Results That Last

I don’t know about you, but I want my life work to succeed and to last. I want it to remain long after I’m gone, continuing to bear good fruit. I would hate to discover that, shortly after I get to Heaven, my life’s impact on the world fizzles and dies.

Worse yet, I would really hate to get to the end of life and find that I’ve had a negative impact on the world–that it would be better off if I had never been born.

My friend Jesus also has the same desire. Back a couple thousand years ago, He said, “You didn’t choose me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain; that whatever you will ask of the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” (John 15:16)

But how is that going to happen?

One thing is for certain: our fruit will only remain if it’s Jesus’ fruit.

Not Even Hell Can Prevail

When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of man, am?”

And they said, “Some say that you are John the Baptist: some, Elijah; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

And Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

And Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood has not revealed it to you, but my Father who is in Heaven. And I also say to you, that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
(Matthew 16:13-18)

Jesus is the One who builds the church that Hell cannot destroy. Not me. Not my ideas and plans.

In addition, He is the One who reveals the truth to others. I find it very interesting that He did not say that Peter believed that Jesus was the Christ because he had seen all the miracles Jesus had done. He says that Peter believed because God had revealed it to him.

In other words, all church-building and all truth-revealing must come from God in order to be effective.

Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit

Jesus started the Beatitudes by saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)

Jesus says that in order to gain the Kingdom of Heaven, we need to be poor in spirit. We need to realize that we are weak, helpless, and poor, and need Jesus’ riches and filling. We have to realize that, on our own strength, we can do nothing.

The Laodicean church was just the opposite:

“…you say, ‘I am rich, and have gotten riches, and have need of nothing;’ and don’t know that you are the wretched one, miserable, poor, blind, and naked…” (Revelation 3:17)

When we think that we don’t need God and can depend on ourselves, that is when we are the poorest. In order to be truly rich, we have to be poor in spirit and realize that, however smart, rich, wise, or accredited we may be, we will never accomplish God’s will on our own. It is when we allow God to fill us that we become rich–not in money and stuff, but in the things that truly matter: love, joy, peace, righteousness, and the power of the Holy Spirit.

And when God is working through us, then He is the One building His church, not us.

You Can’t Win Today On Yesterday’s Victories

Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect; but I press on, that I may take hold of that for which also I was taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers, I don’t regard myself as yet having taken hold, but one thing I do. Forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, think this way. If in anything you think otherwise, God will also reveal that to you.
(Philippians 3:12-15)

Paul first says that it is not as though he was already perfect (verse 12). Then he says, “Let us therefore, as many as are perfect…”, classifying himself with the perfect. God is telling us that, however mature or complete we may think that we are, we must never rest on our laurels and feel like we’ve come far enough. Even more importantly, we must never stop relying on Him.

Part of not looking backwards is that we do not rely on our past accomplishments, but rather on God. We must not look to see how much we’ve already done, but how much God still calls us to do—“the high calling of God”. This keeps us humble.

Conclusion

Coming back to where we started at the beginning, God is the One who reveals the truth to people. God is the One who makes the changes. God is the One who brings conviction. God is the One who builds the church that the gates of Hell cannot overcome.

Because of these things, God needs people who are poor in spirit and rely on Him rather than themselves. People who, however much training and skill they have, realize that they can never accomplish God’s work without His power. That they will never achieve that prize that God offers them, unless they totally rely on His power instead of their own.

It is God Who equips us for the work that He gives us. All that we have, we have received from Him. Let’s totally rely on Him and seek His power to accomplish His will!

New Recording: “For God So Loved”

To go with my final post in the “Learning to Know Our Father” series, I felt God leading me to record the song He gave me a couple years ago, “For God So Loved”. This song is really my personal testimony of coming to know God in new and deeper way. From the sheet music page:

I was raised in the Mennonite Church and the Advanced Training Institute homeschool program, both of which confused my view of God and left me without a real understanding of His love and grace. People looking on thought that I was a very Godly young man, on fire for the Lord, but under the surface, Jesus wasn’t really in charge of my life. I struggled to make necessary changes in my life, but with little success. My dad wasn’t sure if I would ever become the man that God wanted me to be.

