Lessons from an Abandoned Car and some Dead Grass

This WMD was written by Shaun Watkins.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. — Matthew 5:16

A year ago (May 2020) I was called by a friend of a friend to come and help move some things from a house that friend had inherited after the death of his uncle. While there I notice a nice car in the garage. I ask how much he wanted for the car and he gave me a price. It was more than I wanted to pay mainly because I didn’t need the car. Also, the car hadn’t run in a while so we didn’t know what was wrong with it.

After walking around the house and seeing all that needed to be done so the friend could sell the house, I made an offer on the car. I said, “I will help you paint the interior of the house for the car.” The friend actually agreed. About a week later I got a call that all the material was there to paint the house. Backfire! Look, I only wanted to help paint the house so that I could hang out with the friend’s friend and get to know him. I wanted to build a relationship with him. 

Well, I got my brothers to help, and we painted the house over a couple of weeks. We only saw the friend’s friend a couple of times when we were there painting. 

We finished up the painting and got the car. I had the car towed to my house, because remember, it didn’t run. So, for the past year the car has sat in the same spot in my yard. I was able to get it to run once and then it sat for a while and the next time I tried to start it, it would not start. So, the car just sat. 

A week ago, I decided that I didn’t want the car to just sit in my yard, so I decided to scrap it. One of my brothers said, “let try and sell it,” which we did the next day. After the car was gone the only thing that was left was a dead rectangle in my grass where the car had sat for the past year. 

One week after the car left, I was cutting grass and I saw one of the most beautiful things. Right in the middle of the dead rectangle, there was new, beautiful, green grass growing. It was almost like an audible voice from the Lord saying, “You see, darkness kills everything! In darkness there is no life, but when the Light shines upon the dead, it doesn’t matter how long it was dead because I can restore it.” It was the greatest thing. What a perfect illustration!

Why do I share this? Because you may never know what a difference you make in others. You may never know how a simple smile, or good morning, or a “hey how are you?” could help someone. Or maybe you feel dead and need to be restored. Our brokenness is where the light shines in. We need the light of Jesus to shine on us because He is the only thing that can bring life from death and darkness.

Also remember as believers we are the hands and feet of Jesus! It is His light that people see in us. Not a little light, but a light that is like a city on a hill. It was never meant to be hidden. The true light of God was meant to be seen for afar.

What do people see when they see you? Light? Darkness? Both? 

Father I pray that today we are the light like a city on a hill. A light that others can see. I pray that we stop hiding our light. That we are the light in this dark world. Father if we are living in darkness that we get out of the shadow and into the light so that we can be restored by You. That you bring us into new life. We need Christians that are on fire. Not Christians that just let their little lights shine. Nothing is worse than a lukewarm Christian, that is dangerous. God let us be Believers that people see You in us! Not that we get any glory for it, but all for Your glory!

In Jesus Name!

Amen

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All in One Shot

All in One Shot

Now unto Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.  – Ephesians 3:20

Eighteen months ago, my time as a pastor came to an end.  It was a hurt that I didn’t think I’d ever get over.  I was crushed as badly as I’d ever been crushed.  I had chances to do the rebound thing and preach at another church.  I also had the opportunity to become a worship leader.  But for some reason all I could think of was “Go into the wilderness.”  I had no idea what that looked like, but I was willing to go.  I wanted to go.

Tonya and I, on a cold and rainy Sunday morning went to Jocassee Valley Brewing Company and sat under a tent in nasty weather.  Honestly, I felt kind of foolish.  I thought that Tonya and I would just end up praying together and we’d go home.  While we were praying, a couple pulled up.  After that, another pulled up.  The six of us met with God . . . it was pretty wonderful.  God did exceedingly abundantly all that I could ask or think.

A handful of us have been meeting in the wilderness since October.  I believe that God wants me to spend 40 weeks there.  The Israelites had to spend 40 years wandering there.  Jesus spent 40 days.  I believe that He told me that I’m to spend 40 weeks there.  After I receive more confirmation, I will tell you where we will spend the remaining weeks and how only God could have worked it out.  I think it is just amazing.

