“Wash my feet?”

multiple sandy feet in a circle

“…He poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith He was girded. Then …Peter saith unto Him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? …Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me” (John 13:5-8).

Peter could hardly believe what he was seeing when Jesus knelt before him with a towel in His hand and told him to extend his feet so He could wash them. Peter replied that he would not allow Jesus to bring Himself down to such a low level. He could not in any way envision Christ as a servant. But Jesus explained that rejecting this offer would be the same as rejecting Him, and then He said, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”

What is the essential qualification to have a part with Christ? It doesn’t matter what our sin may be—we can be made pure through the actions of Jesus. But the only way we can receive is to have our feet washed by Him first. Jesus is willing and able to wash us to purify us of all our sins. He did not say that we have to pay Him or give Him anything to do this. It is an honor we cannot buy or earn, because it only comes by the mercy of God, and it is from Him alone that we receive it.

bowing to royalty

Royalty demands that we bow at their feet if we hope to get a favor from them. They might even require us to wash their feet before we could be considered for a favor. But what did the King of kings and Lord of lords do? He took off His outer garment, picked up a towel, and bent His knee before us in order to wash our feet! We should be serving Him, yet He serves us!

After He washed the feet of the disciples, Jesus said that “…ye ought also to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14-15). So why didn’t they continue washing each other’s feet after Jesus left them? Because they understood that He was simply demonstrating the need for lowliness before each other to them. There was no set way this was to be done, only according to the time and place and need, sometimes one way, sometimes another. The lesson Jesus was trying to get across was to have humble love for one another.

Jesus also wanted His disciples to be as clean inwardly as they were outwardly once they were washed.

He wanted them to help each other to reach toward the goal of purity, which might include washing one another’s feet when necessary. They were to be willing to serve those of any class, not just their own, whenever they had the opportunity. Jesus desired for His disciples to not just be morally right toward their brothers in the Lord, but to go to the extent of humbly denying themselves in order to help their brothers to be morally clean and pure also.

red heart

“Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently…” (1 Peter 1:22).

Jesus wanted them to demonstrate brotherly love for each other, coming from a pure heart of godly love. He wanted the disciples to see each other as brothers because they would all soon be cleansed, not by water this time, but by His blood shed on the cross of Calvary. This would be their true source of cleansing and purification. He also told them that “What I do thou knowest not now. But thou shall know hereafter.”

We who belong to Christ need to do what He wanted us to do—to humbly lower ourselves to the level of servant to one another. Then we will be able to help remove the dirt and stain of the world and sin from each other which we all come in contact with day after day. If we will lower ourselves to walk a simple life of humility, we will be able to help lift our brothers and sisters to a life that is pure and noble.

If we feel unworthy to have Jesus wash our feet, and let this keep us away from Him, do we think we will be saved by what we think is being humble? We won’t be saved unless we let Him wash us and cleanse us of all sin.

If we are not willing for Him to do so, then we will not have a part in Him. It is my prayer that each of us, as children of God, will have a part with Him, and that we will all be faithful and diligent to watch over each other’s souls in order to give account to our Lord.

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Character Pleasing to God

young woman sitting by tree

What we say and what we actually do can be miles apart. But God doesn’t judge us by these as much as He judges us by our character. The one thing He really wants to see is godly character being built up in us. This means the way we behave according to our code of correct behavior, which is then demonstrated by the actions of our body. But we seldom think of character in terms of our body. The character we form is made known by the disposition that rules within us—referring to our customary moods and attitude toward life around us. God can change our disposition, but He is not the one who forms our character. We have to do that ourselves.

There is no quick and easy way to Heaven. This is also true in forming godly character. Choosing a quick and easy way to the ways of God does not benefit us. The only sure way is long and careful. We therefore need patience in the process. We can choose to ignore God and refuse to obey Him, or we can obey Him by bringing every thought and imagination under control. Then His life will be displayed in our body. The issue is not simply keeping us from going to Hell. The issue is that we have been saved for the very purpose of displaying Christ in our everyday life—in everything we do. “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them,” said Jesus (John 13:17 emphasis mine).

headshot of a middle aged man

Patient striving for godly character shows the power of our love for God. Jesus did not choose the quick and easy way to the throne and kingdom He was destined for. He chose the long way of humility which took Him first to the Cross of Calvary. The heavenly Father’s perfect standard for a man’s character is represented by the life of Jesus. The Father does not make us walk right. Instead, He gives us the very life and Spirit of His Son, so His patience, love, and gentleness can be displayed in us. Then consistent godly Christian character is formed as the life of Jesus is made evident in our mortal body.