Finally, I realized that I could not ever correct my life in my own strength, and I began to seek God’s grace and power to become who He wanted me to be. In October, 2014, I finally surrendered my life 100% to Christ. He began to reveal Himself, His Word, His love and His grace in a new way to me. A couple months later, He gave me this song.

Download MP3

Sheet Music and Lyrics

For more songs that God has given me, see the Sheet Music page.

Learning to Know Our Father, Part 4: How to Understand God’s Love

As we saw in the last post in this series, when we don’t understand God’s love, it keeps us from having a great relationship with God. The love of God is the basis for our love for Him and others. Since He is love, if we don’t know His love, we don’t know Him.

You may be like me, however, and come from a spiritually abusive background where God’s love was distorted, minimized, and ignored. On the other hand, you may come from a background where God’s love meant that “everything goes” and God doesn’t care what you do. Reading the Bible, though, we see that God is neither a harsh dictator nor a soft fuzzy teddy bear.

So we realize that we don’t really know what God’s love is all about. Maybe, you know in your head that God loves you, that He sent Jesus to die for you because He loved you, blah, blah, blah—but you don’t know that love, from personal experience, even though you’ve been a Christian for years. This was my experience.

What do you do?

When Paul wrote to the Ephesians, he included a beautiful prayer for them that I believe gives us an answer.

For this cause, I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, that you may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inward man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; to the end that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be strengthened to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and height and depth, and to know Christ’s love which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to him be the glory in the assembly and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21)

“Ask, and it will be given to you,” Jesus said. If you want to know the love of God, then ask Him to show it to you, and help you to comprehend it. Wow! Isn’t that simple?

I know. It sounds trite. But it’s true! It may not happen right away, but if you come to God in faith, He will show His love to you. Otherwise, He would be a liar!

I will warn you that in order to understand God’s love, you may have to give up some of your pre-conceived notions of what He is like. Sometimes, we believe things about God that prevent us from understanding His true nature and entering into a full relationship with Him. When you understand His love, you may find that some of your beliefs are wrong and have to change. But it will be for the better.

God further tells us that He is able to go exceedingly abundantly above anything we can ask or think to show His love to us and to help us to understand His love. Stop and think about that a moment. Imagine this: Whatever you can imagine—is the first level. God can surpass that imagination. But God can do even more than that. In fact, He can do abundantly more that you can imagine. But He can even surpass that level and do exceedingly more abundantly than anything you can ask or think: “exceedingly—abundantly—above—all that we ask or think.” Wow! That is how powerful God is! And that is how far He can go to reveal His love to you.

I believe that we should also follow Paul’s example in these verses and pray for others as well, that they, too, would know the mind-boggling love of Christ. We should pray, even for those who are seasoned Christians, that God would continue to reveal Himself to them and lead them into an ever-closer walk with Him.

Before we leave this passage, I would like to point out that part of being filled with all the fullness of God is to know the incredible, mind-boggling love of Christ. “…to know Christ’s love which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:19) This, again, shows why it’s so important to know and understand Christ’s love—so that we can be filled even more with Him!

In the next part, we’ll conclude by looking at what we are to do with God’s love.

In God Do We REALLY Trust?

Then conquer we must
When our cause it is just.
And this be our motto:
“In God is our trust.”

The Star-Spangled Banner, verse 3

Here in the USA, we have the motto “In God We Trust”. It’s splashed across our money, part of our national anthem, and a host of people stand ready to fight tooth and nail should anyone dare to try removing it.

But here’s the question: for those of us as Christians, do WE really trust in God?

