One Spirit

In a previously-published post, I pointed to what I see as one of the most concerning things in the current Christian community and overall society, and that is a lack of discernment with the cited Bible verse of 1 Thessalonians 5:21.

In the August 2023 issue of the Grace To You monthly newsletter, John MacArthur (that’s his Bible-teaching ministry which is closely aligned with Grace Community Church in North Hollywood, California, where he has been the Senior Pastor since 1969) points to what he sees as one of the most concerning things in the current Christian community and overall society:  yep, you guessed it, a lack of discernment.  And he too keys on 1 Thessalonians 5:21.

One might very well conclude that he had read my post (published 18 months prior) but I don’t think so; rather, the explanation is far more likely this:  that the same Holy Spirit who indwells and fills and teaches me is the exact same Holy Spirit who indwells and fills and teaches him!  So of course  there will be many times that two Christians are going to come to the exact same conclusion and even use the exact same phrases in communicating such to others.  Ironically, given his huge platform, this usually works in the reverse direction regarding John MacArthur, i.e., it’s usually other pastors who preach the exact same passages of Scripture and utilize the exact same language as he had previously – same Spirit, same Teacher (1 John 2:27).

In fact, while I got a kick out of seeing my post of well over a year ago reappearing – pretty much verbatim in some parts – in the current Grace To You newsletter, what I find even more amazing, truly, is this:  I’ve lost count of the times I’ve prayed and shared my heart with the Lord, often on a Saturday evening, and the very next morning  heard a preacher on TV or the radio or the internet lead the congregation in prayer and say the exact same words  which I had prayed the night before!  This often occurs with John MacArthur’s Sunday morning prayers but many other preachers, too, so it certainly can’t be a phenomenon of human origin or explanation, it must be spiritual.  It must be the fact that ONE Spirit teaches and guides and prepares our hearts and minds.

I’ll just finish this post, aptly, by saying that the most unifying entity alive and active in the world should never, ever, ever be or have been allowed by us to become arguably the most divisive, today and indeed for the past 50+ years.  The Holy Spirit is all about love and peace and unity, so it’s obviously not His fault, it’s ours, it’s the current Church’s failure but one of my motivations to dedicating my life to this historic effort of memorzing the ENTIRE Bible and then reciting it back to the Lord as a love gift and “thank You” gift for all He does and who He is, one of my main motivations is that God will use it to bring back together the various “factions” of His body, the Church, into deep and abiding harmony, so we can stop wasting precious time and effort and energy and mindspace on one or two doctrines about which we may disagree and instead focus on evangelizing the majority of people (Matthew 7:13-14) who don’t know Christ or the Holy Spirit or the Heavenly Father at all, so we can “conduct [ourselves] in a manner worthy of the GOSPEL of Christ” and be “standing firm in ONE SPIRIT, with ONE MIND striving TOGETHER for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27, emphasis added).

We Christians can be downright prolific when it comes to focusing on what might divide us, on our differences of opinion about one thing or another, but we can all come together and agree on this:  that the Bible is the most beautiful, loving, true, and powerful book ever written and words ever spoken, and that it surely brings boundless, unbridled pleasure to the Lord whenever it is memorized (and read, studied, meditated upon, and obeyed and shared with others).  How much more so when memorized in its entirety.

 

If you’d like to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with me as I seek to fulfill His calling to do just that even as the whole world watches at BibleMemory.ORG and YouTube.com/BibleMemory and have your name included on the “From” card when we collectively give this gift to Him, here are three great ways to do so!

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The Stages of Spiritual Growth, Part Two

In a previously-published post, I proffered a new “trio” of the stages of spiritual growth set forth in the Bible.

Here’s another trio:  those who practice…  “active”  >  ”aggressive” (or “adamant”)  >  ”automatic”  humility.

There’s a thing called “active listening” which has become a big deal in recent years in consulting circles.  It refers to not just “hearing” people when they speak but truly (actively) listening  to them.  Maintaining eye contact and a spirit of empathy, verbal acknowledgments, etc.

