Category Archives: devotional

The Defilement of Bitterness

Have you ever tripped over a root? Perhaps it was hidden under the leaves or concealed by darkness. Maybe it was in plain sight all the time but your attention was elsewhere. Regardless of why didn’t see it, the result is almost always the same, you are going down.

In Hebrews 12:15, we are cautioned to be, Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.

Notice that this bitterness is a result of our failure to appropriate the grace of God in our life. This root may come from painful experience. It may come from a grudge that we carry in our heart. It may even come from unconfessed sin that we try to pretend isn’t there. The bottom line is that it is there because we did not rely on God’s grace to remove it.

Here are some thoughts on roots.

Roots Spread
While we may think we can keep bitterness or sin confined to one area of our life, roots of bitterness know no boundaries. They keep spreading and infiltrating other parts of our worship, relationships and thoughts. They reach out and become intertwined with other roots, creating a labyrinth of corruption and defilement in our hearts.

Roots Drive Deep
The longer the root is allowed to remain, the deeper it will grow making it increasingly more difficult to remove. These roots, if left alone will become a part of who we are until we will become convinced that we are stronger for having them. How tragic it is when we think that we can draw more strength from bitterness than we can from the grace of God. So many people cling to their bitterness as if it is their most treasured possession.

Roots Bring Fruit
Whatever we sow, we will reap. That is both biblical and natural law. Dear friend, be assurred that root of bitterness will at some point bring forth fruit that is characteristic of its source. The bitterness will grow in your heart like a cancer and then suddenly one day it will come pouring out like evil bile revealing the secrets of your innermost thoughts.

The problem with this, is often many are defiled by our bitterness. How many children are deprived of the stability of a normal home because of bitterness in the hearts of their parents?How many of our friends are robbed of the blessing of full fellowship with us because of walls of unforgiveness or lack of trust that we build? How many families miss the joy of worshipping together in church because someone in the family has bitterness toward God or His people?

God promises that His grace is sufficient to remove any roots of bitterness. Don’t fail to use it. Lay the axe of grace to those roots and enjoy the fragrant glory of the blossoms of God’s grace in your life.

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The Lonely Seed

Have you ever considered the purpose of seed? While it may have many uses ranging from feeding birds to decorations, it has but one purpose.

Jesus said in John 12:24, Verily, verily I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.

A seed has no will of its own, but is at the mercy of the one who is holding it. The planter can place the seed wherever he sees fit to do so. The seed will be planted in a place that is foreign to it and will be buried to die. As it dies, there is something released inside it that brings forth new life and the production of much fruit. The seed does not have to work to produce the fruit, but the fruit is result of the death of the seed.

Picture yourself as a seed in the Kingdom of God. God has ordained that we are to produce much fruit. You cannot produce this fruit in the strength of your own flesh. Instead, we must be willing to die to our selfish desires, deny our own will and submit ourselves wholly to God. As we do so, we will see something marvelous occuring. God will begin to produce fruit through us.

One thing I am learning is that the things that God expects of me are the things that He wants to do through me. This can only happen when I yield to Him and let Him “plant” me where He will.

I must be willing to accept His will as my own.

Otherwise, I will only be a lonely seed.

Faith With Feet

Have you ever noticed in the Bible how often faith is coupled with obedience? More times than not you will find that when we read something about believing, we find instructions to do something close by. We even sing the hymn, “Trust and Obey”.

The reason for this is that it is relatively easy to follow instructions where every step is clearly defined and we have a good picture of the outcome. But have you ever noticed that in life, God rarely reveals all the steps at once? Usually, He gives us just enough light to see the next step and we don’t know what lies beyond until we take that step.

God told Abraham to climb the mountain, build an altar and sacrifice his son, Isaac. He actually gave him about three steps in one. He had earlier given Abraham a glimpse of the future concerning Isaac. To Abraham, it might have seemed impossible that Isaac could die on that altar and still father a great nation, but he believed God and acted on that faith.

I cannot imagine the warring emotions in Abraham’s heart as they climbed Mt. Moriah. Isaac thinks that he and his father are about to have a great worship experience together as they had doubtless done before. Abraham is filled with feelings of dread and yet at the same time, hope.

Notice how God responds to Abraham’s faith.

Isaac says, “Father, we have the wood and the fire for the offering, but where is the sacrifice?”

