New Every Morning

The manna God provided for Israel in the wilderness was a huge demonstration of God love, His provision, and His care for His people as they moved through the wilderness going from Egypt to the Promised Land. 

It started like this: The Israelites were running short of food, only to wake up one morning and see the ground covered with manna. Chaos broke out as everyone scrambled to pick up all they could gather in their pockets, baskets, and other containers. Their thinking was, We better get all we can while we can. In their minds, that kind of heavenly provision would be short lived, so they decided to ration the gathered supply and make it last as long as possible.

What seemed like a reasonable plan was spoiled, however, when that night while they were sleeping, maggots infested their stored manna. God sent them a message that said, Yesterday’s provision is not today’s provision. He clearly did not want them to eat today’s leftovers tomorrow. Rather than trying to preserve today’s provision, He wanted them to engage every day with a fresh, new expectation and anticipation of what God would do new, new every morning.

God wanted them to believe that there’s always more where that came from – more blessing, more provision, more healing, more power, more of God’s favour (see Exodus 16).

Another thing that happened was that after the Israelites ate the manna, they complained that it was not “the same” as the corn and melons they had enjoyed while in Egypt. The form of God’s favour and provision had changed, and they were sentimentally attached to the old form of God’s favour and provision, which hindered them from fully appreciating and receiving the new season they were now in (see Numbers 11).

Here’s the takeaway: As good as yesterday may have been in your life, God doesn’t want you living there. He has new experiences, new discoveries, and new opportunities for you in the current season of your life.

I am thinking this through because recently I was thinking that maybe I should retire. That it is just too much to continue travelling to nations to share God’s Word. I am getting old, feeling old, and thinking that maybe I am done. Nd God spoke to me in a number if ways to let me know that it is not over – and that it is new every morning. 

I learned a few other truths during this season of wrestling with my feelings and thoughts… 

The best way to honour the past is to not get stuck in it! Stay creative and confident in today’s fresh supply of favour and provision. One of the biggest mistakes we can make is to get sentimentally attached to a past season of God’s favour and means of provision versus moving forward to experience a new season and experience His provision and favour in new ways.

 

God’s favour was on yesterday, yesterday — it’s not on yesterday, today!

The Psalmist said, “This is the day the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24 NKJV). He didn’t say he will rejoice in yesterday; he said he will rejoice in today!

God’s favour and provision is new every morning!

Live in today!

Expect great things today!

Draw on God’s favour and provision today!

So, as I said, in my life recently I hit the “I’m tired” button because I was depleted – emotionally and mentally. I began to think I should tap out because I am getting too old for all of this; too old to make a significant difference.

Here is what I discovered once again: When you feel weary it may mean it’s time for some course correction or new habits. It might be time, as I discovered, to get some outside voices speaking wisdom and clarity into your foggy set of circumstances. But the main thing I learned (again) and that I want to impress on you is that God’s plan for your life is not over and we must continue to expect and anticipate that things will become new every morning until the morning you see Him face-to-face in Heaven. New hope. New perspective. New direction. New insights. New wisdom. New provision. New direction. New challenge. New every morning. 

God’s favour and provision – and His call on your life – isn’t finished when you feel tired or weary. God has fresh favour and provision for you just on the other side of this season you are currently in. You are about to start a new chapter of your life. God will refresh you, renew your strength, and make you strong all the days of your life!

You may still be young, but you’re not too young to start thinking about staying strong, and finishing strong!

I love the words of Caleb who, when he was 85 years-old, said, “I’m still as strong today as I was in my youth … Now give me this mountain” (Joshua 14:11-12)

When Abraham was 99 years old, God appeared to him and said, “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2).

Cam Townsend, founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators, flew to Moscow and began learning Russian to assist in Bible translation work in the Caucasus. The nation was still under the iron grip of communism, and he was 72 years young.

Colonel Harland Sanders was 65 years old when he started actively franchising his chicken receipt. His face later became the second most recognized in America.

John Wesley preached over 40,000 sermons and travelled 225,000 miles and foot and horseback. But get this: these figures belong only to the latter part of his life, from age 35 to 88.