When we first come to the Lord, God graciously gives a new, much more definitive, deep, and durable sense of humility (also referred to as meekness or gentleness; Galatians 5:22-23) than we had ever experienced pre-salvation.  In terms of how we view ourselves (utter sinner; Luke 18:13), others (whom we regard as “more important” than ourselves, in a sense our “superiors” singularly worthy of honor and respect; Philippians 2:3; Romans 12:10), and God (the Creator and all-powerful, perfect purveyor of every good thing, the gracious granter of all good gifts, the one and only Sovereign and Judge; Genesis 1; James 1:17, 4:12; 1 Timothy 6:15).  Humility becomes active, not just passive (and the exact opposite  of low self-esteem, for which it is often mistaken/misidentified by some… as I always say, in a primary and even secondary sense, humility isn’t thinking poorly of oneself, it’s not thinking of oneself at all).

Then, as we grow/mature spiritually, the diligent duo of the Holy Spirit and the Word within (working hand-in-hand as always) develops in us a sense of humility which isn’t just “active” but “aggressive” (or “adamant”) … not qualitatively but quantitatively, i.e., humility becomes something that we come to LOVE, to thoroughly ENJOY demonstrating in our interactions with God and, under that umbrella, with other people.  All people.  Literally everyone.  Since we realize and appropriate the fact that the latter are made in the image of the Former.

And finally, after continued/sustained spiritual growth/maturity, humility becomes virtually “automatic”.  In us but definitely not because of us… not because of us but in spite of  us, not because of us but because of Him  and His ever-working Word! (1 Thessalonians 2:13, one of my “life verses”)

Ironically, this prevents us from even thinking  that we’re humble, because, as with wisdom, an integral, true, tangible aspect of humility is that it opens one’s eyes to how little  of it one possesses at any given time and how much  room for improvement and growth remains; yet it’s an undeniable truth that humility is indeed one of the many, many, many changes and transformations which occur within when the Bible finds fertile soil in one’s heart.

Anyone’s  heart.  Because if He can do that in a sinner like me, He can do it in anyone.

 

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Useless.  Unless.

I went grocery shopping with someone who’s determined to disappear pandemic-produced pounds so it wasn’t surprising that they bought a bevy of bags filled with fruit and other fortifying foods.

When they told me today that they had hot dogs and potato salad for dinner and popcorn and soda pop for a late-night snack, I first and foremost empathized (having put on pounds myself during the pandemic) then lovingly said, “Ya know, it doesn’t do any good to have healthy foods on hand if you don’t eat  them!”

We both laughed but it’s a great reminder of how many Christians do this very thing in their spiritual life.  It’s great to have a Bible but doesn’t do any good if one doesn’t open  it, if one doesn’t read and especially study and most especially memorize and meditate on it – i.e., if one doesn’t ingest  it.

What does it truly accomplish spiritually to “taste  the good word of God” (Hebrews 6:5) but not drink  its “pure milk” and eat  its “solid food”?

  • “like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation [i.e., spiritually]” (1 Peter 2:2)
  • “solid food is for the [spiritually] mature” (Hebrews 5:14a)

If someone were to discover a plant or develop a pill which cures every disease or illness, what good would it do to simply place it on the nightstand or even hold it in your hand?

The Bible is absolutely and exactly just such a “pill” certainly spiritually and even extending to the emotional and relational and, yes, even the physical realm of human life (more on this wonderful and explosive and jaw-dropping truth – including “receipts”/proof – in a future post, it will definitely blow your mind and change your life) … yet so many simply relegate it to their nightstand or dresser or (perish the thought) even a closet shelf.  Or maybe they pick up that “pill” every once in a while (Sundays?) and hold it in the palm of their hand and even admire and adore it.  But, beloved brothers and sisters in Christ and those of you who haven’t met Him (yet), believe me when I say this:  that won’t do any good, won’t truly transform your life and “cure anything and everything that ails you” if you don’t ingest it, “washing it down” with the regenerating and renewing “water” of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5; 1 John 2:27 … much more on this in a future post, too).

Oh, and to bring this post full circle, while it’s bad to not actually eat the healthy food one buys, it’s even worse (in an exponential, snowballing kind of way) to ingest junk food like hot dogs and potato salad and popcorn and soda pop, which have the same effect on us physically as sin does spiritually.  But I have found that the key isn’t to fear or focus on avoiding junk food but rather to fill that vacuum with good, wholesome, healthy food.  I.e., it’s more about making healthy food a lifestyle, a way of life, than it is about avoiding junk food per se, because when one does the former, the latter takes care of itself and is rendered obsolete; so also, the key isn’t to fear or focus on avoiding sin but rather to fill that (spiritual) vacuum with the tangibly transforming and healing and living and active and palpably powerful Word of God, the Bible!  Fill your daily vacuum with that and sin won’t stand a fighting chance and will be rendered obsolete and you’ll enjoy spiritual  fitness and health, too.  At least for as long as you keep  filling that vacuum with God’s wonderful Word!