The only way to clearly understand the will of God is by developing godly character. Different Christians interpret His will in various ways at various times, but the Holy Spirit is the only true interpreter. When we first receive the Holy Spirit, we learn the most valuable lesson of spiritual life—that God’s will is revealed according to our character’s condition. But His will doesn’t change our character. It is our attitude toward His will, expressed in our newly-forming character, which begins to reflect His will. Paul said to work out our salvation, and to be consistent in character with what God has worked in, “That ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2).

two indigenous children washing dishes

Our character cannot earn or make us deserve a right to come before God. It is only by His grace that we can ever stand before Him. Let’s be wary of having an arrogant interest in our own character, which can then turn into our reason for believing in God. Be careful that nothing interferes with our proper relationship with Him. Anything that damages this relationship will interfere when God wants to use us to influence others toward Him. It will also mar our reflection of Him in the eyes of others.

“The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin” as we are “perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (1 John 1:7; 2 Corinthians 7:1 emphasis mine).

Are we guilty of encouraging a false, unhealthy holiness that does not come from the fear of God? If we focus on our own holiness, a subtle pride of the flesh which is not in the Word can slowly rise up in us. It does not lead to building character, but only to having experience. Then we tend to take ourselves too seriously and God not seriously enough.

three crosses in a field

God gives us the right disposition through the Atonement (Jesus shedding His blood on the cross for our sins). He puts it into us when we are born again. But it is up to us to work it out in everyday life, in and through our physical body. This is also the way our character is made and displayed. It cannot be expressed in any other way except through our body. And how can we tell if our emerging character is of the nature of God? only when the life of His Son is being made manifest (evident) in our body.

Strength in moral life depends on the quality of our morals. But in spiritual life, we need to deal with things that oppose us by drawing from the life of Jesus. This will produce holy character which is wholly pleasing to God. Can we save ourselves or set ourselves apart unto holiness? No, only God can. Our treasure in Heaven is the wealth of character we are storing up by remaining true to Jesus’ faith, not to our faith in Him. But it is dangerous to allow holy character to replace our faith in God. Let’s think long and hard about our development of godly character, and work out what these thoughts concerning what God have worked into us. Then we will know that the character we have developed is pleasing to God.

Knowing the Voice

studio microphonesheep in snow covered field

A well-dressed man in his early forties and his fiancée were sitting in an upscale Chicago restaurant waiting at their table for their meal. While deeply engrossed in conversation with his wife-to-be, the man sensed that someone was waiting behind him near his right shoulder.

“Excuse me for cutting in,” a woman’s voice suddenly bellowed, “but you wouldn’t happen to be Harlton Grummokes, would you?”

The man momentarily turned away from his fiancée and replied in his deep professional voice, “Why yes, Madam, I certainly am, and you must be one of the followers of my program.”

“Oh my goodness, it really is you!” the woman burst forth in excitement. “I’m Martina Harsterne. My friend and I are visiting from Alberta, Canada, and I listen to your radio program every week.”

“Well, I’m much obliged. I presume that you are really benefitting from it?” Grummokes inquired.

“Definitely! I’ve learned so much from your in-depth discussions and interviews,” the woman eagerly responded.

“So how did you recognize me, since you probably know that I rarely wear suits or dine in fine restaurants?” Grummokes further inquired.

“Oh, I didn’t have the slightest idea what you looked like, what you wear, or even where you eat. In fact, I wasn’t even expecting to ever see you in person. It was your voice that I recognized almost immediately,” the woman continued, “There are certain qualities about your voice that are not like any other. Besides, I’ve been listening to your voice long enough now that I could easily pick you out of a crowd of people!”

How many times do we recognize someone solely by his voice? There are occasions when it is the only way that we are able to identify a person we know. Children quickly learn and know their parent’s voices, partially through sheer repetition, but mostly through intimacy. If we were to blindfold someone who has been married for decades, we would often see how easily they will acknowledge the voice of their spouse when he or she calls out in a crowd. Research has shown that each of us has a unique voiceprint, just like our fingerprints.

sheep congregating with shepherd

Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). Recognizing His voice isn’t something that occurs immediately. A relationship has to be developed over a period of time. A bond must be formed that is closer and greater than our relationship with friends, relatives, our spouse, or even our children. We need to be willing to let everything go and say in our heart, “Lord, I am all yours; do as you will.” As we yield ourselves to Him with passionate desire and devotion, then He will make Himself more and more known to us. “Draw nigh[near] to God, and he will draw nigh to you” (James 4:8).

