Monday, October 31, 2011

“The Circle of Forgiveness,” Part 2—


6 When the men were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with tambourines and lutes. 7 As they danced, they sang:

“Saul has slain his thousands,
 and David his tens of thousands.”
8 Saul was very angry; this refrain galled him. “They have credited David with tens of thousands,” he thought, “but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?”  9 And from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David.

—The words of the History of King David from 1 Samuel 18:6-8


In the my last blog post, I introduced a new series of posts using these words:

Recently, on this blog site, I’ve written quite a bit about confession, repentance, restitution, and reconciliation. These four individual elements form an interdependent and interlocking, life-sustaining process that some have called “The Circle of Forgiveness.” This process becomes a very important part of the pathway for a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ—that is to say a “Christian” or “Christ-one”—to develop into a fully obedient citizen of the Kingdom of God.

At the same time, each of these elements offers its own set of challenges to our normal understanding. While the basis for the fundamental morality of the United States has deep roots into the Judeo-Christian values, time has tended to soften or distort some of the directness of certain of those values. As a result, people end up with a skewed or distorted view of what these values really mean.

“Repentance” is one such value.

It’s amazing how many times jealousy plants a seed that will grow into a significant sin. In the Scripture passage at the beginning of this blog post, we learn how words of deserved praise can turn the heart of a leader against his underling. The result of such jealousy is truly tragic.

Today, I want to move on to a discussion of “repentance.” Repentance means to “turn one’s back on one’s sin.” It’s as simple as that. You just turn and walk away from a sin you’ve confessed.

To flesh this out a bit more, I want to share some wise words I recently received in a newsletter from my spiritual mentor, Dr. David R. Mains. In this communication with his friends and the supporters of his ministry, David writes:

I have a close friend with whom I’ve made a mutual spiritual journey. We have breakfast together once a month and have been doing so for over ten years.

One morning he told me he had been challenged in his church to go for 30 days without saying anything negative about another person. He was tracking his progress by keeping a coin in his pocket and every time he caught himself saying something negative about someone else, he moved the coin from one side pocket to the other, and then he had to start all over—Day 1, Day 2 ... His goal was to make it through 30 consecutive days without having to move the coin.

“How are you doing?” I asked.

“Well it’s been hard,” he responded. “I haven’t made it through a single day yet.”

“Tell you what,” I offered. ”I’ll do it with you. Let’s try to do it for 50 days. That’s seven weeks plus a day. We’ll kind of keep each other accountable.”

Not too smart on my part. Not too smart to think this wouldn’t be tough for me, just like it was for him, and NOT too smart to say 50 days instead of 30 days. It took me over seven months before I could report to my friend, “I made it!”

There were many times I wanted so much to say something negative about this person or that one. Even when I drove with my wife, Karen, I wrestled with keeping my big mouth shut when certain names of people came up in conversation—all because I didn’t want to have to start over again after 26 good days, or 39, or 47.

What I discovered (again) is that a good habit can be as hard to break as a bad habit.

Here’s something else I discovered. After 50 days of trying with God’s help to be circumspect in an area like this, you become very conscious about your words. Everything you say becomes highly sensitized. All in all, though a struggle, my coin-in-the-pocket exercise was a good experience—so good, in fact, that I’ve tried it with other temptations. The problem with most Christians is that when they confess a sin, they don't really mean it—at least, not in doing the hard work of overcoming that sin.

The Bible gives an excellent example of a man who repented from his sins, but didn’t really mean it because his life never changed. If l had been there and heard his confession, my response would have been, “The man was deeply sorry for his actions. He wept loudly in front of everyone.” I would have predicted we’d see a major change in his life. However, King Saul was setting up a pattern of unrepentant remorse. He said the words, but his life didn't change.

The green-eyed monster of jealousy begins to gnaw in his soul when he hears the crowds singing, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” The refrain galled him, Scripture says, Saul kept a jealous eye on David. (1 Samuel 18:9)

Later, near the Crags of the Wild Goats, while hunting to take David’s life, Saul chooses a cave for a restroom stop and unknown to him, but known to God, it is the very place where his prey is hiding! David refuses the urging of his men to slay the hunter, but as evidence of his restraint, he does cut off a piece of the King’s robe. “The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to the Lord’s anointed or lift my hand against him ... ”

In a little while, after Saul leaves the cave, David calls to the king, tells him what has happened, holds up the sliced material, and Saul, struck with this commendable act calls back, “Is that your voice, David, my son?” He weeps aloud and says, “You are more righteous than I am. You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly ... the Lord delivered me into your hands, but you did not kill me.” (1 Samuel 24:3,4)

It is here that I would have thought Saul’s confession was one of penitent remorse. I would have been wrong.

The only problem is that Saul doesn’t change his actions! You see, to truly confess to God a wrong should carry with it the assumption that you intend to change your behavior. David again spares Saul’s life when he and Abashai sneak into Saul’s camp. Replay: David shows that he has refrained from killing the king. The king repents aloud. But now David is canny enough to realize he must flee. Saul says the words, but he is not willing to change his actions.

Confession is all about wanting to be forgiven for a wrong that has been done PLUS the intention not to do it again.

We all need to think more seriously about the prayer of confession. Saul is, unfortunately, a good illustration of so many of us who admit we are doing something wrong—we have a habit of bad-mouthing others, for instance—but we are not all that serious about changing our ways. Sound all too familiar?

I have this great idea for you. Find a coin, any coin (but preferably one you cannot spend). Put it in a pocket and vow that you will work toward a goal of not changing that coin from one pocket to another for 30 (or 50) days. When you fail, start again—Day One. You may discover, as I did, that you are not really sorry (at least sorry enough to change your behavior) about that prevailing sin you find yourself confessing ... and confessing ... and confessing again.

