Notes from an atheist…

If I firmly believed, as millions say they do, that the knowledge and practice of religion in this life influences destiny in another, then religion would mean to me everything. I would cast away earthly enjoyments as dross, earthly cares as follies, and earthly thoughts and feelings as vanity. Religion would be my first waking thought, and my last image before sleep sank me into unconsciousness. I should labor in its cause alone. I would take thought for the morrow of Eternity alone. I would esteem one soul gained for heaven worth a life of suffering. Earthly consequences would never stay my hand, or seal my lips. Earth, its joys and its griefs, would occupy no moment of my thoughts. I would strive to look upon Eternity alone, and on the immortal souls around me, soon to be everlastingly happy or everlastingly miserable. I would go forth to the world and preach to it in season and out of season, and my text would be, WHAT SHALL IT PROFIT A MAN IF HE GAIN THE WHOLE WORLD AND LOSE HIS OWN SOUL?

The Judge standeth at the door.

judge-hitting-gavelJames 5:9 Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door.

I’m reminded of a simple, yet important truth this morning. There’s no need to hold a grudge against a brother. Even if he’s withheld wages, done us wrong, or spoken ill against us, there’s Another Who judges. And James here says “He standeth at the door”. He’s there. He’s nigh. He knows what’s going on. Might we remember that He said “vengeance is mine, I will repay…”

Ye Lust

img_8752 (1)James 4:1-4 From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

When we think of lust, generally, automatically we think of impurity of thoughts, fornication, uncleanness, and sins of the like. However, in this context, there is much more that we can lust after. Verse three goes on to say that there are even things that we ask (pray) for, that aren’t given to us because they stem from the lust of the flesh.

I think lust can be described as a desire and pursuit (mental or physical) of something that God doesn’t intend for us to have. It can be in the context of immorality. But it can also be money, possessions, relationships, imaginations, status, worldliness, and more that we desire, and pursue physically or mentally (remember the Israelites lusting after food?).

Lust is a big deal to the Lord. In context of lust, he says that “friendship with the world in enmity with God.” He also calls those befriending and lusting after these things “adulterers and adulteresses” – a heavy accusation in God’s economy!! if it’s such a big deal to God, we might want to steer clear of these things. The question is, after what are we lusting today? Maybe we’ve allowed impure thoughts linger. Maybe it’s a desire for the things of this world, and we’ve allowed our heart and thoughts to follow these things. Maybe it’s a relationship, status we seek, or a person, position, or possessions. Whatever it is, today, might we “cut it off”. Let’s be content with such things as we have.

If we have, James goes on to give us the remedy for getting right:

James 4:4-10 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. 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. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.

Void of Understanding

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 Proverbs 7:2-4 Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye. Bind them upon thy fingers, write them upon the table of thine heart. Say unto wisdom, Thou art my sister; and call understanding thy kinswoman:

Proverbs 7:6-7 For at the window of my house I looked through my casement, And beheld among the simple ones, I discerned among the youths, a young man void of understanding. 

Today’s reading reminds me that simplicity is never ample justification for the prevention of tragic consequences.  Simplicity didn’t stop this young man from a spiritual dart to the liver. It didn’t stop his from being snared like a bird in a net. It didn’t stop him from marring his life.

I’m reminded, too, that we can not cry “but I didn’t know”. This is why it’s so important to seek wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. This is why it’s so important to have a healthy fear of the Lord.

I’m reminded of a story my uncle used to tell. Before Siri, Cortana, Alexa, and the plethora of virtual assistants available today, a man was reading a map, looking for his destination. He made a (wrong) turn down a street, that he didn’t know was a dead end. He he was simple to the reality that the street was gang infested. He also was void of the knowledge of the fact that his car resembled a rival gang’s car. Toward the end of the street, a barrage of bullets was sprayed toward his car. He and his wife survived, but their baby was struck by a bullet, and killed. Was he trying to do something sinful? No. Was he trying to put his family in harms way? Absolutely not. But his simplicity was the demise of his child, and resulted in a tragedy that would never be forgotten.

Scripture shows us that many times, the simple man suffers the same consequences as the fool. Our simplicity in the truths of God’s Word, and our lack of understanding, may be the downfall of our marriage, our children, or our churches. Let us be students of the Bible. Let us seek wisdom as we would for hid treasure. Let us move from simple to wise as we seek to live this life successfully for Christ.

