Friday, June 23, 2017

A Way to Pray – Part One

Five hundred years ago, Martin Luther’s barber asked him for advice on how to pray. Luther responded with a 34 page booklet showing a simple but effective way to structure a life of devotion. Thousands have used this outline to improve their prayer-life. Let’s a take peak at what the great Reformer had to taught. Luther wrote:

Dear Master Peter, I will tell you as best I can what I do personally when I pray. May our dear Lord grant to you and to everybody to do it better than I! Amen. 

First, when I feel that I have become cool and joyless in prayer because of other tasks or thoughts (for the flesh and the devil always impede and obstruct prayer), I take my little Psalter, hurry to my room, or, if it be the day and hour for it, to the church where a congregation is assembled and, as time permits, I say quietly to myself and word-forword the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and, if I have time, some words of Christ or of Paul, or some psalms, just as a child might do. 

It is a good thing to let prayer be the first business of the morning and the last at night. Guard yourself carefully against those false, deluding ideas which tell you, “Wait a little while. I will pray in an hour; first I must attend to this or that.” Such thoughts get you away from prayer into other affairs which so hold your attention and involve you that nothing comes of prayer for that day. 

It may well be that you may have some tasks which are as good or better than prayer, especially in an emergency. There is a saying ascribed to St. Jerome that everything a believer does is prayer1 and a proverb, “He who works faithfully prays twice.” This can be said because a believer fears and honors God in his work and remembers the commandment not to wrong anyone, or to try to steal, defraud, or cheat. Such thoughts and such faith undoubtedly transform his work into prayer and a sacrifice of praise.
On the other hand it is also true that the work of an unbeliever is outright cursing and so he who works faithlessly curses twice. While he does his work his thoughts are occupied with a neglect of God and violation of his law, how to take advantage of his neighbor, how to steal from him and defraud him. What else can such thoughts be but out and out curses against God and man, which makes one’s work and effort a double curse by which a man curses himself. In the end they are beggars and bunglers.

It is of such continual prayer that Christ says in Luke 11, “Pray without ceasing,”2 because one must unceasingly guard against sin and wrong-doing, something one cannot do unless one fears God and keeps his commandment in mind, as Psalm 1 [:1, 2] says, “Blessed is he who meditates upon his law day and night.” Yet we must be careful not to break the habit of true prayer and imagine other works to be necessary which, after all, are nothing of the kind. Thus at the end we become lax and lazy, cool and listless toward prayer. The devil who besets us is not lazy or careless, and our flesh is too ready and eager to sin and is disinclined to the spirit of prayer.

When your heart has been warmed by such recitation to yourself [of the Ten Commandments, the words of Christ, etc.] and is intent upon the matter, kneel or stand with your hands folded and your eyes toward heaven and speak or think as briefly as you can: “O Heavenly Father, dear God, I am a poor unworthy sinner. I do not deserve to raise my eyes or hands toward thee or to pray. But because thou hast commanded us all to pray and hast promised to hear us and through thy dear Son Jesus Christ hast taught us both how and what to pray, I come to thee in obedience to thy word, trusting in thy gracious promise.”

 I pray in the name of my Lord Jesus Christ together with all thy saints and Christians on earth as he has taught us: Our Father who art, etc., through the whole prayer, word for word. Then repeat one part or as much as you wish, perhaps the first petition.

Let’s read an portion of Martin Luther’s “Way to Pray” through the first of the Ten Commandments on the next post. I think that you shall be blessed by it.

In Christ, Brian

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Our Identity – Part Two

John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Michael continues by reminding us that God looks at us in our sin and our brokenness and has compassion. 2 Peter 3:9 tells us that, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” Though sin must be judged, He did not come to judge us and to condemn us. Rather He sent His Son Jesus Christ that the world through him might be saved.  When we accept God's offer of salvation through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ on our behalf, God sees us clothed in white robes of Christ’s righteousness.  According to 2 Corinthians 5:21,For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”  Romans 8 says that there is now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit.

When men and women first come to Christ and the eyes of their understanding are enlightened, they "fall in love" with God, His Son Jesus Christ. They thrill at God's truth and the revelation of His Word. We must guard our heart not to "lose our first love."  Love and its associated gratitude is the motivation for our actions. We need to remind ourselves not only "who we are" but also "whose we are." If we're not connected with like-minded men and women in Christ, we'll never grow up into the mature Christian that our Heavenly Father wants us to be. We're most like those with whom we spend the most time. Sin is crouching at the door and broadcasting tempting distractions our way constantly. If we don't walk with others who walk in fellowship with the Lord, then we may take our heart’s eyes off of Jesus.  

