Pack Up and Go


 


…that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16

You receive a registered letter stating that you have been given your dream job in Maui. It comes with a free condo, car, living expenses, and a maid. The only requirement is that you must move right away to take possession. You make some calls and learn that it is legit! You call all your friends to tell them your good news, and keep the letter with you at all times, showing it to other people. Six months later, a friend calls to ask how you like Maui. “Oh, I bet it’s great!” you answer. “I haven’t gone yet. But it’s mine. I believe it. I’ve still got the letter.” Your friend is shocked. “You haven’t gone? Why?”  You look around at your shabby living room and shrug. “I’dunno. I love the idea of Maui, but I’d have to leave Claremore. I carry the letter with me everywhere and think about it all the time, but I don’t want to leave where I am.”

When Jesus says we must believe, He means that we must be willing leave where we are. We cannot accept His offer of new life if we won’t let go of the old one. Many people assume that to “believe” means we mentally agree with truth, but that can’t be correct because even the devil knows it is true. The kind of belief that saves us is the kind that changes us. To believe in Jesus is to place our whole lives in His hands. He becomes our undisputed Boss. We believe that He is God, that He has the right to tell us what to do, and that only He can provide what we need in this life and in the next.

Have you tried to “believe” without leaving where you are?

Don't Follow Your Heart



 Image result for picture of evil heart
The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked: who can know it? Jeremiah 17:9



“Just follow your heart.”What does your heart tell you to do?” Phrases like these are often followed by a swelling orchestral strain and a pink sunset. They sound lovely and ever-so-wise, and we often treat them as though they had come down from Mt. Sinai with the Ten Commandments. In reality, such thinking is in direct conflict with biblical truth. Following your heart is often a sure path to disaster because our hearts are fickle, self-centered, and subject to changing on a whim. If you need convincing, consider your third grade crush, your idea of fun when you were single and drunk, or your feelings for your ex-spouse. Was your heart a reliable source for wisdom and direction back then? It hasn’t changed much.



The human heart is a complex and often baffling source of conflicting information that, if heeded, can get us into big trouble.  The only hope for these sin-laden hearts is transformation by the Holy Spirit. This involves time, surrender, and painful pruning as He pries some deeply embedded fallacies from our lives. Even devoted followers of Jesus cannot trust their hearts until they are totally surrendered to the will of God. A selfish heart can take even a good desire and twist it into an idol. Wisdom begins when we recognize that our hearts are not always our friends, and therefore cannot be trusted to lead us in the right direction.



Are you following your heart? Is it leading you closer to the plan of God? If not, don’t listen to it.

Are You A Fish on Land?



 
 
If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; old things have passed away… 2 Corinthians 5:17

Freddy the fish saw the land animals frolicking on the shore and decided he wanted to be a land animal. They had legs, and lungs, and seemed to be having such fun. So one day he flipped himself out onto the beach and at last—he was a land animal! For a short time, he flopped about on the ground and experienced what the deer and squirrels seemed to enjoy. He was living the life they were living, but something was wrong. It was nothing like he thought it would be. Within seconds, he was gasping and longed only to be back in the water. Their lifestyles could not satisfy him because he had a different nature. 

 When the Holy Spirit moves into our hearts, He changes our natures. Old sins, habits, and lifestyles lose their luster. Even when we flip ourselves back into the sin cesspool, we cannot stay long because we don’t fit anymore. As a fish cannot live on land for long, so those born again by the blood of Jesus cannot live in sin for long (1 John 3:6-10). What once appealed to us no longer satisfies, because our new natures are gasping for the holiness and purity of God. One sure way to determine whether or not we belong to Christ is to study where our natures let us live. A creature that can thrive on land is not fish. Likewise, people who continue to indulge the vices, sins, and worldly lifestyles from which they were supposedly saved are not Christians. We will flip ourselves into sin from time to time, but our new natures cannot tolerate living there.


 Where does your nature allow you to live?

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Turkey Bacon




 
Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.” John 3:6

The rancher ducked his head before the city slicker could see his smirk. He gestured toward the open barn door and invited his guest to peek inside. “Yep,” the rancher continued. “That sow was bred with a rooster and that’s where you get turkey bacon. This here is a turkey bacon farm, and yer the first to see it.” He winked at one of his cowhands while his puzzled visitor peered more closely into the barn. The rancher shook his head. He would never have believed he could get away with a story like that until he saw it with his own eyes. People sure were gullible.

