Spiritually Empty

Proverbs 31:26 She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness.
      
      Who are the ones living their spiritual lives on empty? I’ve noticed that those who break God’s laws regularly tend to fall apart when times go bad. They just seem to run out of what it takes to reach for victory. The Lord has set out for our good His instructions so that we do not destroy our souls. Ryan Holiday writes in his book Discipline Is Destiny, “Discipline is not a punishment, it’s a way to avoid punishment.” Even though Ryan is writing about self-discipline, the same advice can be used for our discipline in following the admonitions for righteous living through God’s word. Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path
      Self-righteousness is a quick way to spiritual emptiness. Matt. 7:1 Judge not, that ye be not judged. Watch what you sneer at because someone is sneering at you for the way you do and live your life. We might be moving along in our walk with the Lord while sneering at the beliefs of others, only to find out that our beliefs may be as corrupt and erroneous as theirs. The judgments of Christians among Christians can be brutal and we need to remember that we too will be judged with the same measuring stick we use on others. Matt. 7:2 For you will be judged by the same standard with which you judge others, and you will be measured by the same measure you use
      There is a difference between pointing out blatant sin (what God says sin is) and pointing out something we do not like or personally approve of concerning a person’s belief or understanding of God as they walk through their salvation in Christ. We do need to show some compassion for those who are growing step by step in their walk with the Lord. We need to offer uplifting words of encouragement, rather than clubbing them with a litany of thou shalt, or thou shalt not. Prov. 31:26 She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness.  
      Another way people end up spiritually empty is by not showing up. I have taught, counselled, and ministered within the church body for a few decades now. I have noticed that those who show up for the appointments and those who do the tasks that are given to help them improve in their faith, do grow up into mature Christians serving the Lord with strength and purpose. Those who do not show up nor do what they need to do to break through the problems that in most cases they cause by their own choices, end up spiritually empty. They also become a  drain on the people around them as they are always in need of deliverance from themselves because they will not do what God’s word says to do. Gen. 4:7 You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.
      I know a few people who live from crisis to crisis. Interestingly one of the meanings of the word crisis is, under judgment. Why are people living from judgment to judgment or as is said, crisis to crisis? These people often want a word from the Lord so that deliverance will show up like a superhero saving the day. These same poor souls rarely take responsibility for the mess that is self-made, then the cycle starts all over again – looking for a word from the Lord to be delivered of the self-made rationalized mess. Isa. 5:20 Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!      
      We can rationalize anything we want and history proves we can even make the evil that has been rationalized legal. Hitler’s concentration camps became legal in a very short time. My friend and publisher Clay, has said in the past, “Don’t stay stupid! Move on from that place!” I agree. Most of the time those who are spiritually empty or running on the last fumes of the last victory they took part in have simply walked off the path God had set for them. Again as Ryan Holiday said, “Discipline is not a punishment, it’s a way to avoid punishment.” If God is pointing at something in our life that He wants us to repent about, and stop doing, then obeying that instruction will go a long way in helping us become spiritually filled. This obedience will also help us grow up in the blessings of the Lord. May we all keep our souls full of the spirit of God. Blessings and peace to us all.

Wherever You Go

Proverbs 11:10 When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices, and when the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness.      
 
      Michel de Montaigne said, “If you don’t know where you are sailing, no wind is favourable.”
      God has given us the ability to be a blessing and to be the Lord’s hand extended wherever we go throughout life. Knowing who we are in Christ, and having an idea of what God has sown in our hearts to do, will keep us walking in the Lord’s strength and purpose. Plus, our relationship with the Lord will remain vibrant and life-giving. We are fortunate to have Jesus, who is love, peace, and joy living within our souls. We wear the armour of the Lord that allows us to walk in His peace wherever we go. Eph. 6:15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. Whatever situation we encounter, we are equipped by God to bring the Lord’s righteous solution to those problems. As we walk in Christ, we have the Prince of Peace within our hearts and we can walk in the fullness of His shalom. 
      We are instructed to seek peace and hopefully bring it with us as we make our way through this precarious world. 1Pet. 3:11 They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it. Being instructed to pursue peace is an interesting statement in a world where peace is not the first thing thought of at the smallest provocation that comes our way. Shouts of, “Don’t tell me what to do!” is the immediate reaction to any slight a person runs up against. Being obnoxiously confrontational does not lend itself to bringing peace to life’s situations. Oscar Wilde said, “Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go.” Are you one of the people who are bringing blessings wherever you go? Or, are there shouts of gladness when you leave the room? Prov. 11:10 When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices, and when the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness.
      Seeking to bring the fruit of God’s love wherever we go is a constant heart effort. We need to walk in God’s love and experience the blessings of that love. Building ourselves up in the faith of our Lord’s grace will help us be doers of the word and not just give lip service to it. We cannot give away what we do not have. If all I have in my heart is anger, strife, and anxiety, how can I give love, peace, and joy away? James 3:11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 
      Many people offer cheap advice, which is dispensed without thought. Someone might say, “Oh that’s easy, you just do this and it will work for you.” However, the one giving this advice is not doing it themselves, which will often result in counselling that is shallow, vague, and useless. We need authentic people who have a real relationship with the Lord and are forthright in their choices. We want to be people who bring the blessings of God’s grace wherever we go. Acts 14:3 So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to perform signs and wonders. What an amazing scripture. The signs and wonders of God’s miracles were manifesting wherever these men of God went because they had an authentic grace-filled relationship with Christ their saviour.
      Wherever we go, we carry the responsibility of what God has sown in our hearts to do. We can go forth with grace or we can plow and smash our way forward with no regard for anything. We can do what God asked us to do with His gracious help, or we can go forth like a tank maiming the people with religious rhetoric. We can bring God’s love to those who need it, or leave people hurt and wounded in resentment. Yes, it is important that wherever we go, we understand that we need Jesus going with us because we may be the only bible some people will ever get to read. Will what they read in your life make them want Jesus as much as you do? 2Cor. 3:2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. May God’s face shine on us and guide us forward in Christ. Amen!