  • God says, “Be anxious for nothing” and tells us to cast all our cares on Him, yet we typically fret about our problems and only turn to Him as a last resort.
  • God says to “love your enemies” and “resist not evil”, yet we load up on guns and ammo so that, if someone attacks us, we can send him to Hell and prevent him from sending us to Heaven.
  • God says, “Owe no man anything” (Rom 13:8), yet we get home mortgages, student loans, car financing, and credit cards, fueling a debt crisis that threatens our nation.
  • God says that all world rulers are put in place by Him (Rom. 13:1), yet on the morning after Election Day, we wring our hands and fret about how the “best candidate” lost the election.
  • Jesus tells us to seek first His Kingdom and righteousness, and our needs will be supplied, yet we seek first to supply our needs and then to do something for God if there’s any time left.
  • Jesus tells us, “In praying, don’t use vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their much speaking. Therefore don’t be like them, for your Father knows what things you need, before you ask him” (Matt. 6:7-8)–yet, when we have a pressing need, we rally as much “prayer support” as possible, and if God does what we want, we talk about all the people who were praying.

There are many more things that could be added to this list, but suffice it to say that in the church as a whole, we have a real lack of trust in God. This is serious. God tells us, “Without faith it is impossible to be well pleasing to him, for he who comes to God must believe that he exists, and that he is a rewarder of those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

In its simplest form, faith is belief in God. When we fail to trust God, we indicate that we don’t believe Him.

Before we point fingers at the world for all the evil that they are doing, let’s take God at His word and start trusting Him in everything.

If My people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)

What is Grace?

3 CrossesGrace is one of the most fundamental, yet most misunderstood doctrines of Christianity. God tells us, “By grace you are saved…” (Ephesians 2:8a). In other words, grace is part of the very foundation of our salvation. Therefore, it’s important that we understand what grace truly is and how it works in our lives.

For years, I struggled to live the Christian life and be the man that God wanted me to be. Over and over, I resolved to do better—resolutions that didn’t last. I saw a little improvement, but I was still wallowing in failure. Try as I might, I could not shake off my old habits and walk in wisdom. What was I to do?

It all ground to a halt when my dad asked me a simple question: “Do you realize that you cannot change yourself on your own?”

That day, God began teaching me about grace. It was a major turning point in my life. He taught me—well, let’s just start digging into it.

Four misconceptions about grace

The first misconception is the definition of grace. Grace has been popularly defined as “God’s unmerited favor”. This is a poor, Old Testament-based definition.

The second misconception is actually about salvation. Salvation is a two-part process. Part one is when we accept Christ as our Savior and receive the seal of the Holy Spirit on our lives. We become new creatures and are saved from sin, Satan, and the Law of Moses. But we do not receive the second part—our eternal salvation—until we get to Heaven and are saved from the second death of Hell. One of the clearest passages is Romans 5:8-11:

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (9) Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. (10) For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. (11) And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.

For more on this, I recommend our article at Biblical Research Reports, “A New Look at Predestination and Once Saved Always Saved”.

What does this have to do with grace? It gives a whole new meaning to the idea of being “saved by grace”. We are not merely redeemed by grace, but we also need grace in order to reach Heaven. More on this in a little bit.

The third misconception is that grace is automatic. We believe that God will shower us with grace and we won’t have to do anything to receive it.

The fourth misconception is that grace is a license to sin or to “fudge the rules a bit”.

Both of these last two misconceptions result from a wrong definition of grace, so let’s look at what grace is.

An Old Testament Definition for a New Testament Doctrine

This morning, God showed me that the idea that grace is “God’s unmerited favor” is actually Old Testament-based. Throughout the Old Testament, grace is almost exclusively used in this manner: “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD” (Genesis 6:8). Usually, in the Old Testament, “grace” is about finding favor in somebody’s sight.

Another example: “And [Esau] said, What meanest thou by all this drove which I met? And [Jacob] said, These are to find grace in the sight of my lord” (Genesis 33:8). In other words, Jacob was giving Esau a present to try to obtain favor from him.

