Practice what I preach?

The Pharisees, religious and political leaders of Jesus time, failed to recognize Jesus as the Messiah their beloved Moses talked about.  This was because they did not believe or obey the Scripture they had memorized and talked about each Sabbath.  They were, as Jesus pointed out to them, hypocrites.

What does that mean for me?  It is easier to write about Jesus than it is to actually follow Him.  I get convicted while I type the words to some of these posts.  How much time do I spend in meaningful conversation each day with my wife? with each of my sons?  Do I give my best at church? at work?

I realize that I need to let Jesus order my world, let Him set the priorities and manage my schedule.  And I do that by obeying Him when He nudges me to set the computer aside and listen to my family.  Jesus will give me the time to write, that is not the problem.  The problem is that I not use my family’s time as writing time and crowd out what is more important.  My family, my church, and my work come first.  In that order.

I believe this struggle of priorities will be ongoing.  I also believe that by putting into practice what I already know to be true from the Bible, the way will get clearer, if not easier.  And by relying on the Holy Spirit, to guide and empower me, the end result will be the balance that God is looking for from me.

Please feel free to hold me accountable to this.

Nobody’s perfect

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.   Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.
Psalm 51:5-6 NKJV

Being truthful in my head is very hard.  I decide what I want because I want it. Then I pretend I really want it for another reason, a “good”, acceptable reason, a “righteous” reason.  I deceive myself, but almost no one else.  God wants me to tell the truth to myself.  If I read the Bible and see all the “good guys” as me and all the “bad guys” as someone else, I’m missing everything.  The Bible is a mirror to show me who I really am.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
James 1:22-25 NKJV

Most of the Bible heroes were flawed!  Abraham lied and let another man take his wife to save his skin.  David got another man’s wife pregnant and then killed the man to cover it up.  Jacob’s name meant deceiver and he lived up to it.  Noah got drunk and exposed himself.  Moses was a murderer.  Peter, the “rock” of faith, denied Jesus and called down curses on himself to keep himself from suffering Jesus’ fate.  Paul ruthlessly murdered men, women and children who would not betray Jesus.

If God can work with a crowd like that, and turn them into role models for us, do you think He can work with someone like me? or you?  Well, not if I lie to myself and tell myself I’m really not so bad, and nobody’s perfect, and my good outweighs my bad, and who are you to talk and… and… and….

Jesus “redefined” sin so that no one would feel left out:

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’  But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire….“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  – Jesus, Matthew 5:21- 22, 27-28 NKJV

God desires truth in the inner parts.  Before Jesus can cleanse me of my sin I have to admit I have sin for Him to cleanse.  If I deny the true motives for my actions and cover it up with “righteous lies” Jesus can’t help me.  I have to be ruthlessly honest within myself.

Okay, so if I’m honest with myself, humble myself and agree with God that I have rebelled against Him, what do I get?

Peace with God.  And peace within myself.  And the ability to see and treat others differently.  More compassion, less judgement, less demands.  Jesus grants us forgiveness and grace (i.e. kindness we don’t deserve) and we can pass it along to those who hurt us.  We absorb the sting of their attacks, and we offer them kindness and understanding in return.  This isn’t natural, it’s supernatural.  It’s the work of the Holy Spirit who works through you as you allow Him to work through you.  This fulfills the second half of the verse: And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.

To help with the process of confession you may want to ask someone you trust if you can tell them your sins as you confess them to God.  This takes guts and I haven’t done it much.  I will report back to you after I have talked with my accountability partner.

Pastor Dr. Charles F. Stanley observes, “Obedience always brings blessing”.  And Jesus said, “The truth will set you free”.  May God grant me and you the grace to always confess our sins, so that we can reap the blessings and freedom Jesus always wants to give us.

Can God turn our failure into success?

Psalm 51 NIV84

1 For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.
1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you.
14 Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.


I love Psalm 51:17.  I mess up regularly.  And when I have messed up bad, and the excuses don’t mean a thing, I have this cry of David to give me the comfort I am desperately looking for.  If I “own” my evil action, and wish I had never done it, and I am committed to never doing it again, Our Father in Heaven will “blot out my transgressions”.  Why would He do that?  Because of all the good things I’ve done? or all the good things I promise to do?

No.

He forgives me because He is my Father and He loves me.  (And He loves you just as much).  And He has the right to forgive us because He suffered and died to pay the price for our sins.

But what does Our Father do when I have been forgiven and commit the exact same sin again, and again, and again?!  Matthew records Jesus:

Then Peter came to [Jesus] and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”
Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

Matthew 18:21-22 NKJV

If God tells us to forgive others that many times, how will He treat us?  Our Father has limitless compassion on us His children.  If He endured torture and death for us when we were His enemies, what will He withhold now that we are His friends?  Or, as the Apostle Paul wrote:

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

Romans 5:8-11 NKJV

If you genuinely turn away from sin each time, each time God will forgive you.  A word of warning however.   Forgiveness does not mean that there are no consequences to sin.  I rejected God when I was nearly twenty years old. And I continued to reject Him for the next ten years.
And at 54 years old, though forgiven, I still have the mental illness that was the consequence of that first decision to reject God.
But God will make even the consequences of our sin work together for our good.  The Apostle Paul writes:

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 

Romans 8:28 NKJV

In my case, my consequence of mental illness has given me insight and credibility to help others who are experiencing mental illness and/or to help their loved ones understand what mental illness is like.  Whatever mistakes you have made, if you turn from it, God can use it for good.  And He can make using that mistake an opportunity to help others… And a joy!

Why don’t you ask Him to do that for you right now?

What am I doing wrong?

