation, after we have exhausted all other possibilities, we turn to God as the only hope for our lives.

Our lives are cluttered with broken remains of random hungers that are thrown away before they're worn out, but we just had to have them. Reckless hungers drive us to drugs, danger, and depression. It is important that our desires be the best because we inevitably get what we desire. The Bible plainly states, for as he thinks within himself, so he is.  (Prov. 23:7).

We all want things – we were born wanting.  As Christians we have to be diligent to keep that in check because it can take over our hearts if we continuously give in to our desires.  It may not even be a terrible desire like drugs or alcohol, but anything we let take over our heart becomes the wrong thing when we give it a space meant only for God.

 Brother Van often says:

  •  What you WANT determines what you SEEK.
  • What you SEEK determines what you BECOME (destiny).
  • Man BECOMES what he WANTS--"he shall be filled."

When we seek the wrong things, sadly our lives become tainted with the consequences and it can consume us – our thoughts, our finances, our freedom.  It is a valuable lesson to learn early!  We were made for eternity and only eternal things will truly satisfy our longings.  Until we figure that out, we will keep running from one thing to another, collecting all the things that don’t work, I know because my house is full of things that satisfied me for a moment but left me empty in the long run. Only continually coming to eat and drink at God's banqueting table will fulfill all the longings of our souls.

Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance. Isaiah 55:2

Tuesday, January 21, 2020


Tuesday, November 20, 2020
For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.     Ephesians 2:10
Our Shimmering Self 
Frederick Buechner in his book Telling Secrets makes a rather interesting statement
[Our] original shimmering self gets buried so deep we hardly live out
of it at all… rather, we learn to live out of all the other selves whom we
are constantly putting on and taking off like coats and hats against the world's weather.
What an interesting imagery and thought.  Can you imagine becoming aware one day that you have lost touch with your heart (your Shimmering Self) and with it the very uniqueness of your life and God’s purpose and presence? 
Starting very early, life seems to teach all of us to ignore and distrust the deepest yearnings of our heart.  Life, for the most part, teaches us to suppress our longings and live only in the external world where efficiency and performance are everything.  We have learned from parents and peers, at school, at work, and even from our spiritual mentors that something else is wanted from us than our heart; which is to say, there is little interest in that which is most deeply us.  
Very seldom are we ever invited to live out of our heart.  If we are wanted, we are usually wanted for what we can offer functionally.  If rich, we are honored for our wealth; if beautiful, for our looks; if intelligent, for our brains.  So we learn to offer only those parts of us that are approved while living out a carefully crafted performance to gain acceptance from those who represent life to us.   We divorce ourselves from our heart and begin to live a double life. 
In losing our shimmering self, we can lose touch with God’s specific will and direction for our lives.  Forgetting who God has made us to be, we can become caught up in all that we are supposed to be.  Trying to accommodate what others expect us to be, we can completely lose ourselves... especially that shimmering part.  
It is sometimes easy to stifle, suppress, and hide the very soul of our beings; those deep inner feelings and thoughts that display the very special person God made us to be.  We are His workmanship.  He made us each unique and distinct with very special destinies.  
Remember the children’s song, This Little Light of Mine?  He did not light our fire to have us put it under a bushel or let Satan blow it out.  He wants us to shimmer for Him!  He wants us to be free and unbridled in our journey through His will for our life.  Keep your heart for God exposed.  Trust Him and find approval from Him on who you are.  Be the person He made you and don’t hide your true shimmering self any longer.  


Monday, January 20, 2020


Monday, January 20, 2020
You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. Psalm 90:8


Secrets. Sometimes secrets are exciting, but sometimes they can be no fun at all. These secrets are the ones that you hold inside for fear of anyone ever finding out the truth.  You fear rejection, judgment from peers, and the destruction of your character.  They can destroy trust, love, and intimacy.  They can tear down self-esteem and self-respect. Most importantly, they can separate you from God.

We all have secrets and we all have secret sins.  It may be a heart issue like an attitude or hate towards someone, or it may be something bigger – on the outside.  We may feel that we are ok because, after all no one knows about my secret sin but me, so therefore I am not hurting anyone else or affecting their lives in any way.  But two people know – you and God. It is hidden – but it’s not.   Psalm 66:18 warns us of one consequence of secret sin.  “If I regard iniquity in my heart the Lord will not hear me”.  In other words, if you have a cherished secret sin that you habitually hold on to, it will hurt your connection to God.

Last week we talked about the woman at the well.  She lived with the burden of her sin which was definitely not a secret.  That is why she came to the well when she did – because no one else would be there.  But she wasn’t alone at the well because Jesus knew when she would be there, and He went specifically to meet her.  God always comes.  He always knows, even when we think we are keeping it a secret.  It is never a secret to Him

When we have sin in our lives, it never feels good for long because there is something in us that contradicts the sin we are involved in and that is Jesus Christ.  It is a contradiction to who we are in Him and who He is trying to help us become.  Sin is never a part of God’s perfect plan for our lives.  It doesn’t belong there and therefore it causes sorrow and pain.  It may feel good at first and we may be able to talk ourselves into believing its ok, especially with secret sins, but the reality is that it causes a separation between us and God. There is danger of living an incomplete Christian life where Jesus Christ is Lord everywhere but in our secret lives.  Sin will eventually awake from sleep and shake off its cover. If not for the saving grace of the Master’s hand, sin would eat us alive.