John 1:7-9But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanse us from all sin.”

1 John 1:8-9 “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

The devil's job is to dim the light of the Word of God in our heart. We need men and women who will shine their light into our heart so that together we can walk in fellowship one with another.  God will restore us when we confess our sin; our broken fellowship. If a man or woman is in Christ, they will say, "for me to live is Christ and my purpose is to glorify God and my identity is the furtherance of the gospel of Christ." We have been given the ministry of reconciliation. Our purpose in life is to get others to know the Lord Christ,  the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship with our Heavenly Father through His Son Jesus Christ.  

Walking in the Word is abiding in Christ. The word “abide” is defined as: to be, or exist, to continue; to dwell, to tarry or stay, to rest, or dwell, to remain, to rest, continue permanently or in the same state; to be firm and immovable, stand firm, or be stationary for anytime indefinitely. Our exhortation is to fan the flame of our kingdom of Heaven brothers and sisters in Christ to build up the body of Christ. For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works which He has foreordained that we should walk therein – Ephesians 2:10. This is the purpose for which we were created, for what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.  

May God richly bless you,

Your brother in Christ, Michael

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Our Identity – Part One

Galatians 2:20 “I was crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

This week, Michael writes how our identity truly is in Christ. Most people's identity is in what they do and the roles that they play. Many so-called Christians go through the motions to keep try and keep the Ten Commandments. They go to church and they try not to sin. However, it's not sin that condemns us. We all are condemned already. Jesus said in John 3:16-18, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” So rather, it's failure to accept the Savior from sin. When we confessed "Jesus is Lord" we not only received a Savior, but also a new Lord and Master. Our identity is no longer "who we are" but rather "whose we are."  

2 Corinthians 5:17 says, "If any man is in Christ, he's a new creature, old things are passed away, all things are become new."  To be in Christ means that we have become a new creation in Christ. He makes all things new.  David's prayer in Psalm 51:1-2 was, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” Verse 10 says, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”

We need to remember our identity relative to Proverbs 29:18 "Where there is no vision the people run wild."  Why are we here? and Where are we going as Christians and as the people of God?  The answers to these questions will keep us on the narrow way, for Jesus Christ himself is the Way, the Truth and the Life. In the midst of the crisis and in the heat of the spiritual battle, we need to be convinced of our mission and our purpose. We need to see ourselves and others, not as we are, but spiritually as God sees us. Ephesians says that from God's perspective we are seated in heavenly places. God sees us not as we are, but as we will be at the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:14 says that the love of God compels us to action. What is the reason for your action?  Why do you do what you do? What motivates you? If the motive isn't the love of Christ then why are you here? “For the love of Christ constrains (compels) us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.” – vs.15.

During a recent congressional appointment, one congressman did not approve a Christian's appointment. The congressman argued that the Christian was "intolerant" and too "exclusive."  He believed that the Christian could not relate or empathize with others outside of his faith. The Christian was rejected for the appointment simply because he identified with his Lord Jesus Christ. We're constantly being evaluated by the world if we profess to be Christians. It matters whether we're living for this life or the next life. If we compromise our Christian values found in God’s Holy Word and try to make a peace treaty with the devil (who is the god of this world), then we are not "sanctified" according to the truth of the Word of God. Sanctified starts with "discrimination.", which is the act of distinguishing; the act of making or observing a difference; distinction; as the discrimination between right and wrong. It means to be set apart ... separated to the distinction of holiness for which our Creator designed us. If we truly know our Lord Jesus Christ, we'll allow the Word of God to rebuke and correct us and to restore us to an upright position before the Lord. The purpose is so that we will walk in fellowship with our Heavenly Father. The narrow way is the only way to Heaven. 

Let’s continue Michael’s message on our godly identify in the next post.

In Christ, Brian

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Bride of Christ - Part 2

Beth Moore continues stating, I don’t know who you think has a perfect marriage, but it is a big lie. They have troubles too. Where your marriage is not enough for you, based on the authority of Holy Scripture, your spouse is enough for you and God is still good. Unrealistic expectations create unrealistic marriages. Who is telling you what the definition of a “good” marriage is and is not?