This great prayer of confession from the Book of Common Prayer incorporates elements I mentioned above. As you are working with repentance in your own life that changes your actions, this may be of help.

Most merciful God,
    we confess that we have sinned against You
    in thought, word, and deed,
    by what we have done,
    and by what we have left undone.

We have not loved You with our whole heart;
    we have not loved our neighbor as ourselves.

We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.

For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
    have mercy on us and forgive us;
    that we may delight in your will,
    and walk in your ways,
    to the glory of your name. Amen.
Copyright © 2011 by Mainstay Ministries. All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.


God desires our obedience. And, He graciously provides ways for us to learn to become obedient. I believe and declare that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can learn to overcome our besetting sins, one sin at a time. We can promptly confess each sin. And then, we can turn away from that sin. In other words, we can “repent” of that sin.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to be our Savior. Thank you for giving us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us.

We ask Your Holy Spirit to help us become aware of the besetting sins that have plagued our lives. More than anything, we desire to overcome these sins. We invite Your Spirit to sound an alarm when we begin to experience a besetting temptation. Help us to refuse the enticement that Satan puts in our pathway. Give us the courage and strength to tell the Evil One, “Be gone!”

Please continue to help us become faithful, obedient citizens of the Kingdom of God. Thank You for your mercy, grace, and love. And, thank you for hearing our prayer, in and through the precious Name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

“The Circle of Forgiveness,” Part 1—


1 Blessed is he
    whose transgressions are forgiven,
    whose sins are covered.
2 Blessed is the man
    whose sin the LORD does not count against him
    and in whose spirit is no deceit.

3 When I kept silent,
    my bones wasted away
    through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night
    your hand was heavy upon me;
    my strength was sapped
    as in the heat of summer.

5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you
    and did not cover up my iniquity.
    I said, “I will confess
    my transgressions to the LORD”—
    and you forgave
    the guilt of my sin.

—The words of King David from Psalm 32:1-5


5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

—The words of the Apostle John from 1 John 1:5-10


Recently, on this blog site, I’ve written quite a bit about confession, repentance, restitution, and reconciliation. These four individual elements form an interdependent and interlocking, life-sustaining process that some have called “The Circle of Forgiveness.” This process becomes a very important part of the pathway for a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ—that is to say a “Christian” or “Christ-one”—to develop into a fully obedient citizen of the Kingdom of God.

At the same time, each of these elements offers its own set of challenges to our normal understanding. While the basis for the fundamental morality of the United States has deep roots into the Judeo-Christian values, time has tended to soften or distort some of the directness of certain of those values. As a result, people end up with a skewed or distorted view of what these values really mean. “Confession” is one such value.

When I have written about the need for confession, as a part of The Circle of Forgiveness, some reader feedback has characterized this word in a way that does not synchronize consistently with the way the Bible characterizes confession.

For example, one reader asked if by confession I meant the kind of teary-eyed response that a televangelist might make to his or her viewers when caught in some moral failure. Many of you will remember such scenes from not all that long ago. Well, I can say emphatically that such a display does not at all represent what I mean when I use the word “confession.”

Other readers have asked if I meant the kind of emotional response that certain denominations in the Protestant Christian family of churches might make when they hear a fiery sermon calling for them to confess their sins and receive God’s grace and mercy. Again, I can confirm that such a display of emotion does not fairly represent what I mean when I write about the word “confession.”

Still another reader suggested that the more staid Protestant denominations might avoid talking about confession purely on the basis that it calls to their minds distasteful images of behavior that simply does not mesh with their natural reserve. I confess I had to laugh when I read that comment. I laughed, not a the dear person writing to me, but at the very idea that some denominations believe they have risen above the obedience that comes from confession.

You see, for the most part, we have lost an understanding of church history. The denominations that, today, many people think of as staid and reserved to the point that little seems to move them emotionally were actually the leaders during the times of the greatest revivals in the history of our nation. It was John and Charles Wesley’s protege, George Whitfield, through whom God brought about the national revival known as the Great Awakening in the time period just prior to the onset of the Revolutionary War. The Wesley’s, of course, were the founders of Methodism.

Similarly, significant periods of revival in our nation—including the Second Great Awakening of the early 1800s and the Great Lay Prayer Revival of 1857 and 1858—had significant leadership from Presbyterians. In fact, the Welsh Revival of 1904 and 1905 began with the testimony of a young Presbyterian preacher-in-training, Evan Roberts.

So, you can see why I might laugh. The very denominations that we may think of today as “too cool for school,” at least when it comes to emotional response to a message from God, are the very denominations that God once used to ignite the fire of sweeping revivals. Why in the Welsh Revival, within six months of its beginning, 150,000 souls were added to the church rolls.

No, confession is not about emotion. Although at times, when people sense the Holy Spirit convicting them of their sins, they do weep in remorse. Confession is really about obedience.

The Scripture passages at the beginning of this blog post capture the real idea of confession.

King David became overwhelmed by the awareness of his sin. This awareness came to him as a gift from the Holy Spirit. One of the Spirit’s principal tasks is to bring an awareness of sin to the mind and heart of a sinner. Before someone acknowledges the gift of salvation that God has given them through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, that awareness opens up an understanding, deep within the human heart: that God loves us with an everlasting love and has made provision for our salvation.

Once an individual acknowledges this work of God’s grace, the Holy Spirit becomes the One who comes alongside us on our spiritual journey and directs our pathway. Part of that pathway guidance is to convict us of sins that we commit as we walk our daily road of life.