Abraham replies, “God will provide himself a lamb”.

The Hebrew word for “lamb” is seh, literally the least member of the flock. At this point, Abraham would have settled for anything, even a scrawny runt of a lamb, to avoid sacrificing Isaac. This is a great picture of mere religion. Settling for the meager best that we can produce to avoid paying for our sins ourselves.

And yet when they got to the top of the mountain, they found something special. As Abraham prepared to plunge the knife into Isaac’s heart, the angel of the Lord stopped him. As he turned around, he saw not a lamb, but a ram caught in the thicket. The word used here for “ram” is ayil which means “the chief member of the flock”. This is the animal upon whom the rest of the flock depends for leadership and protection. God did not send the “least” to take our place, He sent the very best in His Son, Jesus.

It is one thing to profess a belief in God, even the demons do that. It is another to act upon that belief, to put feet on our faith, and move in a way that demonstrates our trust in God. We will find that when we obey God in faith, He will respond in ways that are “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think”.

The Test of Faith

Genesis 22 has always been one of the most intriguing chapters in the Bible for me. In the text leading up to this story, God has been working in the life of Abraham, affirming His covenant, miraculously giving Abraham a son in his old age, and interacting with him in a marvelous way.

Then, quite unexpectedly, God gives him the command to take his only son, Isaac to Mt. Moriah and sacrifice him as a burnt offering unto the Lord. This account gives us many lessons that we may learn concerning our walk with God.

First, God may test our faith. Faith could be compared to a muscle. If it is never exercised, it will never grow. Were God to remove all of the obstacles from our way, we would never have the opportunity to grow and learn. While these trials are not pleasant, it is important to remember that they are very beneficial. Peter describes them as a “fiery trial”, but the result is faith that is purified as fine gold. In the middle of these testings, priorities and values can become distinctly clear.

Second, our love for God motivates our faith. God commanded Abraham to take his only son “whom thou lovest”. This is the first time the word “love” is used in the Bible, and it is used to describe the feelings a father has toward his son. We could compare this to Matthew 3:17 where God spoke from heaven, calling Jesus His “beloved Son in whom I am well pleased”. The trial of our faith will reveal to us how much we love God and therefore how far we are willing to trust Him. God, in essence, was saying to Abraham, “I know you love Isaac, but I want you to love me more”. Is not this the same love that God demonstrated toward us in giving His only Son for our redemption?

We love Him because He first loved us.

Finally, the magnitude of our test reveals God’s evaluation of our faith. We know from I Corinthians 10:13, that God will not allow us to be tempted above that we are able to withstand. The thing we must always remember is that God does not test us so that HE can learn about our faith. God’s testings, though, reveal much to us about our faith. If God will not tempt us beyond our faith, then the size of the test can reveal to us what God knows we can overcome. This should never cause us to become proud about our testings, but it does give us hope when we are facing them.

Each of us will face multiple tests of our faith during our life. Few, if any of us, will ever be given one as drastic as Abraham’s. Yet even if we are, we can know that the God of Abraham is still sovereign in our lives today. The same God who guided a ram into a thicket on Mt. Moriah is going before you on the mountain you will climb.

Accept the test of faith. Climb that mountain. Build that altar. You will find that God is already there.

Can God Forget?

Okay, let’s get back on topic. Now that I have chased the rabbit of cell phone rudeness back into the briar patch, I would like to return to the subject we were discussing earlier in the week.

Does God remember the sins that He has forgiven? How does a perfect God forget? First, let us see what Scripture has to say on the subject, then we will explore the “how”?

And their sins and iniquities I will remember no more. Hebrews 10:17

Very simply, when our sins are confessed by us and forgiven by God, it is as if it never happened in the sight of God. He gives us His promise that they are never to be remembered again.

How can this be? If God can forget about our sins, couldn’t He also forget about a promise? What about me, could He forget who I am?

Remember that God is eternal. He is not confined to the present. Understand that your entire life (past and future as well as the present) is unfolded before God. When a person becomes a believer in Christ, the blood of Christ is applied to their life, cleansing them of all their sins. You need to understand that this cleansing removes the cause of the offense as well as the stain. It is literally as if it never happened. There is no residue of sin before God.

But God still remembers that it used to be there, right?

The verse I quoted states that God will remember them no more. God has the power to simply remove it from His memory. This is not an accidental act of forgetting, put it is purposefully choosing not to remember our offenses.