The Agony Of The Cross

Proverbs 15:4 Gentle words are a tree of life; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.
      

      I saw a painting depicting the agony of the cross that Jesus was nailed to. This image so pierced my heart, that it caused an emotional pain of sorrow. Not only was the torment of Christ’s twisted body depicted, but what also affected me was that the agony of those who were watching the crucifixion was also seen and felt. Their agony was illustrated as distorted suffering in their souls and was shown by a contortion of pain throughout their bodies. I could feel the agony of the cross within me and it truly did hurt. Realizing at the same moment that we had put Jesus on that cross by our choice of sinfulness.

      To have been an eyewitness to this cruel event should have shaken everyone’s life forever. However, this method of torture was seen throughout the Roman Empire and had simply become a reminder of who was in charge. The crucifixion of Christ should have been appalling to any rational human being because Jesus was an innocent man. However, the Gospels say that the mockers were in full agitation. Matt. 27:39  Those who passed by hurled insults at Him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!”

      I do not think we will ever understand the fullness of the finished work that took place on the cross. I believe we will always be lacking in our understanding of what really happened on that day of reckoning. Every once in a while we might get a heart-stopping jolt of insight into what Jesus did for us, but the full revelation of the atonement will only be seen in eternity. I think this is why Paul kept seeking an ever-increasing understanding of the suffering of Christ because the depths of God’s salvation gift is deeper than the universe is vast. Phil. 3:10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death. The more we can understand the sacrifice Jesus offered us, the more we can offer a holy hand to those who are still lost in their trespasses and sins. Prov. 15:4 Gentle words are a tree of life; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit. 
      The crucifixion of Jesus on the tortuous cross is not a popular topic to talk about in this sanitized and censored age we live in. We just want the cute and warm-feeling story of salvation that doesn’t make us out to be the wretches we truly are. The truth is that Jesus was sacrificed for our sins, and He was the only propriation that would satisfy the wrath of God’s judgment against sin. Many people do not like to be beholding to God, so they make up their self-made and tolerant way of appeasing God’s wrath. Good deeds according to their own beliefs will make God happy and if He is not happy about the self-righteous offering, then too bad. Rom. 10:3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.
      To understand what Jesus suffered during His crucifixion, we only have to read the prophetic account of the agony that sin caused the Godhead as Jesus hung and paid for our sins. Psalm 22:12 Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me. 13 Roaring lions that tear their prey open their mouths wide against me. 14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted within me. 15 My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. 16 Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet. 17 All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me. 18 They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.
      It was approximately a thousand years before Christ was crucified that the Psalmist wrote this revelatory description of what our saviour would have to suffer. Of course, the historic naysayers claim this psalm was only written a short time before Jesus was born – because they exclaim, “How could the clear description of the cross and suffering it caused be known hundreds of years before the Roman Empire was ruling?” It seems to me, the same descendants of those who mocked Christ on the cross are still mocking the righteous sacrifice by throwing out conspiracy theories because of their hatred of God. Titus 3:9 But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.   
      The fact remains, that the agony of the cross is real, and we, the human race, put Jesus on that cross because of our rebellion and sinful choice to disobey the Creator. It comes down to our choice of having faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. We put our faith in the gift of who God says is the way, the truth, and the life. Lord Jesus, thank you, for taking my guilt and shame so that I would not have to live in the agony of separation from our Heavenly Father. Amen!