So you see, confession is not necessarily an emotional outburst expressing great sorrow at what one has done. Rather, it is an acknowledgement that one has committed a sin. A good example of this comes to us from Jesus’ Parable of the Lost Son in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 15.

17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

Did you notice what happened to the Lost Son? He came to his senses. That’s right. He came to his senses. And, when he came to his senses, he made a simple—and seemingly unemotional—acknowledgement: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.”

So, when I write in my blog posts about “confession,” that’s what I’m talking about. Not a tearful, moaning, wailing, emotional outcry concerning one’s sin. No. Just a simple, straightforward acknowledgement that one has committed sin. That’s all there really is to confession.

When faced with the need to enter the Circle of Forgiveness, believers take the first step when they acknowledge that they have committed sin. That is to say, they confess their sins.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to be our Savior. Thank you for giving us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us.

We ask Your Holy Spirit to help us become aware of the sins we may have committed against You and against others. We pray that Your Spirit will enable us to recognize our sins and enter into the Circle of Forgiveness. We desire to grow in our knowledge of You, so that we may more obediently follow Your ways and live our lives to serve Your Son, Jesus, and Your Kingdom.

More than anything, we want to become faithful, obedient citizens of the Kingdom of God. Thank You for choosing us to belong to that Kingdom. And, thank you for hearing this prayer, as we come to You in and through the blessed Name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.


Monday, October 24, 2011

Pressing On


7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.
8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,
14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

15 All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.

—The words of the Apostle Paul from Philippians 3:9-16


“What do I do now?”

Have you ever gotten to a place in your life where it seems as if you have exhausted every possible human effort to right a wrong, or achieve a hope or dream, or gain a promotion, or complete a difficult task? In some ways, reaching that “end point” seems harder than the energy it took to struggle through whatever quest on which you had embarked. Not only have you exhausted every possible human effort, but you’ve run out of every spiritual means to achieve your objective.

You started at the very beginning by committing your efforts to God in prayer. You sought the counsel of the Holy Spirit by paying particular attention to insights He might give you as your read your Bible. Even as you studied God’s Word, you remained sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s nudging, as you immersed yourself in the text.

Not only did you begin your quest with prayer, you continued to pray—earnestly and fervently—throughout every step along the way. In fact, the more resistance you experienced, the more you prayed. You spent so much time in prayer that some even criticized you for not spending enough time trying to move forward.

Beyond your prayers and study of God’s Word, you sought the counsel of wise men and women of faith. You laid out your strategy before them and eagerly waited to hear their comments, suggestions, and advice. When you sensed the Holy Spirit affirming the counsel they gave you, you followed it with intentionality.

Realizing that noting of value ever happens quickly, you waited on God and sought His peace in the matter. You resisted anything on your part that would unnaturally accelerate a conclusion. You took to heart the Prophet Isaiah’s exhortation from Isaiah 40:28-31

28 Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
    The Lord is the everlasting God,
        the Creator of the ends of the earth.
    He will not grow tired or weary,
        and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
        and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
        and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the LORD
        will renew their strength.
    They will soar on wings like eagles;
        they will run and not grow weary,
        they will walk and not be faint.

In spite of all of this determination and effort, you find yourself at what seems to represent the end of your quest. You did not right the wrong. You did not achieve your hope or dream. You did not gain the promotion. You did not complete the difficult task. “What do I do now?” You ask in confusion, discouragement, and pain.

I think I have a word for you from the Lord through the pen of the Apostle Paul. Please take note of his words in the Scripture passage at the beginning of this blog post. Paul describes the philosophy on which he relies, as he continues his unrelenting journey for Christ:

“Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Yes! Don’t keep looking back at the seeming failure of this most recent quest. Turn your head to the future and press on. It’s a new day. The sooner you accept the fact that you cannot change the past, the more readily you will move forward.

God has a new quest for you. He wants to turn the page and open up a whole new chapter in your life. Your future success does not depend on a failed past. No! He will renew your strength. He will provide everything you need to take on a new challenge, a new opportunity, a new period of blessing. It does you no good to spend time trying to figure out why you didn’t succeed.

God has a reason why you didn’t achieve your objective. It may have nothing to do with you. It may have something to do with the other people involved. Because God is always at work to will and to do of His good pleasure, we don’t always understand what He’s doing. That’s okay because He’s God and we’re not!

So, don’t wallow in discouragement or dispair. Turn your back on what lies behind. Face toward what lies ahead. Pick up the possessions that you’ve packed for this new journey and move forward.

What I’m saying, distilled into a sentence reads something like this: “Because God loves you so much, He wants you to turn away from past failures and keep moving forward to win the prize He has for you in Christ Jesus.”

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to be our Savior. Thank you for giving us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us.

We ask Your Holy Spirit to help us turn away from our past failures and look forward toward the new day that you are bringing into our lives. We trust You to lead and guide us along this new pathway. Strenghten us by Your Word. Renew within us a strong sense of Your Presence. Vanquish every fear and doubt that would keep us rooted in the past. Grant us courage for what lies ahead and give us complete peace about what lies behind.

Thank You for loving us with Your everlasting love. And, thank you for hearing this prayer, as we come to You in and through the powerful and supportive Name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Don’t Fight Them! Love Them!


9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.
11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

—The words of the Apostle Paul from Romans 12:9-21


“I have to be careful where I sit in church these days,” the respected church member told his friend. “Otherwise, I might end up sitting next to someone I’d rather spit on than ‘pass the peace’ to.”

“Are you visiting today?” the usher asked the long time member, as she entered the church for the first time in a long time.

