“Restored!”

When my computer shuts down unexpectedly while I’m online, when I sign back on, in the corner of my screen there appears a button that says “restore.”  This button is designed to take you back to the tabs and sites you were visiting or working on before the crash or shut down occurred.  It is there to bring you back to the place where you once were.

Have you ever experienced a shutdown moment in life?  A time when it seems that the walls came crashing in and you lost sight of where you were?  Has there ever been a time when you just need a refreshing?  You needed to step back, evaluate everything presently before you, and start again?  I’m pretty sure we can all raise our hand to attest to being in similar situations at one time or another.  A time when you just felt depleted and needed to be restored.

Restoration is right up God’s alley.  Everything in the Bible points mankind to His holy desire to see people restored.  God cares about us.  Not only the spiritual us, but He cares about all of us.  Every tidbit in life, He is well aware of.  Many people only look to God in the big and dramatic areas of life, but God is concerned about your well-being in the whole of your life.

John once wrote, “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth,” (3 John 2).  I believe that John wanted us to walk out the restored life in our daily living.  Not just claiming it for our salvation (which, needless to say, is very important), but to have it as an active mindset that goes before us and prospers us in every part of our daily living.

Slumps are all around us, but we are not called to be slump dwellers.  We have a choice of how to handle the strains and afflictions we face in this life.  Peter gives us this advice:

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:

Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:

Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.

But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.” (1 Peter 5:6-10)

In these few verses, Peter doesn’t hide the adversities one faces, but he highlights what to do with them.  First, he states to humble yourself before God and let Him exalt you (vs. 6).  When God is the one exalting you, you are restored!  Next, in verse 7, he tells his readers what to do with all those cares that are weighing you down, all those things that are making you feel like you are in a shutdown mode.  He says to get rid of them.  And, we are not to dispose of them any kind of way.  We are to give these burdens to God because He is the One who truly cares for you.  Once again, if God is caring for you and helping you to deal with your burdens, you are in a restored position.

There are things that can try to hinder and rob you of the restored life.  Following the above two verses, we see some of the afflictions and dealing with the enemy that people face and how we are to be on guard against the advances of it and be steadfast in our faith through it all. We have a responsibility to protect our restored status while pushing forth in the faith.

And lastly, in verse 10, Peter lets us know that though there may be suffering at times, it will never compare to the glory that we inherit by our Lord Jesus Christ.  It is He that will see us through.  It is He that will make us perfect.  It is He that will “stablish, strengthen, settle you.”  It is through Him you can be restored!

In our everyday life, as well as in the time to come after we pass from here, in Christ, we live a restored life.  Once in a while, we may feel that we have been knocked off our rocker, but remember who you are and whose you are.  In Him, we don’t have to stay in that “knocked off” state.  Follow Peter’s advice and give what you are dealing with to God and ask Him to hit the restore button in your life.

God wants you to be blessed in Him.  He wants you, more than anyone else, to live a successful Christian life.  Let Him in your world, your circumstances, and your situations, and lean on Him for complete restoration and healing.  He will pick you up, polish you off, and make you like new again.

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“Rejoice Anyhow!”

 

Walking through life, sometimes it is hard to find joy in the midst of all we are going through.  When our eyes take in all that is around us, it is so easy for despair to take over and leave us with the feeling of dread for the days ahead.

But, as a child of God, we don’t have to dread what we see or what’s ahead.  Our Lord is always in charge even when our circumstances seem awry.  And, He is always our reason to rejoice when we see nothing better and when we can’t figure how all this will turn out.

The Bible is replete with the stories of real-life characters who faced challenging times and still had a praise on their lips and worship in their hearts.  People who found it in themselves to still rejoice in spite of.  Job, a man who’s suffering we are well acquainted with, after finding out he lost everything, still found it within him to bless the name of the Lord, saying, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord, ” (Job 1:21).  When David’s son died, he rose from that heart-wrenching circumstance, went into the house of the LORD, and worshipped (2 Samuel 12:20).   When Paul and Silas found themselves beaten and put into prison for proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Rather than sulk about all they were going through, at midnight, the Bible tells us, they “prayed, and sang praises unto God,” (Acts 16:25).  