1 Corinthians 7:23 “You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.”

There is an old saying that we don’t know what we have until it is gone. Sometimes, when we cannot get exactly what we want, we do not appreciate what we have. At the end of the day, he loves her and she loves him, and that is a “good” thing; a beautiful thing. Women want to derive their security and identity from someone who is struggling with their own security and identity. This existential secular humanist culture around us is brutal on everyone. We want our spouse to tell us how valuable we are everyday and all the time. What if we derived our security and identity from our God-given biblical office, because we represent the bride of Christ? We are not called in Scripture: “The wife of Christ”. We are going to live all of eternity as “the bride of Christ”. It will remain.

Isaiah 62:5 “As a young man marries a young woman, so will your Builder marry you;
as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.”

The more that we demand affirmation from our spouse, the more distance and reluctance we receive to get it. The best condition is to be secure in Jesus. Jesus can give us everything that we need. Be filled in Christ. Be secure in Christ. We need to have our identity in Christ everyday of our lives. Know that you and I are overtly loved and cherished by Jesus Christ. Belittling and condescending will not serve you or I well.

A good fight gets things that are weighing us down and clears the air in order to get down to where the tender feelings that spouses have for each other reside. A “good” fight is a fight for marriage. We don’t fight with our spouse; we fight for our spouse. Are marital issues going to matter in a year from now, five years from now, or ten years from now. Both spouses need to communicate their needs for the other to attend to them. Do not be passive about your marriage. Be godly and be active. Fight for your marriage and fight for your home. Do not give up on your marriage. Stick it out. Marriage is the most powerful visual example of the relationship between Jesus Christ and His bride (the saints – those sanctified – the child of God).

Just as every individual life is worth saving, then every marriage is worth saving. Do not give up. Stick it out. Do the work. Do marriage. When the road gets rocky, get through it and get over it. Nothing reflects Christ and his bride more. Anybody can be well. We are all hurt, have struggles and need to be healed. Be a miracle.

In Christ, Brian

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Bride of Christ - Part 1

Ephesians 5:21-25 “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”

Beth Moore tells us that in God’s bigger story, we are a part of something that is beyond our comprehension. We are truly nothing except an example of God’s grace. Submission is not about inequality, but about God’s plan for a form of authority and order in the home. God holds men responsible for the thriving, flourishing and wellbeing of the united home and marriage.
Genesis 2:20b-24 But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

A man shall be united to his wife, and they become one flesh. The 1828 Webster’s dictionary defines that word “united” as: Joined; made to agree; cemented; mixed; attached by growth”. Beth Moore defines “united” as “adhered to’ or “glued to”. I heard Pastor Raul Ruiz describe the united in marriage union and unity as two pieces of wood glued together to where pulling them apart rips and splinter both causing great irreparable damage because the two are now one. Of all earthly representation that Father God has given us for His Son’s relationship to the body of Believers called the church, His bride in marriage is used. How could anything so fragile, so frail and imperfect as us represent anything so holy, glorious and divine?

2 Corinthians 11:2 “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.”

God is the only one who can overtake our thoughts. It is God’s business; not mine or yours. God has made it the responsibility of the man to wash his wife with the Word of God. God-designed marriage is not “where we want it to be daily”; no human relationship can be. But, it is “good”, and “good” is good. The 1828 Webster’s dictionary defines the word “good” as: “Having moral qualities best adapted to its design and use, or the qualities which God's law requires; virtuous; pious; religious; applied to persons, and opposed to bad, vicious, wicked, evil.” It’s not perfect, but can’t “good” be good? Does it have to be “fantastic”? 

Let's continue with my notes from the Beth Moore session of marriage, the Bride of Christ", on the next post.
In Christ, Brian

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Transformation - Part 2

Romans 3:21-25a “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it — the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.”

Continuing from the last post, Pastor Obie gave us five ways to consider improve and become a better person, with Jesus Christ as my example, aligned with the holy Word, Will and Way of God). Continuing with (3) Show compassion. In reality, we are all caught “red-handed” (to be caught in the act of committing a misdemeanor, with the evidence there for all to see) in sin by the Lord. In Luke 11:4, Jesus taught us, “forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.” The Lord’s forgiveness of the debt of sin should produce the desire to do the same. This is the message that Jesus was communicating in the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant of Matthew 18:21-35 - “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” Show compassion and stick together through thick and thin to bear one another’s burdens, despite the circumstances.

(4) Demonstrate the virtue of honoring and sacrificial leadership. Show true concern to others. Keep your promises, even if it means losing something valuable to you. Selflessness is being willing to “fall on the sword’, substituting yourself in a godly manner to allow them to escape harm, grow and prosper. It was King David in 1 Chronicles 21:17b that said to God: “Lord my God, let your hand fall on me and my family, but do not let this plague remain on your people.” It is never too late to repentance and transformational change towards godliness in honor and sacrifice.