“You’re a spy!” the parishoner sputtered when he turned around and saw who was sitting behind him in church.

No, these exchanges do not come from the script of the latest reality soap opera, When Church Goes Terribly Wrong. Sadly, they all come from first-hand (first sources) separate reports I have received by telephone from tearful friends at a nearby church.

The actions of the leadership toward a long-time staff member, spurred on by a relatively new pastor determined to “clean house no matter what the cost,” has caused a tragic division. People, who once labored together with smiling faces and warm hearts, now snarl at each other across an ever-widening divide of distrust and seeming hatred-tinged anger. A once-proud congregation has begun dropping into a wallow of ineffectiveness and shame. A church, known in the past for exquisite and highly-engaging discipleship through its world-class music program, has begun falling into confusion and disarray.

As I considered the many implications of this heartbreaking state of affairs, I remembered that my dear friend, Fr. Eric A. Kouns, has written about the Kingdom of God in his most recent blogs. (You may click here to read what he has written in its entirety.) He states, in part:

While the New Testament does not contain a constitution or a set of bylaws for the way Kingdom citizens should live, it is not difficult to surmise such a pattern for behavior. Kingdom citizens should emulate the character of the King. The cultivation and development of Christlike character traits is called spiritual formation, and it is the most important work in which the church can be involved. It includes public worship, personal devotion, and self-sacrificing service. And it takes a church, the community of the King, to be the context, the fertile environment, in which spiritual formation can flourish.

The truth about the Kingdom of God can resolve all manner of church conflicts—simply follow the course that most consistently models the values of the Kingdom and the character of the King. It can provide guidance in political issues and matters of public policy—support the candidates and policies which are most likely to produce a society which reflects Kingdom values.

Kingdom values breed Kingdom obedience. Kingdom obedience breeds Kingdom behavior. So, what does the Bible have to say about the way brothers and sisters in Christ should treat each other—not just at times of disagreement and division, but—at all times?

In the Scripture passage at the beginning of this blog post, the Apostle Paul gives firm instruction to the believers gathered in the newly formed church at Rome. He tells them to mark their behavior by the boundaries of love. He tells them to speak blessings, not cursings. He urges them to live in harmony.

“But, you don’t understand!” you insist. “You don’t know how scornfully they’ve treated me. Their lying words have damaged my reputation. They’ve nearly destroyed me by their innuendo and false accusations. They have harmed my family. They have villified my friends.”

Oh, but I do understand. Believe me, I understand your pain. I know what it is to have a new pastor come to a church and utterly destroy an important part of my life and my ministry by pushing me out of my full-time volunteer position, even though I did absolutely nothing to merit such treatment. I’ve experienced the distress of watching every policy I so carefully developed, every management practice I put in place, every effort I made to develop a culture of excellence all fall into complete disarray. It’s as if the five and a half years I invested in bringing order out of chaos was all for nothing.

I’ve experienced the sting of people I had respect for turning on me and openly displaying how much they now despise me. I feel the wrenching chest pains that come from the unbelieveably extreme stress of trying to maintain a strong witness for Christ in the face of a host of demeaning actions on the part of church leaders who seem to have no sensitivity as to what the Bible says about their responsibilities and their decisions.

In spite of all that I’ve experienced in my life—and those experiences could produce intensely negative feellings in me, if I would allow it—I have also learned that my Savior requires more of me. He requires my obedience. He has set the example of how to behave. He handled far more severe disrespect and despiteful treatment than I will ever experience. Yet, He never stopped loving those He came to save.

So when the Apostle Paul tells me to “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves...Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer...Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse...Live in harmony with one another..” I have my marching orders. And, so do you.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to be our Savior. Thank you for giving us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us. We invite Your Holy Spirit to melt our hardened hearts. No matter how those who despise us may treat us, we plead with You to help us respond in love. Grant to us the ability to love those who hate us. Even as we hold unswervingly to the truth of Your Word, help us to respond with gentleness and kindness to those who would rather spit on us than shake our hands.

We humbly submit to Your will for our lives. And, for this church whose leaders have placed it in such peril, we pray for Your divine intervention. Sweep over this congregation with a powerful spiritual wind of revival. Be pleased to work out Your perfect will for this church, and for every church that finds itself divided.

Thank You for hearing our prayers, as we talk with You in and through the tenderly obedient Name of Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.


Monday, October 17, 2011

A Way Out


13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

—The words of the Apostle Paul from 1 Corinthians 10:17


The plotting of a good novel, or fictional short story, always contains certain elements intended to create a sense of imaginary realism that hopes to emulate ordinary life. Professional writers describe these elements as “supporting the arc of the storyline.”

The elements include the following:

  • Introduction
  • Rising Action
  • Climax
  • Falling Action
  • Resolution

In addition to these five elements supporting the storyline arc, in order to grab the reader’s attention, somewhere in one of those elements the writer must provide a sixth element:

  • The Narrative Hook

The Narrative Hook reaches out and draws the reader into the heart of the story. A properly designed and executed Hook can make the reader believe that he or she has actually become part of the story itself.

A good writer can incorporate these elements in a plausible manner and produce a generally well-received piece of writing. But, a truly excellent writer can incorporate these elements in such a seamless manner that the prose will literally transport the mind of the reader smoothly and forcefully. As a result, the reader will not want to stop reading. In fact, when the story concludes, the reader will likely feel deep regret and a profound sense of loss that the narrative has ended.

If you’ve ever read a story that you simply could not put down, or one that you didn’t want to end, you will understand what I’m describing. Those exact reader reactions motivate countless tens of thousands of writers every day. A writer’s ultimate success comes from achieving the high praise of readers who want the story to go on and on and on.

