2 Corinthians 5:7

Have you mastered the Christian life skill of walking by faith–of trusting God enough to help you do (and bring you through) what you didn’t think you could? Good; because that’s the most basic of essential spiritual skills, upon which the remainder of your life hinges!

“For we live by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians‬ ‭5:7‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

Just as a baby must stand up and take his first steps before it can begin to work on any of the myriad of other ambulatory activities humans engage in, and a skater must first stay upright successfully without falling on the ice before beginning work on the various more complex moves which will win him Olympic gold–we also, as followers of Christ, we must first master the skill of walking by faith because it is the precursor to everything else that follows!

But first, what is walking (or living) by faith? Walking by faith is simply trusting God enough to do things His way–learning to let go of what we want and allowing Him to accomplish His purposes in and through us–and it’s a lot harder than it sounds. Many of us say we trust God but the truth is that we really don’t, because it’s scary! The metal really hits the road when God asks something of us we don’t want to do, don’t want to not do, or don’t want to give up. Do we trust Him enough to let go and do it His way?

But why is it so important? Why can’t we just forever stand somewhere before first plate spiritually, maybe in the game but never really moving forward in our faith? Because if you can’t trust God in the simplest of things like giving up little bits of something or other sin in our life and seeing it’s okay–how on earth will we ever trust Him enough to get us through the really difficult things that still lie ahead? Because there is so much more before us that we have yet to go through–experiences which are impossible to navigate successfully without faith!

“So let us go on to grown-up teaching. Let us not go back over the beginning lessons we learned about Christ. We should not again start teaching about faith in God and about turning away from those acts that lead to death. We should not return to the teaching about baptisms, about laying on of hands, about the raising of the dead and eternal judgment. And we will go on to grown-up teaching if God allows.” (Hebrews‬ ‭6:1-3‬ ‭NCV‬‬)

There is so much more God has yet to teach us –experiences to bring us through to more fully conform us to Christ’s image–before He welcomes us into eternity. What’ll you do when the harder lessons begin–and when the unthinkable happens? What’ll you do when the more difficult trials and tribulations of life hit if you’re still a spiritual infant who can’t even do the most basic faith-walk?!

What’ll you do when your finances are seriously threatened? When your company is downsized and you lose your source of income and the lifestyle you and your family have become accustomed to? When you’re in an accident and can’t work anymore? When your house is repossessed or you’re evicted? But okay, you’re good with money; not going to happen, you say?

What about when big time disappointment hits? When someone you really got attached to exits your life? Or your spouse finds someone else and files for divorce? Or gets violent with you? Still not enough? Let’s up this a notch.

What’ll you do if your child is born with severe developmental issues? Or he or she is molested or even abducted? Or gets leukemia or some other life-threatening illness for no apparent reason?

How about when someone you love is told they have two months left to live–and then actually dies, leaving you to pick up the pieces? Or you say goodbye to your family in the morning and a truck unexpectedly crosses the median and kills them instantly before noon? What’ll you do if you get shot, or raped, or paralyzed, or lose a part of your body in an accident? What if there’s a flood, or a tornado, or an earthquake, or a volcanic eruption? What if the unheard of happens and you’re bombed, or a war breaks out, or you become a refugee–because this kind of stuff can and does happen to people all over the world all the time?

Ultimately, not just how will you suffer, but how will you die when it’s your turn–because this is a chasm each of us is inexorably walking a little closer toward each and every day, which we will eventually have to cross–and if our life isn’t hidden with Christ in God, having rejected Him we will do it alone, and stand and face the Fear that is God, unprotected by the only hope of forgiveness that is through Christ Jesus.