What I wanted to record in this WMD though is something that I want to never ever forget.  A few Sundays ago, I was preaching for my friend, Shaun.  Because he posted a video of a tornado touching down at his church, Fox News happened to visit him that Sunday.  While they were there, they went ahead and streamed the whole service.  It has ten thousand views.  Now, I know that 10,000 people probably didn’t watch the whole thing, but I’m still amazed at how these numbers work out.  At my previous church, attendance would be around 140 people on Sunday mornings.  Now, check out this equation:  18 months x 4 Sundays x 140 people = 10,080.  I got to preach for just as many people in one shot as I would have if I’d been preaching every Sunday for the last year and a half.  To me that is God doing exceedingly abundantly above all that I could think or imagine.

One more thing that someone else pointed out to me: I spoke on the Beatitudes, which is the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount.  Here is what the Bible says right before He began:  

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on a mountainside and sat down.  His disciples came to Him, and He began to teach them. – Matthew 5:1-2

There I was thinking that I was only teaching disciples inside that church building.  But that Fox News camera was rolling.  There was a crowd that I couldn’t see.  How crazy is it that right before Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” there was a multitude?  Right before I spoke the same words, Jesus worked it out so that a multitude could hear.     

Lord, I couldn’t dream up some of the things You’ve done for me if I tried.  Most of the time when I pray, I ask for simple, doable things.  But You . . . You Lord do exceedingly and abundantly more than anything that I could ever dream up or imagine.  Continue to do so, Lord.  Show all of Your followers just how great and how mighty You are.  Help us to fall in love with You so that You are the greatest in our hearts, minds, and lives.  No body and nothing could ever deserve that spot but You.  I’m sorry when I let the cares of this world creep in, and I forget.  Thank You that You have always been faithful to bring me back home.  I recognize just how poor in spirit I am, Lord.  Keep me and everyone reading this on the narrow path that leads to life everlasting.  Amen.  

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Harmless as Doves

Harmless as Doves

Behold I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves; be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.  – Matthew 10:16

I read a story about farmer’s wife who tried to help two different birds on two separate occasions.  The first time, there was a hawk stuck in the barn with a damaged wing.  She moved all kinds of items just to back it into a corner where she could possibly try to help the bird.  This process took place every time she would try to help.  Each time she tried to bandage or apply ointment to the wounds, she was met with fierce talons and loud squawks.  One day, the hawk hurt her pretty badly, so she let him run out (not fly) and never saw it again.

Years later, a dove would be found on its back in her driveway.  The bird cooed in fear as she lifted it into her hands.  The bird looked pretty roughed up and could not fly because of a badly damaged wing.  Unlike the hawk, there was no fight.  After about one month of feeding, watering, and doctoring the wing, the bird took flight and soared back into the heavens.  

Reading that story, I understood Matthew 10:16 for maybe the first time.  How many years did I fight God?  There He was trying to help me by sending people time and time again to let me know what I needed to do, how I needed to behave, and how I needed to live.  There was His Holy Word sitting on my nightstand calling for me to be healed, but I ignored it.  I fought Him every step of the way.  I thought He was mean.  I thought He was trying to hurt me.  I thought He just wanted to make me do things I didn’t want to do.  I thought He was just trying to keep me from having any fun.  Nothing could have been further from the truth.  I am so glad and so thankful that He didn’t give up! 

Lord, thank You for making me more and more like the dove as the years go by.  Thank You for sending this story to me.  With all my heart, I want to allow You to work on me so that I too may soar in the heavens.  Help me rise above all the pettiness that this world sucks me into so quickly.  There is and never will be another like You, my God, my rock, my healer, and my redeemer.  Amen

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Perfect Peace

Perfect Peace

Be still and know that I am God. — Psalm 46:10

Usually, I am writing from a place of just wanting to be filled with God.  I’m like a thirsty person just wanting a drink of water.  I am ever so aware of how easily I wander from Him and His ways.  I’m usually like the lamb who strayed just a little too far away from the Shepherd.  Sometimes I look around to find Him and I just realize that I haven’t been near Him.  I want with all of my heart to stay close to Him under the protection of that rod and that staff.

