Devotion to God

Greg and Rachel sat several feet apart on the opposite side of my desk. Within minutes of arriving for marriage counseling, they were loudly arguing. Each blamed the other for the failure of their drug addictions and lack of money. He blamed her for pushing him to get a job so he could buy drugs; she blamed him for making her pregnant so she couldn’t use drugs.

Unable to get a word in, I finally stood on my office chair and yelled at both of them to be quiet. They’d come for help, but if they wanted to fight they could go home. They continued arguing and I showed them the door. They had a piece of paper showing they were married, but their hearts were divided: divided from each other, divided from a common godly purpose, and divided from God.

Before Moses died, God appointed Joshua as successor (Numbers 27:15-23). The Book of Joshua begins with Israel camped on the eastern side of the Jordan River poised to enter Canaan. This generation outlived their parents who all died as God kept them wandering in the wilderness 40 years. As they wandered, they didn’t devote themselves to God, but worshiped idols while going through the motions of serving God (Joshua 24:14-15).

There is no neutrality or compromise in God’s kingdom. Everyone worships or serves something. Many people believe they can worship and serve God and something else simultaneously, but God rejects that notion (Matthew 6:24). Anyone or thing besides Him is a false god.

The Biblical God is jealous for those whom He loves (Exodus 20:5) and one of His divine names is Jealous (Exodus 34:14). Devoted to His people, He won’t allow even the hint of duplicity to slip in between Him and His beloved.

In the final recorded words before he died, Joshua called Israel to devote themselves to obey and serve God alone. The Book of Judges is the record of Israel’s rejection of Joshua’s call. Everyone chose to do what was right in his own eyes and the nation slid into social chaos, political servitude, economic collapse, and religious hypocrisy. God, who knows the heart and mind of every person, revealed every hidden disloyalty and used Israel’s enemies to judge those who served Him from fake, dishonorable, or disrespectful hearts (Joshua 24:14-28). 

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So Take That!

In 325 AD, Roman Emperor Constantine called a meeting of Christian bishops in Nicea, Turkey. They were to search the Scriptures and settle a dispute: Is Jesus eternally God?

Among the bishops were leaders of two factions: Nicholas from Myra, Turkey (the Saint Nicholas of Christmas fame) and Arius of Alexandria, Egypt.

Nicholas was convinced that Jesus was the eternal Second Person of the Godhead, who set aside His glory, entered time and space by taking on human flesh in the womb of a teenage virgin. He lived and died a Man without setting aside His eternal deity, was bodily resurrected after 3 days, then bodily ascended to the right hand of the God the Father, the triumphant Lord and Saviour of God’s elect.

Arius taught that Jesus was a created being, albeit the greatest created being, whom God used to then create this universe.

According to tradition, Emperor Constantine sat on his throne with 159 bishops on his right and another 159 bishops on his left. Arius explained his views with much enthusiasm. Outraged, Nicholas walked up to Arius and punched him squarely in the face. The bishops immediately had “Jolly ol’ Saint Nicholas” thrown in jail and demoted.

From this Council came the Nicene Creed on June 19, 325 AD, affirming the Biblical doctrine of the eternal deity of Jesus. The Father revealed Himself in the life, death, and resurrection of His incarnated Word, Jesus. Jesus is of the same essence as the Father and the Spirit, fully God and fully Man, as declared in the Bible.

The story of Saint Nicholas didn’t show up in any historical accounts for over 1,000 years after the Nicene Council. In original accounts, Nicholas struck a supporter of Arius, hoping to bring him to his senses, not angrily knock him out; Nicholas had an encounter with Mary, who freed him from prison. The earliest records of the Council don’t even include Nicholas’ name.

Jesus was rejected by the Jewish religious leaders for His claims of divinity. They denied that He was anything but a man and all His claims and miracles were of demonic origin. Their rejection led them to demand Jesus be crucified by the Roman government. Three hundred years later, Arius was teaching the same thing.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1).

Sinless Lifestyle

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8). 

I worked in a congregation several years with a pastor who said that he hadn’t sinned since 1948 when he was baptized in the Holy Spirit.

One night a few of us were sitting around in the pastor’s house and he was going on about his sinless lifestyle. His daughter was standing nearby and began shaking her head and then interrupted him. She asked, what about the other night when you saw that red light and drove the car right through it anyway? 

He patted my leg and answered laughingly, Oh Richy boy, that wasn’t a sin, that was just a mistake. 

That man wasn’t fooling his wife, his daughter, his son-in-law, or me. According to God, the only person in the room being deceived was that man.

Burdens are Lifted at Calvary – John M Moore (1952)

Days are filled with sorrow and care,
Hearts are lonely and drear;
Burdens are lifted at Calvary,
Jesus is very near.

Refrain –
Burdens are lifted at Calvary,
Calvary, Calvary;
Burdens are lifted at Calvary,
Jesus is very near.

Cast your care on Jesus today,
Leave your worry and fear;
Burdens are lifted at Calvary,
Jesus is very near.

Troubled soul, the Saviour can see
Ev’ry heartache and tear;
Burdens are lifted at Calvary,
Jesus is very near.

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).

Black Bart

The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe (Proverbs 29:25).

Charles Earl Boles (1829-1888) was a professional thief known in the American West as Black Bart. In an age when people, money, and material goods were physically moved across the vast reaches of the United States, Boles terrified bankers and travelers in California and Oregon.

Bart was called the “Gentleman Bandit” because of his kind demeanor, polite language, and well-kept expensive clothing. His 29 stagecoach robberies netted him almost 13 million dollars in today’s value.

Boles was afraid of horses and conducted all of his robberies on the horse-drawn coaches by foot. For one robbery, Boles stepped in front of the stagecoach on an isolated trail and told the driver and passengers that his gang had them surrounded. Boles pointed to brush surrounding the stage and the rifles sticking from the brush. After Boles made his getaway, the guards found the rifles pointing at them were just sticks made to look like guns.

His final robbery took place in early November of 1883, at the same location of his first robbery. Wearing his well-known flour sack mask, with two holes cut out for his eyes, Boles stepped out from behind a rock with his rifle in his hand. When he climbed into the stagecoach, Boles discovered the box of bank cash was locked and bolted to the floor. As he was working to open the box and get at the cash and gold coins, the guard shot Black Bart. He fled, leaving a few personal items, including his Bible, behind. He was captured by a Wells Fargo detective several days later.

In all of his robberies, Charles Boles never fired a single gunshot. He never swore, made a threat of violence, nor spoke unkindly or harshly to any of his victims. The power of Black Bart was wholly in the fear of not knowing what violence he might do, not what he could or would do.

The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? The Lord is for me among those who help me; therefore I shall see my desire on those who hate me. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man (Psalm 118:6-8).