What is it that has that hold on your life?  What shackles you and keeps you from being free?  Whatever it is, it is keeping you from moving forward in your spiritual growth and experiencing the power and blessings of God. Let it go. God loves us and shows us mercy and forgiveness.  You may be fooling the rest of the world, but He sees your heart.  There is no where you can go to hide from Him and there is no secret He does not know.  But He loves us with unconditional, everlasting love anyway.  He is our advocate and savior. He is our rescuer and protector. Quit whatever it is that has a hold on you.  Confess to Him and claim this amazing grace now.   

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Water Cooler Evangelism Part 2

John 4:4-42
The majority of believers feel that they have done their part by believing in and worshipping Christ.  But, as believers, what we have experienced brings us the privilege of sharing with others a lifechanging message.

I. How Jesus Changed the Woman  4:4-26 
  • Jesus Risked His Reputation

  • Jesus Answered Her Questions  

  • Jesus Caused Her to Face the Truth About Her Life . vs.15-19

II. How Jesus Changed the Disciples  4:27-38

·   Jesus put the disciples in conflict with their culture. vs.27

·   The woman's amazement was with who Jesus was.  The disciples’ amazement was about what Jesus was doing.

Sanctity of Life

·   Prejudice is deeply rooted in every culture. 

·   Men, women and children created in God’s image should be respected, regardless of their mental capacity, physical ability, age, faith (or absence of faith) or social position.

Who Are Those Victimized By a Disregard for The Sanctity of Human Life?

·   People who refuse to receive God’s full forgiveness live under a cloud of shame.

·   We live in a time in which people would rather die than continue living with less than a perfect "quality of life."

·   Human dignity is an innate value, bestowed on us by God by being made in His image. It is not based on the ability to care for ourselves or competence to complete a task.

Jesus Introduced the disciples to a spiritual appetite and satisfaction. vs.31-34  

He Inspired the disciples to look beyond the obvious. vs.35-38

·   Tomorrow is not the day of salvation; today is the day of salvation.

III. How Jesus Changed the Town  4:39-42

·   Jesus changed the town through the testimony of the woman.vs.39

·   Jesus changed the town with His caring words. 40-41

·   Jesus changed the town by the people believing in Him. vs.42

Friday, January 17, 2020

Turn The Page

Friday, January 17, 2020
Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 3:12-14
Turn the Page
As with any new year, we have new opportunities.  One thing I really like about the New Year is that it’s an opportunity to start fresh on things.  We tend to look at a New Year as a time to start to think of things we would like to accomplish.  The New Year is a great time to turn the page on stuff you’d like to get going on and accomplish in the next year.  It’s also a great time to turn the page on some things you should put behind you. To start something new, sometimes we have to let go of the past.
Lessons From Paul on our Past
1.    We all have an imperfect past.  
None of us can look at our past and see nothing we aren’t ashamed of.  We all have blemishes and stains that we’d just as soon no one knew about or that we’d just as soon forget.  The apostle Paul was no different.  He had a pretty ugly past in persecuting the church of Christ, and my guess is that he had plenty of time to reflect on the shame of that.
Paul was a religious guy even before he met Christ.  He was a Pharisee; he was an up and coming religious leader who had the trust of the religious establishment during the early days of the Church.  He could quote Scripture, he attended the synagogue probably every week; he had it going.  All of his religion didn’t keep him from having a past that he didn’t treasure as time went by.
You might have grown up in church, you might have been involved in church, you might have been a church leader of some sort; but just the same, you have an imperfect past.  It’s imperfect because of the presence of sin in your life. It’s imperfect because you have chosen your way over God’s way many times.  And there’s no way to get away from that fact. 
2.    We don’t have to be a slave to that past.
Paul could have said, “Look. I put people in prison, and I voted for the death penalty for Christians I arrested. There is no hope for me, and there is no way I could ever be used by Christ.”  But he insisted here that he had something worth moving on for. 
He could look back on the fact that Christ redeemed him from his past, and was continually working in him.  He says here that in spite of his past, he was moving on.  How does he say it? “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what’s ahead.”  He recognized his past, but he refused to be a slave to it.  Even now as a mature believer he knew there was more.
How many people look at their past circumstances and decide that it’s just not worth trying anymore?  Way too many, that’s for sure.  Some might think they’ve got it all together and don’t need to work on strengthening their relationship with Christ.  But if we look to Paul here as our example, we can see that it’s never too late, and our circumstances don’t need to stand in the way of our effectiveness for Christ.
Scripture to Claim:
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. 2 Peter 3:18

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Life…Just What Does it Mean to You?