President Roland Reagan was 76 years old when he pointed to the Berlin Wall and said those famous words that ushered in a new era: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

No better what your age or circumstances, your past supply and provision is not your last supply! There is no end to the favour and provision of God. It has no quota and no limits. The Lord’s eyes are on you for your entire lifetime! Not a day goes by that He is not watching over you: “The LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore (Psalm 121:8).

He has fresh, new ways to provide for you and bless others through you in every chapter of your life, and every day that you live. 

Change Your Life

The Bible speaks a great deal about the changes we need to be making in our lives now that we are followers of Jesus. Of course, He will help us with these changes as we journey with Him in our daily life. As believers we are to live differently than the world. We are to be a counter-culture and not a sub-culture; living within the world but with a Kingdom perspective and biblical values, morals, and ethics. 

We have many examples to follow. As we are discipled and then mentored we can see and follow the example of those who are walking with us on the journey. We can read the Bible and see how early believers lived. And, there are numerous books that can help us get a handle on the changes that we should be making for our own benefit and spiritual health as believers.

Paul’s words to the Colossians are particularly fascinating in this regard because he was writing to a young Christian community that didn’t really know how Christians were suppose to act or live. They didn’t have Christian grandparents who had been believers before them. They didn’t know any mature believers who had spent decades walking in the faith and who could model the way Christians live. In Colossae, faith was brand-new. Everyone was a pioneer of sorts, with no generational influence to build on. They were the first Christians they had ever known, forcing Paul to be clear and precise as he taught them how to behave. Without getting all flowery, Paul writes to the Colossians with explicit and specific words: This is how Christians act. This is how our faith and belief affect our attitudes and actions. 

Paul tells the Colossians that a central theme of behaving like a believer is first taking something off: “But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips” (Colossians 3:8).

In other words, “Don’t be toxic.” The entire human disposition that intentionally hurts others has to die in us. Toxic people are always putting themselves first in all relationships. They say and do things that hurt you and the relationship. They are controlling and manipulative. Harsh in what they say and how they say it. And usually abrasive.

Paul then tells the Colossians what they are to put on: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12).

These qualities are the polar opposites to toxicity. Compassion means you feel for others rather than setting yourself against them. Kindness means you want to help, not hurt. Humility puts others first instead of wanting to control them. Gentleness means you are tender, not harsh, and patience means you are encouraging rather than abrasive. 

Notice something that is crucial for personal transformation: before Paul tells the Colossians how to behave, he reminds them of how much they are loved and prized by God, “…as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved” (Colossians 3:12).

Knowing that we are chosen and loved by God is the essential mind-set through which we love others and reject being toxic. With all our spiritual needs met in God, we can live in a toxic world without becoming toxic ourselves, providing we remember we are chosen and dearly loved. Because we live in a toxic world filled with toxic people, we will be treated in a toxic manner. We avoid responding in a toxic way by living out of and being motivated by the gracious love of God, who chose us when we were still living toxic lives and who ushers us into gracious living.

Toxic people find sick satisfaction in being mean, controlling, and hurtful. Believers find true satisfaction in being chosen and loved by God. That love is so overwhelming that we don’t expect people to meet our needs. We don’t want to control people or hurt people; we want people to experience the same joy and satisfaction in God that we have come to know.

God’s love and affirmation lift us to a dimension of living where fighting each other doesn’t make sense. When I feel spoiled by God, what you do to me or think of me doesn’t matter all that much, because God’s opinion is superior to yours. God’s protection makes me feel secure in the face of your assault. God’s affirmation speaks louder than your opposition or hatred. One of the primary ways we show that God has taken such good care of us spiritually is how we live and take care of others. 

And, the key to that is to allow God to transform us … and we cooperate by “taking off” and “putting on.” We are partners with God in bringing about these needed changes in our life as believers and disciples of Jesus. 

Bad Eyes – Good Eyes

Jesus told us, “The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness” (Luke 11:34 NKJV).

This really hit home recently while I was ministering in Southern California. My glasses were not sitting right on my face (I had dropped them) and after prophesying over a pastor he came up and asked if he could adjust them. His full-time job in Seattle was working with eyeglasses … he was a church planter. He had travelled many hours to be at our meetings. I so appreciated him correcting the fit of my glasses as then I could see properly out of my progressive lenses. 