This morning I am not writing from that place.  I am writing from a place of almost perfect contentment.  I’ve never been so sure that God is on me, in me, and working through me.  I’ve never been more rested in Him.  With that being said, I hate that little voice that seems to sit ever so near that whispers, “Just wait . . . turmoil is right around the corner.”  I’m so glad that a while ago while working out at Total Fitness that I heard the song “to hell with the devil” by Stryper.  I’ve listened to it so many times since then.  When I start to think that things can’t possibly stay good for me, those are the exact words I say.  

You know what Lord?  You have been so good to me.  I could sit here and think about all the stuff that has to transpire today and all the stuff I have to do, but I just want to sit here at Your feet as long as I can.  I don’t know if I’ve ever enjoyed You more.  I don’t know if I’ve ever been this content knowing without a doubt that You’ve got me.  Help me always picture in my mind Satan coming to bow before You and asking if he can mess with me or my family.  This is what he had to do to harm Job.  I would guess it is the same with me.  To hell with the devil for that is his fate.  To hell with the words that he whispers in my hear.  I am so sorry that I have believed he was Your opposite.  At best, he is only the opposite of one of Your angels.  He is nothing like You.  Grant me permission, Lord to keep this peace as long as possible today and to simply enjoy being Yours.  

Moment by moment I’m kept in His love

Moment by moment I’ve life from above

Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine

Moment by moment oh Lord I am thine  

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Without the Camp

Without the Camp

Let us go forth therefore unto Him without the camp.  – Hebrews 13:13

Right before this verse, it says, “Jesus suffered and died outside the city gates to make His people holy by means of His own blood.”  This means that Jesus had to give His life for us alone, all alone.  If I am applying this correctly, that means Hebrews 13:13 is telling believers that there will be a time, if we want God’s holiness, where we will have to go and be alone with Him and only Him.  We won’t be allowed to just go along with any crowd.  We will have to go forth unto Him without the camp.

When I first got saved, it took me a few years to leave the worldly crowd.  It was hard for me to attempt to live holy while those who cared nothing about pleasing God had what I considered “fun” all the time.  I would complain often that being a Christian and truly committing my life to Him was a bore.  When I finally did commit my life to Him, even though it took a while, I look back now and think how silly it was to think like I did.  But, at the time, it was a very big deal.  I had to leave sin by going to be with God alone without the camp.  I had to leave this comparison game where I try to impress God by being a little bit better than others, or simply a little bit better than I used to be.  

Years after this, I found myself a full-blown part of the church crowd.  I went to church every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night.  I would even attend revival services if they were nearby.  A really strange thing happened that I didn’t even realize had happened.  My hope of heaven was rooted in the fact that I had earned my spot.  I no longer cussed, listened to evil music, watched bad movies, hung out with losers . . . I had this long list of stuff that I didn’t do anymore that I used to love to do.  I was part of this church camp who shunned the sinful and exalted the religious.  I quickly found out that religious activity doesn’t keep me saved . . . Jesus does.  So, I had a period of wandering around.  I had to just be alone with God for a while without the camp.

I find myself now in a weird place.  I could easily just find a church and plug in.  But it is like I’m supposed to be alone for a while without the camp.  Jesus went into the wilderness for 40 days and came out ready to minister.  The Israelites wandered there for 40 years before entering into the promised land.  Something tells me that I will be wandering in the wilderness for 40 weeks.  I have been meeting with God all by myself, meeting regularly with my family (we call it 205 church), and even meeting at various outside venues with just a few friends.  This has gone on for 25 weeks now.  I was contemplating last night just what in the world God is doing with me.  I would love to just be able to “go to church” and feel good about where I was.  I do believe that I will be back with the camp soon.  I sure do miss them.