Throughout the Old Testament, God used many external forces to motivate His people. He gave them detailed laws. He gave them a list of blessings and cursings for obeying and disobeying His Law. When they disobeyed Him, He used other nations to discipline them and help them to return to Him. They largely followed their leaders and did whatever the king said to do.

But in the prophets, God said that He was going to change His ways and do something new.

“Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

God prophesied that He would start working from the inside, changing the hearts of the people and placing His commands within them.

Things changed on the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was given to the disciples. The world has never been the same. This, too, was something that God had prophesied. To quote Peter’s sermon at Pentecost:

“But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy” (Acts 2:16-18).

It is important to realize that things changed between the covenants. God is not working the same way that He did in Noah’s day. Grace is no longer merely finding favor in God’s eyes.

Problems

If we define grace as “God’s unmerited favor”, it creates a problem. It makes utter nonsense of verses like these:

Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, [God’s favor] did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might [God’s favor] reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:20-21)

And he said unto me, My [favor] is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

[In the context of spiritual gifts] But unto every one of us is given [God’s favor] according to the measure of the gift of Christ. (Ephesians 4:7)

Note: would this mean that God loves and favors some people more than others?

Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the [favor] of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this [favor] given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; (Ephesians 3:7-8)

If when sin abounds, God’s favor abounds even more, then God must like sin! Nope. He spends the next chapter (Romans 6) explaining that it doesn’t work that way.

The catch is that grace can mean “favor” or “graciousness”. And in some cases, depending on how we define the idea of God’s favor, one could argue that the word “favor” works.

So what is grace?

We need to look more closely at some other verses in Scripture to understand better what “grace” is.

And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord. Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch. Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. (Acts 11:21-23)

And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. (Acts 20:32)

Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. (Romans 4:4)

For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. (Romans 12:3)

Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith… (Romans 12:6)

But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. (1 Corinthians 15:10)

Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:5-7)

These verses, and others like them, show us that:

  1. Grace is a gift from God
  2. Grace helps us to do what is right
  3. Grace enables us to reach the lost
  4. Grace works through us to accomplish God’s purposes

In short: Grace is God’s power working in us. In some ways, I believe that it is “shorthand” for the Holy Spirit and His power.

Going further

With this understanding, and the understanding of the two parts of salvation, we can now examine a few verses for some new insights.

Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they. (Acts 15:10-11)

This is James, the brother of Jesus, speaking here. He is already a believer. Yet, he puts salvation in the future: “we shall be saved.” And it is only through God’s grace, not by his own keeping of the Law. In other words, it is by God’s grace that we will be able to follow Christ and receive eternal salvation in Heaven.

Ephesians 2:8-9 is a very familiar passage:

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Taken with the idea of grace being “God’s unmerited favor”, this passage says that we are saved by God being nice to us and saving us, and that nothing we do can ever affect that. But let’s look at the context:

But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved), And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:4-10)

God tells us here that His grace—His power working in us—brings us to life. He has incredible riches of grace to give us because of His great kindness to us.

We are not saved by our own efforts—ever. Not before conversion, and not after. But, that does not mean that we are free to do whatever we want and “God’s grace” will cover it. On the contrary, God’s grace gives us the power to walk in the good works that God created us to perform. Since it is God’s grace that gives us the power to live for Him, we cannot boast in our own ability to obey God. None of us will ever be able to meet God’s standards on our own power.

In fact, everyone who tries to live the Christian life on their own power will die spiritually. God tells us:

But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. (Romans 8:11-13)

The only way to stop fulfilling the lusts of the flesh is to kill them by the Holy Spirit. That is the power and grace of God! We can never kill sin on our own. If we could, Jesus would not have had to die to put sin to death. It’s not a matter of squashing sin, denying ourselves, or trying harder. Without God’s grace, we will die!

God tells us further, in Titus 2:11-14, that His grace teaches us how to live righteous lives:

For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

In other words, God’s grace will lead us to greater holiness and more obedience and righteousness.