My eyesight is not as poor as some people’s. But when my glasses fit properly I can read with a lot more ease and catch details that I otherwise miss. Just as people go to an eye doctor to get glasses or have surgery to give them better eyesight, we’re not stuck with our current life paradigm. We can choose a better one!

The word paradigm come from the Greek and is, in a general sense, a reference to a set pattern or way we see the world – not in terms of our physical eyes but in terms of our assumptions, beliefs, and overall perspective. It’s what we might call our mind’s eye.

This is what Jesus was referring to as He explained the eye as the lamp of the body. He was saying that the eye can be good or the eye can be bad, and the condition of our eye affects what we see or don’t see, what we experience or miss out on. If our eyes are good, it’s like turning on a lamp inside of us. We brighten up in our spirits because we’re living with a greater awareness of God’s goodness and blessings in our lives. 

The opposite is true about bad eyes; they miss seeing the good. They may or may not take in darkness, but they definitely don’t take in light. What they don’t see is not what they are incapable of seeing but typically what they are not trained to see.

In a similar way, the only thing that’s different between a negative person and a positive person is what they “see.” Two people can grow up in the same home with similar life experiences, and one will be negative about life and the other will be positive. Even though they have been surrounded by the same environment and have the same parents, what they see and the way they see it is different.

Negative people are not bad. Pessimistic people are not ignorant. In fact, oftentimes negativity is a trait of people who are highly informed in what they call reality. When passing along their perspective, they will tell you, “I’m not being negative; I’m just being real!” And they are being real in what they are aware of and educated in, which is the “life is hard” reality. They have taken pages of notes and have the data to support the fact that life is not a gravy train!

When people are deeply educated in the “life is hard” reality but undereducated in the “God is good” reality they lean towards the unfavourable possibilities versus seeing the possibilities of something good. The reason these people can get stuck in their negativity is that they have accepted that the “life is hard” reality (paradigm) cancels out the “God is good” (paradigm) reality.

I have found that anyone, even people highly aware of the “life is hard” reality, will become authentically optimistic when they educate themselves in the “God is good” reality. You don’t have to deny the realities associated with life being hard to see the realities associated with God being good!

When you look through ‘good eyes’ you see, recognize, and accept that there is a problem and life is difficult. But, you first see it as a challenge and an opportunity to see God move and do something amazing and supernatural. You rise to the challenge that the reality offers to you. You accept the negative reality as something God knew was coming and has prepared you to handle. His grace being more than sufficient. So, both ‘good eye’ and the ‘bad eye’ see the same reality … but the ‘good eye’ sees it as an amazing opportunity for God to show Himself strong in the situation and for them to learn and grow in their walk of faith as a believer. 

“Yes, But…?”

I connect with believers every day. Even when I am not on the road ministering my “office time” is usually absorbed by connecting with people. I love it. After all, ministry is about people. So, as I sit in my sunny office in the morning I connect with people through emails, texts, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Viber, Instagram, Twitter, iMessage, and FaceTime. Topics vary. People are looking for help. A prophetic word. Some information. Planning of a future trip when flights go back to normal (hopefully). Just to touch base with a person who cares because they are on lockdown like most of the world. Some people are connecting because we are friends and so keep in touch on a regular basis regardless of where life is taking us. You get the idea. 

I also hear from leaders and believers who want to share what is happening in their lives and ministries. That’s good. I want to know. I care. And, I read a limited number of “Christian” newsfeeds. I don’t read or watch or listen to anything anyone “forwards” to me. If I didn’t ask for it, I don’t have the time or the interest to work with it. 

In the midst of these connections with leaders and believers I hear about the “Christian” conspiracy theories. I hear that people are focusing just on prayer and no longer teaching on the Church, the fivefold ministry, or other topics. Just prayer. I relate to people who are convinced that ‘the government’ is behind the Coronavirus pandemic. All night soaking meetings of worship and prayer. “Burn” meetings. That we need to fight the demonic powers that are preventing Christians being free to minister and preach – especially in the prisons during the COVIT-19 outbreak. Christian television and radio and the deception and false teachings propagated through this segment of the media. Prophetic words being declared. Prophecy being examined and interpreted in light of the pandemic. The anti-christ that is now loose on the planet.  And, on the list could go. 

