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Perfecting Holiness

“Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God” (2 Corinthians 7:1 NIV).

In order to explain clearly what this verse conveys, we must go back a few verses. Paul writes to encourage those who have been living the holy life. “What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people’ ” (2 Corinthians 6:16). If we are the temple of God, we want to avoid anything that looks like an idol.

Maybe we don’t worship golden calves or wooden idols as they did in ancient times. But there are plenty of other idols that we come into contact with every day. Money is one; it can become an idol if you focus on it too much. Material things can also be idols. Work can be an idol if it takes up all of your time and resources. An idol could be your house, a car, anything that you love more than God. Even your church can be an idol.

Verse 17 says, “Therefore come out from them and be separate, touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” Perhaps the word ‘embrace’ would be better than ‘touch’ for the examples we are considering. If work becomes more important than God, you must somehow detach from your current worldly view of work. In other words, give up those idols and separate yourself from them. If you will do that, God will come into your heart and be with you for the rest of time.

Finally, we see in verse 18, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” These are the promises 2 Corinthians 7:1 talks about. It is the promise of a loving Father to His children. Now that we understand the rich promises spoken of in 2 Corinthians 7:1, we can strive to purify ourselves from things that contaminate us. As far as contamination of the body, I believe we all know that means we should be supporting our bodies with whatever healthy steps it takes to help them function the way they should. On the other side, it means to cease any habits that may be harmful to the body. You can make real changes that stop contamination of the body. It’s personal and you know what to do.

Paul warns Timothy, “Physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise both in the present life and the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8). Contamination of the spirit happens so subtly.
What contaminates the spirit? Desires and fears undermine our trust in God. They are spiritual poison. Be mindful of the movies you watch, the television programs, games, anything that stamps a negative vision in your mind is harmful. We are surrounded by media, but we do not have to be involved in everything that happens over the airwaves. Our goal here is to perfect holiness because we choose to serve an awesome God. You belong to Him and He wants the very best for you. And so what is our attitude to be? The verse says that “reverence for God” is the key.

Holy Father in Heaven, You are great beyond compare. Only You are worthy of praise and honor. Help me be mindful of the things around me that contaminate my body and spirit. I long for holiness to honor You. Amen.

This is an excerpt from the forty-day devotional, “Attitude Matters”. Click here to order.

Click here to check out my website!

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Boasting

“Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord. For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends” (2 Corinthians 10:17-18 NIV).

Boasting reveals unmerited pride. All pride is dangerous and as the apostle John warns, “the pride of life comes not from the Father, but from the world” (1 John 2:16). Leave behind the attitude of boasting, except in the case of boasting in the Lord. Comparing ourselves with others often leads to a secret or undefined competition. Often we find ourselves attempting to do more and better than someone else. Perhaps we have watched a sibling be successful and strive to be better. Being better is not a bad thing, but doing it for the wrong reason and bragging about it is most disgraceful.

Seeking the praise and approval of others turns the focus on us instead of God. Americans are performance oriented which leads to competition to ‘outdo’ another person. This path leads to more striving than peace. This kind of competition is filled with prideful ambition. We are often focused on doing better rather than being better. Yet we know that who we are, our character, is much more important to the Lord than any tasks we might accomplish. Our striving for perfection ought to be perfection in the Lord. Striving to be more like Jesus is a worthy goal and glorifying to Him. When we work diligently to be more like Him, we are not comparing ourselves to anyone except Him. This restores both our humility and our hope.

The sweetest victories are the ones shared by only you and Him. Yes, I can promise you that the very best successes are the ones you and He can share a high-five over with an astounding resonance of joy!
I have been on both sides of this fence. There was a time I felt I had to perform for the people around me. I had to be better, I had to win ― all the time. When that happened I made sure they knew it. The more I bragged, the more they despised me. And all I wanted was to make them like me. The more they despised me, the harder I worked. I had created a never ending cycle of disapproval.
Thanks be to God! His teaching eventually got through my thick head and I began to change. I still enjoyed excelling at certain things, but I make sure I kept it between me and the Lord. This made my efforts all the more satisfying.

