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Test the Spirits 4/17


“Testing” is a common part of the Christian life and is blessed by the Lord. When I mention “testing,” I would assume we probably all jump first to the idea of being tested as believers. James starts out his book with that type of testing when he writes: … you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance (James 1:3).

There is another kind of testing in the Bible. Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God (1 John 4:1). Here we as mature followers of Christ are the ones who do the testing, rather than being the ones . . . . who are tested through the trials, tribulations, and challenges of this world.

What are the “spirits” we need to test? There are more than we could number, and new “spirits” pop up every day! Here are just a few to consider:

  • The spirit of “everyone has their own truth which is just as good as any other truth” instead of God’s truth being above all.
  • The spirit of “filling our lives with pleasure and convenience” instead of seeking God’s kingdom.
  • The spirit of “trying to find God’s eternal favor in our obedience to his commands” instead of through faith in Christ.

You can add to the list a few “human spirits” that you are familiar with. And, of course, behind all the spirits that are not of God are the devil and the evil angels striving with all their might to come up with anything that will lead people away from Christ.

Things are not always what they seem. We know that. One of the biggest dangers for our personal faith, and for the spiritual health of a congregation, is to just accept any teaching claiming to be from God without checking the Word first.

In the end, the aim is not to be critical just for the sake of criticizing. We want to honor Jesus Christ who came in the flesh to teach us about his kingdom (1 John 1:2), and be confident that our faith is a faith truly from God.

Sinners or Saints? 4/10


At times there are churches that paint a clear dividing line between those they consider the “saints” and those they consider the “sinners.” The saints would be those who are good enough on their own, and the sinners would be all the rest who aren’t such great people. When Jesus was on earth in human form that same division was present, especially among the Pharisees and others who saw themselves on the “saintly side” as opposed to the common people who were on the “sinful side.”

Is that division real? Jesus often spoke against it! He directed the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector at some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else (Luke 18:9). In Jesus’ teaching all – without exceptions – need the Lord’s mercy. Even the most saintly among us.

In his introduction to Psalm 32, Martin Luther wrote: “Here stand the clear plain words: All the saints are sinners and remain sinners. But they are holy because God in His grace neither sees nor counts these sins, but forgets, forgives, and covers them. There is thus no distinction between the saints and the non-saints.”

Are we sinners? Yes! Are we saints? Yes, in the forgiveness and grace of God. All are sinful, and all have the possibility of being saints through faith in Christ Jesus.

The Apostle John reflects the same teaching when he encourages us not to sin, but then also immediately recognizes that we all will. So he points us to our Advocate.

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2)

We have a wonderful message to share! No one starts out “better” than anyone else, and at the same time we all have the open door to fully being saints in Jesus Christ, our Savior.

Why We Speak Out 4/3

What would get you to speak out? What is a cause that’s important enough to you, even if there is some pushback to your message?

Sometimes the people that tell the truth despite personal risk to their jobs or even their life and liberty are called whistleblowers. There is a long history of that in our country. You can go back to shortly after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Two Naval officers, Samuel Shaw and Richard Marven, witnessed and reported the mistreatment of prisoners of war. They lost their positions and were the object of a lawsuit, but in the end the U.S. Congress defended them and passed a law to protect others in similar circumstances.

“Whistleblowing” has been in the news a number of times in recent years. We may not agree with all the whistleblowers throughout history. They may have their own motives at times. But there is certainly a time to speak out no matter what may come out of it.

The Apostle Paul was outspoken in the truth about Christ, and often . . . . had to face strong opposition because of his message. One of the many cities where the Apostle Paul preached was Corinth in Greece. There he did not have an easy time of it. Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. But when they opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest (Acts 18:5-6).

Despite all that, Paul remained in Corinth for a year and a half and continued to share the Word. The Lord had told him in a vision: One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. 10 For I am with you … (Acts 18:9-10).

Jesus Christ is our greatest cause! The resurrection to eternal life is our message. The Lord is with us. Whatever may come of it, we will speak the truth of his grace to sinners. And just as happened with Paul’s preaching, we too will see others learn of and rejoice in the truth of their Savior.