  • “Thy word I have hidden in my heart, THAT [in order that, so that] I MAY NOT SIN against Thee.” (Psalm 119:11, emphasis added)

It never gets old or ceases to amaze me how, in our spiritual and frankly even our earthly  lives, everything always comes down and back to the Bible!

DRINK. IT. UP.

 

(By the way, if you’d like to be a part of the historic event unfolding in real-time at BibleMemory.ORG, here are three great ways to do so!)

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Quick Thought:  Searching for a Savior

The Saints were searching for a savior.  Not the saints  (by definition, saints have already found  a Savior) but the Saints, the pro football (NFL) team in New Orleans.

After going many, many, many years without even making the Playoffs…

… they acquired the quarterbacking services of a fellow named Drew Brees.  While he proved to be one of the greatest quarterbacks and certainly passers in the history of the sport, he never did bring them a Super Bowl win.  (This particular video clip was during his final three years which were with the Colts who had a similar situation as the Saints until Mora and Manning arrived on the scene in 1998… the Colts too were “searching for a savior”.)

Faring even far worse, that city’s pro basketball counterpart, the NBA’s Pelicans, were suffering an even uglier dearth of playoff much less championship appearances much less victories, so when they got the very first pick of the 2019 Draft, they too were searching for a savior and thought for sure they had found one in the overwhelmingly top college player, out of basketball and intellectual powerhouse Duke no less, named Zion Williamson.  Immeasurable potential, but like Sam Bowie and Greg Oden and countless others before him, to say it hasn’t gone as planned would be the understatement of the year if not decade.

Now the San Antonio Spurs are sure that they’ve found their savior in last month’s NBA Draft, a 7’4″ physical “freak of nature/athleticism” succinctly named Wemby.  We’ll see how that pans out but so far, in his first few games in the Summer League, well, let’s just say that the results haven’t even come close to living up to the hype and expectations.  (This bodes neither well nor poorly for his future in the league, he’s literally just getting started, but after said first few games, many Spurs fans are already feeling a sense of deja vu  vis-a-vis Williamson, Oden, Bowie et al, while, if you listen closely, you can still hear the rest of the teams in the league letting out a prolonged sigh of relief.)

But there IS a Savior who WON’T EVER disappoint you!  His name is Jesus Christ, and I personally invite you to place your full faith and hopes and expectations in Him and can promise you with infinite certitude that you’ll never, ever, ever be disappointed.

  • “Whoever believes in Him WILL NOT be disappointed.” (Romans 10:11, emphasis added)
  • “He who believes in Him SHALL NOT be disappointed.” (1 Peter 2:5, emphasis added)

He is the very personification of perfect performance and fulfillment and follow-through and reliability and results, rendering “disappointment” a thing of the past for those who put their faith, their trust, their dependence in Him.

Nuff said.

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If you sense that the Lord might be leading YOU to support the historic event unfolding in real-time here at BibleMemory.ORG and thus become my fellow worker and thus share in all of the fruit and blessings (3 John 8) and literally MAKE HISTORY together, here are the best ways to do so:

1. Become a one-time or monthly partner by making a donation via PayPal’s fully-secure Bible Memory page!

2. Encourage as many people as you can to support this historic event by having them go to BibleMemory.ORG/support (please make sure they understand that it’s .org, not .com) – doing so by word-of-mouth is great, and to do so with a single click on your social media simply click here then scroll down a few inches to the green box and select your platforms, it’s that quick and easy!

3. Add your name to my Prayer List!

4. Encourage as many of our fellow Christians as you can to pray for this historic event by having them go to BibleMemory.ORG/pray (please make sure they understand that it’s .org, not .com) – doing so by word-of-mouth is great, and to do so with a single click on your social media simply click here then scroll down a few inches and select your platforms, it’s that quick and easy!