“If we give up and turn our backs on all we’ve learned, all we’ve been given, all the truth we now know, we repudiate Christ’s sacrifice and are left on our own to face the Judgment…what do you think will happen if you turn on God’s Son, spit on the sacrifice that made you whole, and insult this most gracious Spirit? This is no light matter…” (Hebrews‬ ‭10:26-31‬ ‭MSG‬‬)

“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews‬ ‭10:31‬ ‭ASV‬‬)

There are many reasons why we might not trust our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ whom He sent. Maybe we secretly doubt He’s real. Maybe we don’t believe He loves me personally. Maybe we don’t think He’s big enough to be intimately involved in the lives of all of His people. Maybe we don’t think He cares enough. More than likely, we just don’t have the breath of comprehension to recognize that humanly unfathomable problems are nothing for Him–that He has a solution when there are no solutions, that He is not our enemy, that in Christ He has a hope and a future for us. In other words, we don’t really realize just how big He is!

Some of these concerns have to do with being convinced God’s real. But some have to do with knowing who is, with knowing Him well enough to understand He will catch us when we let go and not let us fall–that He is all-knowing, all-powerful, all-present, loving, good, trustworthy. That He is real. That He does care. That He does love us. That He is merciful, stepping up to help even when He is not obligated to. Knowing not only that God is not a fabrication, but also who and all, He is exactly, because it is this personal experiential knowledge that helps us trust Him more and more, and get through progressively more difficult situations in faith, to His glory.

And that’s ultimately, what faith is–it’s trust. It’s knowing that even if I don’t know the solution–if the problem’s too big for me–it’s nothing for Him. It’s being a little child who places my hand in my Parent’s hand and trusts Him implicitly to make the bad things right, fix what’s wrong–including me–and bring me safely through it all, right up to eternity’s door!

Dear Heavenly Father,

Show Yourself to me; help my live by faith and not by sight, and bring me to eternity safe in You! Amen.

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I Corinthians 6:9-11

Do you identify with the LGBTQ community? If not, do you nevertheless believe it’s been marginalized and bullied for far too long, and should be accepted and affirmed as a legitimate variation of the human experience? More and more of our young people are sympathizing with the cause of the homosexual movement, much as the youth of the 60’s did the Civil Rights Movement, increasingly rendering a literal interpretation of the Bible seen as unfairly rigid and even discriminatory against a whole segment of victimized individuals. But is this a legitimate comparison? Is LGBTQ expression fixed before birth as racial and ethnic origin is?

“Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians‬ ‭6:9-11‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

Satan lies. Jesus, in fact, identifies the powerful forces at work, the rebellious being we call the devil, as the originator–the father–of lies. And one of the biggest lies he has pawned off on our culture is that gender is fluid while sexual orientation is fixed, when the opposite is actually true.

Our gender (whether we are male or female) is genetically determined before birth; no combination of advanced surgical techniques and hormone therapy, however visually convincingly mimicking the opposite sex, can alter the male or female chromosomes we possess within ourselves which define who we are. Yet our culture would have us believe that we can actually choose our gender according to the one we most identify with–against all logic and genetic evidence to the contrary. It lies.

Sexual attraction, however (our culture says), is fixed–if at any point in your development you are attracted to an individual of the same sex, you are gay/LGBTQ, and trying to resist it or change it will only traumatize you further; you must own it, and anyone who doesn’t affirm and validate that sexuality is a threat. Hence the hostility to sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE), whether faith-based or other.

Even Wikipedia, the source of all knowledge to many these days, lies (imagine that!); their SOCE (Sexual Orientation Change Efforts) page falsely states, “The longstanding consensus of the behavioral and social sciences, and the health and mental health professions is that homosexuality and bisexuality are per se normal and positive variations of human sexual orientation.” Yet their own Homosexuality and Psychology page correctly states that, “Prior to and throughout most of the 20th century, common standard psychology viewed homosexuality in terms of pathological models as a mental illness.” Yes, as recently as twenty or so years ago psychology, “viewed homosexuality in terms of pathological models as a mental illness.”

Yet the truth is that homosexual expression is neither a “mental illness” nor a “normal and positive variation of human sexual orientation;” it is evidence of our sin nature at work in human beings.