We may, at times, feel down, but our circumstances do not determine our praise.  We can still rejoice regardless of what we are experiencing and what we see before us.

Beginning in chapter 3 of Habakkuk, we find him praying, “O Lord, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy” (Hab. 3:2), regarding deserved judgment and yet, praying for mercy in the midst of it all.  As he continues to pray he also notes God’s greatness and His mighty deeds; stating everything from “His glory covered the heavens,” (Hab” 3:3) to “The mountains saw thee, and they trembled,” (Hab. 3:10).  He also prayed and noted, “Thou didst march through the land in indignation, thou didst thresh the heathen in anger.  Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people, even for salvation with thine anointed…” (Hab. 3:12-13a).

As Habakkuk prayed, he noted all the greatness of God, not only in what He does in the earth but also in what He does for His people and their salvation and deliverance.

With that, he settled in his soul, “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines: the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation,” (Habakkuk 3:17-18).

In other words, “I may not see the fruit of it right now, but I will rejoice anyhow!” The situation may look like a failure according to human standards, “But, I still find a reason to praise!”  When there seems to be no profit coming from the work and the land seems barren before me, they are not my source.  God is my source and I say,  “Yet, I still glory in my God!”  When my house seems empty and without,  as long and I have Him, I have everything my soul and my life needs, therefore, “I will rejoice!”

I still have to lift His name on high!  I still stand in awe of who He is in my life.  I can still “joy in the God of my salvation!”  My situation may not look right, but my God does! He is the same today, yesterday and forevermore, (Heb. 13:8).  His Word declares, “They shall perish, but thou shalt endure… But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end. The children of thy servants shall continue, and their seed shall be established before thee,” (Psalm 102:26-28, emphasis mine).  Man may change.  Circumstances may change.  This world may change, but God never changes.  He is from everlasting to everlasting and He has His children in the palm of His hands!

So yes, we have a reason to rejoice.   Each of us has a reason to joy in the God of our salvation!  God is for His people! He establishes His people.  He is keeping His people.  Even if it doesn’t look like we think it should look, we know that He has us and we can rejoice!

Put a praise on it! Show your confidence in God through your praise!  Though it may look messed up, get with the psalmist and say, “I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth,” (Ps. 34:1).  Rejoice anyhow!

If they’re talking about you, scorning you, and treating you bad because you live the just lifestyle, because you are determined to go with God until the end, that’s okay!  Jesus said, “Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven…” (Lk. 6:23).  Rejoice anyhow!

If it seems your world is spinning out of control, rejoice anyhow!

If things aren’t working the way you planned, rejoice anyhow!

If contentions seem to be too common in your day, rejoice anyhow!

God is not blind to what His people are going through.  He is faithful, and He is our confidence in the midst of it all.  As long as God is on the throne (and He always will be), His people will always have a reason to find joy regardless of everything they are going through.  Our circumstances are never the last word of authority when it comes to the child of God.  It’s His greatness and His glory that we praised earlier.  It’s because of Him that mountains tremble and enemies are subdued.  He is our trust, even in the hardest times.  He is our hope, even if all looks hopeless.  He is our source of all the joy we feel on the inside because, by Him, we are saved.  Through Him, we are held forevermore and our salvation is secured.  And He is ALWAYS for His people!

Therefore, Rejoice anyhow!

“Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines: the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” Habakkuk 3:17-18

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Devotion – “Making it Home Safely”

When you’ve been traveling on the highway for hours the journey gets daunting.  You see people lose patience with one another and make reckless moves to avoid adding extra minutes in traffic.