This goes on even when we are not in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. Believers, churches, denominations, movements … the focuses are constantly changing. There is an old or new bandwagon for us all to jump on (Toronto Blessing, Bethel…). There are church planting movements where we franchise out a form of planting and running a church (MacChurch franchises). 

I sit back as all of this swirls around me. I have been in ministry for over 50 years. I have seen a lot of this many times over … it is like the waves on a beach. New programs. New methods. New presentations. New television shows. New ways to communicate. They just keep coming. New outreach methods. New worship styles. New dress code for with-it senior leaders. And, each wave continues to keep us focused on something other than what Jesus told us to do. Jesus gave a mandate to the Church. Marching orders to His arm. He said, “Go into all the world and make disciples…”

So, as I hear about all this “stuff” going on and everything that people are focusing on I have to ask myself, “Yes, But…” 

Yes, but how is this helping people to know the love of God?

Yes, but  how is this increasing the influence of the Church in the world?

Yes, but is this really training and equipping the saints for the work of ministry?

Yes, but how is this helping people to be born again?

Yes, but how is this working to move people forward in their walk with Jesus?

Yes, but, what about discipling?

Yes, but what about being salt and light, impacting your community?

Yes, but how is this communicating the life-changing gospel of the Kingdom?

Yes, but how is this in any way impacting the culture?

Much of what we do today in and with the church is seriously just maintenance and not ministry. We are maintaining the sheep – caring for them, loving them, making sure they are comfortable. Real ministry is reaching out to the lost as Jesus did on a daily basis. And, while doing so, discipling those closest to us. Again, as Jesus did. If what we are spending our time on does not encourage and strengthen our evangelistic outreach, it is not the right focus. If what we are doing simply occupies the believer’s time and energy taking them away from building relationships in their community … then we are simply spinning our wheels and playing church. 

So, I am constantly asking myself, “Yes, but…” 

In fact, I have become bold and have begun to ask those I am communicating with, “Yes, but…” and the responses are interesting. Very interesting. And, there is a lot of silence and fewer long conversations. But, that’s okay.

In your walk with the Lord it might be good to occasionally ask yourself, “Yes, but …” what difference is ‘this’ (you fill in the blank _______________)  making in my life, the life of the church I attend,  and the life of others who don’t know Jesus?

The answer – if you are being honest – might cause you to pause and reexamine your Christian experience. I hope it does!

The Perfect Storm

The disciples were following Jesus wherever He went, assisting Him in all His ministries. They were listening to His Word and helping Him preach and share the Gospel of the Kingdom, yet they found themselves being tossed up and down by a storm and in real danger of drowning. The disciples were learning a difficult lesson – one every believer must learn: we can find ourselves in the middle of God’s perfect will and in the middle of a perfect storm at the same time!

When author Gary Thomas and his wife considered buying a house, they prayed diligently for God to guide them. If it wasn’t His will, they figured He would close the windows of opportunity.

The window did not close, so they proceeded with their purchase. Five years passed, during which they enjoyed their home and the blessing of God. Then the economy entered a tailspin, and the house was suddenly worth less than they had paid for it. They wondered why God hadn’t stopped them from making a bad investment. They had prayed. They had listened. They had not heard “no.”

As Gary’s wife was seeking God one day, she heard His answer: Have you considered the possibility that I wanted you in that neighbourhood to minister rather than to bolster your financial equity? That insight caused them to rethink their questions about God’s guidance. They realized it was all about lives touched for Christ rather than value earned from holdings. Now the question was, did they trust God enough to follow Him down a path with no financial profit, but with great spiritual profit?

Christ doesn’t ask us to take up our portfolios and follow Him; He says to take up our crosses. Comfort is not a factor. But He does promise that the way to grow into the image of Christ is by trusting and obeying in all circumstances.