Sexual orientation is fluid and can indeed be altered, but I believe the most genuine and lasting change will only occur within the context of a humble spirit seeking the will and glory of God in their life. It is an internal battle–whether we will finally stop fighting Him, agree with His assessment of our situation, and give up all of ourselves to Christ. And because it is primarily an issue of what you believe–about God, and yourself, and the human condition in general–behavior follows belief; trying to modify behavior without correct thinking is slated for pain and failure.

A second, and equally powerful, lie that Satan has foisted upon our culture is that the battle is between straight and gay–when, in fact, it is really between light and darkness, truth and error, reality and deception, holiness and sin. Wickedforces pull us toward confusion and murky thinking, because you cannot heal if you don’t correctly understand, and those of us who even suggest that occasional homosexual impulses do not condemn you to homosexual behavior and lifestyle are rejected prima facie–we are totally cut off from the conversation because we fail to meet the bar of affirmation for something that is neither mental illness, nor normal human sexual expression, but rather one more way we fall short of God’s glory because of the sin nature at work within us all.

So, is our gender fixed? Yes, genetically within us even before birth–regardless of how our life experiences have caused us to feel about ourselves. Is our sexual orientation fixed? No, absolutely not–not if you come to the point in your life where you desire Christ above all else. Remember that He tells us to cut out anything and everything that separates us from Him; that it is far better to have missed out on something in life, than to miss out on Him.

Finally, is this an external battle–a campaign for the civil rights of the LGBTQ community? Or, is it an internal struggle within the heart of each and every one of us for Christ to have His way within us? God says,

“Our fight is not against people on earth but against the rulers and authorities and the powers of this world’s darkness, against the spiritual powers of evil in the heavenly world. That is why you need to put on God’s full armor. Then on the day of evil you will be able to stand strong. And when you have finished the whole fight, you will still be standing.” (Ephesians‬ ‭6:12-13‬ ‭NCV‬‬)

Ultimately, my opinion is irrelevant; God alone is qualified to offer a right assessment of the situation.

Dear Lord Jesus,

Give me the tools to fight off anything and everything that threatens to separate me from You, and bring me to Your eternity healed and fully complete in You!!

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Philippians 4:8

What are you eating? Not physically into your body, but what are you feeding your spirit–your heart and mind? Are you nourishing it with frequent exposure to that which is good: God’s Word and other upright teaching and examples through what you read, watch and listen to? Or have you abandoned yourself to the influence of what God has clearly identified as “this present evil age?” Don’t!

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians‬ ‭4:8‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

God has a method for accomplishing His plan to make us into the people He wants us to be, and in some respects, it’s very practical. Yes, He gives us a new heart and soul–a new birth, a desire to please Him and hang out with Him, but we get this in a very straightforward way–through sufficient exposure to the Word of God. “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” (Romans‬ ‭10:17‬ ‭NIV‬‬) We become Christians by hearing (and humbly accepting in faith) enough of the message of the Word of God, but if we cut ourself off from getting “too much Bible,” how will we ever know enough about Jesus to place our trust in Him? We probably won’t!

Or what if we go to church, but on the way there, on the way back, and throughout the entire rest of the week we bombard our conscious minds with music filled with language to make a sailor blush and messages of rebellion against God? It’s the parable Jesus told, “…saying: ‘A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.'” (Matthew‬ ‭13:3-4‬ ‭NIV‬‬) Filling your heart and mind with bad messages at every other moment sends out the proverbial birds to eat up any good seed that might have been sown in your heart at church! It’s not going to stick, because your life is otherwise filled with wrong teaching!