Witnessing this over and over again, in my head I thought to myself, “I’m just trying to make it home safely.”  Yes, it’s hard and my body aches from the hours of sitting.  Yes, I want to get through the jumbled mess of cars just as bad as anybody else but if carelessness and not paying attention while driving distract me or anyone else from the task at hand, it may prevent me from getting to where I want to be.

Our daily lives and decisions mark the path for us more than we know.  If we are rushing about, handling life haphazardly, distractions and reckless behavior may cause major upsets in the flow of the ride, preventing us from our desired destination.

Jesus said, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36).  What amount of distractions and desires are worth missing out on heaven for?  What reckless lifestyle will cause you to trade off what awaits you up ahead in glory?

I don’t know about you, but I’m just trying to make it home safely.  There are many things that the enemy will use to take our affection and focus off of our heavenly home.  But, my friends, the promise that lies before us is too great to miss out on.  Imagine when that day comes to stand before God face to face.  Imagine if you will, there we will be sitting at the feast table and sharing in a heavenly celebration with noted characters from God’s Holy Word.  Can you imagine seeing Jesus for yourself?!

Oh, there is something so special about that holy destination that words from the human tongue fail to give it it’s proper due.  But, in my heart and in my mind I long for that place too much to let things down here stand in the way.

Do you have a yearning for heaven?  Do you desire to bask in the glory of God as His countenance shines down on you?   Do you long for peace and joy inexpressible which will fill your being at knowing you have made it over?  The Holy Scriptures encourages us of that eternal dwelling, stating, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him,” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

The journey may be rough at times, but the destination is sweet and, “I’m just trying to make it home safely.”

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“God’s Voice Over All!”

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” (Hebrews 11:1).  It doesn’t matter what you see or what you don’t see. Nor, does it matter what the circumstances or even others are speaking. 

Faith has never been about or worked by seeing what it is believing for first. Faith works independently of the visible. What true faith does is it grabs hold of and grounds itself with confidence that says, if God said it, that’s what I choose to believe. If His Word promotes something as true, then it must be true. End of discussion.

And yet, a discussion is often what we deal with. It comes through voices and ideas that speak contrary to what faith was hoping for. It speaks against what faith was believing for.

Today, refuse to enter those discussions. If “faith is the substance of things hoped for” then we must be mindful of what conversations are feeding our faith.  Communications with others, or even within one’s own self that speak doubt will sow seeds of discord against what God’s Word has already spoken to be true.

Refuse their arguments and hold on to that pull of God, that drawing of His voice that says, to just trust Him.  Trust what He says. Trust that His conversation, written in His Holy Book, is the one we need to draw an attentive ear to.  

If they could, many conversations of this world will pull you from His conversation of truth. But, hold on to what God says, dear friend, as if it is your life preserver in these tumultuous waves. Because it is.

If you keep your heart steadfastly focused on Him you will not soon be moved. Just as sure as He is, so are the beautiful things His Word promises us.

Where have you placed your confidence today? From upon what have you built your foundation of faith? Whose conversation is your ear giving more time to? And, whose words are feeding and supporting all that you believe?

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for.” Conversations contrary to that supporting faith – turn a deaf ear to, for they are not nourishing you where you need to be nourished. Those words are not building you where you need to be built.

Refuse their invitation to get involved with them, because when you are a child of God, what the Father speaks is what I need to hear the most. The best support system one can find, who is truly trying to live a life of faith, is going to be found in what God affirms as true in His Word. Get into agreement with Him.  Get into agreement with what He declares for your life and over your life, and avoid all other toxic discussions, for they will not profit you or your spiritual journey. 

What we see before us, whether it’s visible or not, is never supposed to take the center stage in our faith journey.  Nor is it the voice of others.  The center stage of our faith journey is all about what God says.  It’s God’s voice over all! 

Draw near to what God says.  Take every bit of it to heart and build your faith upon it.  In His Word resides the confirmation of everything you need. In His speaking, your faith will be made strong.   

~Blessings!