If you’ve ever read C. S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia or J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter stories, you will discover a writer’s ultimate triumph. Each of these authors constructed the arc of their storylines in such a way as to compel readers to long for the next book, so that the story might continue. Not only did each story in the series have its own unique and well-constructed storyline arc, the series as a whole had an arc, as well. In the case of both authors, readers flocked to obtain the next book in the series, as soon as the publisher released it for sale. That’s what successful fiction writing is really all about.

Have you ever thought about the fact that each of our spiritual lives has a storyline arc? It does, you know. But, rather than the smooth parabolic arc of good fiction writing, the storyline arcs of our spiritual tales often have some relatively sharp peaks and deep valleys. One of the challenges we each must face deals with how we respond when we find ourselves in those deep valleys.

The Scripture passage at the beginning of this blog post comes from the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth. If you look closely at this chapter, you will discover that Paul has just finished a rather weighty discourse on the fate of God’s chosen people over the span of time. Paul punctuates his description with incidents where some fell into sin and received punishment from God for that unconfessed and unrepentant sin.

Paul concludes his instruction with the words quoted above. In the King James Version, the translators use the phrase “way of escape” in place of the New International Version’s “way out.” Frankly, I like that particular turn of phrase: “way of escape.” It reminds me of some exciting chapter in a favorite bit of imaginary fiction writing:

Young Christian finds himself deeply mired in discouragement. He has struggled to trust the Lord Jesus Christ with every aspect of his life. He has chosen a pathway of obedience. He has spent time in prayer and in the study of God’s Word. He has committed his way to God. He has seen times of great victory in his life.

But now, he finds himself in what John Bunyan in Pilgrim’s Progress called “the slough of despond.” He has lost his job through no fault of his own. He has tried to find work, but the tough economy has erected seemingly insurmountable barriers. He has spent all of his retirement savings, little money as that was. And now, he faces the real possibility that he will lose his home.

On top of all of this, he has recently learned that he has a significant health problem. He doesn’t have insurance to pay for the doctors and medicines he will need to get better. He has come to the place where he’s not sure he can take any more. What is he going to do?

You may be experiencing something similar in your own life right now. Or, maybe you’re one who has been most fortunate throughout your life. You really haven’t had it so bad, at least compared to many others you’ve heard about. No matter what your particular situation, it’s important for you to know that God only tests you—or tempts you—just so far. At that moment when you don’t think you can take one more moment of the particular peril that surrounds your life. BAM!! A way out will appear!

Yes! God will always provide a means of escape. Why? Because He has promised to do so in the very Scripture verse at the beginning of this blog post. God will never test you beyond the point that you are able to bear the testing. When you reach the point beyond which you would utterly break, God will open up a pathway of escape. He will give you a way out.

God, our God of Love, loves you so much that He will not set aside the testing that comes from living in a world cursed by sin. But, He has promised to send His Holy Spirit to dwell within you and to lead you and guide you every step of the way along the road of your life.

So, take heart. The escape hatch lies just around the corner of the particular testing you now endure. And, God even walks with you along those few more steps that you must take to reach the way out He has provided for you.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to be our Savior. Thank you for giving us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us. We rely on the Spirit’s tender care, as we make our way through this current time of testing.

We walk confidently forward in the knowledge that You have promised You would not test us beyond the point we are able to bear that testing. We draw our hope and strength from knowing that You have provided a way out for us.

Thank You for being Who You are. And, thank You for hearing our prayers, as we talk with You in and through the mighty Name of Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Discerning the Truth


21 My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment,
         do not let them out of your sight;

—The words of King Solomon from Proverbs 3:21

14 The discerning heart seeks knowledge,
         but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly.

—The words of King Solomon from Proverbs 15:14

9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

—The words of the Apostle Paul from Philippians 1:9-11


Can you tell the difference between the truth and a lie?

“That depends on the skill of the liar,” you may respond.

We all like to think of ourselves as clever and wise. Have you ever said, “You have to get up pretty early in the morning to put one over on me!”? Is that so? I’m quite certain that an experienced liar, if he or she wanted to do so, could weave a very believable tale that you would swallow “hook, line, and sinker.” Think back across the span of your life. Has anyone ever successfully deceived you, at least for a time? I’ll bet at some point in your life, somebody told you a lie and you believed that lie.

The truth is that most of us believe a lie from time to time. In fact, on a daily basis, the media bombards us with lies. Well, they wouldn’t consider them lies. They would say that what they’re peddling is “entertainment.”

For example, have you ever watched Ice Road Truckers? This show depicts the terror of driving heavily loaded tractor-drawn trailers across the icy wasteland of northern Alaska and northern Canada. In almost every episode, one of the truckers faces a dire set of circumstances. The story has a way of pulling a viewer into the middle of each crisis. You began to wonder how the trucker can possibly survive this latest peril, especially when he or she labors all alone in the vastness of this northern wilderness.

Wait a minute! All alone? What about the camera operator and support crew? What about the technicians riding in the van that follows each particular trucker wherever he or she roams? You see, it’s really all an illusion. Oh, it’s a great story. But, the trucker never actually faces any peril alone. It’s all a lie.

I have heard people recounting the latest episode of IRT with all seriousness. They speak of how terrifying it must feel to realize you face a difficulty in such a bitterly cold climate with no one around to help you for miles and miles.

From the safe distance of reading this blog, you may chuckle with me at how easily make-believe becomes reality when portrayed in such a compelling manner. But, have you ever stopped to think about the people around you every day who may also portray a condition or situation in such a compelling manner that, without thinking the matter through, you readily accept the truthfulness of whatever yarn they spin?