Or what if we watch programs that lie to us about what’s good and bad–that give clear examples of people doing what God says is wrong seeming happy and not suffering the consequences of their wrongdoing? Whether bad language, bad attitudes or bad lifestyle, God calls this out and condemns it in no uncertain terms: “Doom to you who call evil good and good evil, Who put darkness in place of light and light in place of darkness, Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah‬ ‭5:20‬ ‭MSG‬‬)

So then what? Are we supposed to be strange people, listening to nothing but traditional hymns? There is an older translation of the Bible that calls us a peculiar people, but no, we don’t have to surround ourselves nonstop with hallelujahs and amens. There’s a lot to listen to besides what you’ve become accustomed to that’s at the bottom of the barrel. God tells us these things not to constrain and make us miserable, but to show us how to have a full and happy life, and grow closer and closer to Him!

I’ve personally experienced the progression from distant to closer. Initially, I didn’t particularly want to hear about God, probably not unlike you. But once I had heard enough to understand, God called to my spirit and I responded; I put my trust in Jesus. After this I wasn’t repulsed by Jesus anymore, but there certainly were many years of my life during which I also wasn’t especially seeking Him out either. It took time and lots of Bible study and active prayer to get to a place in my relationship with Jesus where I actively now feel Him in my life, and it took me asking Him to want His presence more to get it.

And, there are things which break that relationship–that fellowship. I can be great with God, but if I sit down and watch a program that models sin to me, that rightness with God is broken. Instead of closeness, there’s distance; I don’t feel Him–His favor and presence–anymore, and rightly so, because I’ve done something I shouldn’t have, I’ve participated in sin that’s put distance between us. Even if I’ve just passively participated by watching others sin and not walked away or shut it off or tried to fix it if it’s real life and happening right in front of me–sin is serious; it breaks my rightness with God.

God wants me to be fixed from the contagion of sin infecting me, and He accomplishes that through consistent exposure to good–as I surround myself with the purifying influence of His Word and the right teaching that comes from it. The Holy Spirit uses this constant exposure in my life to make me more holy, sanctified, turned into the person He wants for me to become–Jesus said so!

And, He tells me to fill my conscious mind with ideas and thoughts and words and songs and stories that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy–with that which is good, because God is good, and He desires for us to be so too!

So, what are you eating, especially in your most private of spaces? Remember that just as you can’t really hide what you’re filling your body with in the long run because your weight gain will be obvious to all, what you eat spiritually will also eventually come out in the ugliness of your life, and distance from God and that which is good.

Don’t do it! Don’t excuse your lifestyle or even your lapses; shut the bad off and walk away. Initially you might have to make yourself listen to or watch what is good if you’ve become accustomed to what is bad and have to untrain yourself, but know that God will help you–He promises, “When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen. When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed…I’ll turn things around for you. You can count on it.” (Jeremiah‬ ‭29:12-14‬ ‭MSG‬‬)

Dear Jesus,

Help me cut out the bad stuff; please help me replace it with that which makes me more like You want me to be. Amen.

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John 17:3

Do you know Jesus? No, not do you know about Him, but–do you have a vibrant, personal relationship with Him in your own life? Now, that’s not possible, you may say, with Someone who lived and died two thousand years ago–and you’d be absolutely correct; it isn’t, because the person has to be alive in order to be able to respond and relate back to you. Yet that’s what God’s plan for us is; it’s God stepping down to seek out an active, ongoing relationship–with me!

“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John‬ ‭17:3‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

Sometimes we get confused. God tells us a lot in the Bible, and much of it is what the life looks like after you start following Jesus, so we can end up putting the cart before the horse–we may think if we’re good, then God will accept us, when the truth is that God will accept us regardless of where we’re at because none of us–even those of us who look like we are–are good.

We’re all messed up. Apart from the direct intervention of God through Jesus Christ, our condition is bad: “God looks down from heaven on the entire human race; he looks to see if anyone is truly wise, if anyone seeks God. But no, all have turned away; all have become corrupt. No one does good, not a single one!”( Psalms‬ ‭53:2-3‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

Yet, God takes us. He is willing to take all–He accepts anyone and everyone who wants to come to Him: “The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” (2 Peter‬ ‭3:9‬ ‭NLT‬‬) He accepts everyone who humbles himself and repents, but He doesn’t leave us as we are when we come to Him; He then works on us to make us into the people He wants us to be–“…a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.” (1 Peter‬ ‭2:9‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

Keep in mind that He doesn’t take us because we’re such great people–if we’re good enough the way we are, for what sins would Jesus have had to die? No. He takes us, not because we’re good enough, but despite the fact that we’re not. But then, if we really believe in Christ Jesus, that He is who He claims He is, and trust Him enough with our lives–during the remainder of those lives, He continues working on us through the power of His Spirit to make us into the people He wants us to be–into someone much less distorted by the effects of sin.