As in the case of Gary and his wife, the will of God is not always crystal clear. But on that day by the Sea of Galilee, God’s will couldn’t have been clearer to the disciples: Jesus had said, “Let’s go!” They didn’t call a meeting to deliberate; they didn’t pray; they didn’t seek counsel from others. God’s will has been right there in front of them, so without hesitation, they got into the boat. And now the thing that loomed right in front of them was death.

This unexpected peril was something new for the disciples. So far, following Jesus hadn’t been overly costly – little more than quitting their jobs and getting a bit of carping and criticism from local religious leaders (Mark 3:22). But they had faced nothing life threatening. In fact, it had been just the opposite: they were close associates of the most popular person in Galilee. They’s been welcomed in small towns as heroes. This movement of God was working; and all systems were go. 

Then came the perfect storm. It certainly raised some questions.

Many people believe faith is some kind of insurance against high blood pressure and heartache. Trust God and you’ll have no worries. But a great paradox of Christianity is that trusting Christ does not keep the storms away. In fact, sometimes it pushes us into deep and turbulent waters.

Jesus faced a perfect storm when He rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. He knew what He was about to face – unthinkable torture and death – and He dreaded it. In the garden He cried out, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39). He was fully aware of the storm He was heading into.

The disciples in their tossing boat weren’t cognizant of these underlying spiritual issues. Fear gripped them, pushing aside all concerns about being in the will of God. But they were about to learn a priceless lesson: there is security is the heart of God’s will. Storms are not punishment for lack of obedience; oftentimes they are the result of obedience! Those men were in that storm because they had jumped in the boat when Jesus said, “Let’s Go!”

You will follow Jesus in a storm someday. And you will learn that, although it may be overwhelming, it’s the safest of all places to be. 

Finishing a Good Work – YOU! (Part Two)

Philippians 1:6 refers to the work that God is doing in us and also then through us as we touch others with His love, grace, and mercy.

“He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.”

There are two kinds of unfinished works of God:

1> There’s the work He’s doing in you: He who began a good work in you…”

2> There is the work He is doing through you: “We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).

God works in us getting us ready and prepared so that He can then work through us. And we often forget that His has not finished working in us or through us yet. His incomplete work is not his final work.

Don’t be discouraged by the way something looks right now. When something’s half-finished, it lacks the clarity of a complete work. When something is half-finished, it can make you wonder what is happening or not happening. It often leads to speculation, assumptions, and uncertainty.

When a cake is half-baked, it doesn’t look that great.

We we drive by a construction site we might say, “I wonder what they are building there?” 

Because that’s how half-finished projects affect us. They cause us to question what it is or why it is. It can be tempting to judge it before it’s done, but we know it’s not wise to judge a half-baked cake or a construction project while work is in process.

The incomplete works of God are the same as the half-baked cake, and the unfinished construction project. They can look odd when you are looking at them.

If you are a parent who raised your children in church and now that they are older they don’t even want to attend church, that feels odd to you. You have probably lost sleep wondering why they turned out this way.

If you’re a single person who has been putting God first, staying away from the social scene so popular with your friends at work or school, and not seeing any sign of that right person coming along,  you may sometimes wonder, “Why? What’s wrong with me?”

Maybe you’ve worked hard on your education and prepared diligently for your career, but no doors are opening up in your chosen field. If so, you may be thinking it’s really odd that you have put in all this work and now have no opportunities to use the skills you acquired. Why hasn’t God opened a door for you? But sometimes roads have to close and things have to get worse before they get better.

It’s the same way when God is doing a work in us or through us. You may have heard it said before, “Delayed doesn’t mean denied!” The work He’s doing may require your patience. The only way to respond during that season is to embrace the delay, hold on to your joy, and remain confident that God will continue the work to completion.

So be confident and continue doing what you know to do. I’m not just talking about going through the motions with no sense of expectancy. I’m talking about keeping your expectations strong so that He who began a good work in you will complete it (Philippians 1:6).

There’s a verse in Acts 2 that says the disciples “devoted themselves to [their] teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42).

1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “Pray continually.” 

There are some things we are to do and never stop doing. There’s power when you continue and never stop doing what you know to do, regardless of what is happening in your life:

        • Continue in prayer
        • Continuing attending and being an active part of God’s church
        • Continue in giving your tithes and offerings to God
        • Continue to proclaim God’s goodness
        • Continue to be thankful
        • Continue to look for and expect God’s favour in your life

When you get discouraged and the “construction” seems to be taking a long time, remind yourself that God’s not finished. Keep your whole heart in the unfinished work God is doing in you and through you!