5. Share this poston your social media by clicking on one or more of these platforms:

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“Contagious” FOLLOW-UP #2

I recently discussed the wildfires currently raging in Canada and how, by no fault of our own, the poor air quality and haze created thereby ended up affecting us in America, sometimes severely (worst air quality ever recorded in some cities, etc.), and what a great illustration it is in terms of how the sins or dysfunction or issues of others are indeed and literally contagious, in every sense of the word, how those tend to “drift” from their lives into ours if we’re not careful, if we’re not aware, if we’re not properly protected.  Here are two more takeaways.

Firstly, it is absolutely imperative that, along with properly protecting ourselves from the would-be influence of other people’s issues or sins on and into our own life, we are even more diligent to ensure that we’re not the culprit, that we’re not the person who spews issues or sin into the lives of others, since such would seem to be the very definition of a “stumbling block”.

  • “but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it is better for him that a heavy millstone be hung around his neck, and that he be drowned in the depth of the sea.  Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks!  For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; nevertheless, woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!” (Matthew 18:6-7)

Secondly, it’s important to keep in mind that even something so sick or sinister as the sins or issues of others seeking to “drift” into and “infect” our own life, even that will be used by God for our GOOD.

  • “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

A great example of this occurred in my own life just two days ago, the day after I published the previous post.  I had an event to attend which was scheduled three months ago, and I usually would have walked or ridden my bike but because those Canadian wildfires caused a “Code Red” (unhealthy, even dangerous) air quality reading for that very day, I decided to take the Metro instead, something I rarely do.

But here’s the thing, here’s the thought that hit me:  it’s very possible, it would be in the very center of how God often works, if a car or truck or bus would’ve hit me if I had been biking or walking instead of taking a subway train.  In other words, it’s very possible that a vehicle would veer into the bike lane or onto the sidewalk exactly at the time and place of where I would have been but for the “Code Red” air quality caused by those Canadian wildfires, which God certainly allowed to occur.

This is exactly how He almost always opts to intervene in our daily lives.  Not via a direct stretching forth of His hand from Heaven but rather through events or circumstances or other people.  (How amazing – and real – is His sovereignty… as I often say, “Things big or small, He’s in control of all!”  And one of my very favorite things in life is to be used by Him to function as His hand or finger in various situations, to impact and improve and benefit and bring blessing to the lives of others.)

Another example of this also from just the past week was when the grocery store nearest to me was out of a certain item and I was going to walk to the third-closest one since it’s very large and thus well-stocked, but I had already walked and exercised a lot the past few days so I decided to instead go to the second-closest store, which was around a mile out of the way, off the route to the larger store so I was fully aware I was taking a chance since that one is very small and whenever I go there only has around half of the items on my grocery list.  Worth the gamble but it was not surprising to find that it didn’t have that particular item in stock so I headed to the third store which, also unsurprisingly, did  have it in stock.  But here’s the thing:  while walking to the third store I saw several ambulances and police cars two blocks away, which is EXACTLY where I would have been walking had I not already exercised so much this week and thus took the chance and chose to check out the second, smaller store.  And not only were those ambulances EXACTLY where I would’ve been walking, but it obviously took them five or ten minutes to arrive on the scene, which means that the timeframe could also line up perfectly, i.e., the big accident could very, very, very easily have happened to me BUT FOR God’s sovereign and loving intervention into my life via the circumstances of (1) that the nearest store was out of the item, (2) that I had already exercised a TON this week and therefore (3) opted to head to the second-closest but much smaller store versus what I would’ve otherwise  done:  just walked the longer distance to store #3, which would’ve put me at the exact place of that big accident and very possibly at the exact time  of the accident, too.

I see God’s sovereignty and tangible interventions into my life often.  My favorite example occurred many years ago, when I was driving on the GW (George Washington) Parkway one Friday night for a Super Bowl weekend getaway and out of nowhere I notice a car in front of me, braking, slowing down dramatically which caused me to do likewise, costing me five seconds of time, no biggie, right?  WRONG!  Because, bizarrely, that car in front of me then sped away extremely quickly, at a noticeably fast speed and just as I was thinking how strange it was that someone would brake suddenly and then speed ahead so quickly, a huge tree fell into the road, missing my car by – yep, you guessed it – FIVE SECONDS.

That car’s braking cost me five seconds of time but saved my life or extreme, quality-of-life-ending injury at the very least.