But how does God relate to us? The answer is that He relates to us as a loving, kind Father does to His precious child! As we live in constant fellowship with Him, as we “pray without ceasing” and get to know Him more and more by hearing and reading His Word, we feel His love–His active presence in our lives–more and more, we sense His leading and respond in obedience to His Word, and increasingly we recognize His true value and worth, and desire to more accurately reflect Him back to others. In other words, we have a relationship with Him!

So, do you know Jesus? Do you have a close, personal, ongoing, vibrant relationship with Him…or are you alone? Know that you weren’t meant to be! Come to Him, and let Him make you into the person He intends you to be!

Dear Lord Jesus,

Take me, make me into the person you want me to be. Amen.

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John 1:1,14, Titus 2:14

What do you believe about Jesus? And what does He want to accomplish in and through us after we come to faith in Him? First of all, do you believe He is who said He is–God become human at a certain, specific, historical point in time?

“…the Word [who] was with God, and…[who] was God, [who]…became flesh and dwelt among us…” (John‬ ‭1:1, 14‬ ‭NKJV‬‬), and “who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and…purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good”? (Titus‬ ‭2:14‬ ‭NIV‬‬)?

If so, wonderful, because that’s who He was, and still is!

But, do you understand, do you recognize that that’s not all–that He wants more from us than to just acknowledge this and then continue to live the way we did before we acknowledged it–because He came to accomplish more in and through us than to just spare us eternal punishment when we die? Yes, we must believe Jesus is God the Son, because of whose physical death and resurrection we are made right with the Father, but unless we come to this recognition at the very moment of our dying breath, our conversion process can’t end there–there has to be more of a response, or I must rightly question if I really believe. So what does He want from us?

Jesus Christ (and implicitly also our Father in heaven, because Jesus clearly identified Himself and the Father as one) wants ME. All of me. He doesn’t just want me to simply come to trust in Him for forgiveness so I get right standing before God and avoid eternal condemnation at the moment of my death–He wants ownership of my complete existence now before I die! He wants me to so know Him and love Him that I am wholly and completely committed to Him and His purposes while I am still alive–to be able to rightly say that “…in Him [I]…live and move and have [my]…being.” (Acts‬ ‭17:28‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

But how does this happen? How do we become so connected with God and our lives so right with Him, that we are actual useful to Him–so that we aren’t dead weight, so to speak–technically, perhaps converted Christians, but effectually ineffective and insignificant? Jesus told us how:

“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.” (John‬ ‭15:1-8‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

What do we learn from this? An awful lot–the key, actually, to Christian survival and effectiveness!

Interpret this as you will, but we learn that–Jesus said that–the Father “cuts off every beach of mine that doesn’t produce fruit.”That’s scary.

We learn that the branches, we who do bear fruit, He prunes (cuts back so we bear more fruit). Pruning is cutting, and that hurts, but the result is greater effectiveness for God’s purposes. That means the pain, disappointment, even persecution in our life are the experiences and difficulties that direct our hearts and minds closer toward a more intimate relationship with Christ!

We learn that the pruning happens through the Word of God“you have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you.” SinceJesus isn’t bodily here on earth anymore for us to physically sit at His feet and hear Him speak, the way we learn from Him is by reading the Bible. The Bible is Christ’s Word. It prunes and purifies by identifying for us what’s right and what’s wrong–what can stay and what has to change.