Finishing a Good Work – YOU! (Part One)

Philippians 1:6 refers to the work that God is doing in us and also then through us as we touch others with His love, grace, and mercy.

“He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.”

God has some unfinished works in your life right now. Something’s missing. Something’s incomplete. There may even be things you look at and see no way that something good can come of them. They may look now just like big messes.

But, let me remind you … God’s not dead and God’s not done!~ God wants you to know that even though some things in your life look unfinished, He is still at work. He is still doing His creative and brilliant work in your life.

There are two kinds of unfinished works of God:

1> There’s the work He’s doing in you: He who began a good work in you…”

2> There is the work He is doing through you: “We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).

These are both current, moment-by-moment works of God’s grace and favour.

Sometimes God has to make us bigger on the inside before He can bring increase on the outside. This was the case with Christopher Columbus (see blog “Don’t Settle In Spain – April 24, 2020). As told in a legendary story, Columbus’s inspiration to venture out of Spain was most likely connected to the day that one of his ancestors, Stephen Columbus, saved the life of a Spanish monk named Romon Lull. Lull was preaching the gospel on the African coast when he was beaten and lay near death. Stephen was one of the men who picked him up, treated his wounds, and attempted to bring him home to Spain.

As they were crossing the Mediterranean, Lull lay in the bow of the boat and, in one of his final moments of life, pointed his finger westward over the horizon and said, “Beyond this sea which washes this continent we know lies another continent we’ve never seen . . . Send men there, send men there!”

These words lived on in the minds of the men who rescued him and were passed down through the generations to a young Christopher, who became convinced that God had chosen him to spread the gospel to the land beyond the seas. It took years of appealing in the royal courts before Columbus received permission to actually set sail. But he refused to give up because he believed there was more beyond Spain (see previous blog). 

God worked all those years in him causing him to think beyond the sea, to unknown continents. For al those years God was at work in him because of what He wanted to do through him. Although he was surrounded with signs that said, “No More Beyond,” God was using audacious prophetic words passes down through his family to make him bigger on the inside than the messages surrounding him.

God works in us first. If we listen closely, we’ll see He is at work in you and me right now. He’s telling us He’s not finished working in us and through us. His incomplete work is not His final work. 

But we often become discouraged because of how things look right now. We wonder what is really happening and that leads to speculation, assumptions, and uncertainty.

We will look at this next time….

Sensuous Christians

In his book Knowing Scripture, R.C. Sproul writes about the “Sensuous Christian.” Sproul doesn’t mean that in the usual physical use of that word. He defines that term as the domination of the Christian life by the intangibles of feelings. “Many of us” he writes, “have become sensuous Christian, living by our feelings, rather than through our understanding of the Word of God. Sensuous Christians cannot be moved to service, prayer, or study unless they ‘feel like it.’”

This hapless believer does good things when he is feeling close to God. But when he is depressed, he does nothing of service to Christ. He therefore looks for stimuli to ignite his emotions because he wants to experience God rather than genuinely know Him. The sensuous Christian evaluates the Word by his feelings rather than the other way around, and he stays immature because he believes this is childlike faith, when it’s actually childish. The Word constantly admonishes us to grow in our faith, but the sensuous Christian simply wants an experience of some kind. What eventually happens? He encounters tough times but he lacks the wisdom to meet the challenge.

This is, by the way, the basis of the apostle Peter’s two letters to believers. Letters written during tough times when believers were being persecuted and tempted. Peter is speaking to these believers about the need to establish their lives on the Word of God and not on their feelings or the circumstances they see around them. 

Sproul and Peter make me realize I need to ask this question of myself, just as I ask you to ask yourself: Is my walk with God all about emotions and feelings? Or is it driven by faith and the Word? When I have one of those days when I don’t feel the victory of my faith, do I continue to serve Him in obedience? Or do I let my feelings hurt my faith? Strong faith is based on the facts of God’s Word – the truth of our salvation, the historic fact of Christ’s resurrection, the understanding that He will come again. Those things are true even if I’m not as excited about them as I should be on a gloomy day. 