We can rest assured in knowing that when we confess our sins, our slate is wiped clean before God. He is not going to throw them back in our face if we falter and commit the same sin again. He is not going to hold them over our heads. And He is certainly not going to allow the accuser of the brethren to use them as evidence against us.

Once and for all, we can be forgiven.

Confessing Our Sins

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I John 1:9

We live in a time in which no one wants to admit to wrong-doing. We try redefine the terms, find a loophole, blame it on extenuating circumstances–anything to avoid being considered “guilty”.

Perhaps this is a result of the moral relativism of the post-modern era. Perhaps it comes from watching national leaders and celebrities try to wiggle out of the tight spots in which their own shenanigans land them. Perhaps it is the proliferation of immorality. I think it is a lack of fear of God.

This verse tells us that God is willing to forgive our sins. There are no caveats or exemptions attached to the verse. Any sin that is confessed will be forgiven, I think that is very plain. Yet we still try to avoid confession.

What does it mean to “confess”? The word comes from homologeo, meaning “to say the same thing”. To put this in modern English, it is “calling sin what God calls it.”

Sin is an offense to a holy God. There are no two ways around this. It was because of sin that Jesus suffered and died, so we can be assured that God has a very dim view of it and takes the matter very seriously.

We have joked about sin, laughed at it, excused it, winked at it, ignored it, in short, we have done everything but confess it as sin before the Almighty. Is it pride that hinders us from doing this? Is it rebellion that refuses to submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ? Is it ignorance of what the Bible teaches about sin? Whatever the reason may be, it is high time that we start looking at our sin from God’s perspective.

There is nothing to compare with the forgiveness that we can find in God. He is willing and able to remove the offense, the stain and the cause completely from our lives. We simply must be willing to humble ourselves and call it what He does.

The Point

The disciples of Christ had been raised in a religious environment that was infatuated with activity. Giving alms, fasting, praying in public, attending all the feasts, maintaining an outward show of good works–all the things that made the Jews look like good followers of God on the outside.

Do we not present that same environment today? At times it seems as if we are more concerned with making good church members than we are with making disciples of Christ. We make sure new converts are enrolled in all the right classes. We find a job (or two or three) for them to do in the church. We give them all the books and Bible studies they can handle and tell them that if they do all of these things, tithe, and show up for visitation they will be a good Christian.

Now I am not knocking all of those things any more than Jesus knocked the law. These are all well and good, but they must come as a result of our fellowship with Christ not as a means of developing spirituality. The church of Ephesus did all the right works, but God chastised them for their lack of passion for Christ.

What happens when we fail to apply this principle? New Christians, in their blessed ignorance, are thrown into the fray and worn to a frazzle. An atmosphere of legalism is fostered which turns into an atmosphere of manipulation and control which turns into an atmosphere of weariness and disillusionment. The woods are full of people who “used to be church-members”, who “used to teach Sunday School”, etc. who eventually got burned out on doing and never learning about the difference Christ wants to make on the inside.

Jesus, in His sermon, began to introduce the concepts of genuine godly testimony, purity of the heart, faith, personal worship and obedience to His words. These themes were repeated over and over by the New Testament writers. Paul’s feelings were, “All my achievements are dung! I want to know more about Christ!”

May God help us to be Christians whose hearts blaze with a heavenly passion, ignited and fueled by time spent with Jesus.

Changing Our Mind(set)

As Jesus taught His disciples, He began to say some things that were a total cross-cut to the grain of human nature:

Blessed are the poor in spirit… to those who were so full of themselves.

Blessed are they that mourn… to those who would convince themselves of their own
self-righteousness.

Blessed are the meek… to those who would advance their own rights and agendas.

Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness… to those who had an appetite for the carnal.

Blessed are the merciful… to those with an unforgiving spirit.

Blessed are the pure in heart… to those whose lives were full of moral corruption.

Blessed are the peacemakers… to those who were contentious and angry.

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake… to those who lacked the boldness to openly proclaim their faith in Him.

I am convinced that in order for us to be obedient to God’s command to be filled with His Spirit, we must first be willing to empty ourselves of ourselves. These Beatitudes point out to us the areas of our lives in which human nature conflicts with divine nature. Allowing these blessings to saturate our consciousness will bring us to a place where we are willing to forsake the things in this world that pull our attention away from Jesus.