We learn that we need to remain in Jesus so He will remain in us. We already know that just as Jesus Christ is the Word of God–the utterance of God in human form, the content of the Bible is the Word of God–the utterance of God in verbal form. And so the only way we can remain IN JESUS is by staying immersed in the Bible. Regularly. Faithfully. Daily. MUCH.

And finally, we learn that we can do nothing without Christ. Technically, He “…uphold[s] all things by the Word of His power,” (Hebrews 1:3) so even if you don’t believe in Him or obey Him you’re still functioning because of Him, but specifically, we can do nothing of eternal consequence without Christ–without remaining in Him and His Words remaining in us.

It is only by immersing ourselves into the written Word of God that we become less of who I am, and more of who God wants me to be. I may be partial to who I naturally am, but that person is ruined through the contamination of my sin-nature. It isn’t that I’m doing every conceivable evil thing–some people who don’t follow Jesus can be quite nice.

It’s that my understanding of what’s right and wrong is so skewed without Him; not only do I not consistently do what’s right–I don’t even rightly understand what’s right! I need to stay in God’s Word habitually and consistently–to be honest, so much more than most of us are these days!

This is why organized Christianity has becoming so weak in this nation. Christian leaders and pollsters alike bemoan that “Christians” are almost indistinguishable from non-Christians, but that is because we are how we live. If we do not value Christ and remain in His Word, the only fruit we will grow is the same fruit nonbelievers–who also don’t read the Bible–bear. This should not surprise us. “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” (Proverbs‬ ‭13:20‬ ‭ESV‬‬) God is wise; the world and its pleasures and distractions are foolish. If we immerse ourselves in God’s Word we will not only grow wise, but also become fruitful in the things that matter for eternity. It’s a practical issue–if we surround our conscious mind with the teaching of the Bible and try our best to do it in humble faith, we will actually get better at it. If, however–intentionally or by default–we neglect church and Bible study, and don’t remain in Jesus, we we will suffer the greatest of harm.

By the way, we also learn that it is only when we bear much fruit that Jesus identifies us as true disciples.

So, what do you believe about Jesus? What does He want to accomplish in and through us after we come to faith in Him? You know the answer! He is God, and He wants you!

Dear Jesus,

Help me remain in You, and Your Word remain in me, so that I bear much fruit–because without You I can do nothing! Amen.

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I Corinthians 2:12

Do you recognize that just as there is a physical reality, there is also a spiritual one? Have you ever personally experienced it? These days, of course, the word “spiritual” is used quite loosely; people will say something like, “It was a spiritual experience,” referring to anything particularly moving or intense–watching a sunset, connecting with a song, or even eating a great meal. And as pleasant as these might be, none of them are spiritual in nature–they’re about as physical as it gets! Yet there really also is a spiritual reality that we can experience, as well as the physical one–but only under certain circumstances. Do you know what it is? Do you want to?

“What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.” (1 Corinthians‬ ‭2:12‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

We human beings tend to discount that which we cannot see, but this has frequently worked to our disadvantage. For years we didn’t believe in–weren’t even aware of–germs: multiple microorganisms visible only under a microscope. Yet we fell ill from their deleterious effects nonetheless. Neither had we quite gotten a handle on the various noxious gases present under certain circumstances–yet the unfortunate person who found himself in a confined space with them died nonetheless. No; not believing in something–not having scientifically proven its existence to our satisfaction–doesn’t negate its effects on us. And so it is with the spiritual world. Just as with bacteria and viruses or gases, because we can’t see or touch or taste or smell it, we think it isn’t there–that it’s a figment of the imaginations of a certain peculiar segment of society. It isn’t.

The contrary is actually true: the spiritual exists, but most people are oblivious to it because they prefer it not to exist. Why? It’s inconvenient, and an obstacle to how they want to live. So when they experience that rare moment of doubt that perhaps–just maybe–there’s more there than they have thought, they quickly and superficially assure themselves it’s not real and keep living as if it isn’t. But that’s a dangerous gamble–because the eternal death that is the consequence of ignoring spiritual issues is far more certain than potential exposure to infections and noxious gases.