Was that car actually a guardian angel?  Very possibly.  Was it a driver who wanted to catch a glimpse of the “scenic overlook” to the right for a few seconds before speeding back up?  Probably.  But in either case it’s a perfect example of how God in HIs loving sovereignty intervenes in our day-to-day lives.  Sometimes in big and dramatic and life-saving ways, usually smaller, but never mundane.  Sometimes unknown/unaware, but never unappreciated.

This is why, this is one way we’re able to fulfill I Thessalonians 5:18.

  • “In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

In summary, as stated in that initial post (two ago), it’s crucial that we be responsible in properly protecting ourselves from the sins or issues of others which otherwise would “drift into” our lives just like the smoky haze and dangerously poor air quality has drifted from the Canadian wildfires into America.  But it’s equally crucial not to resent or hate people who propel their personal problems onto and into the lives of others (versus resolving  them) but rather to be sympathetic (1 Peter 3:8) and compassionate, kind, humble, gentle and patient (Colossians 3:12) toward them and most of all thankful toward God, that He has provided us protection against such things (Ephesians 6:10-20) and that in His loving sovereignty He will cause even things like that to work together for our GOOD (Romans 8:28).  What a great God we serve!
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Quick Thought:  “Contagious” FOLLOW-UP:  Consuming Fire

I recently discussed the wildfires currently raging in Canada and how, by no fault of our own, the poor air quality and haze created thereby ended up affecting us in America, sometimes severely (worst air quality ever recorded in some cities, etc.).

Guess what.  It’s baaaaack.  Not so severely as last month but back nonetheless, and the thought which immediately struck me this time around is how thousands, no, hundreds of thousands, no, millions  of acres (eight to be exact – and counting, quickly – as I write this) of forest have been burned up by what started as a single spark!  Oh, the sheer power and fury of fire.

And that image and truth immediately brought to mind and provided a great illustration of a certain Bible verse:

  • “for our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:29)

How utterly important it is to maintain a morally pure life.  Lest we be consumed by fire.  (The destroying type reserved for unbelievers as described in countless Bible verses, or the purifying fire of trials and God’s loving discipline when we believers stray from time to time as noted in 1 Peter 1:7 and Hebrews 12:1-13 among others.)

Even post-salvation we cannot be sin-free (1 John 2:1-2) but, praise the Lord, we can (and must) be free from sin.  From its pull and potential power and inherent deceitfulness (Hebrews 3:13; James 1:14-16; Jeremiah 17:9).

Or to put it another way… we can’t be free of  sin but we can be free from  sin.

And we must.

Please join me in recommitting our lives to purity and humble obedience to God via His holy Word, the Bible.

Every day.
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Quick Thought:  Good, Better, Best

Spiritually speaking…

Reading  the Bible is like putting on a pair of eyeglasses.

Studying  the Bible is like getting LASIK eye surgery.

Memorizing  the Bible is like getting x-ray vision.
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Quick Thought:  “Audience of One” FOLLOW-UP

I don’t think I’ve ever done a “(somewhat) deep dive” on something other than the Bible… but I’m doing so in this case for a song because it’s so full of, so overflowing with biblical truths (as per the Bible verses in parentheses below), not just beautiful music and lyrics… if you haven’t yet listened to it, I encourage you to scroll down a few inches and do so, if you’re okay with certain contemporary Christian music (otherwise, please disregard these five videos).

Without further ado, in chronological order of the lyrics:

“I come on my knees… before You” (Ephesians 3:14)

“longing only to know You” (Psalm 42:1; Ephesians 1:17)

“seeking Your face, and not only  Your hand” (Psalm 27:8 & 105:4; 1 Timothy 6:17)

“I find You embracing me” (John 3:16, 6:37)

“just as I am” (Revelation 22:17)

“to You and You alone” (1 Peter 4:11)

“As I sing to You, in my praises make Your home” (Psalm 22:3)

“You are Father and You are Son” (John 10:30)

“as your Spirit flows free, let [Him] find within me a heart that beats to praise You” (Titus 3:5-7; Romans 8:13-17,26-27)

“just to know You more has become my great reward” (2 Peter 3:18)

“Your kingdom come and Your will be done” (Matthew 6:10)

“I only desire to be Yours, Lord” (Matthew 6:24,33; James 4:4; 1 John 2:15-17)

“what could I bring to honor Your majesty” (Micah 6:6-8)