More Inspiration:

“As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.” – Psalms 18:30

“For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.” – Psalm 33:9

“So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” – Isaiah 55:11

“But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” – Matthew 4:4

“Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” – Matthew 24:35

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:” – John 10:27

“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” – Romans 10:17

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:” – 2 Timothy 2:16

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“Spotlighting God!”

The construction of the temple had been completed. Years of preparation and work have finally seen the fruit of its success. The dedicated things were brought in. The ark of the covenant of the LORD is put in its proper place. And, the trumpets and singers are making one joyful sound of praise and thanksgiving.

King Solomon then turns to the people and says, “Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, who hath with his hands fulfilled that which he spake with his mouth to my father David,” (2 Chronicles 6:4).

Friends, in all that we do from day to day. In our grand successes, or daily, mundane jobs, it is so important to recognize that it is God’s hands, it is His moving in our lives that allow us to do what we do.

The Bible tells us, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God,” (1 Corinthians 10:31). In everything He has privileged us to do and be, we are to be magnifiers of His glory. We are to make sure the spotlight is on our Heavenly Father. All the activities of our lives are to bring glory to God.

“And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him,” (Colossians 3:17). Bless God. In all your works and deeds, say, “Lord, I thank You!” Recognize that He has honored us with the privilege, power, and strength to do what we do, taking no glory for our own.

King Solomon could have erroneously made the dreadful mistake of many in great authority, and he could have attributed the success of building the temple, and all that he performed and acquired to his own glory. He could have praised himself and pumped up his own name for a job well done.  But, he didn’t.

In all the trumpeting. In all the singing. In all the celebrating, he celebrated God. He knew that it was God’s hands on his life that allowed him to do what he did. He knew it was nothing he could have accomplished on his own.

In everything we do, the greatest thing we can do is bring the focus where it rightfully belongs: on God the Father. Make His praises known. Acknowledge His hand and work in what you do. Bless His name for He is the one who has allowed to us do what we do, whether it be of meager beginnings or great successes.

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One day, this will all be over!

Your tears matter to God and we have a promise that they’ll all be gone! In this day of ours, tears may be your meat day and night (see Psalm 42:3) and they may be remembered and recorded as precious cries in a bottle (Psalm 56:8), but in that day, all vestiges of sorrow will be humbled before the Divine. No evidence left; no, not a trace, of what once afflicted your soul when He comes with His loving touch and brushes them all away. It won’t be in our new heavenly destination!  One day, this will all be over!

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” Revelation 21:4

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“Yet Again!”

There is something special about the word again.  It can be a word that adds to your life or takes away.  It can be a word of blessing, or it can also become annoying and tiresome when used in a certain way.  For instance, pushing a child on a swing or giving them a horsey-back ride.   While it is all fun and games, and as parents and grandparents we love the joy filled with their pleas for “again”, after so many times of hearing it, that child has more energy than you do and you are tired and don’t want to hear the word “again”, again.  The repetition of the plea wears you down.

In other areas of our lives, there are repetitions of “again” that wear us down as well.  Unwelcoming feelings of disappointment and hurt keep invading your life like waves crashing on the seashore.  Coming again and again – like the very erosion you witness on beaches because of the constant pounding of waves – we feel that eat away at us and we are bewildered, scratching our heads and questioning “again?”.

The year 2020 has left many people scratching their heads, wondering in their minds “again?”  It seemed like every month that went by some new tragedy or national, and even global event was transpiring that shook the foundation of many people, making them question, “What now?” and “Where do we go from here?”

If you have ever seen those demonstrations of a mouse in a maze you get a sense of how frustrating it is for the animal.  It feels like it is going through all these different channels and passageways only to come to another blocked exit, another place that says you are not getting out of this.  That’s a trapped feeling.  One of hopelessness. 

Many today are dealing with those same feelings.  Feelings that make it seem no matter which way one turns, there is a hand held up, signaling for you to stop, suggesting you are not allowed beyond this point.  Turning toward another path or another decision, and there’s another sign saying access denied.  Over and over again, running into these blockades is frustrating, feeling there’s no way out, and left wondering “again?”.

