This last Sunday, we read from John 14: 1- 6 that begins with the familiar “Let not your heart be troubled” and then the admonition is given to trust God, to trust Jesus. In one verse Jesus lays bare the two approaches to life that are currently on display in the world. One approach is summed up in the word struggle. Are you down for the struggle? Are you practicing jihad? Are you consumed and characterized by, as Hitler titled it, Mein Kampf, “My Struggle”. We immediately say, “No, that’s not me”, but don’t be so quick to dismiss the way you might be living. We all have at one time or another been living this way. We have all wanted to fit in, wanted respect or recognition and acted to get it. When we were young how many of us succumbed to peer pressure of one kind or another? How many of us gave into temptation and sinned because in life’s struggles it was easier and more expedient to live that way. So many people today waste their life away struggling to have the conditions of their lives change without fundamentally changing themselves. Their life totally dependent on someone else changing first so their lives will be improved.

The other choice is the choice to believe in and trust Jesus. This is the choice: following Jesus as He leads us to true change and victory. We are set free from our sins, our past, and our fears and are given a new life every single day. We learn that either He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life or we are struggling to be. These are our two choices.

The late Jim Rohn shares an inspirational word about the difference between the futility of struggling against the wind or the fidelity of setting our sail in a way that takes advantage of the wind that blows in our lives. Watch the video.

Just Read It!.

JeremiahThere a few places in the Bible that need no preaching to accompany them to be plainly understood. We read from one of those places today: Jeremiah, chapters 6 through 8. It is there Jeremiah announces the coming judgment against Jerusalem and why it is going to occur. Read these chapters and I hope you will have eyes to see America’s days are numbered without repentance and revival. Read them and see how God calls us to peace even when there is no peace to be found in the land.

First, I want to tell you the three things that were happening that prevented peace from God from taking root in the heart of the people. Secondly, I want to share the three things the prophet reveals that declare, despite the people’s refusal, the call of God upon our lives. First, read and see the three things that keep us from peace. #1. They sinned with impunity. They thought they could do whatever they wanted and they wouldn’t suffer any consequences for it, even if they continued to do wrong. Even the spiritual leaders were bankrupt in their enjoyment of wrongdoing. #2. They made the word of God a perversity. The dictionary defines perversity as “contrary to the accepted standard or practice”. They reckoned the word of God contrary and not themselves. They made for themselves new standards, perverse standards, and called them appropriate and the new normal. #3. They didn’t take their situation seriously. Have we? For over 40 years, we have murdered millions of innocents, shed their blood, and sacrificed them for our convenience. Is there any sign of stopping? For over forty years, we have been warned about the dangers of debt and the inevitable collapse of our economy, have we corrected that? Have we taken seriously the lawlessness that is expressing itself or are we rallying for the lawbreakers? Is their a root of bitterness that divides us in the nation? Seriously, is there anyone doing anything about it? Are we pointing the finger of blame against each other? Are we locked into our own way of looking at things? The vast majority of Americans say we are going in the wrong direction as a country but where is the repentance?

Can anything be done to find peace when there is no peace? God speaks through the prophet and offers this call today. #1. Return to the ancient path. Ask for the good way and walk in it. #2. Reform your ways and your actions. Do not trust deceptive words. As Dr. Edwin Louis Cole used to teach, “Change isn’t change until it’s changed.” #3. Remember Shiloh. God’s presence given at one time in a particular place is no guarantee for perpetual favor. The people had sinned so egregiously before, God had removed his presence and the word Ichabod (the glory has departed) was written over the place. I believe if we do not seriously stop sinning and respond to God’s word in a humble and faithful way, soon the glory that was once America’s will be gone for good.

Prepare yourself to be at peace with God. We are soon coming to the time when God will not allow us to pray for America. It will be too late for prayers.

childrenatmcvFriends, please read this letter from our friends at VCU/MCV Pediatric Emergency Room. I know you will be blessed by its joy, its thankfulness, and its love. We are so blessed to be in ministry together!

HSdove We recently turned to Titus, chapters 2 and 3 to help us recognize and rejoice in the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We said there were three things the Holy Spirit does in a big way and three things that produces or makes possible for us.

1. The Holy Spirit helps us REMEMBER the WAY. The Apostle Paul doubles down and tells us the Holy Spirit calls us to a new life of righteousness and helps us to remember what that looks like. In particular Paul tells us to pay attention and follow those things that are unchanged from the beginning of time when he says “be subject to principalities and powers”. To “obey magistrates” is a similar command to follow those who follow the unchanging truths of creation. It is not some willy-nilly word to be subservient to government but a godly directive that the Spirit will help us establish our way based on the bedrock of God’s character and creation. Through this remembrance we will be able to show our appreciation for God’s mercy.