Due to the common misconception of what grace is, I believe that we need to be careful in talking to others about grace, so that they correctly understand what we are saying. I often use the term “the power of God” instead of “the grace of God” so that others know what I am referring to.

Grace is not automatic

This probably sounds like heresy. But I can tell you, both from my own experience and the word of God, that grace will not automatically work in our lives.

Going back to Romans 5:20-21, we read, “Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” In other words, where there is sin, there is also the grace of God—the power of God to forgive and cleanse—even greater than that sin, capable of completely cleansing the sinner from his sin. But obviously, if sin is abounding, God’s grace is not stopping the sin. Why?

God gives us an answer in James 4:6-7: “But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

If I am proud, resist the offer of God’s grace, and try to stop sinning and clean up my life by my own efforts, God will not give me His grace. He can’t. I’m not accepting His grace. If He gives me grace, I will take the credit and boast in my own ability to change myself.

When we humble ourselves, acknowledge that we can’t fix our problems on our own, submit to God, and humbly ask Him for grace, God can then work in our lives, by the power of His Spirit, to purify us and cleanse us from all sin. That is truly grace! And it removes my ability to boast about how I helped myself.

When I realized that I couldn’t make myself into a Godly man, and turned to God and asked Him for grace, God began a great work in my life. I am amazed at what He has done. It is not something I can take credit for. It wasn’t the result of successfully following somebody’s five-step plan, or speaking positive words to myself. No, it was God, working all things together for good, to accomplish His will in my life and purify me to be one of His special people, zealous for good works. It is not yet complete, nor will it ever be on this side of Heaven. But one thing I do know: God is doing it, not me!

Grace is not a license to sin or “fudge the rules”

Because of the false definition of grace, many people view grace as a way to relax and stop trying to measure up to God’s standards. False! But true! Indeed, we do stop trying to follow God on our own efforts. But that does not mean that we can then do what we want!

Make no mistake about it: if your version of grace says that it doesn’t really matter how you live, it doesn’t really matter how well you obey God, it doesn’t really matter whether you live a righteous life or not—it isn’t grace. God is holy, and He wants us to be holy as well. God’s grace will always lead us into greater obedience to Him and greater holiness, not less.

Of course, this is obedience and holiness as defined by God, not by us, our pastor, our church, or the book on the coffee table. God is not going to lead you to do a better job of keeping manmade traditions or guilt trips. As you follow God’s grace, you will find that the modern-day “Pharisees” will be unhappy with you.

But remember: if you are living life by your own leading, and not by the Holy Spirit’s leading, you are not walking in grace. You are walking in sin.

Grace is not a license to sin.

Conclusion

God’s grace is truly amazing. It has the power to change us, and to change others through us. It gives us the ability to serve God and obey Him. It gives us the power to reach the world. It gives us love when we cannot love others, strength when we’re weak, cleansing when we repent of sin.

And though it is available to everyone, we can only receive it when we humble ourselves, acknowledge that we can’t follow God on our own efforts, and ask Him for His grace.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen. (Philippians 4:23)

 

 

Announcing… New Sheet Music!

Over the last number of years, the Lord has given me some songs. It is my desire to make these songs available freelyMusic for everyone, so they are all public domain and can be copied, distributed and recorded royalty-free.

I would like to especially note two songs–the most recent ones.

For God So Loved is a song God gave me at the end of last year. It is my personal testimony about what He has been doing in my life in recent times. Even if you aren’t interested in the song, I encourage you to at least read the story that goes with the song.

Bind Up the Wounds is the most recent song that God gave me, about a month ago. It is based on Jesus’ ministry in Luke 4:18-19: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” There are many bruised, broken, hurting people who bear their wounds and pain in silence. God wants us to help them, free them and bring healing to their wounds.

You will also note that there are a couple yodels included. Yes, I do yodel!
You can find all the songs under the “Sheet Music” link on the menu bar, or at this page.