For now, I just want to learn everything that I need to learn.  The Israelites didn’t have to wander for 40 years.  I’ve read that it was only an 11-day journey to the promised land.  I’ve read that it should have only taken a month.  I’ve also reasoned that God wanted them to trust Him and only Him for a year or two before entering.  No matter which one is true, they didn’t learn to trust Him.  I am praying that I learn to trust Him and only Him.  I don’t want to be jealous of the sinful crowd “living it up.”  I don’t want to become a part of the religious crowd who behaves really well and stays away from the sinful crowd.  I want to learn whatever it is that I’m supposed to learn in the wilderness so that when my promised land moment comes, I don’t lose out to fear.

Lord, I don’t even really know what I’m writing.  I’m just trying to put whatever You’ve put in my heart on paper.  Hopefully, this will make sense to me as I read it a few times.  All I know right now is that I’m trying not to complain as I wander in the wilderness.  I sure see how easy it is.  Help me for a third time to learn to be content with You and only You.  I don’t need sin to “have fun.”  I don’t need to be a religious Pharisee and render myself useless to those on the outside looking in.  What I do need is You.  I need Your Spirit at the controls of my heart, mind, and body.  Fill me with Your Spirit and help me be like You.  Help me come out on the other side of this wilderness experience much like You after Your forty days.  As always, I do love You, Lord.  As always, I know that You have given me that love.  May I only ever boast in You.  Amen

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An Offering

And after He dismissed the crowds, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. – Matthew 14:23

I remember the first time I got to play guitar with a worship team.  I felt like God had given me something really, really special.  You see, I thought when I was a teenager that I wanted to play guitar in a rock band.  I got to do it for a while on a super small scale.  However, when I got saved, I knew for sure that it wasn’t in the cards for me.  I gave that dream up.  So, when I got to play in front of a crowd at church, I was exhilarated.  I felt like God had given it back to me and then some.  He made something that I thought I wanted to do even better.  

I got to do that for a few years.  I loved it.  Once again though, the time came where I knew I had to give it up.  It hurt kind of badly.  I really felt like that was a dream God was going to make last.  Up to that point, I only practiced the songs we would be doing on Sundays during the week.  I would then practice with the band on Thursday nights, and then play the songs on Sunday.  After that was all over, there was this amazing moment.  I took my guitar and went outside.  I told God that I wanted to play Him a song . . . not because I was to play it in front of a crowd this Sunday, but because I loved Him.  I can’t even begin to tell you the power in it.  What a difference!

Right now, I have an opportunity to meet with a friend.  We have been meeting up to pray regularly.  In fact, it is a time and place that has to do with our jobs.  We have often said, “I can’t believe God is paying us to do this!” 

This week is Spring Break.  I asked him if he would meet and pray anyway . . . not because we are getting paid, but because we love Him.  He said yes.  I am looking so forward to giving this offering to God.

I only say this stuff because I wish I had understood this concept earlier in my life.  I have been so selfish over the course of my life and have so often only sought glory for myself.  I have learned that I could not be more like Satan than when I am behaving in such a way.  This week, find some time to dismiss the crowds, go somewhere by yourself, and pray.  You just might discover a raw power that you didn’t even know existed.  

Lord, help me to decrease as You increase.  I don’t want to even imagine all the times that I maybe did something in Your Name, but it was all really for myself.  I just want to say that I am sorry.  With all my heart, mind, and strength, I want to learn to love You.  Help me to do just that.  I want to be pure and spotless on that glorious day that I meet You in glory.  I know I can’t do it on my own because I know what I’m like.  But with You, Lord . . . You give me just enough of these holy moments to let me know that You are working on me and that I’m right on schedule.  I can’t thank You enough!  Thank You for giving Your life for me and making this all possible.  Thank You for this week where we all think about You just a little more intensely.  There is and never will be another like You.  I love You!  Amen.