“all that I have is this life that You’ve given me” (Psalm 16:2,5)

“Lord, let me live for You my song with humility” (James 4:10 among countless others)

“as the love song of my life is played, I have one desire:  to bring glory to Your name” (1 Corinthians 10:31; Philippians 3:13-14)

I like this entire song, such a big blessing… but along with the title itself (and the violins, always) four of these phrases are especially precious to my heart:

  • “seeking Your face and not only Your hand” – Personally I find this to be very convicting.  Because it’s so easy for us humans to let more of our focus be on God’s hand than His beautiful face, to focus more on what He can do and does do for us rather than who He is.  To be sure, we should be ever grateful for the former… but that should never, ever eclipse or come before or grow greater than the latter.  Because the former flows forth from  the latter.  I.e., what good would it be to know all of the wonderful things He can do for us, if we didn’t know of His boundless and deep desire  to do so.  In fact, the Bible specifically makes that distinction in telling us not to let our primary focus drift, “NOT to focus” on the provisions but the Provider, “but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.” (1 Timothy 6:17, emphasis added).
  • “a heart that beats to praise You” – Indeed, because of what I just wrote, because of His overwhelming grace and goodness and generosity and patience and forbearance and kindness toward us in and through Christ, we should be more and more drawn to Him.  To know Him.  To worship Him.  To serve Him.  To love Him.  To obey Him.  “… the kindness of God leads you to repentance” (Romans 2:4, emphasis added).
  • “what could I bring to honor Your majesty” – As discussed on the home and About pages of this website, this is exactly what I had been considering for years, trying to think of something I could do, of some way to SHOW the Lord how much I love and appreciate Him and all He has done for me, and on one such occasion not too long ago is when the thought, the calling “hit my heart” like a bolt of lightning, something that I KNEW He would absolutely LOVE:  for someone to MEMORIZE the ENTIRE Bible and then quote His own words back to Him, to recite back to Him the very love letter which He first wrote to us.  And I’ve dedicated my life to fulfilling this calling ever since and can hardly wait for the day when it is culminated even as the whole world watches thanks to BibleMemory.ORG and YouTube.com/BibleMemory … what a day of rejoicing that will be!  Not just for the Lord, not just for me personally, but for each and every person who supports this historic event in whatever ways they’re able… the spiritual “greeting card” which accompanies this “love gift” to Him will include ALL of our names, not just mine.
  • “as the love song of my life is played” – What a beautiful picture this paints… as you might have noticed, on the BibleMemory.ORG home page I write that the Bible is God’s “love letter” to humanity.  And our lives should reciprocate and be our “love song” to Him.

But the entire song is full of lovely lyrics, wonderful words.  Because they come from the ultimate  Word, God’s Word, the beloved Bible.  Which is the only source of true beauty on earth.  Beauty and wisdom and soundness of mind (literally – see 1 Timothy 6:3).  So while I praise the Lord for the voice and musical talent He bestowed on Big Daddy Weave, that he was so willing and eager to utilize those gifts for God and His glory and His use (that’s literally what it’s all about!), my first and foremost praise and appreciation is for and to the Lord, the Giver  of those gifts, the Liver of love, “the author and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2), “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), “the Alpha and the Omega” (Revelation 1:8), beginning and end… may Your name be praised forever, Lord, You truly are my Audience of One, my all-in-all and all I need (or could ever want), You’re (way, way, way, way) enough for me – You and You alone.
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Audience of One

Children have long sought the attention, audience, and approval of their parents… but like never before in my lifetime, and alarmingly, parents now seek their children’s.

And friends literally live for their friends.  (Or, in the comparatively new age of all things digital including Facebook, their “friends”.)

Students for teachers.  Mentees for mentors.  Congregants for pastors.

There’s not necessarily anything wrong with most of these (especially that last one – three cheers and heartfelt thanks to all of the pastors out there) … IF done with proper perspective, priority, and positioning.

Specifically, a position of humility and love, with the perspective that THE priority should always be the Lord and, inextricably linked, His Word.

Speaking of His Word and as you almost certainly know if you’re reading this on the BibleMemory.ORG website or social media page, I’m dedicating my life to memorizing the entire Bible so I can recite it BACK to the Lord as a very special love gift and “thank You” gift for all He does and who He is!  A gift not just from me but from and on behalf of everyone who supports this historic event in whatever ways they’re able.  (To borrow a phrase from the hymn, “What a day of rejoicing that will be” indeed!  For us but especially for Him, so fittingly, so deservingly.)