Thursday, January 16, 2020 
God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.  Genesis 1:27
Life…Just What Does it Mean to You?This Sunday is Sanctity of Life Sunday when we pause to consider the sanctity or holiness of life view. Although our culture today accepts any lifestyle or gender preference you want to be, many still do not believe in the sanctity of the human life.  This is not a new view in our country, nor is it a new struggle.  
As Christians we affirm our belief that human life is of inestimable worth and significance in all its dimensions, including the unborn, the aged, the widowed, the mentally handicapped, the unattractive, the physically challenged and every other condition in which humanness is expressed from conception to the grave. We believe life is sacred.
All human life is precious and to be protected because humans alone bear the image of God.  These words in Genesis form the biblical and theological bedrock for the sanctity of life.   There's something extraordinary here that is seen only in reference to the creation of man and to nothing else. The Godhead - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit -deliberated among themselves before the creation of man.  God not only created the first pair and made them living souls; he continues to give each human being a living soul. There are two views of how God accomplishes this.
Being made in the image of God means that in our nature and personality; in our moral and spiritual capacities; in our emotions, intellect, conscience, and will; in our functions and actions we stand apart from the rest of creation.  Only human beings are given this status. Not even the angels are God's image bearers and most certainly not the animals.
In God’s eyes, we are each endowed with a touch of Himself.  Each human carries within his or her being the likeness of God. Therefore, each human life exists as an expression of God and His character.  The image of God in humankind provides direction and guidance regarding how we treat one another. 
Men, women and children created in God’s image should be respected, regardless of their mental capacity, physical ability, faith (or absence of faith) or social position.
Every human life, Christian or not, is sacred and of inestimable value because each life is created in the image of God. The likeness of Yahweh is impressed upon each human spirit.
Human dignity is an innate value, bestowed on us by God by being made in His image. It is not based on the ability to care for ourselves, or competence to complete a task. It is not based on our social media likes and follows. 
Dignity is not a characteristic we can forfeit — it is an inseparable attribute woven into the fiber of our being.
We hold to a biblical view of the sanctity of life because of what a "quality of life" ethic does to those who hold it.
Individuals have desecrated the sanctity of life by replacing it with a “quality of life” ethic that leads to ever broader, ever looser, and ever more subjective determinations of what constitutes a quality life or a life worthy of life. 
We examine today whether we have aborted others in our society by casual disregard and even discrimination of some humans thus desecrating the sanctity of their lives.
We should examine our hearts for attitudes toward those that violate the spirit of the Sanctity of Human Life ethic.  We must struggle against the subtle ways we dishonor or fail to acknowledge the intrinsic worth of each individual.  And above all, we need to teach the next generation a respect for all human life.  The challenge to us as Christians is to move the culture toward a reestablishment of the sanctity of human life ethic by our example and standing for what is right, true, and biblical.  

Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy. Proverbs 31:8-9

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

How Jesus Changed the Woman At The Well and How He Changes Us

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

The woman said to Him, Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw. He said to her, Go, call your husband and come here. The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said to her, You have correctly said, I have no husband; for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly. The woman said to Him, Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.  John 4:15-19

How Jesus Changed the Woman At The Well and How He Changes Us

In yesterday’s devotional, we talked about how Jesus met a woman at a well and changed her life.  But to change her life, He first had to get real and honest with her about her life.  When Jesus meets us in our sin, He doesn’t leave us there because he cares about us.  Until we examine our lives, and are honest about our sin, we cannot be changed. The Holy Spirit gently convicts us where we are so that Jesus can come into our hearts and change us forever. 

When Jesus met the woman at the well, He shows her she had a ...

SELF PROBLEM ... she was avoiding the truth about herself.  We all have this problem, don’t we?  We like to tell ourselves that we are ok, or we deserve this or that, or that what we are doing is not so bad.  We like to sugar coat the truth about ourselves. Sometimes, well meaning loved ones and friends will also

SIN PROBLEM ... she was in a lifestyle of sin.  She was convicted or embarrassed somewhat of her lifestyle, that is why she came to the well when no one else was there – the hottest part of the day. Hiding it from the rest of the world will not make it ok.  Nothing is hidden from God. Sin is sin, and not even coming to the well at the hottest part of the day will hide it from God.  He is always there waiting if we are willing to hear Him and accept His offer.

BELIEF PROBLEM ... where she worshipped was more important than the one she worshipped.  Religion can get in the way of spirituality.  Many people confuse church attendance or involvement with a relationship with Jesus. 

Jesus does not condemn this woman.  He caused her to face the truth about her life and reached out to show her that she needed a drink of the living water that only He could give her.  He does not condemn us either.  We have to be honest with ourselves and with Jesus in confessing our sins, asking for forgiveness. We have to realize the habits of sinful behavior we have in our lives and change that behavior if we want the living water He offers.  He waits, He exposes our sin in truth and the Holy Spirit convicts us.  He offers us Living Water and when we accept His gift, He opens the wellspring of eternal life through Him.

The woman said to Him, "I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us." Jesus *said to her, "I who speak to you am He."  John 4:25-26

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