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Smelling Good

Romans 12:1 
Genesis 8:21 

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy . . .”  Paul starts Romans 12 off by calling us to remember what He did for us. In view of His death on the cross. In view of the fact that you are saved only because He made a way.  In view of the fact that He came into your life simply because you asked. You know, in view of God’s mercy! In view of that, offer your bodies as living sacrifices . . . Whoa! Is He saying that we can sacrifice our bodies for Him? How do we do that? 

In the old testament they used to sacrifice animals. In order to be “clean”, one had to sacrifice a bull, lamb, dove . . . there were all sorts of different sacrifices they could make for all sorts of different reasons. The interesting thing to me was, it “smelled” good to God. It was an “aroma pleasing to Him” (Genesis 8:21) I guess it was like me going by someone’s house grilling hamburgers, it just makes me want one! The sacrifices they made created a specific smell that pleased the Lord. If that’s the case and now we are encouraged to be a living sacrifice, what does your life smell like? 

Right after I first got saved, for a while, many parts of my life stunk. I’m not saying I was miserable or anything. I just did pretty much anything and everything that I wanted to do with no real regard for what God wanted me to do. For example, when I was around a certain group of people, I would cuss. I didn’t cuss around my parents, I didn’t cuss around the people at my church, but when I got around these certain people, I cussed. I didn’t “sacrifice” my need to “fit in” with that crowd. In view of God’s mercy, I could have and should have. God would often poke my spirit and tell me to stop, but I just ignored Him and kept right on . . . I couldn’t have my “friends” thinking I was a wimp, could I? 

When I first got my job as a teacher, I stunk. I don’t think I was necessarily a lousy teacher:  I just kind of “showed up.” Meaning, I just kind of mimicked the way other teachers had taught me when I was in school and eagerly awaited that last bell to ring. I didn’t really have a purpose. I got to where I didn’t even like teaching and thought I had made a big mistake going into the profession. My attitude stunk . . . and I wondered why God seemed so far away. 

Today, I quickly recognize that I am a light in a very dark world. If you’ve been saved, you are too! I love to hang around a group of guys that are trash mouthing. I love to be in the car with the guys that ooooh and ahhhh over the college girls jogging around the college campus. You know, all I have to do is NOT join them. It usually isn’t long until they realize that there is something different about me. When the opportunity arises, I tell them about how the Lord has blessed me since I stopped talking like that. I tell them how He blessed me with a killer wife and I have no need to gawk at young ladies.  I tell them just how awesome God is! 

When I go to work, I don’t have any grand plans to “preach” to students in my class. I certainly don‘t do “altar calls“ and force Jesus on them. However, I make sure I put on an attitude of WORK! I prepare, then execute what I’ve prepared to the best of my ability. I never sit down, I never display a bad attitude (wellllllll, 19 out of 20 days :), I refuse to complain, and I always remind myself that I am God’s representative . . . I’m trying to point people towards Him. I sacrifice my want to play on the internet at work, my want to just sit around and kill time, my want to complain because it’s Monday, and my want to take out my frustrations on the students, basically I refuse to do these things even when I “feel” like doing them. It’s not long at all until kids quickly realize that I’m “different.” Somehow, it smells good to them, too! 

Think about ways YOU can be a living sacrifice to the Lord. What would you have to change? What would you have to start doing? What would you have to stop doing? God is watching. People that NEED Him are watching, too! What are you doing to make Him attractive? 

If I smell burgers on a grill, I’m going to travel in that direction and pray that it‘s someone I know, or at least someone open to getting to know me. If God smells you purposefully representing HIM well, purposefully being a “living sacrifice,” you’ll find that He’s NEVER far away!  In fact, He might just be heading in your direction.