Sheep, like a lot of animals, will not easily follow someone they do not know. Many times they will run away in another direction when someone else calls to them. Only the shepherd that they have been raised under for many, many years will they readily follow when he calls them. “And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers” (John 10:5). When the True Shepherd calls, will we know His voice? Have we spent so much time in His presence that when He speaks we will recognize Him, sight unseen? Or have we wandered so far that His voice can no longer be heard? Is our relationship with Him so weak that we can’t even acknowledge that it is He who is speaking?

Just as with any diligent and loving shepherd, Jesus wants us to know His voice. He desires that we spend more of our time seeking and learning about Him. That means reading and studying His Word, the Bible. Most importantly, He wants us to spend more dedicated time with Him in worship and prayer, not five minutes or an hour here and there.

When we want to know more about someone in a relationship, we don’t engage in a conversation with him or her for a short time every so often. We try to find any possible moment and means to be around and communicate with him or her, whether it is in person, on the phone, by a computer, or by mail. We really desire to know him or her better. Likewise, this should be our yearning to know Him whom we claim to love the most. He should be on our mind continually. Naturally, we are always going to hear voices of all kinds around us, but as we get to know Jesus more intimately, His still, small voice will be the one heard most clearly in our heart, just as a child readily hears his mother’s whisper.

Right now the Shepherd is speaking to us. Are we listening for His voice?

At the Feet of Jesus

Christ in the house of Mary and Martha
By Johannes VermeerfwE2zem7WDcSlA at Google Cultural Institute Public Domain, Link

Jesus “…entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came up to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered…Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful: for Mary hath chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:38-42).

By this time in His ministry, many had rejected Jesus and no longer welcomed Him, much less entertained Him. Everywhere in the region, people were speaking against Him. Yet, to the true believers in Him, Jesus was still dear, just as they were to Him. At one particular house in Bethany, He’d certainly still be welcome. Martha was expecting Him to visit her and Mary and Lazarus. She knew that receiving Jesus and those in His company would involve much food preparation and serving. Curious crowds from the local village also came and surrounded the house to see Jesus. Imagine the great sense of anticipation when they heard that He was on His way! And how enormous the crowd would be that was about to descend for a meal at the house of Martha, Mary and Lazarus!

Lazarus welcomed Jesus and the others when they arrived at his house. The sisters were busily preparing to serve them. Both had the same love for Jesus, since each of them had received Him into her heart. Then Martha became troubled, since Mary had left her alone to serve the people. Martha became so busy and anxious trying to serve the Lord and His many followers that she was frantic. Surely she thought, “What is this? My sister sits herself down at the feet of Jesus, while I’m left here alone to cook for and serve all these people!” How this vexed and irritated her.

Her attitude toward Mary made her forget that what she was doing was really for the sake of Jesus, who had come to spend time with them.

She was opening a way for the enemy to come into her heart and inject discord, jealousy, and aggravation into the situation without recognizing it. And this opened a way for him to hinder her walk with Jesus.

Throughout all of this, Mary was complacent—which really troubled her sister. Martha must have fumed, “Why doesn’t Mary respond to me and help serve these guests?” Such thoughts surrounded and troubled her. If she had focused instead on Jesus being there, she would have been less likely to dictate to Him or to complain about Mary. Instead Martha “…came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me” (Luke 10:40).

Jesus responded, “…Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:40-42).

He approved of and appreciated the fact that Mary had chosen to sit at His feet and learn from Him. When we try to please Jesus today, our concern more often is about doing things to serve God rather than about being in His presence. We get so busy in activities for Him that we end up in Martha’s frantic condition. Then we worry and feel weighed down in serving the Lord. How easily we forget the one “thing most needful”—simply to sit at Jesus’ feet and learn from Him. We make time to fulfill our desires for ourselves. What about making time for His spiritual presence in our lives? May the Lord keep us from falling into the same trap of over-involvement in service that Martha did, so that we don’t have time to just sit and learn of Him!

