building up and equipping the body of Christ
I recently heard Jamie speak on a Zoom call and what he said resounded with my soul. The LORD has used him to stoke the fire in my spirit. I have since found his teachings on his YouTube page and am not only enjoying them, but am also being convicted by the Holy Spirit and encouraged in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Take a listen to the abridged video on Living in Hostile Territory.
I was sitting in my office at the Circuit City Training Dept. on Thalbro St. in Richmond, VA when a coworker came in frantically saying that an airplane crashed into one of the Twin Tower buildings. At first I had no idea what she was talking about, but I knew it was bad. None of us had any idea how bad it really was. We all thought that it was just a really bad accident.
All of the training & design team that were in the office at the time gathered in a conference room and turned on the news to see what was happening. After a few minutes of listening to the newscasters bewildered comments, we saw the second plane hit the second building…
For a few moments, a complete stunned silence fell on all of us. None of us could comprehend what was happening, what we were seeing. I think that’s when we all realized this was no accident and was really a lot worse than we could have imagined. We were vulnerable, and we were being attacked.
Next, we started hearing about the plane that hit the Pentagon. My response was to pray and seek the LORD for help and strength. One of my coworkers became frantic because his grandmother lived in New York. I took him outside the conference room and prayed for the Lord’s protection upon her.
That day was the longest day I think I’ve ever experienced. I will never forget. #neverforget
Answering another question from Jon of Hawk Nelson.
There are multiple parts to this answer and I am only going to cover a few. First, in order to understand why God allows suffering, we need to understand where suffering comes from. Suffering is a result of the curse on creation because of Adam’s transgression against God… when Adam disobeyed God, he abdicated the position God had placed him in as Prime Minister & caretaker over all creation and became a slave to sin. By obeying the serpent, Adam handed his authority over to Satan. As a result, the entire human race became slaves to sin, death and suffering entered into creation.
Secondly, since suffering is now part of our earthly existence & experience, the LORD uses it as to instruct us and develop our character. Through suffering we learn empathy, compassion, patience, endurance, humility, the consequences of sin (both ours & others), and ultimately we learn obedience.
“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4 NASB https://www.bible.com/100/jas.1.2-4.nasb
“After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:10 NASB https://www.bible.com/100/1pe.5.10.nasb
Finally, the LORD uses suffering to show us His own love for us and the depth & breadth of His commitment to making salvation available to each of us through His own suffering.
In John’s gospel we read: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:2, 14 NASB https://www.bible.com/100/jhn.1.2,14.nasb
And in Philippians we read: “who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:6-8 NASB https://www.bible.com/100/php.2.6-8.nasb
“For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.” Hebrews 2:10 NASB https://www.bible.com/100/heb.2.10.nasb
So, until the LORD puts a final end to sin, suffering is a part of our reality and experience. But God is able to use suffering to teach us eternal lessons, shape us into the image of Christ Jesus our LORD, and prepare us for His kingdom.
An answer to a question posed by Jon of Hawk Nelson in his struggle for his faith in Jesus Christ. #disciplefish
“And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”
Hebrews 9:22 NASB
“For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”
Hebrews 10:4 NASB
“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
2 Corinthians 5:21 NASB
Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (4) Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (5) Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” John 3:3-5
After that day the LORD called my name at age 5, my only memories that related to God for about 5 years are a smattering of Sunday school stories, random memories of sitting with my parents in the main service and falling into a deep sleep when the pastor would start preaching, and a ceramic rainbow that says “Jesus Lives” I painted one Sunday after hearing the story of God’s rainbow promise to Noah after the Flood. (I still have that ceramic rainbow which my wife hung over our window in the kitchen)
During those years, my dad had retired from the Air Force, and we proceeded to move often. Even more than I remember when he was in the Air Force. Most of the places we moved were in the desert, between California and Utah. When I was thirty-two I would discover why in a very clear conversation with the LORD on a Friday morning. (more about that another time)
By 1980-81 we were living in Utah, and moved around multiple times between Roy, Clearfield, Layton, and Ogden. We attended the First Southern Baptist Church (in Clearfield?) and the Pastor’s name was Lavoyd Robertson. I was ten years old, and one Sunday morning while sitting with my parents in the main sanctuary, the Pastor began preaching a sermon. This time I was wide awake.
I remember vividly his call to repentance, and asked that if anyone wanted to receive forgiveness of their sins, accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, and escape the eternal flames of hell, to come forward.
My heart began to race. My lies that I had told, my fits of anger and outbursts, my hatred toward other kids for picking on me and making fun of my last name, all of it came to remembrance. At that moment I knew that I was a sinner, and was guilty before a Holy God. At the same, I wasn’t sure if I was going to get in trouble for “embarrassing” my parents.
I jumped to my feet and walked down the aisle between the pews and straight up to the pulpit. I wanted the forgiveness of my sins, I wanted Jesus, and I wanted to change. I also wanted to be baptized.
I don’t remember anyone else coming forward. But Pastor Lavoyd prayed and then had someone take my name and information and told me to go back and sit down, and that after the service someone would talk with me and my parents.
Pastor Lavoyd made the appointment, and soon afterward was at my house to talk with me about my decision. I remember him asking me pointed questions about why I wanted to be baptized, what sins I thought I had committed (to determine if I even knew what sin was). I had a clarity about the whole conversation, and spoke about what I understood. He was satisfied with my answers and spoke to my parents about arrangements for the baptism.