As we learn of Him, let us be willing to allow His Spirit to convict us, cleanse us, change our mindset and fill us with the nature that is a reflection of the image of our Lord.

It is a life with a price, but Jesus calls it “blessed”.

Sitting At the Feet Of Jesus

His disciples climbed the mountain behind Him. Can you imagine the questions in their minds? These were men who were only recently called away from their fishing boats and tax records. They had entered this whirlwind of ministry with this new teacher. The excitement of the crowds, the healings, the deliverances undoubtedly had them feeling an adrenaline rush.

Jesus called them away from all of that to come and listen to Him.

He climbed the mountain, sat down and waited for them to catch up. When they got to where He was, He began to teach them. He taught them a new way of thinking: different attitudes, a new philosophy of life, a higher set of morals, that prayer and worship should be meaningful, all of the new aspects of the Kingdom. He concluded this sermon by warning them that failure to heed His words was to build a life that is destined to collapse.

Has that principle changed? I don’t think so. It is still God’s desire for us to hear the words of Jesus. Throughout the Gospel of John, Jesus repeatedly reminds the disciples about the value of His words calling them doctrine, truth, spirit and eternal life.

Yet we so often fail to sit at the feet of Jesus. We replace worship with work. We ignore prayer, substituting the latest leadership methods for the power of the Holy Spirit. Our Bibles collect dust while we read the latest Christian best-seller on how to be a better person.

The voice of Jesus still patiently calls, “Come, climb the mountain with me. Sit at my feet and learn of me.”

A comment after the last post in this topic made reference to the fact that our ministry should flow out of time spent with Jesus. This is so true. I am learning that the things God wants me to do are actually the things He wants to do through me. This will only come about if I am maintaining fellowship through personal worship of Christ.

Jesus calls to you, He wants you to sit at His feet, hear His words, get to know Him better. Are you too busy to come?

On the Mountain with Jesus

In the fifth chapter of Matthew, we find the beginning of Jesus’ delivery of the Sermon on the Mount. This sermon was literally one to change the world, yet there is some significance, not only in its content, but in its timing and location.

The last few weeks of Jesus’ life had been a whirlwind: His baptism and subsequent tempation in the wilderness, the calling of His disciples and the beginning of the early stages of His ministry. In fact, the end of chapter four tells us that He was travelling through the region, teaching, preaching, healing, casting out devils and tending to the needs of the multitudes in general. These would have certainly been exciting times for his disciples, having just stepped away from their fishing nets into this bustling activity.

Verse one of chapter five tells us that “…seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him.” He then proceeded to teach them the truths of the Kingdom, but did you get the fact that He walked away from the multitude? He saw a need to come apart from the needs of others to teach His disciples.

I can only imagine the consternation of the disciples: “Jesus, there are still sick people to be healed.” “Jesus, what about that demon-possessed fellow over there?” “Jesus, those people need to be taught!”

Jesus’ response was to climb a mountain and sit down to wait for His disciples to catch up.

What does this teach us?

As a pastor who has been in full-time ministry for a number of years, I find that one of the easiest traps I can fall in is that of busyness. If you are one who is serving God in any capacity, you probably have a sensitivity to the needs of others. After all, isn’t that what ministry is about? We throw ourselves into the whirlwind of preaching, teaching, ministering, giving, serving and just basically doing.

I am not saying that ministry is wrong, that is what God calls us to do. There is, though, a protocol that Jesus repeatedly establishes throughout the Gospels and that is, focusing on Him before we look at others. It’s the whole Mary/Martha thing. Jesus wanted us to know that before we should be concerned with doing we should focus on being.

Somehow we get the idea that doing things for God makes us spiritual. We think that unless we are involved in some form of ministry every waking moment, then we aren’t being faithful to God. We operate under the premise that if “We don’t do it, it won’t get done.” Even worse, we foist this idea on new believers forcing them into the meatgrinder even before they have been dried off from their baptism. I had always realized that I couldn’t earn my salvation, but it changed my life when I found out that I couldn’t earn my spirituality.

It will be better, I think, if I treat this subject in multiple posts rather than one great big one. Let me conclude this one by saying that the single most important thing in the life of a Christian is time spent worshipping and learning from the Savior. Let us be willing to climb the mountain so that we can sit at His feet and learn what we ought to be.

Have a blessed day.