Even my writing is a good example. My writer friends say that my writing does not obey the current style. They say no major publisher will choose my books and publish them. I smile and agree that I’m not stylish. I silently wonder if they would say the same things if they knew how much of my writing comes from the Lord. (I depend on Him constantly for inspiration and direction.) None of my books have turned out at all like I originally thought they would. To God be the glory and I gladly accept the criticism.
Whenever I can have a victory or even a loss between me and the Lord, it is extremely delicious! I would rather boast about what He has done for me than boast about my fruitless accomplishments any day of the week. By fruitless, I mean how many games of Scrabble I won this week or how often I checked for Facebook messages. Activities that waste my time are nothing to boast about.
Again, this attitude of boasting in the Lord ties to having an attitude of humility. That is one attitude that God loves.

Gracious Heavenly Father, You are my King. I praise You above all else. Thank You for your loving kindness and tender-heartedness each day of my life. Show me how to excel in the business of glorifying You. Amen.

This is an excerpt from the forty-day devotional, “Attitude Matters”. Click here to order.

Click here to check out my website!

Attaining Peace

Peaceful Sunrise

“Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble” (Psalm 119:165 NIV).

Finding a person with peace in today’s hurry, scurry world remains a rarity. Think about this for a moment. We find ourselves relentlessly exposed to the static of humanity all around us. If we listened to every advertisement, every plea for contributions, every demand to change something in our lives, every infomercial, every salesman who calls or comes to the door, every time the phone rings with a recorded message, it would make us crazy. The ones already mentioned make up only a fraction of the distractions we deal with on a daily basis.
Instead of finding people at peace, I find people stressed out. Stress takes a toll on the body and the spirit. Many of the medical ads on TV treat conditions that did not even exist twenty-five years ago. Viewers don’t get enough sleep, they are allergic to everything, their eyes are dry, they have incontinence, they have restless leg syndrome.

With communication at an all time high, the world has become exposed to a constant sort of brain-washing by people who have an idea or product to sell. People with an attitude of great peace exude an air of confidence in the midst of a chaotic world. All of the confusion doesn’t seem to affect them. God has made it clear that He has them in the palm of His hand. Everyone wants this kind of peace, but perhaps they don’t understand how to attain it. The world has a different reaction to someone walking around on the planet in the attitude of complete and confident peace, a peace that can only come from the Lord God Almighty. Some people see that peace in you and will actually fear you because peace is so uncommon. If they feel brave, they may ask you how they can get it. When they do ask you, they just gave you permission to tell them about Jesus.

Having an attitude of peace comes from having the heart attitude that we love God and we trust Him, no matter what the circumstances. Bible study and prayer can bring us the great assurance that He will be faithful to hold us in the palm of His hand. Obedience is taught throughout the Bible. When we come to a place that we desire obedience over the rush of the world, we have arrived at the place of peace. We will not stumble.
So what is to be our attitude? Our attitude is love of God’s law. Does this sound difficult? At one time it was, but now God has made it easy. He has written the law on our heart. He has given us a conscience and the Holy Spirit. Once we trust that God’s way is best, our love of the law written on our heart will overflow.

Lord God Almighty, we thank You for Your gracious gift of the peace that transcends all understanding. We know that You are always faithful, even when we are not. Teach me through Your Spirit and Word how I can obey and serve You. Amen.

This is an excerpt from the forty-day devotional, “Attitude Matters”. Click here to order.

Click here to check out my website!

Graduation Day

Before we knew it our mission to Malawi came to an end. The pastors completed their two week Bible study courses and graduation day had arrived! Pastor Chilemba awarded certificates to each participant. Mary Beth presented gifts for them to take home to their wives and I presented gifts for their children.

L-R Pastor Julius, Vicki, Mary Beth, Pastor Chilemba.

The event demanded a group photo. Congratulations to our students!

Graduation picture. Notice the women wearing the crowns from the previous Saturday.

After the group photo it was only fitting that we celebrate with soft drinks and cookies, then the music and dancing began! Soon the three of us were showered with gifts of baskets and skirts. Dancing and praising the Lord! A wonderful end to a life changing trip. Life changing for people in Malawi, and life changing for me!

Grace and Mama Chilemba present me with an African skirt while dancing to music of Malawi!