Martha had a heart for others. She really did care. Her work for the Lord was acceptable in its proper place. But something was more needful at this occasion which should have been done first.

She expected Jesus to blame Mary for not doing what Martha felt she was supposed to do concerning the meal. Instead, Jesus indirectly blamed Martha for not doing what Mary did, because her sister had chosen the best part of life—learning His Word. In the end, her choice will be justified, along with all who make the same choice and then live by it. Mary chose Christ and sought to honor and please Him, while Martha chose only to provide for His bodily, temporary needs to honor and please Him.

Over two thousand years after this event, Mary is still being praised for her choice, as she also will be in the resurrection. She wept at Jesus’ feet when He came to her house after Lazarus died and He comforted her. She was found at His feet when she later came and anointed Him with oil. He was her Prophet, Priest, and King for whom she humbly and lavishly shared her love.

Mary yielded herself to the absolute guidance of Christ. Jesus declared that she had chosen the best part—the “one thing [that] is needful…” (Luke 10:42). Someday we’ll be separated from all of our loved ones and belongings of this lifetime. But if we have this same love of Christ that Mary had, nothing can separate us from Him. We need to have this same love of His presence in our hearts today while we sit at His feet. Then Christ will not be taken away, because He is the best part.

Powered by The Light

Electricity created from light is an amazing source of energy. If we were to stop and think about what causes this to happen, it just doesn’t seem logically possible that a light source, such as the sun, or even something as simple as a desk lamp, could recharge a phone, operate a calculator, or cause a small motor to spin. On a much larger scale, light from the sun can generate enough electricity to provide power for a single home all the way up to a small city, and even more. In fact, it is now becoming increasingly difficult to find something that does not have light as a power source.

While solar power is a rather cost-effective energy source, it lacks the large volume of power that more conventional sources of power (such as coal, gas, or hydroelectric) could generate for the same amount of physical space. Since the output of a solar or “photovoltaic” cell (the component that converts light into electricity) is not powerful enough, it cannot be directly connected to the device that needs power. A common method to accommodate this shortfall is to use a battery. The battery becomes the actual power source while the solar cell recharges the battery. This allows the device to continue operating for a limited period of time when there is no light source.

car battery

A similarity exists between solar cells, batteries, and true believers in Jesus Christ. When we yield to Him and allow Him to work in our life, He becomes the light source that recharges us spiritually, by means of the Holy Spirit. As long as we desire to be in His presence and do the will of our Heavenly Father, we are made strong spiritually. But when we do our own will, and manage in a way that we feel is best, we then move out of His light and into darkness. The more we are in darkness, the more that we are working in our own strength and power. Furthermore, we are not able to generate or produce enough of our own light to keep ourselves charged.

The result?—we soon run out of power and become spiritually dead.

The solution?—stay in The Light.

The means?—through prayer, reading and dwelling on God’s Word (the Bible), and by being obedient to it.

Therefore it is imperative for us to yield to Christ in a real relationship. The more we yield our self to Him, the more we are able to walk in His light. This will, in turn, keep us fully charged with His power and will enable us to carry out God’s will. A solar cell must be in a good source of light to generate electricity. In a similar manner, we must remain consistently in His Light for the Holy Spirit to work through us. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). Let us walk in His light and keep ourselves out of the darkness.

“Fear Ye Not!”

Moses and the crossing of the Red Sea

“…Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever” (Ex. 14:13).

“Fear ye not”, Moses ordered the people of God. Yet here they were, with no weapons, facing the mightiest army on Earth at that time. But their lack of weapons really did not matter, because they had no courage to stand against the Egyptian army anyway.

“Stand still”, Moses then ordered them. They were not to even try to fight, or to help God out in delivering them. What they did need to do was to just stand quietly, reining in their fear, panic, and confusion. That was how they could ‘help’ God!

“See the salvation of the Lord”, Moses told them next. But how could Moses be so sure himself that God would deliver them? He knew there was good reason for hope that God would intervene. His courage and confidence came from seeing the supernatural cloud that had come with them. He also knew that God always positions Himself in between His people and their strong enemies. “And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them…” (Exodus 14:19).

The Lord frequently leads His children into very difficult situations from which they are unable to see any way of escape. And they would not have judged this to be a good idea if God had asked their opinion in advance. But God’s cloud always guides them in the direction He deems best.