I have received no comments on any post since I started in May.  I may be doing something wrong, but I don’t know what it is.  Please let me know your comments or what I am doing wrong by emailing me at james-mcnaughton@sbcglobal.net

Thank you and have a great day 🙂
Jim

P.S.  I realize that you may not want to log in to Google to comment because of privacy.  I also realize that you may not want to email me for that same reason.  I have never blogged before so I don’t know if I haven’t set this blog up right for comments or if it’s just that nobody has a comment.  Whatever the reason, I’m not going to worry about it.  I sincerely thank you for reading and I hope that Jesus blesses you richly.

Jim

How do I have Life to the Full?

Jesus said that even He did not come to be served but to serve and be a ransom for many.  This was after His disciples had been arguing about who would be the greatest.

What is important to me?  Is it to be great?  Jesus said to do that I need to be the slave all.  This made no sense before I knew Christ.  To be a Jesus learner He said I must deny myself.  I must stop wanting what I “naturally want” and choose to do what I don’t naturally want.

Serving others does not come naturally for me.  A friend of mine once said that he has the “gift of being served”.  It still makes me laugh because I (and everyone else?) has the same gift.  Since a Christ follower follows in the footsteps Christ, He wants me to serve, right?  But does He want me to be a ransom, too?  Not in the sense that I can pay for someone else’s sins, but Jesus died to serve me, to love me.  Am I to die for others?  I interpret this as me needing to value others above myself and what I want.

I can serve someone without valuing them, but I can’t value someone without serving them.  And as long as the “I” is more important than “You”, I don’t value you like Jesus does.

 Jesus said for us to die to ourselves daily, to take up our cross (God’s purpose for our lives of serving Him by serving others) and follow Him.  I can’t do this without the Holy Spirit’s help.  Pastor Dr. Charles F. Stanley of http://www.InTouch.org suggests that, before I get out of bed in the morning, I ask the Holy Spirit to fill me with Himself and lead me through the day.  Clare DeGraaf author of the blog Following Jesus in Real Life (www.claredegraaf.com, see the top of this blog), suggests asking God to give me impressions during the day of how I can be used by Him to help others.

So with all this dying and serving others what’s in it for me?  Is this all self-denial and pain?  Jesus said, “I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full”.  When I serve Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit, I come to know God in a way I have never known, and I feel fully alive!.  As Eric Liddell, Olympic 400 metre champion and missionary to China said in the movie Chariots of Fire, “When I run, I feel His pleasure”.

You can feel His pleasure too!  Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you and lead you.  Then do what He says.  As Dr. Stanley says, “He will not ask you to do anything sinful or foolish”.  What God says will never contradict the Bible, if it does it is not the Holy Spirit speaking to you.  The devil will try to stop you, but as Jesus said, “take heart, I have overcome the world” and the devil.

Thankful and Grateful

Psalm 5:11-12 NIV84

11 But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.  

12 For surely, O LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.

I heard a loud grinding noise from the back of my car.  The back end was being pushed to the right.  I felt like God was telling me to turn the steering wheel ever so slightly to the right.  It seemed like an hour but lasted only a few seconds.  Finally the noise and pressure stopped and we both pulled over to the side of the expressway.

God was a literal shield for me that day and I am thankful and grateful to know Him and be protected by Him.  God stopped me from going into a deadly skid and roll at about 70 mph, when a young man (20 to 30), who was probably texting (according to the police officer), pressed into the left rear corner of my car.

I am not special.  God said He would protect me if I made Him my refuge.  I trust Him, I follow Him and I obey Him (very, very imperfectly) and He comes through on His promises.  He does what He decides is in His and my best interest.

And He will for you too.

God loves you just as much as He does me.  If you love Him and obey Him He takes responsibility for your welfare.  Read the Bible, do what it says, and watch God fulfill His promises to you.

Doing is believing.

 Psalm 8 NIV84

For the director of music. According to gittith. A psalm of David.

1 O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.
2 From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.
3 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
4 what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?
5 You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.
6 You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet:
7 all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field,
8 the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.
9 O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Matthew 21:4-16 NKJV

Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant 16 and said to Him, “Do You hear what these are saying?” 

And Jesus said to them, “Yes. Have you never read,

‘Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants 

You have perfected praise’?”

Jesus quoted this Scripture to the Pharisees to claim to them that the Scriptures were being fulfilled before their eyes.  He did not quote the latter half of the verse referring to silencing His enemies (the Pharisees) but because they were experts on the Scripture they would have known what the latter half of the verse said.  Jesus was witnessing to them that he is the Messiah and that they are God’s enemies.  But, the Pharisees didn’t believe the miracles Jesus’ performed were from God, so how could they believe He was from God?  Jesus said that anyone who obeys His words will know whether He comes from God or not.  How about you?  Do you want to know whether Jesus comes from God?

When I buy something and it doesn’t work I need to check to see if I followed the directions.  Our lives are like that.  God’s Word the Bible gives me the directions I need to know so that I can know God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit.  Just reading the Bible however, without actually doing what it says to do, just puffs me up with pride, (the opposite of love).

But, reading and doing God’s Word develops love in my heart.  Love for God.  And love for people.  When I help someone, like giving them a warm coat in the winter when they have none, or giving them food and schooling each day when they would otherwise go without… I am changed.  God changes me.  I feel a joy I’ve never known before.  The money I’ve spent on someone who needs it isn’t a loss or expense. It’s investing in them, investing in me, a gift given gratefully to God and investing in the joy we will all have in heaven.

So if you want to know Jesus, if you want to know if the Bible is true, then do what it says.  And Jesus will reveal Himself to you.