Keep thy heart

guard-your-heartProverbs 4:23 Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. 

Proverbs 5:21-22 For the ways of man are before the eyes of the LORD, and he pondereth all his goings. His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins.

Yesterday’s and today’s reading go hand in hand. Proverbs 4:23 pleads with us to keep  our hearts with ALL diligence. The word keep refers to “guarding something that is besieged. To protect, conceal, or maintain.” Then today’s reading (Proverbs chapter 5) warns us of the grave dangers of getting involved with a strange woman (anyone who is not my wife).

In this day and age, there is a siege against our hearts. Might we “keep” them with all diligence. Whether on an internet screen, at the store, or with a coworker, we must realize the importance of guarding our heart. The Lord knows what’s going on. And He renders to every man. Let us “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. “

The Lord giveth wisdom

gold pan with golden nuggetsProverbs 2:3-6 Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.

One of my earliest memories is my mom taking us to pan for gold flakes. I remember being there, with other parents and children around us doing the same. People would spend 30 minutes, 45 minutes, even an hour or more to find a couple small, almost weightless flakes of gold. And people get into that. I also remember a friend of mine whose friend was getting into gold mining. He told him how they spend a lot of money on their equipment, go out for days and weeks to prepare, risk their lives while digging and exploring, and search tediously through the earth for gold.

This morning, I’m reminded to passionately seek wisdom from the Lord – for true wisdom comes from Him and His Word. This morning’s Proverbs tells us that if we’re going to receive godly wisdom, we must be willing to search the Word of God like we are searching for silver, or for hidden treasures.  We’re to put time and passion and energy, sifting through the Word looking for the nugget that we need, and that God has for us. Might we place a high value on wisdom from God. But let us remember the prerequisite: “if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD giveth wisdom…”

Praise ye the Lord

Psalm 150:6 Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord . Praise ye the Lord.

Haven’t been in the office the last two days, getting things ready for the upcoming semester. But glad to be back at it today.

This chapter, like the chapters before it, gives us a glimpse into the psalmists heart of praise for the Lord. Our praise should be more than just lip service (though we should praise him with our lips, and that openly). Our praise should be a lifestyle – who we are.

David lived a life of praise. He praised upon his bed. He praised in the sanctuary. He praised among the heathen. He praised among God’s people. And everyone and everything that has breath ought to do the same, for he is worthy.

Today, might we praise the Lord for all He is and all He does.

The proud… afar off.

pridePsalm 138:6 Though the LORD be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth afar off.

I like hard preaching. I like people who know what they believe, and what they stand for. I like to preach hard, and be one who knows what I stand for. But I must be careful in my quest to stand for right and preach it hard. For if I’m not careful, I may allow pride to creep in and show itself forth in my life.

In the verse above, the Lord reminds us of his disdain for pride. God hates pride. He lists it with abominations that he can’t stand. Yet pride is probably the sin we most easily allow inside. And when we do, He stays at a distance from us. Oh we might “learn” from the Word of God – but we’re far off. We might preach, but we’re afar off. We might stand for right, but we’re afar off. We might go soul winning, but we’re afar off. We might stand for right, but be afar off.

Humility is a big deal to the Lord. I want God to have respect unto me, and be close to me. But we see in Psalm 138:6, this comes with lowliness (a mark of humility). Might we seek to humble ourselves today so that the Lord doesn’t have to. Might we shun pride so we can have that close relationship that He desires to have with us. When we do, then we can preach with His power, stand for right with His favor, and preach His truth in His likeness, pleasing Him.

His mercy endureth forever

mercyPsalm 136:1 O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.

Praise the Lord for His mercy! One definition of mercy is, “compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.” Twenty-six times in this chapter, the Psalmist says that “his mercy endureth forever”.

I’m reminded that it’s because of God’s mercies, and not my goodness, that I’m not consumed. His mercies are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness. Praise the Lord for His mercy, faithfulness, and goodness this morning!

Forgiveness with Thee

Psalm 130:3-5 If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared. I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.

As self-righteous as any of us can convince ourselves that we are, the truth is that if the Lord “marked” iniquities, none of us could stand.  I thank the Lord for His forgiveness. I thank Him for his Word. I thank Him for His mercy and redemption (vs 7). And thus when we do, it causes us to fear Him more.