A few Sundays later, in front of the whole church, myself and a few others were baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as a demonstration of what God had done in us spiritually.
I still find it ironic that all of this happened in a Southern Baptist church (there were very few) in the heart of Mormon country. That would play a big part in the spiritual warfare that came against me and my family while we lived there.
“On the day that the children of Israel were led out of Egypt, through the Red Sea as a type of baptism, and into the desert. Saved by faith in the blood of the passover lamb, whose blood was on the doorposts, no longer slaves of Egypt, now children of the Most High God, led into the wilderness to learn to trust God. So it is with every disciple of Jesus Christ.” – taught to me by Jesus
A Man Named Scott
This morning I had to get up early (5am) to take my wife to work by 6am. After dropping her off I decided to go to Denny’s to get a cup of coffee and something to eat and pass the time until time to go to work. When I pulled into Denny’s parking lot, there was a man standing near the front door smoking a cigarette. He was dirty and looked homeless.
As I approached the front door he asked me: “Would you buy me a cup of coffee?” I stood there for a few seconds considering his question and finally responded: “Sure.”
We walked in and sat at the counter. I expected one of the employees to say something about him, and prepared myself with an explanation. Instead, the waiter simply asked if we wanted coffee. I said yes and he came back with 2 cups of hot coffee. At this point I determined to buy the man something to eat if he wanted it. The waiter asked we wanted a glass of water and menus, and I looked at Scott and asked if he was hungry and he mumbled that he was so I answered yes. Scott told me he wanted the Santa Fe skillet and I nodded. When the waiter came back I ordered for both of us and began to drink my coffee. As I sat there quietly I began to think about the situation. I felt totally inadequate to meet this man’s overwhelming needs. As soon as I thought that the Holy Spirit reminded me that it is the little things that a make a difference. So often I overthink things and get so overwhelmed by all the things that could be done or need to be done that I bow out and don’t do anything, thinking that any small thing I do would be too insignificant. That’s wrong thinking. Jesus said WHATEVER you do to the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto Me.
While we continued to wait for our food I began to silently pray for Scott. “Lord have mercy on him. Pour out your lovingkindness on him. Whatever his circumstances are, bless Him and care for him.” As Scott was sipping his coffee, he began to quietly cry. I could hear that he was fighting to hold it back. The manager was walking by and heard it and asked if everything was okay. I nodded and then quietly turned to Scott and asked if he was okay. He mumbled yes and got quiet.
Our food came and we both ate quietly and finished multiple cups of coffee. I finished first and determined that I would wait with Scott and not leave until he was finished. I asked if he wanted a to go cup for his coffee and he replied that he would. The Manager got a fresh cup of hot coffee to go for me and I had him give it to Scott. I paid the bill and walked Scott outside and left. He went back to where he was standing when had first entered the parking lot. As I was leaving I prayed another silent prayer for him. At the stop light the Holy Spirit reminded me of the command “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It’s so simple. It’s so easy so turn a blind eye to people like Scott and let them become invisible… the “untouchables.”
God has been so good to me even though I deserve punishment in Hell forever. I acknowledged this and thanked the Lord for His mercy and kindness toward me and for growing me spiritually. I say this because in the past, because of my past insecurity, I have done things like this but with an internal turmoil & anxiety about what someone might think or say and how I would respond. Not this time. I had peace and was able to hear the Lord so much more clearly this time.
It’s the little things we do that do matter. Nothing is insignificant to Christ Jesus.
Purim means ‘casting of lots’ (Esther 3:7). Casting of lots was used to determine God’s will when decisions were made, signifying God’s sovereignty in human affairs, especially of those who respect, love & obey Him.
In the story of Esther, Mordecai (Esther’s uncle) refuses to bow to Haman, King Xerxes’ Prime Minister. According to Jewish rabbinical tradition, Mordecai the Jew refused to bow to Haman the Agagite because Haman had an idol embroidered onto his garment, and bowing to Haman meant bowing to the false god as well. As a result, Haman’s rage is kindled against Mordecai and all of the Jewish people that Mordecai represents. Through a series of twists, Haman’s hatred and plotting against Mordecai and the Jews becomes his own undoing, and he is hanged on the very gallows he built for the public execution of Mordecai. Mordecai and Esthers’ faith in God and boldness to stand for righteousness in spite of the possibility of death is a key principle of the story.
The history of Esther is also an awesome account of God’s sovereignty and intervention in the lives of those who are His and love & obey Him, and how God is not hindered by the folly of mens’ decisions, even if those men are powerful leaders. ‘We know that God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes.’ – Romans 8:28
To see the law by Christ fulfilled
And hear His pardoning voice,
Changes a slave into a child,
And duty into choice.
I toll’d the precept to obey,
But toil’d without success.
Then, to abstain from outward sin
Was more than I could do;
Now, if I feel its power within,
I feel I hate it too.
Then all my servile works were done
A righteousness to raise;
Now, freely chosen in the Son,
I freely choose His ways.
“What shall I do,” was then the word,
“That I may worthier grow?”
“What shall I render to the Lord?”
Is my inquiry now.
To see the law by Christ fulfilled
And hear His pardoning voice,
Changes a slave into a child,
And duty into choice.