We smirk along with the rancher, because we all know pigs can’t give birth to turkeys or any other species. It is genetically impossible. Yet, spiritually we act like city slickers. We think we can create spiritual life through fleshly effort. We grimace at the shoddy condition of our lives, so we roll up our sleeves and say things like: “I need to start going to church, reading my Bible, get baptized…” We hope that enough outward actions will produce spiritual life. But the opposite is true. Only spiritual birth can produce spiritual life. We can fake it for a while, but eventually we give up in frustration because the flesh cannot produce godliness (Romans 8:8). It is genetically impossible. 

Only the Holy Spirit can transform us. Only His life can change our desires, our outlook, and our actions. Without spiritual rebirth, we are trying to get turkey bacon from a pig.

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Out of Order



 

Now that you have consecrated yourselves to the Lord, bring your sacrifices…” 2 Chron. 29:31



That verse seems backward to us. When we think of trying to please the Lord, we imagine sacrificing things, quitting habits, straightening up, or stopping certain behaviors. But this verse says we’ve got that in the wrong order. God is more interested in our hearts than our outward actions. He cares about why we do things and He desires that our service and our sacrifice flow from a heart of love for Him. When our hearts are consecrated to Him, right actions will naturally result.



However, instead of doing things in God’s order, we try to negotiate. We think things like, “I really messed up last night, so I’ll put an extra twenty bucks in the offering plate today.” Or, “I know I shouldn’t be doing this, but at least I’m not as bad as that guy and he goes to church all the time!” To our way of thinking, our extra effort should cancel our failure. We hope God is comparing our behavior with somebody worse. But that is not God’s thinking. He wants nothing less than total surrender, and He only compares us with the perfection of His Son. He desires consecration, because only then can He empower us to live the way He designed us to live. Trying to offer a sacrifice without consecration is just wasted effort (1 Sam. 15:22).



Are you trying to appease rather than please the Lord? He knows the difference.

Holy Fear



So fear the LORD and serve him wholeheartedly.”  Joshua 24:14

 

One Friday afternoon you hear a knock at your front door. You go to the door and it’s Jesus! It’s really Him, in the flesh, standing there in jeans and jacket, with a backpack over one shoulder. He smiles in delight to see you and says, “Hey, I’ve come to hang out with you this weekend. What are we gonna do?” Freeze-frame that moment and think about your next move. Would anything change? As you walk before Him into the living room, are you nervous? What is lying around that you don’t want Him to see?

 What plans need to be cancelled immediately because you already know He would not like them? Would you watch the same movies? TV shows? Would your plans change if Jesus was going to be with you for a couple of days? 

The reaction you had at the thought of Jesus sitting next to you and participating in whatever you are doing is what the Bible calls the fear of the Lord. If you have given your life to Jesus, then you wouldn’t be terrified to see Him standing on your front porch. You love Him; He’s your friend. But a sudden conscious awareness of His presence would grip you and dictate everything you said and did. When the Bible tells us to fear the Lord, that’s what it means. We should live with the continual awareness that Jesus is sitting next to us. If we wouldn’t say or do it with Him in the room, we shouldn’t say or do it at all—because He is in the room. His does see. We will give an account to Him of every single choice we make. God wants us to practice living with the fear of the Lord, because it keeps us from making the kinds of decisions that we will regret for eternity.



Are you living daily with the fear of the Lord? If Jesus showed up at your door today,
 what would change?

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Renewed



 
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds. Romans 12:2


The old upright piano seemed hardly worth the $100 Lucy paid for it. It sounded okay, but it was the ugliest piece of furniture in the junk store. Covered with layers of white stucco paint, it looked like it belonged in a ghost-town saloon, not a nice living room. But Lucy saw potential in it, so day after day she worked with paint stripper, sandpaper, and patience. As the days passed, the thick paint gave way to a beautiful wood grain underneath. After applying stain and varnish, the old piano was beautiful. No one could believe that the gleaming piano in Lucy’s parlor had once been condemned as worthless.


We all come to God covered in grime. A thick, ugly layer of sin coats our hearts, and we often appear beyond help. Addictions, pride, and failure may cover our lives to the extent that others shake their heads and condemn us as worthless. But God is in the renewal business. He specializes in purchasing broken pieces from Satan’s junk store and transforming us into works of art. However, He only does this with our full cooperation. We must be willing to let Him strip off the stucco paint and sand us down to the beauty underneath. When we let Him work in us, He renews our thoughts, refines our tastes, and redeems our hearts.


What old ideas or sin patterns may be getting in the Lord’s way as He tries to transform you into a work of art?
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