Lord, I read this WMD that I wrote 11 years ago.  It had to be one of the first ones I’ve ever written.  I wonder how much of my zeal for You that I have lost.  I wonder how much I did for You back then that I don’t do now.  I wonder how many times since then that I have not been that living sacrifice.  Help me to realize just how short my time is here on this planet.  Help me to not waste any breaths.  I want with all my heart to point others toward You.  Thank You for the many opportunities that You have given me to pray with others to receive You into their lives.  What a difference You make!  Help me to honor the greatest commandment: to love You with all my heart, mind, and strength.  I can’t do it on my own.  But I can humble myself.  I can pray.  I can seek Your face and turn from my wicked ways.  Now, please hear from heaven.  Now please forgive my sin; and begin to heal this land.  I love You, Lord!  I give my life to You this day . . . a living sacrifice!  Amen

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Power

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 5:3

God has opened the door for me to have some of the best conversations lately.  I was talking to a guy that had been saved and baptized two years ago.  Since then, he has really struggled with his faith in God and struggled with sin.  He has straight up told me that sex and drugs are his biggest deterrents.  I asked him if he believed those things were wrong, he said, “no.”  I asked him if God would want him doing those things, he said, “no.”  Then, we talked about how if Jesus is Lord of our lives, then He calls the shots and they are wrong.

Our conversation shifted into how anybody actually changes.  He showed me a picture of some popular half clothed celebrity and asked me if I would cheat on my wife with this woman given the opportunity.  I told him, “no.”  He was incredulous.  “There is no way that you could resist.”  I said, “if I was all about myself, I couldn’t.  But I would have to hurt God, my wife, and my children to sin in this way.   I just couldn’t do it.”  He went on to say, “Nothing like that is going to happen anyway.”  I said, “It has happened before, and it is recorded in the Bible.”  “No way,” he said.  I went on to read for him Genesis 39:1-20.

It all came down to one simple truth.  He had his sins to deal with, and I certainly had mine.  I asked him, “Could you pray this prayer?”

Lord, I don’t even come close to living by Your standards.  The truth is, I want to sin.  I even like sin.  Would You change my heart over time so that I don’t even want to sin anymore?  Could You make it so that I change to look more and more like You as the years go by?  

He said, “I haven’t prayed in a long time . . . but I could pray that.”  

Then I showed him one last verse, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  We talked for just a little more about how God gives us access to His Kingdom simply by admitting that there is no way we could do it on our own.

Generally, I’m not in the business of airing conversations that are between me and someone else.  But I believe this is a real key to unlocking some real power.  This is a prayer that I wish I had been taught as a young Christian.  Instead of hiding from God all the time and thinking He was mad at me because I sinned, I might have run to Him and asked for help. 

Lord, let this little devotional be read by the right people.  I pray that anyone who reads this will bring their sin to You and not hide it from You.  Search our hearts, Lord and help us eliminate any wicked way.  Make us a pure and spotless bride.  Make us ready to meet You.  Amen

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Among the Hidden

Among the Hidden

Yet I have reserved 7,000 in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.  – 1 Kings 19:18

Every time I watch a sporting event, I wonder if I’m truly watching the best in the world.  Even though our professional athletes are good, I always think there is someone out there who is twice as good, but for whatever reason, they just don’t want or need the spotlight.  Maybe they just didn’t have the opportunities that the ones we are watching had.  Even in music, there are YouTube videos of nobodies that are absolutely incredible.  Maybe they just don’t want to live their lives on the road.  I don’t know.  What I do know is that they are among the hidden.

I mention that stuff because in 1 Kings 19 Elijah is at stage center swearing that he is the only one even trying to get it done for God.  He actually verbalizes this to God in verse 10.  God quickly lets him know that He has others serving Him.  In fact, He has 7,000 among the hidden that He has simply reserved for Himself.  

I love to watch preachers and listen to sermons.  Some of the best sermons that I have stumbled across have the lowest number of views and the poorest video quality.  I have two shoe boxes of cassette tapes with sermons that will simply never be heard by anyone again.  To me, those sermons are the best sermons, yet they are among the hidden.  

I like to think that God has Christians that most will never know about because He has reserved them for Himself.  People who simply love Him and love being with Him.  I like to think of would be worship leaders who just play and sing for Him with absolutely no one else around . . . they don’t necessarily need or crave the spotlight of their church.  They just want to worship and love on God.  In 1 Kings 19, Elijah is the one we get to read about, but what were the lives of these other 7,000 like that we know nothing about?  I would imagine they have some pretty amazing stories as well.  I would imagine that God took such pleasure in reserving them for Himself.