You may also be in a difficult situation right now, from which you can see no way of escape. Do not worry, do not fear—if God leads you into the situation, then it is appropriate for you, and it will prove to be justified in due time. God will use it later as a way to show His grace and power to you and to others.

Most people tend to place situations between themselves and God. But the man of God places God in between himself and the difficult situation. Has God said “Go forward!” to you? Then watch Him clear the way and lead you, along with other men and women of God, the way a shepherd guides and cares for his flock. His way will be a way unknown to you. But if He chooses to put you in dire straits, He will also be the one to lead you out again.

Where else could Israel go but up? And that is just where their deliverance came from. You may be doing what you should to follow God and make your way to Heaven, and still find yourself troubled every direction you turn. Some of the Israelites cried out against Moses, because they were so afraid. They acted like the same God who had performed miracles to get them this far could no longer perform more miracles on their behalf. Others who were afraid cried unto God in prayer. But this was good for them, because they needed to learn to cry unto God, and no longer rely on Moses or themselves.

kneeling in prayer

Why does God still bring His people today into trying and difficult situations? so that we will go on our knees at once, seeking Him for answers and deliverance. When we cannot find a way to get out of the trouble we find ourselves in, we need to rise above our fear, and use it instead to spur us into prayer. We should never permit our fear to stifle our hope and faith in God.

“Stand still,” instead of trying to fight or flee in order to save yourself. Be a good soldier of God and wait to receive further orders from Him. Then carry out His orders once He gives them to you. Settle yourself to put all confidence in God no matter what situation He has led you into. Then you will see what a great deliverance He is going to accomplish on your behalf!

Hold your peace. Don’t raise your hand to the enemy. Don’t even shout against him. God will do the work needed without any help from you. It is wise when times are hard to keep your spirit calm and quiet. This puts you in the right frame of mind to do the work you are supposed to do and to consider God’s work.

If you can’t figure out what to do, don’t do anything. Stand still until God tells you your next move. It is His concern to defend those who believe in Him and to direct them. “The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace” (Exodus 14:14).

“Fear ye not!”

No Room for Gray

no gray area graphic

An answer to a question on a forum post I read recently stated that there is black, and there is white, with 256 shades of gray in between. The thought of gray areas between black and white led me consider how we often think of God and the Devil. In our sphere of understanding, we tend to view God as the white side, and the Devil as the black side, with our existence being in the gray areas between the two. As long as we do what is right, and keep from doing what is wrong (at least, our definition of right and wrong), then we will move up or down in one of those gray areas.

We figure that, at the end of our existence, we will hopefully end up in the white side, and all those who did too many wrongs will end up on the black side.

We might also feel that somewhere along that gray-shaded road, we might make the decision to go God’s way and jump off the gray road onto the white side before we die, while the rebellious ones slip off onto the black side.

This is far from the truth. In reality, there is no gray area, there is only black and white. No matter how much ‘good’ we do, or may have done in our lifetime, we will always stay in the black side. We are never between the two sides; we cannot straddle the fence. We may think that we weren’t that bad, with just a little lie here, and maybe an insignificant item stolen there. But a window is still broken, even with just a little crack.

You probably wonder how you ended up in the black side in the first place. To be honest, you never ended up in the black; you began there. Our first ancestors, Adam and Eve, were on the white side in the beginning. But, by way of the Devil, Eve’s heart was deceived, and as a result, Adam ended up willfully sinning against God. This meant that Adam and Eve could no longer remain in the white side, since God is holy, and cannot tolerate any sin. (For a more detailed background, read Genesis 3 in the Bible.)

Now Pandora’s box  of sin was opened and could not be shut. It resembled a little bit of yeast which causes a whole loaf of bread to keep rising. Sin has now spread throughout the whole earth. It has been, and still is, present in everyone, everywhere. Its effects have been deteriorating everything in the earth, including the earth itself, for centuries.

We have been boasting of the great progress we have made since the early days of our existence, yet we are no more out of the black side than the moment that Adam and Eve were driven into it.

To add more bad news to all of this, we have been blinded to the fact that we are constantly living in sin, unless God, through His Spirit, opens our eyes to see how sinful we are. Then, to add insult to injury, we, in our own strength, cannot get free of sin and get out of the black side.