In 2 Kings 19 and its parallel chapter located in 2 Chronicles 32, we see King Hezekiah dealing with some of these “again?” moments when Sennacherib, king of Assyria, comes against Jerusalem to besiege it. 

Being besieged is when you are trapped on all sides.  It is being totally surrounded, and like that mouse in a maze, there is no way out.

This was a part of warfare.  They would totally enclose a city giving little to no options of recuperating on their own.  Either the people could stay walled up in the city and eventually starve because there’s no way in and no way out for goods to be transported.  They could be killed in the city when the enemy broke through.  Or they could come out with their hands up and accept a life of captivity in the enemy’s land. 

None of these options were very appealing.  And for Hezekiah, after initiating great spiritual reforms for his people, after demolishing all the evil practices in the land, after re-establishing true worship of the one and only true God – this all must have been very confusing of why this?  Why now?  Why him?  Why again?

Did you know that even when you do right, sometimes things can still go wrong (at least according to how we see it)?  There are too many Bible verses that let us know that we, as God’s people, are not exempt from trouble.  Jesus said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world,” (John 16:33).  1 Peter says, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:” (4:12). 

What was happening with Hezekiah wasn’t strange either.  When you work to detach your life and people from the enemy’s clutches, there is always going to be resistance. 

What do you do when you’ve done all that you know to be right and the enemy is still persisting?

Hezekiah did what we all should do.  When faced with the challenge before him, he sought the LORD for help (2 Kings 19:1, 14-19; 2 Chronicles 32:20).

God’s response is recorded in 2 Kings 19:29-34.  What the enemy put his hands on to destroy, God was bringing a “yet again” moment.  2 Kings 19:30 records, “And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall yet again take root downward, and bear fruit upward” (bold emphasis added).  This “remnant” had current, future, and future, future inspirations attached to it.  

When God is involved, “again” doesn’t come with anxiety attached to it.  “Again” wasn’t coming with heartache involved in it.  “Again” wasn’t a signal for more despair and a more wearing out of His people.

“Again” was coming with promise!  Again, was coming, telling you what you see today is not how your story will end.  Again, was coming to let you know that not only are you coming out of this siege – not only is the trap that has been holding you in going to let you go – but there is also going to be some re-rooting and regrowing taking place among God’s people (2 Kings 19:30).

“Yet again.”  God saw past the circumstances that currently surrounded His people.  Not only did and does He see past the current stuff, but He sees past the future stuff.  He knew everything they were dealing with and would deal with in the future, and what He spoke over them and to them was for a time of restoration.  A time of being re-rooted.  And a time of new growth upwards.

Although we can sometimes associate the word “again” in some of those tiresome ways previously discussed, with God, “again” brings with it a breath of new hope.

As we begin this new year many need to hear that breath of new hope breathing “yet again.”  We have crossed over into 2021, and that means not only are we in a new day, but we are in a new year.  And while we are here, we have hope for a new “again”. 

I have recognized in my own life areas where I need to be re-rooted that so that new growth can begin growing upwards.  As with the beginning of any new year, the idea of new and restoration and beginning again speaks something special to me personally.  I feel new energy, a new awakening within me to do more, to reinitiate some stuff in some areas, and to seek new growth in other areas.  To, all in all, do more and do better in the year to come.

I thank God for His “again” moments He has given me.  With His new graces and mercies, and with this new year, we can begin again right where we are.  Our circumstances may not be perfect according to some, but as long as we are walking with Him, and His Spirit is guiding our life, our “yet again” can be something unbelievably beautiful to behold.

Ultimately, these moments we take to walk with Him and realign our lives to His purposes will lead us to live in eternity with God forever.  Until then, let your “yet again” work something beautiful in the time He has given us today, and for this year. 

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“Throw away those filthy rags.”