Unfortunately, there are no recordings of people singing most of the songs, but our family hopes to change some of that in the future. Stay tuned! 🙂

Ignore the Commands of Men

Titus 1:12-14 One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. 13 This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; 14 Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, it is time to obey the verses above. It is time for the church to ignore the commands of men—totally disregard them, forget that they ever existed, leave them in the dust—and obey the commands of God. It is time to ignore the Jewish fables of commands dragged from the Old Covenant and burdened upon the members of the New Covenant. It is time to follow Christ.

I don’t know why these verses never struck home to me as they did a few days ago. All of a sudden, I realized that God had specifically told us to disregard the commands of men. This is very important. I grew up in the Mennonite Church until I was 14. I was homeschooled in Bill Gothard’s homeschool program and listened to his teachings. I have heard many preachers preach. Over the years, I have believed that certain things were necessary in order to be a good Christian—things that God has never told us to do.

Is this your story as well—or a variation of it? Then God has a message for you:

Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.

God tells us that to be sound in the faith, we must not give heed to the commandments of men. We must evaluate what we believe and throw out the stupid commands that we have imbibed that never came from God. If God didn’t think it was important enough to command us about, it certainly isn’t something for us to make up a command about. It is very serious to add to God’s Words and require people to obey our words. That is setting up ourselves as God. God specifically tells us that we are all equals in the Kingdom of God:

Matthew 23:8 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.

God commanded us to “Be subject to the higher powers” (Romans 13:1) and “Children, obey your parents in all things” (Colossians 3:20), so parents and the government have the right to make rules and laws for those who are under them. Beyond that, however, no one has the authority to make commands for the rest of God’s children to keep. As followers of Jesus, we need to lay aside every weight:

Hebrews 12:1-2 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

If we are to run the race, we must lay aside the weights of man’s commands that burden us down, or else we will not have the strength to finish the race.

Let me give you an example from my own life. For most of my life, I never wore short pants for anything except pajamas. From about five years old, it was long pants, no matter how hot the day—the one exception being playing in the creek! Even after leaving the Mennonite Church, I dressed much the same as I always had. It wasn’t until about year ago that it finally dawned on me that there was absolutely no command in Scripture that forbids a man to wear shorts! My father had already started wearing shorts, and I had started wearing them occasionally, but suddenly, I realized that I didn’t need to worry about the twinges of a misguided conscience that said, “But Joel, don’t you know that men shouldn’t wear shorts?” No, I don’t know that anymore. There is nothing in the Bible that says it is a sin for a man’s lower leg to be visible. Forbidding shorts is merely a command of men that causes us to turn from the truth.

Jesus warns us:

Mark 7:6-7 He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. 7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

Matthew 15:7-9 Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, 8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. 9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

Jesus tells us that the commandments of men actually cause our worship of God to be vain. That is incredible! The very thing that is supposed to keep us close to God actually makes our worship worthless! Do you want your worship to be worthless? I sure don’t.

Watch out for man’s teaching that pretends to be God’s teaching. Perhaps you have been dragged down by something like the modesty myth that I referenced above. The King James Bible actually says that women should adorn themselves in “modest apparel”. However, God never states what that “modest apparel” would look like. In the absence of a command from God, many people, such as myself, have added to God’s commands and come up with modesty rules that state how much of woman’s body must be covered in order to be “modest”. What a farce! Is it a sin for a woman’s upper arm to be visible? No! God could have stated as much if He had so desired. Yet, many women would feel guilty about wearing a sleeveless top because someone told them that it would be “immodest” and therefore disobedience to God. That is called bondage!

Are you ready to leave behind the commands of men and obey Jesus alone? Are you going to keep obeying the commands of your church, your favorite author, the radio preacher, the homeschool conference speaker or the friend who will look down on you if you don’t keep their pet command of men? Are you going to fear man more than you fear God? I beg you, don’t! “The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe.” (Proverbs 29:25)

Drop the commands of men and run!