As the Scripture passages at the beginning of this blog post illustrate, God warns us throughout the Bible that we need to exercise discernment. God feels so strongly about this matter that He has even given certain brothers and sisters in Christ a spiritual gift of discerning the presence of evil in another person or situation.

Even so, God expects every believer to exercise discernment. You simply dare not blindly follow anyone. God expects His children to exercise discernment in every situation of life. You must not make any decision without expending a wholehearted effort to discover the truth.

Let me give you a concrete example. Suppose you serve on a church ruling board. The pastor comes to the board and says that you board members must terminate the employment of one of the staff members. When you ask why, the pastor says that he/she will not tell you what the staff member has done because he/she does not want to besmirch the reputation of that staff member. The pastor asks you to trust him/her that the staff member has committed a series of horrible offenses that the pastor can no longer tolerate. Further, the pastor wants you to keep this matter absolutely secret. When you press a little further, another board member speaks up and says that this staff member has a long history of problems getting along with previous pastors. Satisfied, you vote to terminate the employment of the staff member.

Have you exercised discernment? No! In fact, you have failed the “Discernment Test” miserably!

Here's where you went wrong:

  1. You took the pastor at his/her word without seeking factual substantiation. You can no more trust a pastor than you can trust any other person. Pastors are human, too. They, like you, are merely sinners saved by God’s grace. No matter how much you may like your pastor, or respect him/her, or think of him/her as trustworthy, he/she is subject to all the foibles of sin. So, just because your pastor tells you something, you dare not automatically and non-critically and non-discerningly believe it.

  2. You didn’t ask for proof. The minute the pastor said he/she wouldn’t tell you what the staff member had done, all of your discernment alarm bells should have begun to ring. If you, as a member of the church ruling board, cannot know all the necessary details in order to reach a proper decision, then something is radically wrong with what you’re being told. Never, never, never accept unproven allegations against anyone. And, even when you’re given “proof,” study it carefully to weigh the accuracy of the information. Investigate for yourself. Ask questions. Talk to the parties involved. Do not ever, ever, EVER make a decision based on heresay!

    And, just as you should not have taken the pastor at his/her word, you should not have taken the unsubstantiated testimony of your fellow board member at his/her word. Demand proof. Stick to the rule: “No written, concrete proof—no action!”

  3. You didn’t ask the pastor whether or not—in dealing with the offenses of this staff member—the pastor followed Matthew 18:15-17. None other than Jesus, Himself, requires every believer to follow the instruction in that passage when faced with a situation where another believer commits a sin. The pastor should have followed Jesus’ instruction. Failure to do so completely invalidates his/her request to terminate the staff member. The pastor’s failure to follow Matthew 18:15-17 should have ended the matter right there. But, you didn’t ask the question, so you contributed to the failure. In fact, by firing the staff member without the due process provided by Jesus’ instruction, YOU have sinned against that staff member. Shame on you!

  4. You didn’t ask to have the staff member appear before the church board and be examined regarding the charges the pastor has made. Instead, without practicing discernment, you made a choice. You chose the pastor over the staff member without even giving the staff member a proper hearing. Scripture absolutely forbids such a choice. We are told in 1 Timothy 5:21 that we must not show preference for one person over another.

    In the Kingdom of God, no hierarchy exists. The pastor is no more important than a staff member. In fact, the pastor is no more important than you are. We are all equal in the sight of God. Did you get that? As it clearly states in Galatians 3:26-29, we are all equal in the sight of God!

  5. You allowed the pastor to insist on secrecy. There are no secrets in the Kingdom of God. Do you understand that? There are no secrets in the Kingdom of God. Because we are all equal in God’s sight, nothing truthful and righteous need ever be done in secret. No one has the right to withhold information from another believer. Over and over, the Bible gives instruction that anything secret will be revealed. (For example, see 2 Corinthians 4:2)

    Don’t fall into the trap of believing that because you are on the church board you have become a member of a very special club that knows secrets the ordinary members of your church don’t know. As a board member, you are what Scripture calls a “steward.” Do you know what a steward is? A steward is a slave elevated to a position of responsibility in his/her master’s household. A steward has responsibility, but a steward is still a slave, still a servant. When you are elevated to the position of steward, you do not become a master. You are still a slave. You are no better than any of the other slaves (or, more correctly, “bond-servants”—see Deuteronomy 15:16-17 and 1 Corinthians 4:1-2).

If you’ve found yourself in a scenario similar to the one I used as an example, you have fallen into sin. You have participated in the destruction of a staff member’s reputation, even his or her very life. You have blindly followed a pastor who has not, himself/herself, followed the dictates of Scripture. It doesn’t matter whether his/her fellow pastors have rallied around him to affirm the rightness of his actions. Sin is sin! Disobedient denial of Christ’s teaching is grievous to the Lord and, thus, grievous to the body of Christ, the church.

Ultimately, the truth always triumphs. That’s why God expects believers to use the discernment He has given them to seek out and follow the truth. Let me offer that conclusion to you again: God expects believers to use the discernment He has given them to seek out and follow the truth.

“Well,” you may say, “what do I do about it now? We fired the staff member. It’s too late to fix that.” No, it’s not! It’s never too late to confess your sin, repent of your sin, make restitution for your sin, and receive total reconciliation.

Whatever you do, don’t treat this like the workman treated the damaged gypsum board (drywall) in the ceiling of my garage. A leak in the roof damaged the drywall. Instead of cutting out the damaged section, the carpenter who came to make the repair just applied some “mud” and then painted over the damaged spot. In no time at all, the damage became visibly apparent again.