 (5) Set up a lineage for generational blessings. Jesus performed the ultimate substitutionary sacrifice by taking the sins of the world and paying for them in our place, so that those who choose to believe and receive may be saved from eternal damnation (the second death) in Hell, separated from God to abundant eternal life with the Lord in Heaven. Without our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, what is the point of life? In Luke 12, Jesus suggests that the self-centered world’s view of life is Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” This side of eternity is temporal and fleeting away, so meaningless without a future. Tell others about the good news of Jesus Christ and His salvation. Live out a godly life that leads others to the foot of the cross, like a light on a hilltop of a pitch black culture. Character flaws can be turned around. How we act and change from our ungodly ways affects our lineage. Desire and seek a lasting lineage that we can leave for our children and their children to follow, teaching outstanding character in Christ.

Take a stand against generational curses and walk in the Spirit. Ask God to break those chains that binds us and keeps us captive, robbing our joy. Transformation is the key.
In Christ, Brian

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Transformation - Part 1

This last Sunday, Pastor Obie continued our sermon series through the book of Genesis, opening with the story of Harland David Sanders, who held a number of jobs. When he was 10, Sanders began to work as a farmhand for local farmers, then steam engine stoker, and insurance salesman.  In 1930, the Shell Oil Company offered Sanders a service station in North Corbin, Kentucky, rent free, in return for paying them a percentage of sales. Sanders began selling fried chicken from his roadside restaurant in North Corbin, Kentucky, during the Great Depression and at the age of 62, the first KFC "Kentucky Fried Chicken" franchise opened in Utah in 1952. In September 1970 he and his wife were baptized in the Jordan River in Israel.

It is never too late to have the Lord transform your life and have you affect the lives of others. God intentionally positions all of us at this specific time and place in His story for a godly reason and purpose. Even the patriarchs had lives marked by sin and disobedience, yet were transformed by God to achieve later accomplishments for the Lord’s orchestrated events that shaped history. We need to ask ourselves: What could I have done, and what can I do, to control and manage “some part of my life” in order to improve and become a better person, with Jesus Christ as my example, aligned with the holy Word, Will and Way of God)?

Pastor Obie gave us five ways to consider: (1) Show responsibility and ownership. At the very least, we are responsible for our thoughts, words and actions … or lack thereof. Do not “pass the buck” (the act of attributing to another person or group one's own responsibility), which limits your potential growth. No, the buck stops here (make the decisions and accept the ultimate responsibility for those decisions)! How can you and I make our lives better and continue to grow and mature as a Christian? Do not play “The Blame game”. Do not be afraid to fail with the cards that you have been dealt and your lot in life. Failure can be a catalyst for great growth and improvement.

(2) Show a change of heart. It starts with the sin nature emotions of envy and jealousy. The 1828 Webster’s dictionary defines the word “envy” as to look with enmity. “To feel uneasiness, mortification or discontent, at the sight of superior excellence, reputation or happiness enjoyed by another; to repine at another's prosperity; to fret or grieve one's self at the real or supposed superiority of another, and accompanied with some degree of hatred or malignity, and often or usually with a desire or an effort to depreciate the person, and with pleasure in seeing him depressed. Envy springs from pride.

2 Corinthians 11:2 “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.”

The 1828 Webster’s dictionary defines the word “jealousy” as “that passion of peculiar uneasiness which arises from the fear that a rival may rob us of the affection of one whom we love, or the suspicion that he has already done it; or it is the uneasiness which arises from the fear that another does or will enjoy some advantage which we desire for ourselves. In short, jealousy is awakened by whatever may exalt others, or give them pleasures and advantages which we desire for ourselves. Jealousy is nearly allied to envy, for jealousy, before a good is lost by ourselves, is converted into envy, after it is obtained by others. Jealousy is the apprehension of superiority.” Noah Webster goes on to state that “God's jealousy signifies his concern for his own character and government, with a holy indignation against those who violate his laws, and offend against his majesty.” Pastor Obie explains that the opposite of jealousy is rejoicing in another’s achievements. Instead of an ungodly “jealousy of them”, it is a godly jealousy for them. This is that godly jealousy. God tests us all on this.

Let's continue Pastor Obie's message on "Transformation" in the next post.
In Christ, Brian