With germs and gases, we can certainly pretend they don’t exist and hope nothing happens–we can stop washing our hands, refuse to disinfect wounds, and not get vaccinated for basic illnesses; we can take down our carbon monoxide detectors. But the effects can be catastrophic, and ignoring their existence doesn’t make them not there.

In the same way, ignoring the spiritual doesn’t make it not real, or exempt us in some way from the consequences of refusing to deal with its existence. An ostrich who hides its head in the sand only deludes itself. No, the spiritual exists. How can I know this? Well, because of several reasons.

First, because of what those who have seen and experienced it have said. The entire Bible is a testimony to the spiritual, but it makes many so uncomfortable they mimic the ostrich and hide their head in the proverbial sand. Rather than taking the logical action and setting aside time to read through it personally, they discredit it based on what others have said, or what they’ve heard, or what their friends believe, or what they’ve read online–because it was a long time ago, or the translation they’re reading is archaic, or someone made fun of it, or whatever other flimsy excuse they can find. In other words, they refuse to confront eyewitness testimony.

The second reason we can know the spiritual exists is because of what you will experience in your own self the very moment you come to believe in Jesus–the instant you understand your guilt before God and ask for forgiveness. It’s the radiant, wonderful, intense feeling of God’s love and acceptance and fellowship with Him that seems to center somewhere in your inner physical self that you cannot and will not ever experience apart from Him, and that is impossible to comprehend until you’ve known it. You may not feel it intensely every time you pray, but the more you look for Christ Jesus, the more of Himself He will give you. “Come near to God, and God will come near to you…clean sin out of your lives. You who are trying to follow God and the world at the same time, make your thinking pure.” (James‬ ‭4:8‬ ‭NCV‬‬)

Yet, you won’t experience this yourself personally until you come to faith in Jesus, so using it as a proof is only effective after the fact–it will confirm your faith, it will convince you that you were right to believe, but only after you’ve done it–which makes the testimony of others so much more valuable as proof, until the moment you know Him yourself too!

God has told us in the Bible, in fact, that “…faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” (Romans‬ ‭10:17‬ ‭NIV‬‬) No one ever comes to faith in Jesus by avoiding the message of the Bible: by not reading it on your own, not going to church, not listening to podcasts or sermons or Christian radio–that is, in fact, the best strategy if your goal is to keep yourself from believing in Jesus and insulate yourself from knowing spiritual things! But why is it important? Why does it matter that you come to know Christ and gain Him–that you experience the spiritual yourself?

It is important, because until you do, you are incomplete. We are meant to experience Christ in our spirits, as well as to live in the physical–without Him, there is an emptiness, a sadness, a vacancy in our lives–a void. Just look at the suicides of famous people you would think have it all–celebrity chef and travel documentarian Anthony Bourdain, designer Kate Spade, and others–clearly, it’s not enough. Our physical bodies–in some way we cannot explain–have this need, and until Christ Himself meets it by taking up residency in us through His Spirit, we will remain incomplete. God, in fact, calls it being dead spiritually:

“Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians‬ ‭2:1-7‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

Do you see?! Do you finally understand the incredible experience God has in store for you through Jesus–through faith in Him? Come to Him! What can you lose; you have everything to gain!!!

Dear Jesus,

Forgive me and accept me; let me know You and that which is so much more than just this physical world! Fill me with Yourself!! Amen.

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Proverbs 14:23

Do you know how to work? Have you learned to apply yourself to the task at hand, no matter how lowly or unpleasant or boring it is, and regardless of how long it will take to complete–even if there is no one to help you, or keep you company, or urge you on? If so–good! This means you know how to survive.

“All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” (Proverbs‬ ‭14:23‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

I recently read a Facebook post describing how hard past generations had to work to survive, and it’s true–they were amazing by today’s standards–but that was because they had to be! Government programs are a relatively new invention, and for much of humankind’s history, whoever didn’t work simply didn’t get to eat. Hard work was the way to survive.