It may seem hopeless at this point, but this is just where hope begins! God already had a plan for bringing every man, woman and child out from the black side, long before Adam and Eve were even created. Why did He wait until after-the-fact to make His plan known? Why couldn’t He just stop sin as soon as it started, or make a means to prevent it from ever occurring? It all comes down to what is called the ‘free will.’ God put within each of us the ability to choose—to make our own choices. He never made us as machines, or robots with preset programs, that decide what we would or would not do. He is not a supreme dictator that makes uncompassionate ‘do or die’ commands upon every living thing. He is a loving God who knows us more that we know ourselves. In normal family relationships, parents love their children, and the children choose to love their parents in return. They are not ordered to love them. The option exists for the child to choose not to love them at any point. But most don’t, because they do love their mother and father. If God prevented anyone from sinning, then there would no longer be any choice available. Any reason to love Him would be taken for granted.

 God does not want us to sin. But we have to choose whether we will sin against Him or not. He will not force us, or corner us, into following Him.

The plan He made to rescue us further emphasizes His love for us. He always sees the big picture and knows what our future will be. As a loving Father, He looks out for us (if we allow Him to) by making a means of escape. In order to come before Him, we cannot have sin in our heart. And the penalty for our sins is death. During the time period of the Old Testament in the Bible, God made a temporary covering for sin. It was through the sacrifice of an innocent lamb. But this sacrifice was temporary and incomplete, and could not permanently remove our sins. Therefore, God prepared a way for a permanent sacrifice to be made, through His Son, Jesus.

Jesus left His heavenly Father and became human like us, but without sin, or allowing sin to enter into His heart. During His time on the earth, He remained obedient to His Father, fulfilling all of the requirements that God had laid out in His Law (found in the first five books of the Bible). The ultimate fulfillment came when His Son willingly sacrificed His life on a cross, just like the innocent lamb that had to sacrifice its life on the altar. That is how much God (and His Son) loves us, so much that He was willing to give His Beloved Son as a sacrifice for everyone: past, present, and those not even born yet, and that His Son was just as willing to make this sacrifice. The good news for us is, that all we have to do is believe in His Son, and accept His sacrifice as our sacrifice.

 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” (John 3:16-17)

At this point, we might feel that there may be some gray areas in life, and we’ll stand in them until we can figure out what to do next. It won’t work! It is still black and white only. We make the gray areas by believing the lies that the Devil feeds us. Just ask Eve:

“And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat” (Genesis 3:2-6).

The Devil is the master of deceit, and he has had thousands of years to analyze us and to know our strengths and weaknesses (much more than we know). He never wants us to leave the black side, and he does all he can to keep us there. But, through our pride and unbelief, we insist that our way is better, and that we can make it to the white side on our own. Meanwhile, we are busily going off on the wrong road, lost for eternity, still on the black side.

What is your choice? to remain in the black side under the illusion you are in the gray side, or to trust and believe in Jesus and His sacrifice for your sins?

If you made that decision to believe in Jesus, or just want to know more, please click here.

–James Pangburn

Board Games and Jesus

game_card_1

“And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?” Luke 9:23-25

When I was growing up, I was always open to playing a board game. But many times, when I couldn’t find a second player (since I am an only child) I would resort to my alternate lineup: me, myself and I! Trying to play objectively with myself (as a whole, not the specific player) as an imaginary player was interesting. Usually, the games came out about equal regarding which one of ‘me’ would win (although Scrabble was definitely not in my lineup as a solo game!). A fairly basic and typical pool of games was played in our home, consisting of: Monopoly, Scrabble, Life, Parcheesi, Payday, Easy Money, Mousetrap (one of my favorites), etc. Most of these are rather lengthy and involved, so they would often run late into the night. They therefore weren’t played as often as I’d have liked. Two games had a set of cards obtained individually either by a particular roll of the dice or a number spun on a wheel. Depending on the particular game, it could send you to a specific space on the board, require you to pay or collect a certain amount, or obligate a player to share half of the wealth gained or pay half of the loss acquired at a later time. The cards most prized exempted you from sharing your wealth or paying most fines, etc., for as long as you held the card.

Many people continue to carry the game-playing mentality into real life all through their lives, long after childhood ends. To them, Heaven becomes just a goal they are trying to win, and Jesus Christ becomes merely the means of obtaining their goal.

They feel that when they “get saved,” they are on the winning side and the game is almost finished.