If there is one thing I really cannot stand, it’s a messy house.  I am not saying my house doesn’t get messy, because it does.  But I can’t stand it that way.  When I see a mess, I see chaos and clutter.  Some days I can let it go, but then there are those days that I just cannot.  I cannot go to bed knowing in the morning as I fumble my way to the coffee pot, I will encounter a housekeeping tragedy.

I am one of those weird people who enjoy watching other people clean their houses on videos.  And let me clarify, I do not like just watching anybody.  The few who I watch, who I am drawn to, are professionals or are reputable.  Some older than me.  Some younger than me, but because of their experience I can learn things from them about cleaning that I may not have known about.  I may have been cleaning a certain way and possibly may have learned a new, better, or more efficient way to get things clean and keep them clean.

Whether watching videos or in my own experiences of cleaning, one thing I do know is that what you use to clean with matters in the results you will get.  Inefficient tools produce inefficient results.  And if one is trying to make something clean by using a dirty rag – it is not going to work.  All you are doing is spreading the previous filth from which the rag was used on what appears to the naked eye to be clean, but now it’s riddled with invisible germs and all kinds of gross stuff you can’t see.

So, we see with those filthy rags we didn’t actually clean anything.  We didn’t make anything right or better than it was before.  All we did was re-contaminate what we thought we were cleansing. 

Isn’t that like our human nature to step back and look at something and think that we made something right on our own, with our own abilities and thoughts and actions?  To take credit for things we ought not to?  Especially when it comes to spiritual matters and our Christian walk?  It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking we have obtained any of His goodness on our own.  As if by our will, we can check off invisible boxes that said we were good enough in this area and that, therefore the graces, mercies, and salvation bestowed on us is our just reward.

No, my friend.  That thinking is so far from the truth and reality of our stance before a holy God.

Isaiah let us know that no matter what we think the best of us is, in and of ourselves, it still amounts to nothing but dirty rags before a holy God.  “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags…” (64:6).

On our own, what we bring to the table of our lives and try to clean up, just amounts to mess on top of mess.  Our nature has been sinful from the beginning.  This is why Jesus stressed to Nicodemus our need to be born again (John 3:3).

Outside of Christ, there is nothing within us that is powerful enough and good enough to wash away our sins and make us clean.  Any attempts within us to answer the charge against us are just that – attempts.  They are futile self-efforts of futile self-righteousness.  And self-righteous efforts never go far in God’s account book of records.  Because for one to claim self-righteousness means they can get right with God on their own and in their own way.  Who they are, their works, their efforts speak for what they think they deserve.

By all accounts, Saul, before he became the apostle Paul, ticked off all the right religious boxes to be able to boast of his own acquired righteousness in the flesh.  In his own testimony of himself found in Philippians, he states:

“Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:

Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;

Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” (3:4-6).

Have you ever been there with the mentality that the good you are or have is because of you and your efforts?  Have you ever looked down on another, even in just your heart, and felt they should be holy like you until God had to come in and knock you off your beast of pride like he did Paul to let you know you didn’t have it as together as you thought you did?  You are still harboring some mess inside of you.

At another time, in giving a defense for himself, the apostle Paul said, “I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day,” (Acts 22:3).  And still, to add to his accolades, Paul said at another time, “…I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee…” (Acts 23:6).

Paul supposedly had all the right stuff, and yet, he had nothing, and without Christ, he was nothing.

Back in Philippians 3, Paul continues to write:

“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.

Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,

And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith,” (7-9).

Going off his own righteousness obtained by checking off the boxes of the law, Paul became a persecutor of the church.  After his transformation, he went from persecuting Jesus (Acts 22:4-8) to calling Him in Philippians 3:8, “My Lord.”

My friend, I don’t care what we think we have or bring to the table.  When we meet Jesus, we realize as Paul did, we have nothing on our own.  And that is a good place to be!

No matter who we are or what we perceive we have or do not have, we all start out with Jesus in the same way.  As Paul testified, “…not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith,” (Philippians 3:9).