2. The Holy Spirit helps us be REGENERATED through WASHING, activating God’s Makeover of our lives. Literally, the Apostle Paul says the Spirit’s washing is a Genesis-Again act of God on our behalf. We are starting over as a new creation in Christ. The old is passed away and everything is being made new.

3. The Holy Spirit RENEWS the WORK of God in us “so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good and profitable for everyone.” (Titus 3: 8)This renewing work also includes helping us avoid being a moron, or play at life out of turn, or disqualify or condemn ourselves through any foolishness after which we might run.

crown of thornsTo realize the full effect of Jesus’ passion on the cross into our lives, the Apostle Paul lays out a precise and complete process for us to follow in Ephesians, chapter 5. I want to summarize that path in three movements of grace.

The first movement is the move to become a full Partaker of God’s love. “Be imitators of God, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

The second movement is faithfully Pruning those practices and pursuits that block the free and faithful flow of God’s passion displayed on the cross in us. “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure, or greedy person – such a person is an idolater – has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore, do not be partners with them.”

The third movement is then to be living Proof of what is acceptable to God. “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth).”

The Apostle goes on to say it is shameful even to mention little less practice the things ‘by grace through faith’ we have pruned or are pruning from our lives. But, above all I want to caution you about trying to work this process out backwards. What do I mean? Don’t start with trying to prove your way of living is right or how your style of life is already acceptable to God. The truth is not a single life is acceptable to God apart from the “offering and sacrifice” Jesus makes of himself on the cross. Do not persist in trying to minimize your own or another person’s need for mercy or repentance. The end result will be a minimizing of the effect God’s love can have on you and them.

Reverse this process and we will not prune out practices and persistent points of our personality that stand in conflict to the grace of God; we will instead seek to justify them. Reverse this process and we will end up seeking to make God an imitator of us instead of us imitating God, as dearly loved children are called to do.

This reversal already has a deep and wide following in our culture. How else could you take a day that is meant to honor a saint of the church and turn it into a day of liquor and license? How could we have come to the place where we suspend our support for an event because it doesn’t include enough immorality? How could we diminish the sufferings of Christ to say it need only apply to a few?

“But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: ‘Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’ Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise, but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk with wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

ashwednesday2Lent is a deep time of reflection and examination. For 40 days we hold up our faith to the intense light of the Son in the desert wilderness. Most of us begin this time with a shared worship experience on Ash Wednesday. We sing songs of faith. We pray and lift up our need for the outpouring of God’s presence into our lives. But, as we prepare for this Lenten season I hope you will be drawn to examine your life in light of the first expression of the pathway of grace we find in the life of the Church.

It is the day of Pentecost and just as Jesus was cast out into the desert by the Spirit, the outpouring of God’s promise upon the first disciples casts them out into the wild streets of Jerusalem. Peter stands up before the people of many nations and declares to them the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ and the declaration that this same Jesus that was crucified is both Lord and Christ. The end of all things is at hand and God has moved in history and now seeks a dwelling place within our hearts. As many were moved and convicted by this apostolic message they asked a question, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2: 37) and Peter responds and asks them to enter into a new way of life – a pathway of grace.

He tells them to:
1. Fully align yourself with Jesus Christ – Repent!
2. By faith, immerse yourself in this Way of life
3. Be forgiven of your sins
4. Be filled with the Spirit
5. Fiercely Follow the apostles’ instruction, and
6. Be a faithful participant in the fellowship of love and care

Now, review this list. Examine your own soul. Submit yourself to the wise council of others. How are you doing? How will following this path affect you over the next 40 days? How can you be more fully aligned with Jesus Christ? How can you whet and wet your faith? How can you douse your spirit, soul, and body with the washing and regenerating power of God’s word during this Lenten season? Are there sins you need to confess and for which you find forgiveness and old-habit-shattering cleansing? Are you filled with the Spirit? Do you contend for the faith (within and without) “that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people”. (Jude 1: 3) Are you daily demonstrating and giving the grace you received from the Lord? Do you stand in need of more grace?

Walk the pathway of grace. Do not let the days of Lent be wasted or passed over in your life. Let God bring about significant change and growth in you. I certainly want to rejoice with the angels over what God is doing in you!

If You Liked This Teaching…

And would like to have more help in walking the pathway of grace, I would recommend you do two things: pick up a copy of Moving at the Speed of Grace and be on the lookout for my new book, The Pathway of Grace: Learning to Walk with God.

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