Accepting Jesus is seen as their ‘get-into-Heaven-free’ card. As long as they keep out of ‘real’ trouble and do what they feel is right, when they die they can just hand their winning card as their entry pass to the angel at the gates of Heaven (or to Peter, as some have been taught). Then off they go to their magnificent mansion (or cloud) high above the sky.

The concept of surrender, sacrifice, and obedience never has entered their minds (or they did not want it to enter their minds). A growing movement believes that when you accept Jesus into your heart, God removes all sin from your life permanently. Some groups go to the level that even the whole concept of sin has been done away with.

“Sin is only in unbelievers. Jesus came and took care of all sin, and therefore when I gave my heart to Jesus I became free from sin forever” has become the general (but not literal) cry of this crowd. Even mention of the word ‘sin’ in a believer’s life is taboo, because they feel that this brings something back into existence that has been eliminated.

But in reality, these views are quite far from the truth. In his determination to keep us from following God, the Devil figures that if he can’t stop us from giving our lives to Christ, he will twist God’s word (the Bible) into something that sounds pleasing to our old self. If we listen, it will keep our new self from growing in the knowledge of God. Meanwhile, he creates the illusion (of which he is a master) that we are pleasing God all along. At the same time, he succeeds in keeping us out of a true relationship with Jesus (and ultimately out of Heaven). This paradox grows greater every day, especially as the Bible is forsaken for alternative teachings, or for what the latest bestselling author has to say, or for an ‘offend-no-one’ message in a church (or what once was called a church!). So much of the Bible has been taken out of context lately that it recently reached the list of banned books used as a guideline for schools, libraries, booksellers, etc.

The truth of the matter is, that when we give our hearts to Jesus, our old self, commonly known as ‘the flesh’ (the part of us that wants to live for the sinful pleasures of this world) has to give way to Jesus. The process is not optional, nor is it an easy one. Choruses are sung about “surrender” and “giving our all to Him,” about giving Him our lives and letting Him use them for His purpose, etc. Yet very few ever stop to ponder in their hearts what’s really being said or meant.

Jesus can’t be the Lord of our lives if we continue to be the lord. Our ‘self’ or ‘the flesh’ enjoys the idea of the joy, peace, and power He gives us when we accept Him. But it absolutely balks, almost in sheer rebellion, at having to yield totally to Jesus.

As a result, we have this determination and zeal to serve Him in our spirit, the opposite of our flesh, but the dominance of our flesh drives us to follow the sinful passions of this world.

God is a holy God, and He cannot allow any sin in His presence. So the Devil comes along and gladly offers to redefine sin for us! This satisfies our sinful flesh, and we no longer allow more of Jesus into our lives so we can become what God wants us to be. This begins our downfall as a believer in Christ.

The spirit of Christ (the Holy Spirit) within us cannot cohabit with our sinful flesh. Either the flesh goes, or He goes. He expects us to forsake our sinful ways, not accommodate them.

This world is no longer our true home; therefore, we should not continue to live our lives as if it is. God has a much, much better place for us. Nothing rots, decays or grows weary there. Due to sin, this present world is corrupt and dying, and never will provide true satisfaction. But as long as we continue to allow the world to dominate our flesh, we will never have real peace, and ultimately will die with it.

This doesn’t mean we have to allow ourselves to be tied up and left in a locked room, or abandoned in the middle of the desert with nothing to eat, and then cry out, “Jesus! I’m all yours now! Do whatever you want to me!” Instead, we need to stop trying in our own self or flesh to please Him, to do His work for Him as if we are going to win an extra turn or bonus points in the game. We need to allow Him the freedom to use us in the way He wants to. This doesn’t mean He’ll automatically send us to an unknown land where we don’t know the language or anyone at all, and they don’t know, or even want, us. Rather, it demonstrates to Him that we are open and willing to do His will, whatever it may be. If we refuse in one area, then He won’t use us in all areas. It’s like being in total control of a country, except for a small minority in the backside of the capital city that is holding out just in case something goes wrong. If that is the case, then you’re not in total control of that country. Ultimately, God wants us to surrender our authority over ourselves. When we “surrender all (as the popular chorus goes), all means 100 percent, not 50, not 85, or even 99 percent.

“So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:33

I ask you now, how much of your life are you going to yield to God? Are you going to allow your old self to reign? Are you going to continue playing life as a game, living like you please, flaunting your get-into-Heaven-exemption-card when troubles arise? Are you going to continue singing “I surrender all” when you are not surrendering all (or even some)? Are you spending time reading and studying God’s Word and communing with Him in prayer?