This is, actually, a biblical principle; followers of Jesus are not to be free-loaders, overly burdening another when they can fend for themselves:

“Our orders—backed up by the Master, Jesus—are to refuse to have anything to do with those among you who are lazy and refuse to work the way we taught you. Don’t permit them to freeload on the rest. We showed you how to pull your weight when we were with you, so get on with it. We didn’t sit around on our hands expecting others to take care of us. In fact, we worked our fingers to the bone, up half the night moonlighting so you wouldn’t be burdened with taking care of us. And it wasn’t because we didn’t have a right to your support; we did. We simply wanted to provide an example of diligence, hoping it would prove contagious. Don’t you remember the rule we had when we lived with you? “If you don’t work, you don’t eat.” And now we’re getting reports that a bunch of lazy good-for-nothings are taking advantage of you. This must not be tolerated. We command them to get to work immediately—no excuses, no arguments—and earn their own keep. Friends, don’t slack off in doing your duty.” (2 Thessalonians‬ ‭3:6-13‬ ‭MSG‬‬)

But why is it important that we know how to work–that we know how to apply ourselves to the task at hand? It is because even if we’re doing okay financially, life is work–regardless of the nature of that work–and those who learn to aggressively approach it will accomplish the most–in this life, and for Christ’s kingdom!

Our family is not poor–not by any reasonable stretch of the imagination–but right now our finances are stretched. We have one daughter finishing her third year of college, and another anticipating her second year at a private high school. We do have rental property, but between the two tuitions, the property taxes and mortgages and insurance payments and other bills–we are feeling the strain financially.

To complicate matters further, a recent tenant damaged their apartment far beyond what the deposit covered; in all fairness, it hadn’t been updated and needed a thorough overhaul to bring in fair market value rent–but the money to hire someone simply wasn’t there. As I walked through the empty unit looking at the destruction and general outdatedness, I felt overwhelmed: I needed an extra $5000 to get it fixed, but was instead losing that much in rent because of the vacancy!

My solution–like the solution of anyone who has ever found themselves in a similar situation–was to figuratively roll up my sleeves and prepare to do what I didn’t want to think about, what I hadn’t done for years, and which, quite honestly, I didn’t want to do–to do much of the work myself. I didn’t have the funds to hire painters, but I certainly could manage paint, a roller and a tray. So, I put on some old clothes and began the job…and it was discouraging.

I think many of us have forgotten what hard work is—if we ever knew. When you look at a job, it looks like a mountain—and it is—until you start working. But once you start working, it’s still a mountain, minus whatever you got done today. But if you get up every morning and aren’t lazy and don’t dawdle and put in a whole day’s worth of work every day for several weeks or months or whatever the job at hand requires, eventually you do arrive at the end, and it’s finished, and it’s good–that is, if you did the job properly as you were going along! That’s the nature of work.

And, it’s the nature of all work–not just physically difficult work like remodeling an apartment. Anything that needs doing has a beginning and an end, but you will not accomplish your goal if you do not know how to work–if you do not begin and keep at it faithfully hour after hour and day after day, until such a time as it is completed.

I don’t care if you’re building a home for recovering addicts or studying for a foreign language proficiency exam, working on a college degree or learning French, studying for a sustainability certification or reviewing for an architectural licensing exam, preparing for a high school final, writing a book, conducting research, or doing anything else that needs doing–if it has a beginning and an end, it is work and work alone that will get you from the beginning to that end!

So, do you know how to work? Have you learned to apply yourself to the task at hand, no matter how lowly or unpleasant or boring it is, and regardless of how long it will take to complete–even if there is no one to help you, or keep you company, or urge you on? Remember that “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty,” and get going!

Dear Lord Jesus,

Teach me to work–to help meet the needs of my family and for Your kingdom! Amen.

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