To truly repair something as serious as sin, you must “cut out the bad spot and replace it with new material before you repaint it.” Said another way, you must confess your sin, repent of your sin, make restitution for your sin, and receive reconciliation with God and with your brother or sister in Christ. Nothing less than these four elements will do.

Maybe in your life you have not experienced anything at all like the example I gave. Yet, from time to time, you have been deceived by someone whom you trusted. You must learn from your mistake. You must make a conscious decision to practice discernment. You must do this because God expects believers to use the discernment He has given them to seek out and follow the truth.

(And, by the way—especially in reading what I have written in this blog post—please exercise your discernment. If the Holy Spirit testifies to your mind and heart that what I have written here is true, then act accordingly. If the Holy Spirit does not affirm that what I have written is true, then cast my words to the four winds.)

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God for loving us. Thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus, to be our Savior. Thank You for teaching us through Your Word to use our discernment to seek out and find the truth in every situation.

Help us to allow the Holy Spirit to point us in the right direction. And, when we meet with our fellow believers, help us seek out those in our number to whom You have given the gift of discernment of spirits. Help us to allow them to make us aware when evil wanders near.

Please help us—where we have failed to discern the truth and this failure has caused us to sin—to confess, repent, provide restitution, and receive reconciliation. We pray this prayer in and through the powerful and protective Name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.


Monday, October 10, 2011

When Leaders Sin


17 Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.

—The words from Hebrews 13:17


22 “‘When a leader sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the commands of the Lord his God, he is guilty. 23 When he is made aware of the sin he committed, he must bring as his offering a male goat without defect. 24 He is to lay his hand on the goat’s head and slaughter it at the place where the burnt offering is slaughtered before the Lord. It is a sin offering. 25 Then the priest shall take some of the blood of the sin offering with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering and pour out the rest of the blood at the base of the altar. 26 He shall burn all the fat on the altar as he burned the fat of the fellowship offering. In this way the priest will make atonement for the man’s sin, and he will be forgiven.’’

—The words of Law of God through Moses from Leviticus 4:22-25


15 “Because of all their wickedness in Gilgal,
    I hated them there.
    Because of their sinful deeds,
    I will drive them out of my house.
    I will no longer love them;
    all their leaders are rebellious.

—The words of God through the Prophet Hosea from Hosea 9:15


17 The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. 18 For Scripture says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.” 19 Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. 20 But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning. 21 I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism.

—The words of the Apostle Paul from 1 Timothy 5:17-21


I grew up in the period of time that spanned the end of the 1940s and extended into the mid-1960s. During this time, I spent literally thousands of hours in church. My parents were both intensely involved in the leadership and ministry of the church. My father served as church treasurer for over 25 years. He took over that position when the previous treasurer was caught with his hand in the till.

In my teenage years, I became a leader in Youth for Christ and worked with dozens of local pastors and the leaders of the various churches. I sooned learned that church pastors and leaders come in all varieties.

In many cases, pastors and leaders consist of truly dedicated individuals who love the Lord Jesus Christ and consider it a sincere privilege to serve the Kingdom of God. Most of these leaders came to their leadership positions because they met the requirements laid out by the Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:6-9.

For the first time, while attending Board of Directors’ meetings for Youth for Christ, I encountered behavior on the part of pastors and church leaders that did not seem to coincide with the requirements laid out in Scripture. I approached a pastor for whom I had deep respect and asked him about what I had observed.

“One of the hardest tasks you will have throughout your Christian life will be to balance what Scripture says about church leaders when you observe them acting in ways that defy Scriptural principles,” he told me. “You will do well to balance what Scripture says about respecting leaders, but also not tolerating their sin.”

If you examine very carefully the several Scripture passages at the beginning of this blog post, you will see a span of exhortation regarding leaders in the church. In the Old Testatment passages, the Law offers some very specific requirements regarding the handling of unintentional sin. By implication, one could conclude that intentional sin was wholly unacceptable. In the New Testament passages, you can begin to see the pattern of balance that my pastor friend urged me to follow, lo those many years ago.

Give the leaders in your church all the respect that they are due. But, if you observe any of your leaders behaving in a sinful way—whether in their personal lives or in the leadership decisions that they make in the church—I urge you to follow Scripture. Do not tolerate sin. Call them to confession and repentance. To do anything less will allow the sinful leaders to plant seeds that could blossom in such a way that the unconfessed and unrepented sins might well destroy the effectiveness of your church.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God for loving us. Thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus, to be our Savior. Thank You for giving us Your Holy Spirit to guide us in all our relationships, including the relationships we have with the leaders in our churches.

Please grant us the wisdom to maintain a balance between honor due those who lead and intolerance for their sins. Help us to obey Your Word and live purposefully and intentionally for You each day. Thank You for Your watchful care over us, as You guard our hearts and minds. Protect us from leaders who would take us in a direction of disobedience to Your Word and Your will. We pray, with thanksgiving, in the powerful and protective Name of Jesus our Lord and Savior. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Alive in Christ


4 So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God. 5 For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. 6 But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

—The words of the Apostle Paul from Romans 7:4-6


In a spiritual sense, which would you rather be, dead or alive? To most people, that seems like a mighty silly question, doesn’t it? Even if a person struggles spiritually in despair over some deep hurt in his or her inner being, that person generally still wants to cling to spiritual fullness in his or her life. After all, if you become dead spiritually, you won’t find out how the story of your spiritual life may end. Again, I’m talking about spiritual life and asking if you will choose death or life.