Prayer is not just a time of presenting our needs and petitions to God, but rather a time to align ourselves with His will.

As we surrender and submit ourselves to Him, we’ll find that the sinful (and even non-sinful) pleasures and desires of this world are not so pleasurable, and are actually appalling.

Let the finished work of Christ by His death on the Cross be the target of your faith and belief, not the latest self-help book, or ‘Christian’ fad on the Internet. Jesus loves you and wants all of you, not just whatever portion you can easily or conveniently give up to Him.

–James Pangburn

Your Point of Contact

boats in storm

 

“…in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matthew 14:25-31).

That particular evening Jesus faced the weariness of physically ministering to the throngs of people all day, and of feeding all of them too. Not only had He been pressed by them all day long, but also up into the evening. While the disciples headed back to the other side of the Sea of Galilee without Jesus, during that crossing they felt the same tiring effects from the exhausting day that Jesus felt. Even though they were physically exhausted, they continued to row further and further away from the point of contact of Jesus’ peace.

You may need that point of contact right now yourself, particularly if you have had an extremely hard day at work. Maybe you lost your job, or are very stressed out and feel that it is imperative to just get alone for a while. Maybe you are at the point of having no hope, and are destroying yourself with alcohol or drugs. Or maybe you just received notice of the death of someone dear to you. You need a true point of contact with God right now, but you may lack the one basic thing that can establish this contact. You need to pray with faith in the divine, invisible presence of God, which comes from having a personal relationship with His Son, Jesus.

While the disciples were crossing the sea, Jesus went to pray on the mountain. That was His own most important point of divine contact.

And if Jesus, being the Son of God, felt the necessity of being strengthened through prayer to the heavenly Father in these circumstances, how much more do we, who are weak, often failing, followers of Jesus, need to spend time alone in prayer to be strengthened by God too?

Yet we make excuses, like: It’s getting late, or, I really need my nap right now to get my strength back. When night fell, He was still there on the mountain alone, interceding for His disciples. There Jesus found His place of great strength. And you will find that prayer is a place of great strength for you as well.

You can experience the same touch from God’s divine presence as you face your own daily weaknesses, when your body is tossed around by the waves of the turmoil of life, in the midst of the darkness of its winds which are contrary to you. Howling winds of the storms coming against you will whip around you, the same as it was with Jesus’ disciples when they faced the dismal prospect of trying to row against the strong wind and waves that night.

As the disciples continued rowing, suddenly Peter and the others saw Jesus in the darkened distance walking toward them on the sea. He came closer and closer to them near the bow of the boat. They were very troubled at this sight and they said, “It’s a spirit; and they cried out for fear.” Jesus responded with perfect divine peace, “Be of good cheer; it is I, be not afraid.” Peter immediately answered, “Lord, if it is you, bid me to come to you on the water.”

Jesus told him to come, and Peter responded to that point of contact of faith and prayer. He stepped out of the boat and kept his eyes focused on his Lord Jesus in strong, obedient faith in His word, as he began to walk toward Him on the water.

As long as he kept his eyes on Jesus, he could continue to walk on the water. And in the midst of your daily troubles of life, Jesus is also calling to you, “Come to Me, my child.”

It’s amazing how our difficulties of life are similar to Peter’s. He walked on the water until he looked down and took his eyes off Jesus. We tend to do the same thing in our own lives when we also take our eyes off Jesus, the point of divine contact in our lives, and look down instead on the storms and troubles of life. Their boisterous winds blow around us, and we become afraid as we start to sink in the darkened, troubled waters. Then we cry out, “Oh, Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretches forth His hand and grasps us, pulling us to safety, while saying “O you of little faith, why did you doubt Me, my child?”

Maybe you are facing waves slapping around you right now, waves of fear, worry, doubt, or uncertainty. You look all around in the natural sphere without hope. Peter faced the same problem as wave after wave slapped against his face.

Looking around hopelessly, he cried out, “What am I doing out here?” And he started to sink. Then he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Can’t you just hear Jesus saying, “Oh, you of little faith. You started well, what happened to you?” Jesus was right there in the midst of the unsettled circumstances of life’s troubles, and God will reach out as the divine point of contact for you, too, so that you can release your faith in God through your prayers to God.