As I memorize entire books of the Bible, may He always be my Audience.

As I recite entire books of the Bible, may He always be my Audience.

As I teach entire books of the Bible, may He always be my Audience.

As I encourage and show love and share the Gospel with others, may He always be my Audience.

For He and He alone is worthy.

Of our attention.

Of our focus.

Of our reliance and dependence.

Of our pursuit of approval.

  • “Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever.  Amen.” (1 Peter 4:11, emphasis added)
  • “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God…” (2 Timothy 2:15a, the Theme Verse of the magnificent AWANA ministry, emphasis added)

Parents, children, siblings, friends and “friends” and followers on social media, pastors, teachers, and mentors are fine and dandy… IF they are seen through the prism and – in our mind, emotions, time, and giving – kept under the umbrella  of the Lord.

May each of us live every day of our lives for, by, and to an Audience of One.


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Contagious

As you might’ve seen in the news this morning and the past week, the air quality and visibility in the northeastern U.S. and even the mid-Atlantic (as I can confirm firsthand looking out the window as I write this) is about as bad as I’ve ever seen it.  So bad that the weatherman on one of the local news stations tweeted, “I don’t say this often, but it’s a good idea to stay indoors tomorrow or at least limit time outdoors.   not a good idea to workout outside.”

But why  is this happening?  Is it something we Americans did which was unwise or wrong?

Nope!

Rather, the unbelievable haze and poor air quality is here because of our neighbor to the north, Canada.  Namely, their wildfires.

And when I looked out the window this morning, it immediately hit me what a great illustration this is of sin in general and emotional/relational dysfunction in specific.

It’s CONTAGIOUS.  Quite literally… it spreads from an infected person and takes up residence in the lives of the unsuspecting and unprotected.  Just like the smoke and haze and bad air quality of Canada’s wildfires have “spread” and “infected” and (literally) taken up residence in the U.S.

And now WE have to deal with the negative consequences of THEIR wildfires.

But here’s the thing:  it would have been impossible to prevent this from happening, i.e., there’s no way to “block” smoke and haze from drifting in the air.

This analogy keeps holding true because, as I’m sure you’ve experienced firsthand throughout your life, to be around people is to risk having their dysfunction or other issue(s) – and even sins – seep into OUR life.  (But it’s worth it, it’s a risk worth taking… if we wear the God-given, Bible-provided protection, more on this in a future post.)

Did you know that the Bible addresses this directly and crystal-clearly?  [Yep, it was written thousands of years  ago, yet proves anew each day that it is indeed like no other book, that it is indeed “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12) and therefore ever-applicable to our lives and situations.]

I’ll write a much more in-depth post about this very important and powerful principle but for now will share a few great verses with you which not only state the problem but (as always) also the solution.

  • “… Bad company corrupts good morals.” (1 Corinthians 15:33)
  • Leave the presence of a fool, or YOU will not discern words of knowledge.” (Proverbs 14:7, emphasis added)
  • “Keep deception and lies far from me…” (Proverbs 30:8)

In fact, it’s so crucial to ongoing spiritual health to “be on the alert” (1 Peter 5:8) and “put on the full armor of God” (Ephesians 6:10-20, see the video below for a kid-friendly musical rendering I just found online) that even when doing something so sound and sanctified and spiritually mature as showing mercy to others, if they’re the very “infected/contagious” type, Jude 23 goes so far as to command us to have mercy “with fear, hating even the garment polluted [i.e., infected!] by the flesh.”

But my favorite verse on this particular principle is how I’ll end this post, because it’s so clear, so self-explanatory that no elaboration is needed, it literally says it all:  issue and solution and goes even a step further and also gives the reason  for the provided solution (much more on all of this in that future post but for now I’ll just say that while this verse references unrighteous anger, the principle applies to any  sin, be it jealousy/envy, selfishness, taking the Lord’s name in vain and other foul language, etc.):

  • “Do not associate with a man given to anger; or go with a hot-tempered man, LEST YOU LEARN HIS WAYS, and FIND A SNARE for YOURSELF.” (Proverbs 22:24-25, emphasis added)


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