Resurrection Reality 3/27

Resurrection Reality
My last phone update something popped up about an AI feature. I think it was a message asking if I wanted to activate it or not. I just pressed “no.” Didn’t pay much attention to it. I’m not even sure if my phone is new enough to use a number of the AI tricks. Quick modifications of photos. More sophisticated suggestions on how to respond to messages. Detecting if you’re in a crash and calling for help. Even if I ignored AI in that moment, we know we’ll all have to pay more attention to it in the near future!
As AI grows, it will certainly become ever more difficult to determine reality. Is that a real photo? Did a real person send that message? Who really called me? It sounds like a voice I recognize, but I’m not sure.
Easter and the days that followed were real experiences with a person, Jesus Christ, who had died and was now alive. The women were the first to realize something very different and . . . . unexpected had happened that morning. But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him (Mark 16:4-6).
All those who saw Jesus that day and in the weeks leading up to his ascension knew that Jesus was truly alive. They talked to him. They ate with him. They touched the wound marks in his hands. He lived who once was dead!
We have God’s promises in Scripture. We have hundreds of eyewitnesses. It was a reality for Jesus. It will be our reality too when we rise to meet our Lord, forgiven and saved through faith in him.

Taking On a “Menial” Job 3/20


There is a saying, “There are no menial jobs, only menial attitudes.” Are there tasks or jobs we would never consider doing, just because of how it might look to others?

Especially as a person gains wealth, there may be more and more things that he or she considers “below their status.” There’s a personal assistant to take care of scheduling, a cleaner to clean the house and do the laundry, and a driver to transport them around. Of course, there are exceptions. Even though I’m sure they don’t live just like everyone else, . . . . apparently the family of Mark Cuban tries to do their own chores and live in a normal way as much as they can despite the billions in net worth.

There is nothing more “menial” than the cross, a way to torture criminals to death. Particularly if you are the Lord of all and true God. But Jesus, for the joy set before him … endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2). This lowly task is truly glorious since Jesus went there to pioneer and perfect our faith.

You will have “menial” moments in life, not just because of jobs or chores you might rather not do, but because living for Christ is often not glorious according to many people’s attitudes. But when we fix our eyes on Jesus, who endured such opposition from sinners, we will not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:3).

“Lord, Save Me From This Hour” 3/13


“Lord, Save Me From This Hour” or “Lord, Glorify Your Name!”?

One day there was a stir in the little town in Mexico where I was living and carrying out ministry. The news was that a small group of fishermen had not returned to shore at the expected time and were likely adrift in strong winds. It turned out their motor had failed and they had no way to keep their course. When they were finally rescued by the Coast Guard, they were many miles down the coastline.

When we feel we have a need to be rescued, there are different ways we can react. Complaining. Giving up. Trying to fix things ourselves. And, as many do when there doesn’t seem to be any other answer, praying to God to save us.

Doing what we can, and asking God for deliverance and guidance, will always . . . . be part of a Christian response to difficulties, challenges, and unpleasant situations. However, Jesus adds another layer. A deeper one.

As he announced to his disciples his death in the near future, he let them in on his thoughts:

27 “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!” (John 12:27-28).

Whatever else would happen, he wanted his Father’s name to be glorified.

We can’t always expect to be “rescued.” Sometimes we will have to walk right through dark valleys. Even when we’re not saved from unpleasantness in life, God’s glory will shine through.

For Jesus it was the glory of salvation. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. (John 12:32) For us it will be the glory of God’s strength upholding us and attracting others to the Word through God’s working in our lives.

Our greatest desire in trials is “Lord, glorify your name”!

Loving the Light 3/6


One of the great advances of history is clean water. Knowing that the water you drink is free of harmful organisms and very likely will not get you sick or worse makes a huge difference in quality of life. Clean, safe water was not always a given in the past.
And it’s not always a given everywhere now either. In some places of the world families still need to purify the water themselves in some way before they are confident of putting it in their bodies. One way to do that is through ultraviolet light. On their own, traveling down the dark tubes of water supplies or directly from a dark well, all the little pathogens survive and thrive. But if they are forced to pass through an area of UV waves, the bacteria, viruses and other organisms are deactivated and become harmless to our digestive systems.
There are two ways to look at the light. For the pathogens, the light is not good. It spells the end of their limited function on earth. For the human being drinking the water, the light is a big blessing.

The gospel of John also brings out those two views on light and darkness. Those who prefer evil would much rather stay in the darkness.

19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. (John 3:19-20)

If evil is generally our lifestyle, of course, we don’t want any light shone on our behavior. And even if we as Christians in weakness fall into temptation, often our first instinct is not to want our weakness to be seen.

In Christ we welcome the light! Although it does expose our sins, we are thankful that the Word convicts us. We can recognize our wrongs in the knowledge that our Savior still accepts us in our repentance and faith, and gives us forgiveness by his grace on the cross. And his light of salvation purifies us completely of all unrighteousness so we can live in the light of his glory in heaven.
Love the light! Celebrate the light that shines on you in Christ!