Peter in his letters to believers (1 and 2 Peter) is talking about laying a foundation of faith based on the solid and substantial Word, so that no bad day, no bad event, no national recession, not even COVID-19, can shake it. These are times when God smiles upon our response – when the world is treating us poorly, when our spirits are low, yet we pray anyway; we serve anyway; we open the Word anyway and say, “God, I’m not at my best today, but all that I have is still yours.” Any child that tells Him that is going to be taken up in His embrace and comforted.

His promises don’t fluctuate with our whims. We can cling to those promises and find a powerful emotional equilibrium. Living based on feelings is like riding a roller coaster without a seat belt. Living rooted in His Word is more like building a house with a foundation of pure, tempered steel. You’re going to be ready for anything that comes alone. Peter’s two epistles tell us , “Start digging! You have your shovel, you have your earth-moving equipment, now lay down that sure foundation.” You do so by applying all that is in the Word.

I’m the first to admit that I process through a series of emotions as I prepare to preach. Like most communicators, I’m always putting myself into the shoes of my listeners. How will this sound to them? What if they hear this teaching (sermon) and it drives them away from striving for Christian maturity? There’s always the temptation to give the people what they want, which may not be the same as what they need.

Every preacher and teacher of the Word struggles with this urge, but in the end, he knows that God has called him to be true to the Word. He knows the terrible implications of conforming his message to the world, rather than letting his message be transforming through the true Word of Christ, I get a sense of Peter having these same thoughts as he wrote the first chapter of his second letter:

“Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things” (2 Peter 1:12-15)

Peter knows that his old, tattered human body will soon perish. He can’t make small talk. He can’t spend his time telling people the feel-good messages that massage the ear. The situation is urgent, and he is already making arrangements to see that his words outlive him – as they have certainly done. Peter is reminding us that God’s truth is foundational to living a life pleasing to God. That God’s Word and not our feelings or even our needs are to be the guiding and motivational force in all that we do daily in our lives. 

Peter and Sproul are both saying that we need to grow up and become mature believers who walk by faith and not by feelings. In other words, no longer be “sensuous Christians.”

One Of My Favourite Preachers

Often in the ministry I have worked to help people come to a point of faith. Not only faith in God and His Son, Jesus. But, faith in the accuracy and need for God’s Word, the Bible today. When speaking to many who are not believers they see little purpose or value in reading God’s Word and simply regard it as antiquated and irrelevant. As I look back on the many years I have believed the Bible and lived according to God’s Word, I have reached the point where I would no longer entertain people’s discussion (alright – arguments) about the Bible. I would simply challenge them to actually read it. If they do rise to the challenge and read it with an open mind I am convinced God will show them that His Word is very valuable for life today on planet Earth.

To move forward in faith believers and non-believers alike need to understand and accept that the Word is true and very applicable to today. And, to reach that point they need to engage with the Word and let it do its work in their lives. 

Sidlow Baxter wrote: “To my own mind, the most satisfying proof that the Bible is divinely inspired are not those which one ‘reads up’ in volumes of religious evidences or Christian apologetics, but those which we discover for ourselves in our own study of the Book. To the prayerful explorer the Bible has its own way of revealing its internal credentials.”

That miracle – of the Word of God convincing its reader that it is God’s Word and is active and alive working in hearts that are open and minds that are inquisitive. That miracle of the Word working happened once to a young man called G. Campbell Morgan (one of my favourite preachers to read (1863 to 1945). He had grown up in a Christian home, never questioning that the Bible was the Word of God. But in college, his faith was severely challenged and he began to entertain doubts. “The whole intellectual world was under the mastery of the physical scientists, and of a materialistic and rationalistic philosophy,” he later said. “There came a moment when I was sure of nothing.”

That was an era when it was fashionable to launch attacks on the veracity of Scripture. The new crowd hired out great lecture and concert halls across England for the purpose of attacking the authority of the Bible. Armed with their intellectual artillery, the army of skeptics troubled the young Morgan. He studied every book he could find – for and against the Bible, for and against Christianity – until his mind was reeling with arguments and counter-arguments.