So, whatever those “good enoughs” are any are holding on to, without the righteousness found only in Christ, all those “good enough” efforts and ideas of self-realized righteousness are as “filthy rags.”

Throw away those dirty rags.  We all need Jesus Christ in order to be made right before God; in order to be saved.

Jesus, Himself, said, “…without me ye can do nothing,” (John 15:5).  He also said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me,” (John 14:6).  To make a long story short, we all need Jesus!

I have heard some say something along the lines of, “Well, I’m not as bad as some.  I don’t do this or that.  What do I need to repent for?”  In other words, they may not be super-saints (are any of us?), but they are not that bad either, so why do they need Jesus?  Aren’t they good enough the way they are?

To them, I give Jesus’ answer: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me,” (John 14:6).

At another time, Jesus put to rest the idea of those who thought they were righteous on their own.  In the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, the Bible says:

“And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:

Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.

The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.

I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.

And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14; bold emphasis added).

Friend, throw away any filthy rags of self-righteousness for they will never make one right before the Lord.

Come to Him humbly like that tax collector, realizing without Jesus cleaning us up on the inside, we will never be clean enough: “God be merciful to me a sinner.” 

When one trusts in themselves and their own works of righteousness, they put themselves in the dangerous place of tossing God’s grace aside and adopting a prideful position in life that opposes God and His plan of salvation. 

The Bible strictly warns, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God,” (2 Corinthians 3:5).

That is the best part of the gospel message.  It is never about what we can do, bring, or add to the equation.  It always has been, and always will be about Jesus Christ and what He has already done.

“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.

For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.

For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.” (Romans 5:6-11)

Some Pharisees and those in religious circles could not accept Jesus’ message because they, in their self-righteousness, thought they were okay the way they were.  They were religious but didn’t have Christ.  They looked to be in all the right places and doing all the right things but took credit for their own perceived holiness.  Therefore, they looked down on others when it is only through the sacrifice of Christ one can receive “atonement” and be made right.    

Then, there are those who don’t know or won’t acknowledge Christ, because as previously stated, they are not as bad as some, and think they are “good enough” the way they are.  But it is when none of us were “good enough”; when all of us were “sinners” that “Christ died for us.”

Self-righteousness is a set of filthy rags that many try to clean their life with.  We may not see the surface dirt, but the invisible attitudes of the heart, God sees it all.

Friends, we must throw away any filthy rags of self-righteousness and realize none of us got here on our own.  Everything we have and are is because of the work that Jesus Christ has already performed on the cross.  No self-works.  No self-efforts.  No self-righteousnesses can save any of us.  “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast,” (Ephesians 2:8-9). 

And, that salvation, my friends, comes through Jesus Christ alone! 

If you want your life to be truly clean, then one must come through Him who is perfectly clean, “without blemish and without spot,” (1 Peter 1:19).  No filthy rags will do. 

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“Wash Me Jesus!”

“If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.” John 13:8

 As humbling as it was, He was doing it anyway, washing the feet of all the disciples in the room.  In case you didn’t know, this was a very gross job reserved for the lowest of servants in the house.  The roads were not paved but rather dusty and muddy and littered with all types of animal material left behind (if you catch my meaning).  Open sandals were the norm of fashion which really didn’t do anything to keep the elements of all that had been stepped on out.  Feet stank and were blistered, sore, and probably repulsive to us today.  No such thing as a pedicure back then.

Yet, here is the Savior, bending below the lowest servant washing the filth away.  Is this not a precursor to what He would shortly do on the cross, stooping below the lowliest to wash all the filth and stink of sin away forevermore?  The things that are repulsive, gross, and out of order with the beauty of the life God designed, Jesus bows to wash it all away.  No wonder His rebuke to Peter sounded harsh, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.”  Jesus knew better than anyone that anything man could do to try to remove the filth of sin away was inadequate.  One needed to be washed by Jesus.