Lord, with all my heart, I want to love You.  I confess that I don’t truly know how.  Sometimes I miss the spotlight of preaching.  But other times it is just You and me, and Your presence is like the warm sun shining on me when I am cold.  You tell me amazing things that I used to would have gone out and preached, but maybe You don’t want them preached.  Maybe You want those things to be private amongst just You and me.  Lord, bless those who are out front in ministries, help them to truly honor You and to truly help others come to really know You. Help them to live truly consecrated lives that are above reproach.  But Lord, also bless those among the hidden, reserve them for Yourself and give them great power and wisdom.  Give the Elisha’s who are not yet known a double portion of Your presence and the sharpest sensitivity to Your Holy Spirit.  Who is like You, Lord, in all the Earth?   Amen

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Authentic

Authentic

. . . and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. – Revelation 21:8

About 25 years ago, after reading this verse on a t-shirt and then looking it up in the Bible, God gave me my first command, “Tell the truth.”   Looking back, I had so many things wrong with my life that it is hard to imagine that this would be my first command.  Even now, there are still a lot of things wrong with my life, but God has brought me back to this verse this morning.

What is the real difference between an authentic Christian and one who simply professes with his or her own mouth?  What is the difference between Christians and non-believers?  Sometimes you can’t spot any differences in the lives of Christians and non-believers. 

I had someone ask me the other day, “I’m doing things that I shouldn’t be doing.  I’ve asked God to save me before.  Do you think God will still accept me into heaven?”  From my church experience, there are two answers: The Baptist answer, and the Pentecostal answer.  One says, “you can’t lose your salvation,” the other says, “you can be in a backslidden state separated from God; therefore, you better get right.”  That may be an oversimplification, but like I said, it is my experience.  

I think this is a wall that all Christians will run into.  There are two responses, “This Christian thing is too hard,” and “Lord, this is where I am . . . I need You!”  I guess there is a third response, and that is to ignore the matter altogether and go on like nothing is wrong.  

Here is my conclusion:  You are either holding onto Jesus Christ and trusting Him for your salvation, or you are not.  When it comes to sin, the authentic Christian will make an authentic assessment of himself or herself.  Right now, in my own life, I have hatred in my heart for certain people.  I go weeks and even months without thinking about them.  Then, all of a sudden, it is like my soul gets flooded with this darkness.  I look at a verse like 1 John 3:15, “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.”  Now, knowing this about me, what do I do?  I can’t just stop.  If I could, I would have a long time ago.  Also, knowing this about me, I have sin in my life.  In fact, I’m on equal footing with a murderer!  What in the world do I do?  What does the young kid do that asked me the question, “Will I still be accepted into heaven?”  No matter what his sin is, we are in the exact same boat!

Here is what I do as soon as I realize this about myself.  Here is what I told the young man to do.  Take it immediately to God.  The only reason he or I could ever stop any particular sin is because He changes our hearts and minds.  We are going to heaven because we are holding on to Him, not because our deeds justify our entrance.

Lord, it stinks sometimes to make an honest assessment.  It is hard.  Years ago, Your command to tell the truth seemed so simple, but now I see just how deep those three words, tell the truth, goes.  Not only does it mean to be truthful in my statements, but it means to tell You, Jesus.  You are the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through You.  When I am ever so aware of my sin, I can tell You, I can tell the Truth.  You are faithful and just to forgive me for my unrighteousness.  You hear from heaven and begin to heal my broken heart and mind.  There are so many things wrong with me.  I get so tired of trying to fix them.  This morning, I hand them over to You.  Make me righteous, Lord.  I open up my heart to You.  Help the kid who is honestly worried about his salvation.  Do a greater work in him than you’ve ever done in me.  Give him peace that passes all understanding.  Help him know that he can bring it all to You . . . His eternal Father in Heaven.  Amen

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