He finally heaved a sigh, gathered up all the volumes, and locked them in a cupboard. He then walked to a bookshop and purchased a brand-new Bible. He had decided it was time to let the venerable old Book speak for itself. The young Morgan believed that if the Bible was truly divinely inspired, and if he would simply read it with an open mind, then the Book would do its own convicting. So he opened it’s covers and began to read.

The Bible spoke to him with eloquence and authority. The unity of the sixty-six inspired books, the many literary forms gathered across time, and the depth of the message itself – all these elements of the Bible experience overwhelmed him. The clear power and presence of God could be encountered here! “That Bible found me,” he later said. After that year, 1883, he was a devoted student of the Scriptures for the balance of his life. And a great preacher.

Our cynical culture would like you to believe that the Christian life is a mindless thing, built around an ordinary book that is a dusty grab bag of mythology. It’s all so much emotion, they claim, so much self-deception. According to the stereotype, you check your mind at the door when you take up Christianity, and smart folks should stay away.

Now for the truth of the matter: the Word of God is the most rational, accurate, well-documented book of literature in the history of the world. It requires our God-given intellect to even begin the life-long process of embracing the many dimensions of profound teaching. Great thinkers throughout the ages have discovered just that: Sir Isaac Newton, who gave us our basic laws of physics; Blaise Pascal, world-class mathematician and scientist; Sir Francis Bacon, who introduced the scientific method; Michael Faraday, foundational pioneer of chemistry and electromagnetism. And today, to give one example of many, there is Professor Henry F. Schaefer, one of the most distinguished physical scientists in the world, a five-time nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, and a devout follower of Jesus Christ. 

Here is what many of those men would tell you: if it requires faith to be a Christian, how much more faith does it require to dismiss this amazing, timeless book call the Bible? People today say the age of miracles is over, and that they’ve never seen one. But if you own a Bible, you hold a living miracle in your hands.

Careful of “One Verse” Teachings

As a Bible teacher once taught me, you never base a doctrine or teaching on one verse. Example: So often you hear the words of Jesus as a Christian tells you, “Judge not and you won’t be judged.” Jesus did say that. But, you can’t base a whole teaching on judgment on this one verse. Why? Because the fullness of the understanding in the New Testament – and thus early church – teaching on judgment is much fuller and more detailed than this black and white statement.

Paul writes … “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. ‘Purge the evil person from among you.’”

He is saying here that we don’t have a right to judge those who are not believers. You can’t expect them to live like Christians until they become Christians. But, those who are part of the fellowship and declare they are believers can be judged. You can’t and shouldn’t judge their heart because only God knows the heart of a person. But, you can judge their fruit. 

In line with this you cannot take what Jesus says in one place as the “whole truth and nothing but the truth” because it must be received and understood in context. Who was it spoken to? What was the situation? What else did He say in this regard? And so on.

Examples … The same Jesus who said”turn the other cheek” also told His disciples to buy a sword (Luke 22:36). The same Jesus who said He was “gentle” (Matthew 11:29) forcefully chased the money changers out of the temple, using a whip (John 2:15). In Matthew 5:22, Jesus says that calling someone a fool puts you in danger of the fires of hell; in Matthew 23:17, Jesus calls the Pharisees and teachers of the Law “blind fools.” 

We have to read Jesus’ words in context and with the proper weight, in the same way that we understand His “gouge out your eyes rather than lust” comment as a metaphor of sin’s seriousness, not as a directive for someone to actually follow. 

Today there are many who have not taken the time to understand what the Bible is really teaching. They have a surface understanding based on a verse here or there but no real understanding of what the Bible is truly teaching and how we are to apply and live the truth. Thus many believes come across a mile wide and an inch deep. And, they are easily deceived by false teachers and false prophets that Jesus and others warn us about. And, without looking at the full scope of the specific topic we can easily be self-deceived. 

In this day and age when there are so many Bible teachers and preachers on television, on the radio, on the internet, and standing in pulpits we need to be students of the word “rightly dividing the truth” and living the Word on a daily basis. No longer blindly receiving the truth but literally “studying to show oneself approved – a workman of the Word.”