Despite popular belief, there are not many roads to heaven.  Jesus very clearly stated, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me,” John 14:6.  I cannot overemphasize those two words NO ONE.  That means no exceptions.  That means no matter how good one thinks they are if they have not gone through Jesus, if He has not cleansed them from their sins, they will not walk those dirty feet on His heavenly streets.

Wash me, Jesus!  If there are any impurities, any sin, anything that keeps me from You, cleanse me and make me whole.  “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!” John 13:9.  From the top of me to the bottom, from the inside out, wash me and suit me to live forever in heaven with Thee!

Today, turn to Jesus and seek His cleansing salvation!  Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5).  Each person has the responsibility to turn to Jesus with a heart faith and in true repentance.  “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:38)

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“The Treasure of the Heart”

The heart holds so much in it, and it is there in the heart where we store and follow the things that are most important to us. There, in that place, is where the things we treasure reside.

To God, the heart matters. David is quoted as being a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22), and rightly so. Though he made mistakes in his life, and though he sinned before God, his heart never stopped beating after God. When faced with his wrongs, David didn’t make excuses for his behavior. He repented of them and sought forgiveness.

Solomon, David’s son, was a man especially blessed by God in a way no man had ever been blessed. He was endowed with extraordinary wisdom and wealth (1 Kings 3:9-13; 29-34). God also told Solomon, “And if thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as thy father David did walk, then I will lengthen thy days,” (1 Kings 3:14).

Although his riches and wisdom abounded, the heart of Solomon turned away from following the Lord and went after false gods (1 Kings 11:1-8). His heart was “not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father,” (1 Kings 11:4). Thus, we see a great comparison between those who follow God with their all and those who don’t, and that comparison starts in the heart.

Although God had appeared to him twice and specifically said this shouldn’t be done (1 Kings 11:10), Solomon, because of the women he loved, allowed his heart to be filled with the false ways of their false gods, which in turn, turned his heart from following the one and only true God.

Friends, we must mind the heart with all diligence. Proverbs instruct us, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life,” (4:23). Jesus said, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh,” (Luke 6:45; see also Matthew 15:18-20; Mark 7:20-23).

What treasure is your heart holding? As we go through life, there will be times when we must take a heart examination to make sure it is in good health producing good treasure. This world can wreak havoc on a heart and if one is not careful, the heart can become tainted and impacted in a very negative way.

David took the matters of his heart seriously. When he sinned against the Lord he sought to realign his heart to the will of God. Instead of ignoring the problem and letting the problem grow worse and worse, David took his heart before the Lord, and prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me,” (Psalm 51:10).

What David showed us is, if one does not like what the heart is producing or has produced, we can take these matters of the heart before God and seek His help to get it straight. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise,” (Psalm 51:17).

It is in the heart where we store up our trust in God (Proverbs 3:5). It is there in the heart where we hide God’s Word (Psalm 119:11). It is in the heart where we show our true love for God (Matthew 22:37). And, it is in the heart of man that God looks upon and judges (1 Samuel 16:7).

Outwardly, Solomon seemed to have everything, but inside he lacked what God was looking for the most – a heart that was after Him.

A heart that is after God is a heart that has prepared itself to be after God. There are so many choices one can turn to and each choice will fill us with something. When Solomon made his choice to fill his life with that which is false, false ways and ideas took root in his heart and led him astray.

In comparison, even in his wrongs, David took his heart to God, admitted his wrongs (Psalm 51:4), and sought restoration (Psalm 51:12).

When one seeks to have a heart filled with the things of God, God will fill it, and that filling will produce beautiful treasure.

Material wealth will fade, but the treasure of one’s heart will follow them through all eternity. What treasures are you storing today?

Lord, increase me in You. Help me to look to You and Your ways continually. Help me to keep my heart and my feet on Your righteous pathways. Fill me up with more of You till my life and my heart is overflowing with Your good treasures. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, I pray, AMEN!