Most of the pictures for this series about Malawi were skillfully taken by Mary Beth, a few of them were from Charleeda’s collection, and a very few from mine. Thanks to the people of Malawi for taking such good care of us, and blessing us, while we visited them. Thanks to my team members, fearless leader – Charleeda and compatriot – Mary Beth. Thanks to all the people who supported us with prayer and funds to help us bless the people of Malawi. May God bless all of you, and may God continue to bless the United States of America as we go out into all the world to preach His Word!

Humble and Proud of It

On August 13th I will present a message, “Humble and Proud of It,” to the congregation at the evening service at Alma Temple. The service begins at 6:00 pm. Beginning at 6:30 pm the message will be on live radio broadcast on KPOF, AM910 and audio streaming via the internet. You are cordially invited to join us. Alma Temple is located at 1340 Sherman Street, half a block from the state capitol building, Denver, Colorado.

At the conference. Much dancing and celebration.

Pastor Chilemba wastes nothing. As long as he had three teachers from America, he was going to make full use of our time. We were scheduled to teach two five day weeks, but that soon changed. Pastor Chilemba scheduled a church-wide
conference for the weekend. Attendees would be arriving Friday night and I was chosen to kick off the conference with a message to encourage them. After traveling all day, I knew many of them would be very tired. Since I’m not particularly fond of watching people sleep during my messages, I decided to make it short. “How to be Saved and Know It” took twenty minutes to present. After I spoke, Charleeda made an altar call. Then we were swept away to our hotel – before we got to see how many came forward. Pastor told us the next day that several children came forward! Praise God, they would get baptized!

The next morning Mary Beth started off the morning with an inspiring message.

Mary Beth addressed conference with Pastor Julius translating.

After a short lunch, we regathered to crown the women with glory and celebrate God’s blessings!

The women ‘adorned by God.’

The next order of the day was baptism!

Mary Beth observes baptisms.

Dancing and celebration followed baptisms. We were overjoyed that there were 150 baptisms that day! Sunday morning Charleeda gave a powerful message. Soon the conference would end.

Charleeda addresses conference with Pastor Webster translating.

After Charleeda spoke, several dance groups from different parts of Malawi and Mozambique took the stage. These dancers know how to celebrate the love of God! The beautiful music, clothing, and dancing revived us. What an inspiring way to end the conference!

One of the many dance groups celebrating God’s glory!

Another dance team!

The conference ended and everyone gathered for a group picture! One of my treasures.

Last day of the conference. Good-bye dear friends, until we meet again.

Loading up to go home.

Bibles for Malawi

Joseph using his new Bible.

We take so much for granted in the United States. How many Bibles do you have? For the first time, I decided to count the Bibles in my office. I stopped at forty-eight. I had one bookcase left to go and pretty much decided only other teaching books were there, so I didn’t count it. Mind you, these are just the ones in my office! I’m sure David’s office houses at least that many. If I mentally add ones throughout the house (ones by my bed, in the living room, in the bookcase in the hall) I’m sure we have at least one hundred Bibles in this house. Nsanje was a real wake up call.

Charleeda teaching, see Bibles stacked in the background.

We were about to distribute the Bibles when Charleeda noticed one of the men she had taught the year before. She demanded, “Where is your Bible. I gave you a Bible last year. Why didn’t you bring it?” The young man respectfully answered. “My church has only one Bible and I left it for the congregation to use while I attended Bible School.”

Last year Charleeda and Mary Beth had given each pastor a Bible and they were expected to use it in class this year. Remember, these pastors have built up their churches with out the benefit of Bibles. God blesses them.

Bibles not yet distributed. David’s “Iron Sharpens Iron” project goes into effect.

Each of us created a project to benefit the pastors and people of Malawi. David made up the fourth member of our team, as our U.S. anchor. He called his project “Iron Sharpens Iron.” Each pastor would received two Bibles. One would be for himself (pastors from the year before already had one, so they would receive another) and the second would be for a study partner or an accountability partner. This project, funded by our supporters, elated the pastors. Thank everyone so very much for their donations.

Pastors pose with new Bibles.

Isaiah 55:10-11 tells us: As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

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