In the Scripture passage at the beginning of this blog post, the Apostle Paul lays out a key element in his theology. Paul writes to the Christians gathered in Rome about the relationship of the Jewish Law and the redemptive power of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Law condemns the Jews to death by pointing out the sins they have committed and continue to commit. Yes, once each year the high priest enters the Holy of Holies and makes a sacrifice to cover the sins of the Jewish people. But, that sacrifice has no permanency. It lasts only for a season. It has limited effectiveness.

Paul joyfully reports that a permanent and lasting sacrifice has been provided by God for all mankind, through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus has paid the penalty for the sins of all those who will believe in Him. Whereas the Law convicts people of their sin—and that conviction leads to death—the power of Christ’s sacrificial death pays the penalty for people’s sins and His resurrection leads to everlasting life.

Interestingly, in His mercy and grace, God allows us to choose. We can either cling to the Law and allow it to continue to condemn us to spiritual death. Or, we can choose to place our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and allow Him to grant us continually renewed lives. As Paul wrote to the church at Corinth:

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation;
    the old has gone, the new has come!

Dear friend, I urge you to choose life in Christ today. Accept the cleansing that God has provided for you. Put your faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. If you do, you will experience freedom from spiritual death, both now, and for all eternity.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God for loving us. Thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus, to be our Savior. Thank You for giving us Your Holy Spirit to draw us irrestibly into Your grace.

Please allow us to sense Your Presence in our lives each day. As we wander through the world around us, help us to see Your hand at work in our lives. Remind us, frequently, of Your great love for us. And, help us to sense the renewing of your Holy Spirit within us. We pray, with thanksgiving, in the matchless and redeeming Name of Jesus, our Lord and Savior. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.


Monday, October 3, 2011

But, What About the Others?


4 It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us.

—The words of the Apostle John from 2 John 1:4


I have enjoyed mystery novels for a long, long time. For me, a good mystery novel has a plot that grabs me and holds my attention. Similarly, if a mystery novel can truly engage me, motivate me to think ahead and try to predict the outcome, but then, surprise me with some unique twist in the plot, that’s when a good mystery novel becomes a great mystery novel.

I particularly enjoy mystery novels that challenge me to discover which of the characters represent the “good guys” and which represent the “bad guys.” It’s not always easy to tell, at first.

However, as the plot unfolds and we see the characters in different situations, it sometimes becomes apparent which ones represent good and which ones represent evil. Occasionally, a character that I at first thought was good, turns out to be really bad. When this happens I always feel disappointed. But, I also recognize that the goodness of the good characters becomes heightened by the evil of the evil characters.

I also find it particularly fascinating, when the situation in which a character finds himself or herself gives that character a chance to turn from lies and move toward and into a pathway of truth. Sometimes, the character will make that choice. Other times, the character will double-down on the pathway of lies. Each choice offers consequences. On the pathway of truth, the character will find redemption. On the pathway of lies, the character will find damnation.

The statement that the Apostle John writes in his second epistle—that’s the passage at the beginning of this blog post—has always intrigued me. John celebrates that he has found some of the Elder’s children following the truth. I have always wondered what happened to the other children.

You see, if some children walk in the truth, it goes without saying that other children must walk in lies. There’s no middle ground, no shade of gray, no compromize position. Either the children walk in the truth of God’s revelation in and through His written Word, or they walk in a pattern governed by lies.

I wonder what turned them away from truth. They were children of the same mother. They belonged to the same family. They had the same instruction. They had the same opportunity. They had the same wealth of positive experience. They had seen where following the truth would lead, yet they chose lies over truth.

I suspect that they began to turn from the truth in small ways, at first. A little lie here. Another little lie there. Instead of holding firmly to the truth, they began to cut corners, to compromize, to convince themselves that their own motives held more importance than faithfulness to the truth.

Little by little, small act by small act, they started down the pathway of lies. Soon, truth was left far behind. The bright, shining glory of the truth, became clouded in a mist of lies. Where once the truth lighted their pathway, now the lies they chose blotted out that light. So, they wandered—stumbled really—along a pathway that they could no longer see clearly.

That’s how Satan works, you know. A little nudge here, a poke there, and soon the Evil One has manipulated you onto a pathway of lies. The darkness begins to set in and you soon do not even remember what the bright light of the day of truth even looked like.

I grieve for these other children. I long to read of how they came to their senses, confessed their sins, repented of their sins, made restitution for their sins, and received the reconciliation with God and man that would set them firmly back on the pathway of truth.

Sadly, John’s letter gives us no such end to the story. We don’t know what happens to the other children. John leaves their fate up to our imagination, at least insofar as this letter is concerned.

But, in our own lives, we can rest with surety on the fact that God longs to help keep us on the pathway of truth. That’s why God has given every person who believes on His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, the blessed Presence of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes alongside us to guide us. He lives within our hearts to prompt us to follow the truth. He captivates our minds, if we will allow Him to do so, and makes clear, truthful thinking a normality for us.

What about you, dear one? Will you consciously choose to stay on the pathway of truth? As you examine your mind and heart, consider whether your fellow believers might someday ask, “But, what about the others?” Instead, may you be one of whom the Apostle can write, “It gives me great joy to find you walking in the truth.”

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God for loving us. Thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus, to be our Savior. Thank You for giving us Your Holy Spirit to live in our hearts and guide us, so we may walk in the truth.

Please grant us the determination to obey Your Word and live purposefully and intentionally for You each day. Thank You for Your watchful care over us, as You guard our hearts and minds. We pray, with thanksgiving, in the powerful Name of Jesus our Lord and Savior. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.